Cocktails in London – Beware American chums

Cocktails in London – a warning and guide where to go for one’s American chums

One is partial to the odd cocktail or two and being in America there is a veritable bonanza of choices to get a good cocktail. The meaning of Happy Hour in America has now been stretched such that many restaurants and bars offer all day Happy Hours on Sunday. Hurrah! 9 out of 10 of the bar staff will be able to mix you an abundant choice of cocktails without reference to a book.

But one has seen disappointment on the faces of one’s American chums when visiting London and ordering cocktailsrather than drink our “warm” beer . So this is a warning and a useful guide to ensure you get the perfect Martin, up with an Olive..make mine a Tanqueray 10..hurrah!

1) Our spirits measures are impossibly small when compared with America. They are governed by the Weights and Measures Act 1985 which means each spirit is sold in a set measure of 25ml or 35ml. In America, this would be about a thimble full. You will get the larger measure in Scotland for historical reasons..harrumph!

2) To be safe only order a cocktail in a hotel bar, an upmarket restaurant or a real cocktail bar of which there are a few in London. Then again be warned, you will have to be in a reasonable hotel. Sadly, you will be charged a significant sum £12 and up..once again due to the Act!

3) Never attempt to order a Martini, “up with an olive” in any pub. They will most likely ignore you and walk away to serve the next customer. Otherwise you will be given a glass of Italian Vermouth, not in a Martini glass.

4) Even if you do order a Martini successfully, having explained the ingredients, you will find that it is the weakest most awful Martini you have tasted. You will need to order three to four measures more to improve matters which will cost you a pretty penny. You will be lucky if they have a Martini glass to hand.

5) Even when a pub says that it serves cocktails, the safest bet is usually a Bloody Mary. But beware, ask if they mix their own as a vodka with one tiny bottle of tomato juice, two lumps of ice and a wilted stick of celery may be the result. The good news is that some “gastropubs”, ie. those serving good quality food will be able to serve you a very good Bloody Mary.

So, with the ground rules set here are a few suggestions (not exhaustive) as to where you might find a good cocktail but beware, the prices are unlike those you might find in the US and $4 happy hour cocktails do not exist.

Good Hotel bars – All central London West End to Knightsbridge
Claridges (Near the US Embassy), The Goring (Victoria), The Dorchester (Park Lane), The Savoy – (Fleet Street), Dukes Hotel (St. James St. south of the Ritz), The Connaught (near the US Embassy), The Lanesborough, The Milestone Hotel – Stables bar (near High Street Kensington)

Good Cocktail Bars
The Experimental Cocktail Club (Chinatown north of Leicester Square), 1 Aldwych – (near The Strand)

Restaurants with super cocktails
Cecconi’s (just off Piccadilly Royal Academy, Hawksmoor (a chain in Seven Dials near the Ivy or Air Street near Picadilly), Bellamy’s (Just off Berkeley Square), a number of gastropubs also serve good cocktails.

Happy drinking mes amis.. feedback? Does one have any bars that one has missed? One would love to hear from you.

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Categories: Anecdotes

4 replies

  1. The American Bar at the Stafford Hotel serves excellent cocktails! It’s in an attractive space too. It’s located between the Ritz and Pall Mall.

  2. Hmmm. I have had to explain the finer points of a fine American martini to a number of London bartenders. However no explanation needed at Dukes Hotel. Perfection itself! DZ

    Sent from my iPhone

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