Spirits Confidential with Max Solano
London: At Top of the Cocktail World Part 4 of 4
As we continue where we left off from last month’s Part 3 of our whirlwind three-day London cocktail experience back in August, we dwindled through the countdown of bars from nos. 10 down to 6. As we announce and discuss nos. 5-1 in this final segment, please make note that this was not at all an easy task and the difference in points scored between bars 5 through 1 were separated by merely a handful of points. But, in the end, there was a clear-cut winner! Will you agree with us? Who knows? We shall see….
Just to remind you, our intent and focus were solely on the cocktail menus and cocktail offerings so specific categories we scored each venue on were: depth of the cocktail menu’s unique offerings, cocktail menu design and creativity, overall cocktail menu depth, cocktail presentation, cocktail translation (description ties to cocktail flavors and theme), cocktail balance & quality, cocktail value, and lastly, level of difficulty & time of execution. Each of these categories had a specific scoring range attached to it and the three of us on our own time carefully evaluated and scored each venue. Once done, we got together, tallied our scores and discussed the results! So, without further adieu, let the nos. 5 through 1 countdown commence.
5. Artesian - Arguably, one of the most highly-coveted and awarded bars in the world in the last five years, the Artesian bar, located inside of the Langham Hotel has certainly carved out a name for itself, as well, as setting the industry standard for cocktail innovation and efficiency
Highs: The menu is inspired by the mantra “less is more,” with cocktails being made from a singular flavor combination. The entire Artesian team created in their very impressive basement-level lab (which we visited) uniquely-sourced spirits paired with one other key ingredient or flavor.
Lows: The menu design, itself, was very basic, unfortunately, although the cocktails were standouts. The garnishing was very minimalistic to non-existent.
4. American Bar - The world-renowned American Bar at the Savoy Hotel was founded in 1893 and continues to be England’s oldest surviving bar. In 2017, it was awarded “World’s Best Bar” at World’s 50 Best Bars and, “World’s Best Bar,” at Tales of the Cocktail 2018.
Highs: It is very difficult to pinpoint a flaw when a bar has had this much time to perfect their bar experience! The cocktail menu dubbed “The Savoy Songbook” is very innovative and pays homage to the legendary musicians and songwriters that have entertained their bar guests for decades. Each of the 20 featured cocktails are showpieces that have been inspired by some of the most iconic songs played in the bar, today, and is also accompanied by a live album. How cool is that!
Lows: The average price point was considerably higher than any other bar we visited, so come prepared!
3. Oriole - The sister property of the modern legend, Night Jar, was named in the World’s 50 Best Bars back-to-back in 2017 and 2018. Located in London’s meat-packing district, this speakeasy style bar is beautifully nestled away and will transport one to quite the unique and welcome ambience.
Highs: The cocktail menu, almost encyclopedic in size, draws its major influence from a combination of Old World, New World, most noticeably the flavors of the Orient! There’s quite an array of unique ingredients utilized in their cocktails, but the quality is quite exceptional considering that most of the cocktails are pre-batched for speed of execution (except for the alcohol). The menu is not overly extravagant, but the presentation for most of the cocktails was quite beautifully done!
Lows: It was difficult to even find a flaw, but the large quantity of cocktails made it somewhat overwhelming.
2. Scarfe’s - I am in astonishment that this watering hole is not as vocalized as some of the other more recognized names, but highly recommended by all the local bartenders. Located at the Rosewood Hotel, this bar is breathtaking and screams good ol’ boys club from the early 1900s New York City. This spacious and luxurious bar is surrounded by rich, dark woods, a monstrous fireplace and a deep selection of spirits, including a cabinet with quite a few vintage spirits on display.
Highs: By far, Scarfe’s cocktail menu is the coolest and most creative piece of art with cocktail descriptions on it we have ever come across! Only, twenty, musician-inspired cocktails were featured and each were extremely well made with a slight touch of whimsical.
Lows: Simply, none.
The drum roll, please! And… without, further adieu, the number 1 spot goes to……
1. Night Jar - The older brother of Oriole, this bar is flat out, amazing! A speakeasy like its sister property with vintage relics on display throughout, but a slightly darker setting with only one small bar powering the whole venue like a dynamo.
Highs: The cocktail list is very deep and extremely intricate whose cocktails are intentionally all modern twists of classics from different eras. The cocktail menu changes yearly and the entire bar team collaborates and takes them approximately 8 months to complete a new menu. Every cocktail has a cool and curious presentation with very unique ingredients, much like at Oriole. Also, how these unique ingredients were stored and displayed was cool to see.
Lows: What “Lows?”
The countdown is now officially a wrap! Frankly, having experienced London’s cocktail culture really has opened our eyes and perspective. It truly is a special destination. However, alluding to my original argument, I still strongly feel compelled to mention that moving forward, anyone who writes articles that are “Best Of….” lists should consider doing things the right way. If nothing else, at least allow us the courtesy of explaining the basis and criteria of your order. Well, my friends, til next month!