The story of Laki Kane: How a cocktail evening led to one of London’s coolest bars
When world-renowned bartender and rum connoisseur Georgi Radev made cocktails for a small drinks party, it sparked a life-changing friendship and the beginnings of a new business.
Steve Kyprianou, who hosted the gathering on his Highbury roof terrace, said: “Georgi arrived with suitcases full of every kind of fresh tropical fruit, syrups, mixers and spirits and made the most sensational cocktails. A couple of weeks later I went to the Spirit of Tiki event that Georgi organised. It was amazing – he had transformed Regent’s Park into a tropical paradise! I talked to Georgi afterwards and he told me of his lifelong dream to open a bar. That’s when we joined with my close friend and neighbour Sam Robson to make it happen!”
In July 2018, Georgi, Steve and Sam threw open the doors to Laki Kane, a cocktail bar in Upper Street that’s like stepping onto a tropical island. The three have become firm friends and run the business as equal partners.
Inside Laki Kane
Laki Kane’s décor features palm prints, bamboo, old bongo drums and a swinging chair. Each table is named after a different Polynesian, Indonesian, Thai or Caribbean island. There’s a laboratory on site where Georgi infuses rums with fabulous flavours and the bar service is superb – guests can call staff at the press of a button. There’s a simple menu offering delicious Thai food.
Their cocktails, which feature no-refined sugar, are phenomenal. They press their own sugar cane juice in-house and import the most unusual tropical fruits including jackfruit, soursop and cupuaçu. They are thought to be the first bar in the world to have their own micro rum distillery open to the public, on-site.
Laki Kane comes from the Polynesian translation for “Lucky People”. The bar opened amidst considerable industry hype. Georgi is known worldwide, and the business received extensive publicity. He has a strong following in America and Europe, with many of their guests travelling to visit them.
They’ve already won numerous awards, including One of London’s Best 10 Bars (The Nudge), GQ Bar of the Week and ImBibe’s Rum List of the Year. It’s the latest independent bar to join the Local Buyers Club, offering 20% off drinks to members Sunday to Thursday and 20% off the Rum-Making Experience. (Info here)
Upstairs is the Spiced Dry Rum Club, offering daily rum-making master classes. Guests learn about the history of rum and the spices and dried fruits you can infuse it with. Then, using copper alembic pot stills, guests can create their own Spiced Dry Rum, a health-conscious rum with zero added sugar, adding the flavours they like the most (flavours such as cinnamon, nutmeg, turmeric, sandalwood, vanilla, orange peel and lemongrass). They leave with a bag of goodies and the bottle of the rum they made.
(Spiced Dry Rum Club)
Georgi, 38, was born and raised in Bulgaria and is now a master bartender. He established his career at Mahiki and went on to travel the world as a consultant for them. He describes rum as: “The most misunderstood spirit.”
Whilst many people might think of rum as the “spirit you mix with Coca Cola”, Georgi and the team are working to change this perception and demonstrate the versatility of this spirit. The rum Georgi produces is designed so that you can drink it with tonic; a world first. Bar guests can also order a flight of rum that is paired with chocolate from Hotel Chocolat, and test their taste buds to identify the key notes.
It’s a big change for Steve, who runs his own telecommunications company TSI and Sam, who previously worked in the financial services consultancy industry.
Sam, 33, who emigrated from Australia seven years ago, added: “Owning a bar is definitely a massive sea change from the days of wearing a suit and catching the tube into work each day. Whilst it poses a whole new range of challenges, when you are working with your best friends on a company that you are passionate about, what’s more rewarding than that!”
(Laki Kane on Upper Street, N1)
Laki Kane stands where Be at One once stood and the building has undergone a complete transformation. Steve added: “Our plan was always to be a destination that people are willing to make an effort to come to because the experience is so fantastic. We provide our guests with an escape from the hustle and bustle of London; that’s why we call it the Tropical Escape! We spent almost a year before we opened preparing, fine-tuning and perfecting the brand. So much care has gone into everything that it runs like a slick, well-oiled machine!”
The trio plan to launch their own Spiced Dry Rum in partnership with Bimber distillery over the coming months and will be opening new Laki Kane bars in the future.
The business aims to be as zero-waste as possible, they use apple or pasta straws and re-use as many bi-products as possible. The husks from the sugarcane they press go to Bimber to use in their flavouring process, completing the beautiful cycle of rum making!
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