Londoners like to drink: myself included. Having just returned from New York after five years, I am sincerely impressed by the drinking stamina displayed by my home-town buddies. For myself, nothing a little practice won’t revive. It is not uncommon to see people having a pint—or two—at lunchtime, before heading straight back to work. As for cocktails, legend has it that British bartenders introduced cocktails to London after making them for American passengers on Atlantic cruise liners. It was love at first martini and Londoners have never looked back. Most popular are the classics, but we have some world-class mixologists in these parts. After all, this is the city where Dick Bradsell saved us all from 1990’s Chardonnay hell with his invention of the Bramble and the modern classic, the Espresso Martini. The former is based on gin and crème de mure or blackberry liquor, and the latter is a taste of alcoholic, caffeinated heaven.
Artesian Bar at The Langham Hotel
From what was once a strange, rather cumbersome looking place near Oxford Street, The Langham Hotel is now the epitome of elegance. Here, some of the most adventurous cocktails in London are served in an array of strange containers, including a mirrored, oblong vessel. Hard to describe, must be tried. Also found in Artesian’s award-winning cocktails? Gemstones, caviar, mushroom, and leather.
Mayor of Scaredy Cat Town
This joint draws a funky younger crowd keen to sample exciting cocktails in this speakeasy-style basement bar. Enter via a ‘secret’ passageway covered by the door of a retro SMEG fridge. Inside, the décor looks like an Alpine chalet crossed with Saturday Night Fever: think disco balls and moose head taxidermy. Sip re-imagined classics, such as the Jubilee Julep: liquorice gin, rhubarb puree, mint and fresh lemon.
Gordon's Wine Bar
Established in 1890, this is the oldest wine bar in London. Once upon a time, Samuel Pepys and Rudyard Kipling lived above the shop, so to speak. Today, customers drink by candlelight in the charming, old-fashioned atmosphere. Only wine and fortified wines such as port, sherry, and Madeira’s are served—all from a barrel.
An Indian cocktail bar may strike you as unusual in London. But down the stairs of the legendary Red Fort restaurant rests a large, colorful lounge with low alcoves (exposed brick; sari-print throws) and Indian-inspired concoctions. Sip alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages seasoned with cardamom, cloves and cinnamon. Canapes are updated Delhi-classics. Try the Aloo Bonda (potato dumplings with coriander and mustard) or spiced lamb kebabs with chili.
American Bar at The Savoy
One of the most iconic bars in the world where the Queen Mother would have a late morning Gin and It: It being Dubonnet. Winston Churchill would come in for champagne, and even during wartime rationing and despite his well-documented thirst, The Savoy never ran out of alcohol supplies during WWII.