I tried London's new 'happiness-boosting' cocktails - but did they work?

The  ‘Happiness’ cocktail is made with cherry tomatoes, which are rich in serotonin
The ‘Happiness’ cocktail is made with cherry tomatoes, which are rich in serotonin

If you’re happy and you know it, the chances are you’re not from Britain. The World Happiness Report 2016 places the nation at number 23 in the list of 157 countries, down two places from last year.

But at one cocktail bar in London, they believe they have found a way to make everyone look on the bright side of life, at least for a couple of hours.

Award-winning mixologist Vincenzo Sibilia at Barts in Chelsea has developed an innovative 'mood menu' which uses a blend of ingredients designed to keep the body’s energy levels up and the mind happy.

Mental wellbeing is closely connected to the gut, because the digestive system uses many of the same chemicals as the brain and communicates with it via neurotransmitters.

Certain foods such as fruit, vegetables, wholegrains and yogurt can make our gut healthier, which in turn can benefit our mental wellbeing, while others, such as highly processed foods or those packed with sugar, can make us feel tired or depressed.

But do Barts' cocktails really work?

First up is ‘Happiness’, a cocktail made with cherry tomatoes, strawberries, lemon, maraschino cherries, sugar, basil leaves, pepper and vodka.

Aside from the ubiquitous Bloody Mary, tomatoes are rarely seen in cocktails but they make the perfect accompaniment to sweeter fruits, says Pietro Rizzo, bar manager.

They are also rich in serotonin, known as ‘the happy molecule’, and potassium, which is essential for the whole nervous system, while berries and cherries are full of antioxidants.

“Whether you’re happy already and you want to carry on with your good mood, or you’ve had a long day and you want to improve your mood, this is a great drink for you,” says Rizzo.

Other cocktails on the mood menu are named ‘Focus’ and ‘Relax’ which, as their names suggest, are also aimed making the body feel a certain way.

‘Relax’ is made with stress-busting ingredients, including Barts’ camomile elixir, lavender extract, lemon, cardamom and gin. Rich in calcium and magnesium, camomile helps alleviate stress and calm the nerves while the smell of lavender is known to increase endorphins.

'Like stepping into a warm bubble bath': the Relax cocktail at Barts bar

Cardamom is known to alleviate problems in the digestive tract.

The experience that best describes drinking ‘Relax’ is that of stepping into a hot bubble bath at the end of a long, hard day at work.

For those with concerns that it may taste like a mouthful of their grandmother’s soap, or a bowl of potpourri, fear not. The flavours are definitely fragrant but not overwhelmingly so, instead gently allowing the stresses and strains of daily life to melt away.

‘Focus’ is at the opposite end of the spectrum. It’s a slap-round-the-face of a drink, packed with smoked wheat coffee beans, Kamm & Sons ginseng aperitif, hazelnut syrup and bitters.

Coffee comes with a hefty dose of caffeine, which helps the body to feel wide awake and alert by suppressing the neurotransmitter adenosine, while ginseng may enhance the production of endorphins.

The cocktail comes served with shavings of dark chocolate, an ingredient also known for its ability to lift the mood.

I certainly walk out of the bar feeling good - but three cocktails will do that to most people, until the hangover hits. Plus - as I'm sure the scientists among you know - alcohol causes a rapid a drop in blood sugar, which can cause you to feel tired, irritable and depressed... however much camomile and ginseng it's mixed with.

So there you have it: cocktails based on a few simple ingredients really do have the ability to change our mood – by increasing happiness, improving focus and reducing stress. But the effect may only last a few hours.

Now to work out how many each person in Britain will have to drink so we top the world happiness list in 2017....