Regular readers will remember I have pledged this year to ensure we can all make an assortment of good cocktail by the end of 2014. Before we start to become experts in making our own ‘house’ cocktails, it’s vitally important to go and experience a range of excellent examples made by experts.
There are plenty of good cocktail bars in London, but the problem with most of them is that they are often a long way East and get full of other people. REALLY full. To the point where skinny dudes in rolled-hem jeans and slightly shrunk-in-the-wash jackets are prepared to queue in order to squeeze themselves into the hippest new venture. I once had to wait in a skanky Soho street while some twelve year old on the (unmarked, graffiti embossed) door informed me it would be at least 45 minutes before he would let me cross the cooler-than-your-fridge threshold. This is not my idea of fun.
I like other people and I love a swinging joint, but a good cocktail needs a more grown up environment to be appreciated in, one where you can hear what your companions are saying and you can discuss the merits of using one gin over another in your negroni with the barman.
Luckily, we know a few places.
Above is Le Meridien Hotel’s Franz Zauner, in front of the Gin Bar (it carries 26 different varieties, many are locally distilled) in London’s Piccadilly. We mentioned we’d been guests there recently and Franz mixed a delicious Lady Blender, curated by Rachel Barrie, female master blender for Morrison Bowmore distilleries, specially for our lunch. The cocktail included Auchentoshan 3 wood whisky, Cherry Herring, Antica Formula, Dry Curacao, Hibiscus and blackcurrant tea and a splash of orange bitters. Shake over ice, serve with an artfully pegged strip of lemon peel. Delicious.
Either the upstairs Gin Bar, in front of the Terrace restaurant (below), or the downstairs Longitude 0°8 bar (above) are good places to try a cocktail. The location is central, if you avoid Saturday nights you will be able to get a seat and chances are you will be able to have a conversation without shouting ‘WHAT?’ at everyone.
Franz told us the cocktail team will happily make any of our readers who visit a Lady Blender, or any cocktails of their choice. The menu changes seasonally and they regularly collaborate with new spirit brands, so an ideal place to experiment and learn from experts. Not the coolest decor or the hippest clientele but a useful tucked away mid town ‘secret’ and a properly grown up places to hang out.