London is blessed on the bar front. There is a constant stream of openings and to mention just 10 is really tough. The city has always been well represented on the World’s 50 Best Bars list and, according to cocktail historian Jared Brown, it is central to the history of mixed drinks.
In his Telegraph article The Surprising History of the Cocktail, he writes: “Until recently, the earliest-known use of the word ‘cocktail’ in print that referenced drink was from 1806 in an upstate New York newspaper. Then, in 2005, it was discovered in a Vermont newspaper from 1803. In 2010 we found the word used in the March 20, 1798, edition of The Morning Post and Gazetteer, a long-defunct London newspaper…”
Today London serves as a centre for inspiration and a sort of apprenticeship hub for bartenders from all over the world. You can learn from some of the best in this city. That’s not to say it’s all good. London has its share of terrible bars where even a clean glass is a big ask. But we’re here to celebrate the best…
When I can afford it – or when someone else is paying – London’s hotel bars really offer an amazing experience. Unlike some try-hard venues, stepping into many 5-star hotels doesn’t mean you face a frosty ‘you don’t belong here’ door person.
Service is king and, although your bartender will want to give you a perfect drink, he won’t be a self-absorbed dick about it.
A lot of the romance around hotel bars comes with the history and the decor. The Deco dollies floating around 1920s Mayfair are almost visible in the mirrors of the Connaught and Oscar Wilde and Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories echo in the walls at the Artesian’s Langham Hotel. To be a bartender at one of these places is to seal a place in drinks history. Just look at the Savoy and its list of bar alumni.
Of course that’s not to say service isn’t king at other bars – and when a venue gets it right, it really is terrific.
So, here’s a selection of noteworthy London bars.
Carlos Place, London, the-connaught.co.uk
This place oozes luxury and it sits in one of London’s most exclusive neighbourhoods. Mayfair is home of the Bentley and the designer handbag and you can definitely feel the embrace of tradition in the bar. The Martini Trolley is a delight to behold and you can sit back and relax while a white-gloved aficionado knocks up the perfect Martini, made to your liking. But remember, this is a classy joint so Martinis will be quietly stirred – and not shaken. That’s not to say this place doesn’t innovate – it does – and it counts top bar talents Ago Perrone and Rusty Cervan among its ’tenders. Ago is director of mixology and you’re more likely to see him judging competitions than entering them. Cervan, on the other han,d has been making waves and winning a fair few gongs – he’s currently on tour as the Bols Around the World champ, with January dates in Japan.