It seems inconceivable now but there was a time when I wasn’t particularly interested in cocktails.
Don’t get me wrong, I did dabble. Like any self-respecting clubber on the London scene in the early-80s I did the whole Coconut Grove, Zanzibar and The Rock Garden thing but even though I ordered and drank them, Banana Daiquiris didn’t really cut it for me. That wasn’t the point though. Unless you were there you’ll never know just how deeply cool and glamorous it felt to be posing at the bar with our overly padded shoulders, over inflated egos and over-the-top creamy drinks. These were the things that London nightlife was made of. Secretly, I was much more of a wine and champagne kinda gal. That’s not to say that I didn’t indulge in the odd glass of hardcore liquor. I went through my Jim Beam, then gin, lime and lemonade and the occasional Sea breeze phases but they were always short-lived. However, like trends, taste buds change and by the time Mr G introduced me to the subtle nuances of a cocktail proper, I was ready to embrace the spirit world big time.
At first, my preference was for fruit-based concoctions – anything with watermelon, vanilla, passionfruit and pomegranate would always pique my interest. Then one night at Milk & Honey, my palate was awakened to the sharp tang of the White Lady and there’s been no turning back; I’m now a fully paid-up member of the cocktail lovers club.
My greatest revelation though is how well I’ve taken to the Big Boy’s drink – the martini. This was a cocktail I’d always left to the aficionados. However, after one very pleasant afternoon where Alessandro Palazzi at Duke’s Bar showed me how he creates the kind of martinis that make grown men weep, there’s nothing I appreciate more than an expertly mixed, ice cold martini made with one of the stunning gins now available in London.
My favourite spirit? Gin, no question. I have a soft spot for anything from Beefeater: 24, Summer, Winter, Crown Jewel and regular, never disappoint. But after my private audience with Alessandro, I’ve discovered the excellent No. 3 gin, made by those lovely folk at Berry Bros. & Rudd and Sacred, a fabulous artisanal small batch gin made in Highgate, north London by Ian Hart.
My favourite bar? That’s a trickier one and the answer very much depends on my mood. If I want to do the whole LBD, heels and long gloves number, it has to be somewhere ab fab like the Artesian at The Langham, The American and Beaufort Bars at The Savoy and The Connaught. For speakeasy glamour and consistently stunning drinks, I’m always impressed with Milk and Honey and for great vibes and stunning drinks it has to be Callooh Callay. When it comes to innovation 69 Colebrooke Row is leagues apart from anywhere else but the Fifth Floor Bar at Harvey Nichols is my go-to bar for all day girly glamour.
The London landmark where I’d most like to sip a cocktail would be Waterloo Bridge, looking out on to all of the capital’s stunning architecture. Mr G and I took our favourite wedding pictures here, completely oblivious to the tourists and the crazy traffic – that Ray Davis has a lot to answer for…