A few weeks ago the UK celebrated London Cocktail Week. Unfortunately, the festivities overlapped with both the London Restaurant Festival and London Chocolate Week (why they all had to happen concurrently is beyond me). I was so busy with events for the restaurant festival that I didn’t get a chance to attend any Cocktail Week parties. Thankfully, I have since been able to visit several London cocktail bars to atone for my sins of omission.
My London cocktail crawl started off with a meeting at the Egerton House Hotel bar in Knightsbridge. There I met a few other bloggers for drinks with the hotel’s content and community manager. After we settled into some sofas in the intimate lounge we were greeted by Antonio, the seasoned barman, who came to the table to make us martinis. He was a pro, and his drinks were scandalously strong. I could only manage one before switching to Champagne, but one was enough to make me want to go back.
In the meantime, I continued my cocktail crawl at another establishment a few nights later. This London cocktail bar was the Booking Office Bar at the new St Pancras Renaissance Hotel. I had been dying to visit George Gilbert Scott’s fabulously romantic Gothic Revival building since it reopened as a five-star accommodation earlier this year, and I managed to wrangle a tour of the spa and some of the suites before cocktail hour.
During the show-round I saw some impressive interiors, including the stunning staircase and areas where scenes from the Harry Potter movies were filmed. In addition, I saw both the first revolving door in Europe and the first public smoking area for women in Europe. Beyond those, the hotel featured suites with replica wallpaper that cost 48,000 pounds to create and another 12,000 pounds to hang. It was all so overwhelming that I needed a drink.
That came in the form of a cocktail (or two) that the Booking Office Bar had offered me and a friend. The bar was as stunning as the rest of the hotel, and featured the Grade I listed original ticket booth from the St Pancras train station. To fit in with its surroundings, the drinks menu featured Victorian cocktails and punches in copper bowls.
As we settled into low-slung chairs, my friend ordered a cup of Billy Dawson’s Punch, which was made with lemon juice, sugar, Jamaican rum, VSOP cognac, and Batavia Arrack. I had an Orchard Sour, which contained apple gin, elderflower liqueur, apple juice, fresh lime, sugar syrup, and egg white. While her cocktail was rich, spicy, and perfect for autumn, mine was a light spring day.
We enjoyed our first round with some bar snacks. Everything from truffle fries, cheese sticks, mini bagels with smoked salmon, and fish croquettes filled the table as we sipped. The food was enough to carry us to a second round.
My friend ordered The Bacardi Cocktail, which was made with rum, lime juice, and grenadine. I went for a Cosmopolitan Daisy, a blend of gin, Orange Curacao, lemon juice, and raspberry syrup. Both cocktails were pink and girly, and we sipped them happily as the bar buzzed around us.
But our London cocktail crawl wasn’t over. We had a second invitation for cocktails that night, and this one was at another recently-refurbished establishment. The Met Bar in Mayfair’s Metropolitan Hotel had just undergone a massive makeover, and we were excited to see the new space and sample cocktails from the updated menu.
The place was fairly full when we arrived, and we took seats at the bar. The decor was similar to its previous incarnation, but the red leather seats had been replaced with orange ones and a large space at the front had been opened up.
Lee, the barman, helped us choose cocktails from the list. My friend went with an intriguing option called the Green Park Frost. It was made with basil and celery syrup, lavender maraschino, Martini Bianco, and Plymouth Gin. The drink was served tall over crushed ice, and the result was both beautiful and refreshing.
I went with Lee’s award-winning Storm in a Teacup, which was so good that it won him a trip to Mexico to compete in a cocktail competition. The drink was made with Tanqueray Gin shaken with Aperol, orgeat, cacao, and fresh lime. It was served with a hint of chocolate liqueur around the rim. I was nervous that it would be too sweet or heavy, but it was just right. I could see why he won an award for it.
My recent cocktail crawl ended there, but I’m sure it won’t be long before I go on another. From the Experimental Cocktail Club, which is hidden away up a narrow staircase in Chinatown, to 69 Colebrooke Row, the bar-without-a-sign in Angel, there are plenty of London cocktail bars to visit next time I fancy a tipple. I just hope my craving doesn’t coincide with ten different London food festivals.