London – Drink Sleep & Repeat
Here comes the last couple of bars. Overall, it was a successful drinking experience. Two bars didn’t touch me at all but all the others absolutely delighted me. My focus is to visit bars and have a pleasant time and a sensory experience. I had a really tough time starting drinking right after noon and trying to get as many flavours of each bar.
So many bars from London are on the World’s 50 Best Bars list. It is an El Dorado of barstalking. I had always wanted to visit Bar Termini, ranked at the moment at no. 9 on the list. I love coffee, I love cocktails and another C in this row is the maestro of cocktails Conigliaro. The brain behind this day and night concept.
You will find Martinis and Negronis at their best.
Four different prebottled Negronis, the perfect Aperitivo. I opted for the Robusto. A traditional blend of London Dry gin, Italian Vermouth and Italian Bitters, though aged for longer then the Classico Negroni for a more robust flavour with great depth. Next choice was the Marsala Martini with Beefeater gin, marsala dolce, dry vermouth and almond bitters. Delicious, with dry fruity notes and the pleasant sweetness of the marsala. In the meantime the nice barmaid served me with a plate of tasty parmesan cheese.
To quote my instagram post of that day “London is going to kill me. It is 2 o’clock in the morning and I have already had three drinks in this wonderful glassware.” The third drink, by the way, was Terroir, which involves a distillation of clay, flint and lichen. Another inventive cocktail out of Tony C’s drink factory, this one is from 2012. I already knew the term Terroir from wine tastings but never before from cocktails nor as an independent taste. A wine without grapes, a vodka martini, it is quite confusing. But after I had already been twice to Untitled I was starting to get used to these kind of drinks.
There are two Bar Terminis, Soho and Centrale. I was in Soho. A simple Italian bar but with a great vibe. Both places are inspired by the bar at Rome’s Termini train station. I felt like I was in a black and white movie with some red highlights, or maybe I felt a bit tipsy, or just happy. A must visit.
Swift is just a stone’s throw away from Bar Termini. The place hosts two bars, upstairs and downstairs. Oh, I was in double trouble.
I entered the ground floor and found myself in an Italian aperitivo bar. The decor is classy black and white, the space is generous and offers a lot of standing space for pre-dinner drinks. A perfect place for day drinking, a Martini and maybe some oysters. A look at the bar menu confirmed my first impressions. A short menu of light cocktails accompanied by rock oysters or other small bites. I tried the Piccolina, an Amontillado sherry based concoction with white port, fig and angostura. Light but strong in taste and made by a charming bartender. I only wanted to have a quick drink … but if you stay longer than expected it speaks for itself. After my refreshing West to East with Nikka, pineapple, yuzu and champagne it was somehow already 5pm. By coincidence, the time when the downstairs bar opens.
Then, I found myself in an American speakeasy bar with a piano in the corner where they play jazz and blues on Friday and Saturday. The backbar welcomes whisky lovers. The bar seats are comfortable and there are also cosy sofas. Each bar offers a different menu. This one is for the night drinkers and is heavy on the whisky. The atmosphere is classy but so relaxed. I started to talk to my neighbour and we shared some of the delicious drinks. I expected a more vintage cocktail style and was really surprised by the unusual flavour combinations.
I opted for the Amber Cane. A Manhattan based on Jamaican rum, madeira, Benedictine, orange curaçao and mole bitters. This worked so well together, a great drink. I tried my neighbours Cobblestone and this too was lovely. Teeling small batch, nocino, oloroso sherry and Angostura. As I am a mezcal lover I had to try the Silver Pistol. Montelobos, Noilly Prat dry, kummel, celery bitters and absinthe. This drinks are so exciting. No wonder there is a heavyweight team behind Swift consisting of Bobby Hiddleston, Mia Johansson, Rosie Stimpson and Edmund Weil of the bars Nightjar and Oriole.
I couldn’t leave the place without having an Irish Coffee, a mixture of Jameson Caskmates, Demerara syrup, coffee, cream and nutmeg. The memory is immediately mouthwatering.
What both bars have in common is the friendly atmosphere and the masterfully mixed drinks. I left the place after hours with a really big smile.
A hidden gem in a basement with a casual atmosphere. It seems like this is an insider tip or a secret drinking hole but it is one of the World’s 50 Best Bars. Exposed bricks, intimate atmosphere, candlelit, and a wooden bar counter well-worn by the passage of time, create this cozy atmosphere. The place is small but I was lucky and just had to wait a couple of minutes for my preferred seat at the bar.
The bar team is natural and friendly and you feel welcome immediately. The menu, “Mixed Drinks & Mischief”, is focussed on classic-style drinks: simple but abso-fucking-lutely delicious.
Drinking is easy and they don’t make a fuss about it. It is just a cool and relaxed place to sip a classic drink. “Great cocktails, no wallies” is the promise they make.
Indeed, the Celery Sour No. 2 and the Jerezana, a drink with Manzanilla and Amontillado sherry, sweet and dry vermouth and a dash of vanilla syrup and orange bitters were perfectly executed and nicely balanced. Heart-warming concoctions and just on the right side of strong – just how I like my drinks. A Happiness never to be forgetten.
It was nearly time to say goodbye and I celebrated this memorable trip with a highlight. New York’s The Dead Rabbit, in August the number one on the World’s 50 Best Bars list, took over Claridge’s Bar for a whole week. I was at the right place at the right time and just a couple of hours before my flight back to Berlin I managed to get a seat at the popular spot. Three strong drinks later I had to concentrate on finding my way to the airport.
The Dead Rabbit Pop Up in London
I already had my pop up project with Baba Au Rum in mind when I visited the venue, but this was a luxurious first-class pop up. They had transformed the whole bar spirit at Claridge’s Bar, and I also mean that literally. They had changed the wall colour to green creating an Irish pub atmosphere. I haven’t been to The Dead Rabbit yet, but I heard that the experience is as close as could be.
The Dead Rabbit is named after a notorious Irish street gang that patrolled Lower Manhattan during the 1850s. The story of leader and prize fighter John Morissey is told through the bar’s graphic comic-style cocktail menu, which was also replicated for the Claridge’s pop-up.
The cup of welcome punch was emptied fast and I opted for the famous Psycho Killer, a kind of Boulevardier with Redbreast 12-year-old Irish Whiskey, Campari, banana Liqueur, white cacao and Pernod absinthe. Powerful and very tasty. There was still time for a second drink, the Goody Two Shoes, a combination of Vida mezcal and Irish whiskey which was deep red and a potent mix. There was no time left for the tempting bar food but enough for an Irish Coffee. I had always wanted to drink an Irish Coffee at The Dead Rabbit. Check! This one hit my taste buds and soothed the pain of the approaching farewell.
What an amazing end to my London pilgrimage. I had survived 41 drinks in 14 bars. London, see you again soon.