VOC, one of two great bars to open in King’s Cross 

No-one could ever accuse us of not taking this cocktail malarky seriously. In fact, we’ve done a fair bit of liquid research over the past twelve months. And to prove it here are a few of our favourite bars which opened in London this year…

(Click on the red bits to find out more)

Bar 45

Reminiscent of a decadent ocean liner this sleek, super shiny hotel bar serves up some seriously good drinks, including the Umami cocktail (Hendrink’s gin, oba leaf, cucumber, Japanese Umebosi plums) and Pepino’s Revenge  (7 Leguas Blanco tequila, Japanese cucumber, fresh basil, lime). Interestingly, it’s the team in the kitchen who devise and make up the tea infusions and syrups that adorn the black granite bar. They’re also responsible for the tasty Rough Cuts menu. Don’t leave without trying the sublime mini kobe sliders and hot gougers. A-maze-zing!
45 Park Lane, W1K 1PN. T: 020 7493 4545. 45parklane.com

Pepino’s Revenge at Bar 45

Bassoon

Opulent décor aside, this five-star hotel bar stands out for its quality selection of bespoke vermouths, tasty homemade sodas and fabulous Food Cocktails. Oh, and the seven metre bespoke piano bar ain’t too shabby either…

Music to our ears, cocktails shaking at Bassoon

The Gilbert Scott

My, my, who would have thought that King’s Cross would scrub up so well? Along with the restoration of the magnificent Gothic treasure that is the St. Pancras Renaissance London hotel, comes this splendid bar and restaurant operated by Michelin-starred chef Marcus Wareing. It’s a fab spot to take history buffs: regale them with stories of how the bar occupies the former entrance to the Midland Grand Hotel and is accessed through the first revolving door in the UK. Rather fittingly the house cocktail is called 1873, named after the year the hotel originally opened.

The cocktails take in updated English classics but we fell head over heels for the Taking Tea With George menu, incorporating some of the dinkiest, tastiest sweet and savoury morsels we’ve had the pleasure to sample at teatime. And the tea-based cocktails that go with absolutely blew our minds. At £29 a head, it ain’t cheap but it works perfectly for an indulgent treat.

Gothic splendour at the Gilbert Scott

Hawksmoor Guildhall

Hand on heart, this will never overtake our affection for its older sibling over in Seven Dials. That said, it’s still pretty darned fab. If you’ve done the rounds at London’s key bars, you’ll recognise the crack squad of talent behind the bar and if you love a menu to lead you astray, prepare for a journey of the most enlightening and spiritual kind. Liam Daly has put together a list that takes in a day in the life of a seasoned but discerning drinker. Top picks include the Sinking Spritz and the ace Nuclear Banana Daquiri.

The return of the retro drink at Hawksmoor

The Mayor of Scaredy Cat Town

There’s something extremely cool about entering a bar through a fridge. Luckily TMoSCT isn’t all style over substance – once you get behind the ‘Smeg’ door, you can settle back to enjoy some rather fine cocktails in a seriously fun, Speakeasy-style setting. Good times all round.

The Mayor of Scaredy Cat Town

Shaker & Company

As soon as we heard the Shaker guys were opening their first bar, we knew it was going to be a cracker. Having trained some of the best bartenders on the planet including World Class 2010 winner Erik Lorincz, this team know more than most about constructing and serving a bloody good drink. Of which there are plenty on the menu, including the deliciously different, delightfully refreshing Potato Sack Sour.

It’s definitely a destination bar positioned as it is on a bleak stretch between Camden and Euston Road, but it’s well worth the visit. Top marks for the one-size-fits-all New Orleans-style décor which works perfectly for cocktail lovers of all ages.
119 Hampstead Road, NW1 3EE. T: 020 7060 6877. shakerandcompany.co.uk

Myles shakes things up at Shaker & Co. Image: Paul Winch-Furness

The Shop

This is our kinda shop – one that sells cocktails, hosts regular parties and where everything you see is for sale. Luke Allen and Ben Magid have created a community hotspot for style-conscious Kensal Risers, with an ever-changing rosta of shopping evenings and fun events, all served up alongside a menu of fabulous drinks.

Retail therapy at The Shop

VOC

Inspired by 17th century Punch Houses, this small but perfectly formed bar has been designed by drinks connoisseurs for drinks connoisseurs. Tristan Stephenson, Thomas Aske, Bryan Pietersen and Matt Whiley of Fluid Movement and the Worship Street Whistling Shop (see below) have done an excellent job creating an amazing drinks list celebrating the beauty of punch and the art of barrel-aged libations.

The setting is perfect for dates – think small, dark and atmospheric with exposed brickwork, sexy candlelight, squishy sofas and plenty of naval-inspired antiquities to keep your eyes busy if you run out of things to say. Not that you will once you taste the cocktails, taking in three punches, four barrel-aged beverages and eight mixed drinks inspired by classic British, Dutch and Asian recipes.
2 Varnishers Yard, Regent’s Quarter, N1 9AW. T: 020 7713 8229. voc-london.co.uk 

Barrels of fun at VOC

Worship Street Whistling Shop

There’s no shortage of extremely good independent bars in east London. That said, there’s always room for more. With its winning list of creative libations, this excellent venture from the Fluid Movement guys showcases their liquid alchemy to perfection, taking in a clever collection of barrel-aged cocktails and an impressive drinks menu including house-blended syrups, tonics and infusions. We’re looking forward to Part Two of the multi-sensory adventures in The Cocktail Emporium – the latest one commencing January 2012 tells the story of vodka.

Worship at the Whistling Shop

Zetter Townhouse bar

Like a favourite sweater this fabulous bar always makes us feel all cosy, comfy and warm. That’s down to the stylishly put together English eccentric interior, wonderful service and an excellent cocktail menu devised by our favourite drinksmeister Tony Conigliaro. Do yourself a favour and try the excellent Master at Arms, a delicious ruby-coloured libation that’s perfect for this time of year.

The perfect living room/bar at Zetter Townhouse

 

 

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