In an age of powdered alcohol, flaming cocktails, and molecular mixology, classic cocktail bars are totally refreshing – in more ways than one. It’s a philosophy that underpins the drink mixing at The Milestone Hotel’s Stables Bar. Here, our talented bartenders whip up tried and true drinks like the Smoking Old Fashioned. Guests can select a base spirit of single malt whisky, rum, or tequila (each has been aged for 30 days in French oak barrels that were previously sealed with overproof rum, cherry heering and maple syrup for added complexity), which is then finished off with rosé bitters, sugar, orange, and cherry. Ahh.
Beyond the drinks served at The Milestone Hotel, London is full of other delicious drinking dens that tip their hats to the old favourites. So whether it’s a Mint Julep or a Manhattan that you’re after, you simply can’t go wrong at these 10 classic cocktail bars.
Thanks to its rarefied environment, its exceptional team (led by expert bartender Alessandro Palazzi) and its history as Ian Fleming’s favourite bar, Dukes Bar has entered the realm of London legend. Sit back and watch your drink being made tableside – and while a Martini is obligatory, make your second round a Martinez.
The American Bar at the Savoy
A London staple for more than 100 years, the American Bar at the Savoy was once staffed by legendary barkeeps Ada Coleman and Harry Craddock. Today, head bartender Erik Lorincz has won acclaim the world over – and his watchful eye oversees drinks no less exceptional than those made here a century ago.
Milk and Honey
Running classic cocktail bars in both London and New York, Milk and Honey is at once a swanky drinks spot and a low-lit members club. Cocktails here are a delicately balanced art: opt for true classics like a Moscow Mule or a Boulevardier, or a modern one – the Penicillin was created by ex-Milk and Honey bartender Sam Ross.
If your favourite classic cocktail bars have a distinct Prohibition feel, join the queue outside Nightjar, a discreet basement bar where you’ll find live jazz and cheeky adaptations of older favourites – a barrel aged Piña Colada, anyone?
69 Colebrooke Row
While 69 Colebrooke Row has an old-fashioned ambiance, its drinks are often highly innovative (legendary bartender Tony Conigliaro is behind the programme, and is known for his flights of whimsy). That being said, their interpretations of the classics – like a Fig Leaf Collins – are more than worthy.
It may be best known for its steaks, but make no mistake: Hawksmoor’s Bar turns out truly luscious takes on the classics. We prefer its Full Fat Old Fashioned (made with butter-infused bourbon), which can be had at the original in Spitalfields or at any of the other London locations.
A bar that specialises in rum and gin? Descend to the basement lair of Merchant House and you’ll discover hundreds of bottles of both. In-house specialities like Chocolate Negronis are worth sampling – and are even bottled and ready for takeaway.
Upstairs at Rules
Leave it to London’s oldest restaurant to handle classic drinks with conviction. Rules has been a Covent Garden staple since 1798, and at its cosy cocktail bar, patrons can sidle up for Gimlets, Martinis (strictly stirred) or the eponymous house special.
Sultry Montgomery Place in Notting Hill keeps a low profile behind its discreet door – make sure you go on the hunt, because these are cocktails worth seeking out. Prohibition classics are the order of the day, with moreish, tapas-style bar nibbles on the side.
The Vault at Milroy’s of Soho
One of the capital’s recent openings, the Vault at the newly refurbished Milroy’s of Soho sees the classic whisky seller welcome the public to its secretive basement bar. Given the location, whisky classics are what to expect – over 250 bottles will be available behind the bar.
Header image: Smoking Old Fashioned at Stables Bar © Red Carnation Hotels