From comfort food to film, art to attractions, there are a lot of things that London does exceptionally well. One thing we think that the city can’t be beaten on is its high quality and diverse cocktail offering.
If you’re heading to the capital for a quick visit, a long holiday, or if you’re a London local and are just heading out for a drink, you’ll want to read on. We’ve rounded up seven of the best cocktails created in the city, to help you get that Friday feeling whatever the day.
London’s best cocktails can be found in anywhere from bars near Paddington to Peckham, swanky hotels and typical English pubs. Once you’ve found your watering hole, here’s what you should order…
The Vesper Martini
Although the origins of the first Martini date back to the 1860s, the Martini we all know and love first rose in status starting in the 1900s. During prohibition, the Martini became the drink of choice – or the only choice – in speakeasies across the country due to the swift accessibility and manufacture of gin. It was often a gin Martini or no drink at all for customers hiding out in secret watering holes.
And no list of London cocktails would be complete without the city’s most famous cocktail, the Vesper Martini, of course. Created back in the 1950s for the James Bond author, Ian Fleming, he loved it so much he even included it in Casino Royale, the first James Bond novel, and he named it after the secret agent Vesper Lynd, Bond’s heart-breaking paramour. Experience a stay in the city like Fleming himself, and take advantage of London Paddington hotel deals.
The Espresso Martini
Mixologist and cocktail connoisseur Dick Bradsell is somewhat of a London cocktail legend. In the eighties, he not only created many world-famous cocktails which are now on the menu of some of the best bars across the city, and restaurants near Paddington railway station and beyond, but he is also widely credited with shaking up the entire mixology industry at this time.
He came up with this specific concoction in the late-1980s while working at a brasserie on Greek Street (which was totally different back then). He’s clarified that it took a well-known and rather worse-for-wear American model – who remains anonymous – coming into the bar and requesting a tipple that would ‘wake me up, then f**k me up’, to provide the inspiration for this innovative drink.
Other cocktails which Dick Bradsell created in London include The Bramble, Russian Spring Punch and The Treacle. We’ll take one of each.
Speaking of the Bramble, this other brainchild of Dick Bradsell is next on our list. Bradsell wanted to create a British cocktail inspired by his memories of picking blackberries as a child on the Isle of Wight… and with that, cocktail history was made!
Go glam with your bramble by adding a dash of champagne. Just make the drink as normal but reduce the amount of crushed ice by about a third to leave room for the fizz. Then add 25-50ml of champagne, mix, add a bit more crushed ice, garnish and serve.
This origins of this beer-based cocktail are rather gloomy, but very interesting, nonetheless. The drink is rumoured to originate from the black velvet material that Queen Victoria wore for the rest of her life, following the death of her husband, Prince Albert. A gentlemen’s club in. St. James’s Street served this stout and champagne cocktail out of respect to them both. Black Velvets are available at almost any Irish pub in London, but lots of the top cocktail bars across the city serve up their own take on the rich and tasty tipple.
Though there are numerous philosophies as to the source of this classic cocktail based with gin and lemon, the most likely explanation leads back to the mid-19th century and a hotel in Mayfair. John Collins was a bartender working at a bar within a hotel noted at the time for being ‘one of the dirtiest in London’. John Collins created the drink as a twist on a classic gin punch (one of the most prevalent drinks of the time) and became immortalised in a limerick in a 1892 book titled Drinks of the World, so leading to the cocktail’s name:
My name is John Collins,
head waiter at Limmer’s,
Corner of Conduit Street,
My chief occupation is filling
For all the young gentlemen
The Dubonnet cocktail is designed to highlight the best gin you have. Originally an un-garnished cocktail from the 1930s, the Dubonnet cocktail is often served with a twist of lemon and/or an orange peel.
The Dubonnet cocktail is said to be a firm favourite of Queen Elizabeth II and her late mother, who is said to have preferred it served on the rocks. It has fallen slightly into obscurity in recent years, though there are lots of bars around the city trying to bring it back.
This cocktail is also known as the Zaza, after the character in a 1915 silent film. The Dubonnet cocktail makes an ideal aperitif.
The elder is an ancient hedgerow plant, native to Britain. Immersed in mystery and superstition, a number of powers and properties have been accredited to this plant, with its frothy, saucer-sized mass of white flowers and dusky black berries. It’s a quintessentially British flavour and fixture of the country’s green spaces, so it’s no surprise that mixologists soon cottoned on to its potential as a cocktail component.
One of the easiest ones to make on the list (if not the easiest) look out for luxury London hotels special offers, grab the ingredients and try making it yourself! Add 25ml vodka and 15ml elderflower cordial to an ice filled shaker. Shake until cold. Strain into a glass and top up with icy champagne, garnish with a lemon twist.