11 Legendary London Cocktails
There are some London cocktails that are as iconic to the city’s bar scene as The Shard now is to the London skyline. From the famous Harry Potter Butterbeer on tap at the Blind Pig to the hair-singeing party starter cocktail in Mayfair, these are eleven legendary London drinks that you just have to try.
Whatever’s on the menu that night — Cub
Cocktail geeks flock across town to taste whatever mixologist Ryan Chetiyawardana (aka Mr Lyan) has up his sleeve, because with his armfuls of industry awards, this guy tends to lead the way when it comes to London’s cocktail scene. Now he’s launched a brand new ‘sorta’ restaurant, Cub, under the Lyan name, so you can expect more tradition-breaking, trend setting stuff.
In partnership with chef Doug McMaster, the man behind award-winning zero-waste restaurant Silo, the pair are trying to merge the gap between dishes and drinks — and from this, they aim to reduce ingredient waste in a big way. Made with this goal in mind, the cocktails are going to be pretty game-changing, served right up alongside the dishes by a Cub bartender-chef.
Because Cub will use ingredients that are available on that day and month, cocktails on the menu will change regularly, so you might not get the same thing every time, but whatever it is, it’s going to be something pretty special. An example is the Double Scotch, with (Scotch) Hereford blackcurrants for a tart, berry-like fruitiness, homemade amzake syrup for a bit of length, and cobnuts to add a touch of fresh nuttiness.
Cub, 153 Hoxton Street, N1 6PJ
Champagne Piña Colada — Coupette
We’ve basically become a fixture at Bethnal Green’s cocktail bar Coupette since it opened up a few months ago. Headed up by ex-Savoy bartender Chris Moore, the drinks are, as expected, five stars all round, made with lesser-known French ingredients and other top quality stuff.
There’s a hefty Champagne cocktail list, of which the Champagne Piña Colada is the best seller — people are talking about it all over town. It’s a grown up take on the fun-time beach drink, with rum and Agricole mixed with coconut sorbet and Moet & Chandon Brut. Refreshing icy coconut, without being too sweet. We reckon it has legendary potential.
Coupette, 423 Bethnal Green Road, E2 0AN
Flaming Ferrari — Nam Long Le Shaker
The renowned West London disco drink. Lots of boozy liqueurs and syrups, all poured into a martini glass, then topped up with a shot of rum and a glug of Grand Marnier citrus liqueur. The bartender then ignites the whole thing, so it becomes a glass of leaping flames. Your aim is to drink all of the contents of the glass through two straws in one go, without burning your eyebrows off — good luck!
We don’t think there’s a celebrity in London who hasn’t swept their hair back and tried one of these bad boys — don’t be surprised to find Hugh Grant in here, lining up the fiery drinks for his entourage. We also hear rumours that Kate & Wills partied the night away on Flaming Ferraris in here before settling down into family life…
Nam Long Le Shaker, 159 Old Brompton Road, SW5 0LJ
Hanky Panky — The American Bar
This 100-year old classic cocktail was invented right here, in London’s longest standing cocktail bar. It was created by the bar’s famous female Head Bartender, Ada ‘Coley’ Coleman, when actor Sir Charles Hawtrey asked for a ‘pick-me-up’. Ada mixed something up and he drank it. It obviously did the trick, because he came right back the next night asking for ‘more of that hanky panky’, and a cocktail was born. It’s another boozy one, with gin, sweet vermouth and Italian digestivo Fernet-Branca.
American Bar, The Savoy Hotel, 100 Strand, WC2R 0EZ
Espresso Martini – The Grind
Of all the many espresso martinis in town, the booze-fuelled caffeine kick at cool café-bar The Grind is the one everyone knows about. There are no fancy twists; it’s just a good solid martini, made with a double shot of rich espresso and top-notch coffee made lovingly at Shoreditch Grind, mixed up with vodka and a wee bit of sugar syrup with a beautifully frothy top. And in here, it feels totally acceptable to order one at any hour of the day.
The Grind, various locations
Butterbeer – Blind Pig
London went actually a little bit loopy when Blind Pig first launched their Harry Potter Butterbeer. It still remains one for the cocktail tick-off list, whether or not you’re an HP fan. This is the nearest you’ll get to trying this wizardly drink at The Hog’s Head in Hogsmeade village.
