The city of London is no stranger to superb cocktails. Not only did it land the best (and second best) spot on the World’s 50 Best Bars list this year, the city also had the top and second spots last year. (Congrats, Ryan Chetiyawardana.) But unlike the World’s 50 Best, London Cocktail Week isn’t out to celebrate a handful of competitive destinations; rather it aims to unite a city through its plentiful, diverse offerings. Some 300 bars are participating in the week, along with international takeovers and a pop-up Cocktail Village on Brick Lane (which features an astounding Talisker Scotch Hot Chocolate).
It’s all presented by DrinkUp.London, an organization that carefully oversees the participants and acts a guide through the city. They also happen to helm London Beer Week and London Wine Week. Here, though, from Covent Garden to Bethnal Green and back again, special events and collaborations and plain old regularly scheduled drinking hours include cocktails, new and old, that shape the epic London scene. The six drinks below (some recipes in ounce counts and others in milliliters, depending on nation of origin) were drawn from painting the town red at the start of the week, where we either sought carefully considered beverages or those that embody wild festivity.
Return of the Polka Panther
From its iconic cocktail book to its reputation as one of the world’s top cocktails bars year after year, The American Bar at The Savoy is a must-visit spot for its service and imaginative drinks. Now under the guidance of Maxim Schulte, one of 11 head bartenders in the history of the hotel, its spirit remains the same—driven by experience and a good story. The bar’s most famous drink happens to be the Hanky-Panky, invented by Ada Coleman (the bar’s only female head bartender) but our favorite is the Return of the Polka Panther, because who in their right mind would think scotch, crème de menthe and citrus go well together? They do.
50 ml Royal Brackla 16-year-old whisky
20 ml Italicus
10 ml Crème de menthe
2 dashes homemade eucalyptus essence
Stir in shaker with ice. Strain in a cocktail glass.
Created by Naren Young for Dante but served in London icon Quaglino’s, the Desert Island meticulously balances sweet and salty. Mango so rarely factors into cocktails well, and here it flourishes with the gin, Cocchi Americano and Luxardo’s Bitter Bianco.
1 oz Citadel Old Tom Gin
1 oz Cocchi Americano (infused with mango tea)
1 oz Luxardo Bitter Bianco (infused with freeze-dried mango)
3 dashes mango vinegar
1 dash saline solution
Stir and strain into a Nick & Nora glass. For garnish, dust outside of glass with powder mix of dried mango, salt, sugar and gold.
Virgin Atlantic stepped in as an official partner for this year’s London Cocktail Week—and set up shop in the Cocktail Village, in a wondrous pop-up bar reminiscent of flying in the clouds. Their back bar touted batch-made cocktails aplenty, many of which were developed in conjunction with some of the world’s most acclaimed bars. Our personal favorite, the Terminal A, received a helping hand from NYC’s Black Tail. And, in conjunction with their just-announced partnership with Aviation American Gin, it makes sense that it’s the base spirit.
5 ml Creme de Violete
15 ml Pimms
30 ml Cocchi Americano
30ml Aviation Gin
Combine all ingredients. Stir over ice. Strain into a rocks glass.
For dessert—or simply pure fun—look no further than Coupette. This bar acts as the after-hours time and time again and its Champagne Colada might be a reason. It’s delicious and so celebratory that it’s difficult to have just one.
10 ml Bacardi Heritage
10 ml Bacardi Carta Blanca
5 ml Trois Rivières Blanc
40 ml fresh pineapple juice
35 ml house pineapple cordial
2 scoops coconut sorbet
35 ml Moet & Chandon Brut Imperial
Blend all ingredients with a scoop of crushed ice, then pour over Champagne. Garnish with dried coconut.
A few things separate the Mediterranean Essence from a typical gin and tonic. From the bar of Eneko at One Aldwych, the spritely and refreshing concoction begins with a Spanish gin whose botanicals invoke a splendid, sunny destination. With basil essence and a spring of thyme, the herbal profile of the cocktail rises beyond expectation. It’s a series of sensory tweaks to a well-known tipple—and it works.
50 ml Gin Mare Spanish gin
150 ml Fever-Tree light tonic
3 sprays of basil essence
Spring of fresh thyme and twist of lemon
Fill a balloon glass with ice. Add gin and tonic, garnish with a sprig of fresh thyme and twist of lemon. Serve and spray basil essence in the air around the cocktail.
From Green Room, the lobby bar of The Curtain London, a luxury hotel in Shoreditch (that also houses a Red Rooster), comes the Strawberry Thief. The hotel’s most popular drink, it’s a variation on the Spirtz and is a pleasant departure from the normal Aperol iteration. This could very easily be a session drink and it works well to start a night—or end one.
25 ml strawberry vermouth
10 ml RinQuinQuin a la Peche
10 ml Martini Rosso
35 ml Prosecco
25 ml soda water
5 dashes strawberry leaf bitters
Combine strawberry vermouth with RinQuinQuin a la Peche and Martini Rosso over ice in a glass. Add soda water and then stir. Top up with Prosecco. Dash strawberry leaf bitters. Garnish with strawberry slice.
You can download DrinkUp.London‘s app for free—activating the festival pass within the app costs £10 and grants access to the Cocktail Village. London Cocktail Week runs through 7 October 2018.