The theatre capital of the world, London is one of the most popular destinations with international tourists. Besides brilliant shows, great shopping opportunities, free museums and art galleries, London boasts a vibrant nightlife. During the last decades the British capital features an increasing number of cocktail bars, honouring the memory of one of the very first - the mythical American Bar located inside the Savoy Hotel.
Old Fashioned Cocktail - Flickr/ReeseCLloyd
A bit of history…
Indeed, London's cocktail bars scene is deeply rooted in history. Arrived in London in 1920, after the Prohibition, the American bartender Henry Craddock set the foundations of modern mixology, and his art is today rediscovered in London's modern establishments. Contemporary bartenders constantly go back to his reference work - the Savoy Cocktail Book, published in 1930 and reissued regularly. The book identifies some 750 cocktails, including many mixtures that have become classics. Skimming through this austere, but beautifully decorated collection, featuring Gimbert Rumbold's designs, you will notice names like Aviation, Jewelry, Martinez, White Lady or Millionaire. Many of these historical drinks found a second life in London's modern and stylish cocktail bars.
Best Cocktail Bars in London
So, which are the best cocktail addresses to check out during your stay in the British capital?
Probably the first name that comes to anyone's mind is Nightjar. London's neo-speakeasy offers a unique cocktails' menu, organised in chronological order. This is the place to go if you want to relive history. Try a Hobson's Kiss, a Baltimore Eggnog, or a Honey Smash if you want to get a taste of the Pre-Prohibition period. Prepare yourself for something "short, strong and aromatic" from the Prohibition's times, or let the skillful bartenders surprise you with a Nightjar Signature cocktail.
Address: 31 Kensington Park Road, London W11 2EU
West London's lively neighbourhood, Notting Hill is dotted with bars that are very crowded on Friday and Saturday night. A little away from the bustling Portobello Road, Montgomery Place plays a more traditional card. In a refined décor, you will find a beautiful bar packed with alcohol bottles and many home brews. Pegu Club is not bad at all. Aviation has a perfect balance between gin, lemon juice and violet liqueur.
Address: 171 Portobello Road, London W11 2DY
A stone throw's away from Montgomery Place, but featuring a totally different atmosphere, Portobello Star has been serving alcohol to Londoners and visitors since 1740. While at night you can spend here a few hours sipping exotic cocktails and listening to pop-rock music, during the day you can visit the Gin Institute, located upstairs, where the famous Portobello Road No. 171 gin is distilled.
Negroni Cocktail - Flirck/Tom Hilton
You can taste the home brewed gin in Bramble (gin, sugar, lemon juice and blackberry liqueur) – a London classic, or in Negroni (gin, vermouth and Campari) - a popular variation on Americano whose recipe was created in Florence by Count Negroni.
London's Best Hotel Cocktail Bars
In London, the cocktail world extends its web far beyond the bars or the hotels. Restaurants and steakhouses (another trend that crossed the Atlantic) offer great cocktails as well. The Hawksmoor chain, for example, does not just serve steaks and burgers. Their four restaurants have an impressive cocktail menu that you can drink at their and the same goes for Mandarin Oriental's Bar Boulud, where you can sip a delicious White Cosmo (elderberry, grapefruit and vodka), served with an elegant cube decorated by a spherical elderflower.
The Zetter Townhouse
Address: 49-50 St John's Square, London EC1V 4JJ
The Zetter Townhouse - Flickr/rozypants
Located in a quiet North West London area, The Zetter Townhouse is actually a boutique hotel equipped with a very nice cocktail lounge with a false rustic decor. Leather armchairs, coffee tables, soft lighting, one could almost feel the heat of a fire. While drinking one of their exotic cocktails you will feel as if you are in a cosy countryside English cottage. Created by Tony Conigliaro, the seasonal menu pays the tribute to the past of the neighbourhood, which was formerly dotted with distilleries.
Address: St Pancras Renaissance Hotel. Euston Road, London NW1 2AR
Booking Office - Flickr/melkir
In London, the revival of cocktail pushes the British to revisit their own traditions, rediscovering the old punch, for instance. The elegant Booking Office bar-restaurant of the luxurious Renaissance Hotel located in the St Pancras Railways Station turned it into a specialty. Posed on the huge marble bar, the beautiful copper punch bowls wait for the clients to plunge a ladle, or to take them to the table. You can also order a punch for 12 people, for about 90 pounds.