(Reuters.com) - For many, London is synonymous with pub culture and pints of lager or ale. But just as the iconic pub is said to be on the decline, the cocktail scene here is flourishing as one of the most progressive and trendsetting in the world.
The iconic spirit in the UK capital is gin, whether your taste runs to the sweeter Old Tom (the choice brand for a Tom Collins cocktail) or the juniper-forward London Dry style. And you'll find plenty of gin-soaked cocktails to sip in the growing ranks of the pricey cocktail bars and nightclubs around the city.
John Glaser, London-based whisky maker for Compass Box, shared some of his favourite spots to take clients for a tipple, such as Mark's Bar (<www.marksbar.co.uk>) beneath the trendy SoHo restaurant Hix. Here, barman Nick Strangeway draws on historical influences to create a wide array of gin punches, slings and other libations.
Glaser's go-to cocktail at Mark's is the Artist's Special (Peat Monster Whisky, Cortado Sherry and homemade redcurrant syrup). However, "if you are there slightly hungover," Glaser points to the restorative Hix Fix (Morello cherries soaked in Somerset Eau de Vie, topped with sparkling wine).
Meanwhile, for "expense-account drinking," Glaser opts for The Coburg Bar (<here>) at the Connaught Hotel in Mayfair. "The word ‘tony' only begins how to describe this place," he adds.
The Coburg and its cheekier sister Connaught Bar (<here>) have developed an international reputation for stellar drinks. At the Coburg, historically correct classics like the Pimm's Cup No. 1 are the draw; at the Connaught, the thing to do is ask the bartender to create a bespoke drink from that evening's array of speciality infusions, house-made vermouths and bitters in flavours like lavender, grapefruit and ginger. Alternatively, build your ideal martini from the circulating martini trolley.
Are these the only libation-worthy bars in London? Of course not. We haven't even touched on classic martini havens like Dukes Bar (<www.dukeshotel.com/>) or the American Bar at the newly renovated Savoy (<here>), the growing ranks of hidden speakeasies like Shoreditch favourite Callooh Callay (<here>), or the high-in-the-sky Vertigo 42 (<www.vertigo42.co.uk/>), where finance types guzzle champagne high above the City.
Still, of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, you'll be very glad you walked into these.
Recipe: Connaught Collins
This tall, cool cocktail, a riff on the classic Tom Collins, takes its name from David Collins, the famous interior designer who designed the Connaught Bar.
50 ml Premium Gin
20 ml freshly squeezed Lemon Juice
10 ml homemade sugar syrup
Dash of Mystery Bitters
Stir all the ingredients in the mixing glass and strain into a Pilsner glass full of ice.
Garnish with a wheel of lime and marinated cherry.
(Kara Newman is the author of "Spice & Ice: 60 tongue-tingling cocktails", available < here>. The opinions expressed are her own.)
(Editing by Peter Myers)