Kind of Blue: Music & Mixology with Iraina Mancini

25 March 2024

DJ and singer Iraina Mancini explores the vinyl-inspired cocktails of the Blue Bar. Laura Barton listens in.

A few moments before cocktail hour in The Berkeley’s Blue Bar. Iraina Mancini, resplendent in gold catsuit and platform heels, flicks through her stash of records and places Serge Gainsbourg’s Histoire de Melody Nelson on the turntable. The sound of Dougie Wright’s drums spills out across the room, and the long-fringed curtains seem to shimmer appreciatively. Manager Marcello Cauda appears from behind the bar and hands her a Dry Martini.

Marcello mixing a cocktail at the blue bar, with blue interior
2 martinis with olives,  next to a plate with three oysters
Inside of the glass pavilion of the Blue Bar with a red and blue abstract rug, a DJ decks and low blue bar stools

This is, it seems, The Mancini Effect. The singer has the rare quality of making whatever room she enters feel at least twice as stylish as it was before her arrival. Whether she is DJing around the city, helming her show on Soho Radio or performing her own songs live with a band, she brings an elegant irresistibility to proceedings.

The Blue Bar is so beautiful. I love the separate little room off the main bar with the vinyl decks. Just enough room for a little boogie, and curtains to close if you want a more private space. 

A lifelong Londoner, Mancini grew up in Maida Vale, attended school in Marylebone and spent her teenage weekends digging for records in Portobello. ‘It was a colourful, creative upbringing, with lots of characters,’ she remembers. ‘Which meant my parents were great at helping with my art homework, but not so much with maths.’

Mancini’s mother is a photographer, her father a composer who toured and played with David Bowie. She tells the story of how, as a surly 13-year-old, she was made to sit next to the singer when he popped round for lunch. ‘Do you listen to any of my music?’ Bowie wondered. ‘No, absolutely not,’ she told him and turned her back. ‘A year or so later, I went to his concert and realised he was incredible and felt so embarrassed about that moment.’

Her own musical gifts were apparent even as a child. Learning classical piano and singing on advertising jingles for her father, she developed a keen ear and a thirst for melody. When she discovered Gainsbourg and Birkin, Bardot, Brel and Françoise Hardy, she found a kind of musical and aesthetic kinship. ‘It was stylish escapism, and it changed my world,’ she says. ‘I loved the playfulness. It was kitsch and silly and cool and sexy – and the melodies were so sweet.’

Mancini’s debut album, Undo the Blue, is a reflection of all these influences. It displays the immense versatility of her voice and tastes, spanning big pop numbers to yeh yeh-ed coquetry, via the European disco and Northern Soul obscurities she loves to play for festival crowds. ‘I just wanted to transport people to a fantasy world, with melodies that really stick in their brains,’ she says. ‘I want people to listen to it and smile.’

Accordingly, her dream London day might encompass the charity-shop vinyl of Muswell Hill, the pub jukeboxes of Hackney, lots of good friends, a spicy margarita or two and a late-night dive bar in Soho. Mancini surveys the Blue Bar’s LP-shaped menu. ‘I always feel London does the right amount of rock ’n’ roll meets sophistication. You can step into a basement bar and listen to the coolest new band and then have a gorgeous cocktail by a top mixologist in a beautiful hotel.’ She pauses, lost in thought.

That Martini was exceptional by the way. Silky smooth, dry and hit like a punch!

Undo the Blue is out now on Needle Mythology Records, via Experience our late-night live music bar at the Blue Bar every Thursday to Saturday.

Four deep blue lounge chairs around a table in front of the bar with blue interior
Chamoyita margarita:Patron Silver Tequila with Sundried Tomato, Lacto Strawberry, Verjus, Cacao, Corn, Chilli Tincture
Inside of the glass pavilion of the Blue Bar with a red and blue abstract rug, a DJ decks and low blue bar stools

Spotlight on Margarita Month

This season, Mancini’s go-to Martini shares the spotlight with the best margarita in London, as the Blue Bar marks Margarita Month with a dash of silver. The team has re-mixed a true classic here, with a pair of boldly reimagined cocktails created from Patrón Silver Tequila. Beautifully layered, with hints of Mexican heat, Chamoyita is infused with cacao and chilli tincture – a flavour fiesta. While Hinagiku carries Japanese notes of Nigori Sake, Shiso Umeshu and Sakura.

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