IT IS HARD NOT TO NOTICE the persistent smile on Salvatore Calabrese's face. Sure, it's part of his job to look happy, but he is also enjoying a thrill few cocktail makers ever achieve: welcoming people to Salvatore at Fifty, an extravagantly beautiful bar that bears his name and all the hallmarks of his taste. Calabrese, one of London's bestknown barmen, helped with the design, the colors, the fabrics, and the bar staff. The cocktail list contains some of his own special concoctions, including his signature drink, the Breakfast Martini, and a new one called the Spicy Fifty. But most importantly, the bar named after him has a definite buzz on this Friday evening as night falls in the British capital. The bar is filling up, people look happy and excited, and no one crowd or age group is dominating.
"It's chic, it's elegant, it's fun," says Calabrese after greeting two beautifully dressed women who are drinking Champagne here before going to dinner at a restaurant that is also part of the Fifty St. James casino complex. "And that's what makes a great bar. The young and the old get along, and the mood varies throughout the evening, and it becomes a great party. This is my dream bar. It's the perfect playground for adults."
It's also lucrative. Located in the heart of the posh St. James district, the membersonly club known to its regulars as Fifty is helping to revitalize the casino business in London and throughout the rest of the United Kingdom by making casinos fashionable again. Its goal is to offer a great nightclub, good restaurants, a fantastic bar - and a gaming room, for those who want to use it. This approach has been repeated at other new casinos open to the general public, including the Casino at the Empire, which has brought stylish gambling to crowded Leicester Square, London's version of Times Square.