The original drink wasn’t meant to be too boozy (although apparently house elves get w******* on it). At Blind Pig, however, they’ve done their own, slightly more alcoholic take on it. Probably because us humans are just that little bit more hardcore than wizards. The bar’s Half a Pint o’Buttah comes on tap and is made with whisky, Kamm & Sons, thyme, beer and, of course, butterscotch.
Blind Pig, 58 Poland Street, W1F 7NR
Shaky Pete’s Ginger Brew — Hawksmoor
London’s famous turbo beer was invented just a few years ago by Hawksmoor bartender Pete Jeary who created the drink for a cocktail competition for a London-inspired cocktail. What he came up with was this fresh icy ale, spiked with gin and a fiery ginger syrup kick, served in a hefty tankard with a light foamy top.
The drink has since become a staple on the Hawksmoor menus, and has sparked many copycat imitations across town. Tip off — get the Big Matt meal at Hawksmoor Spitalfields bar, and for just £20 and you can also try their acclaimed Hawksmoor beef burger (and chips) in addition to a Shaky Pete cocktail. Score.
Hawksmoor, various locations
Any of the ‘Bitchin’ Classics’ – Super Lyan
And while you’re in the building, it makes sense to check out the epic cocktails happening downstairs at Mr Lyan’s basement bar Super Lyan. The guys down here make the majority of their cocktail ingredients in house, using science to create all sorts of tasty distillates, bitters and other ‘mad sh*t’, with one of their aims being to cut down on ingredient waste.
For example, for their Baha Colada cocktail, they make their own coconut syrup with leftover ricotta whey. This is just one of the ‘Bitchin’ Classics’ that draw in London bartenders from all over town, and and that you need to try if you’re into your drinks.
Super Lyan, 55 Hoxton Street, N1 6PJ
Prairie Oyster – 69 Colebrooke Row
You haven’t done hangovers until if you’ve slurped down this famous London cure. The original Prairie Oyster has been around for decades — a combo of raw egg, Worcestershire sauce, tomato juice, vinegar, hot sauce, salt and ground black pepper, said to chase away a sore head (if you can bear to get it down).
The drink was originally invented in London at the American Bar (see above), but this smart, film noir-style Islington bar has their own (more approachable) interpretation. They create a mock egg yolk from re-clarified tomato juice and serve it up in a pool of horseradish vodka, green tea spice mix and ‘oyster leaf’ herbs. It might still sound pretty weird, but it sure slips down easily. Served in a white China oyster shell, it’s also insanely photogenic — an all-round great little cocktail.
69 Colebrooke Row, N1 8AA
Negroni – Bar Termini
These guys were dishing out the Negroni way before it became the trendiest thing in town. The bar’s owner, Tony Conigliaro (also founder of 69 Colebrooke Row) was also ahead of the game by making his Negronis pre-mixed. They’re served straight from the freezer and poured into dainty glassware (rather than served on the rocks in a shortie glass). Along with the stunning art deco bottle design, it’s by far the sexiest Negroni in town.
Tony C keeps developing new infusions, and now there are five negroni versions on the menu. There’s the Classic, made with London dry gin, Italian vermouth and Italian bitters, the Rosato (infused with rose petals), the Superiore (infused with pink peppercorns), the more intense Robusto and the newest edition — the trendy Bergamot Negroni (bergamots are the new lemons and all that). This last one is only available at the brand new Bar Termini site near Bond Street.
Bar Termini, 7 Old Compton Street, W1D 5JE
For more Negronis, check out our list of London’s best.
Pisco Sour — Ceviche
Finally, be sure to try a Pisco Sour from Ceviche, the place that introduced Peru’s signature serve to London. The cocktail here is just the right balance of sharp and sweet: it’s way too drinkable. And we’re in good company — we hear Tinie Tempah, Kate Moss and Yoko Ono are all fans. What’s in this little beauty? Pisco Acholado, egg white, Angostura bitters, lime juice and sugar syrup. You should also try Ceviche’s juicy house-made Pisco Punch — but maybe after just one more of those delicious Pisco Sours…
Ceviche, 17 Frith Street, W1D 4RG; 2 Baldwin Street, EC1V 9NU