LONDON LIFE • October 2019
The capital's cocktail scene is officially booming, with classic cocktails no longer the preserve of swish hotel bars. As London Cocktail Week (4-13 October) shakes up the city, five industry insiders reveal the watering holes they head to when only an expertly-made cocktail will do the trick
Says who: Oskar Kinsberg, bar manager at Hide Below
One of my favourite places in London is The Wigmore at The Langham hotel. It’s in a central location, which makes it an ideal meeting spot, and there's always a nice buzz. Add to this an ever-changing range of carefully selected beers, gins and delicious cocktails (including a ‘hoptail’ menu of beer-based cocktails) and you’re in for a good time. The food is classic pub grub, but done to a much higher level. The burger with Bloody Mary salt chips is very tasty, as is the pie. It’s the kind of place where time just seems to slip by – everything a great bar should be.
Cocktail of choice: The Sherry Berry, a mix of dry sherry, grapefruit sherbet, pink grapefruit, lemon, raspberry and orange bitters. What’s not to like?
Says who: Rikesh Patel, bartender at Gezellig, Holborn
The Three Sheets in Dalston is a small but perfectly formed gem. The set-up is narrow but long, and the marble bar top is just beautiful. The service is a throwback to hospitality of a forgotten era – bartenders know your name, what you like to drink and actually engage with you in conversation. Here, you can walk into the bar by yourself and feel instantly at home.
Cocktail of choice: French 75. Gin, clear lemon, moscato and orange flower all carbonated and bottled in house, poured from a vintage Champagne bottle. Just delicious.
Says who: Katya Katkova of @East London Mornings
Lounge Bohemia is an absolute must-visit, reservation only, laid-back cocktail bar hidden under a kebab shop, with kitschy, living room-style decor inspired by Czech owner Paul Tvaroh’s youth. Cocktails can come in a log, lightbulb and even non-liquid form. For the less adventurous, there are plenty of conventional items on the menu, too. From here, a short walk down Shoreditch High Street and Hackney Road will take you to the Looking Glass, a cocktail club with experimental drinks you won’t have had before.
Cocktail of choice: Try my favourite, Storm in a Teacup. You'll be surprised by the serving.
Says who: Joel Harrison, award-winning drinks writer and Sunday Brunch presenter
For me, one of the most relaxing and rewarding cocktail experiences that London has to offer is at the Connaught Bar in Mayfair's Connaught hotel. Headed up by their charismatic Master Mixologist Agostino ‘Ago’ Perrone and his team, the star of the show is their martini trolley, which glides to your table, delivering silky smooth chilled gin or vodka perfection, each drink given a bespoke treatment by way of half a dozen or so different infusions. The result is not only theatrical, but effortless, timeless and above all else… peerless. Extraordinary.
Cocktail of choice: Keep it simple, with their house gin martini.
Says who: Susan Cohen, author of London’s Best Cocktail Bars
My current favourite bar has to be Balthazar, in the heart of Covent Garden. The area is a mecca for shopping and shows, culture and crafts, and it’s London’s answer to the other Balthazar, in SoHo, New York. It’s got everything you could want – carefully crafted cocktails served amidst French brasserie chic, complete with zinc bar, brass rails and red leather banquette seating. Perch at the bar and order one of Brian Silva’s House cocktails.
Cocktail of choice: Balthazar Fizz is refreshing whatever the weather: a light, floral refresher, with a citrussy zing and a fluffy foam texture.