When I was growing up it seemed to me that style and cocktails appeared to go hand-in-hand, or rather glass-in-hand.
I had arrived at this conclusion thanks to the likes of Fred Astaire and Cary Grant in old movies and John Steed in The Avengers and Simon Templar in The Saint on TV. These guys looked good, were devastatingly suave, found themselves surrounded by exotic women and went to very glamorous places where they invariably ended up drinking cocktails. Even before I had started to imbibe I knew cocktails were for me.
They became readily, if briefly, available in the New Romantic hedonism of the early 80’s, even if they looked terrible (little umbrellas), tasted pretty awful (coconuts, cream…) and had embarrassing names (word play on ‘Screw’ often being popular). When this scene faded away it seemed the only places I could pursue the cocktail lifestyle was in traditional hotels. Many happy nights throughout the 80s and 90s slipped away bashing the credit card in the Savoy American Bar. I was also taking my first steps into mixing them up at home. And if I do say so myself they were invariably truly terrible. Luckily around this time decent cocktails also started to appear in some very good bars on the London scene. Particular favourites being Fred’s Club, Detroit and the Player (all thanks to the great Dick Bradsell).
For me now cocktails are still about the glamour (even if I never did become Cary Grant or Simon Templar). But they are also about a whole culture and special history – being almost as enjoyable to learn about and mix up (mine have improved somewhat I’m glad to say) as they are to sit back and savour. Most importantly of all though I find that Classic Martinis, Perfect Manhattans and all their contemporary, ever-evolving brothers, can just taste so very damn good.
My favourite cocktail is the Dry Martini so my favourite spirit has to be gin. There are so many subtle variations available. And for me it’s also synonymous with London.
Favourite bar? That’s a very difficult one. Milk & Honey has been a regular haunt for a number of years now. Whatever mood I’m in I’ll find something to suit – whether a classic or a new discovery. The drinks are expertly but unpretentiously prepared. And there’s always a warming atmosphere. Lately I’m also loving Hawksmoor in Covent Garden.
The London landmark where I would love to drink a cocktail has to be the BT Tower, or as it will always be known to me, the Post Office Tower. It’s such an icon and I always get a thrill whenever I catch site of it from another part of a London. I would love to be at the top, in what used to be the restaurant, as it slowly revolves, looking out over the city I love.