Spirit of a city: eight cocktails that are love letters to London
We’ll send you a myFT Daily Digest email rounding up the latest Eating and drinking in London news every morning.
This article is part of a guide to London from FT Globetrotter
Bumblebee, by Ago Perrone & Giorgio Bargiani of the Connaught Bar
The Connaught Hotel, Carlos Place, London W1
Inspired by the variety of cultures that blend naturally in London, this cocktail we created from the Connaught Bar celebrates free- and forward- thinking, embracing the union of ideas and flavours. Bumblebee shows how differences can be integrated and work together for a richer alliance.
It’s a dynamic and flavoursome taste discovery that builds on a truly classic London cocktail — the Bramble by the legendary bartender Dick Bradsell — by adding the bright delicacy of champagne to the gin botanicals and berry notes.
*In a blender add 25g of fresh raspberries, 25g of fresh strawberries, 10ml of extra-virgin olive oil, a pinch of salt and black pepper, 500ml gin and 500ml vodka. Blend to make an oily berry purée, let rest for an hour and filter through cheesecloth.
Stir all ingredients with ice and strain into a coupe. Add one cube of crystal-clear ice
The Nightingale, by Fabiola Falasca of Lyaness Bar
sea containers london, 20 Upper Ground, London SE1
London is built on its diversity. It is a centre for excellence in so many fields — from fashion to philosophy, art and music to design — thanks to the people and talent it attracts from around the world. The city’s wide-ranging and superb food and drink are no different, and they too have put their mark on the world.
In every bar around the globe, London is represented on menus with its signature London dry gin. However, only one of the historic brands continues to be made in the city: Beefeater.
The cocktail we have created here at Lyaness is called The Nightingale — a reference to Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern nursing in Britain, who was born in 1820, the same year the foundations of the first Beefeater distillery were laid. The drink has links to Britain while also recognising that, historically, we’ve drawn ingredients from across the world to create something special. We’ve even added a bit of London Pride ale — although other beers work well too — to similarly pay tribute to local produce and expertise, married with exotic ingredients. The Nightingale is meant to be celebratory —the perfect toast to the end of lockdown.
Crush the cardamom pod in the bottom of the shaker, and add the other ingredients except for the beer. Shake, then double strain into a chilled wine glass with a cherry at the bottom. Top with the chilled beer
The Londinium, by Alessandro Palazzi of Dukes Bar
Dukes Hotel, 35 St James’s Place, London SW1
The Negroni was first mixed at Caffè Casoni in Florence in 1919. Count Camillo Negroni concocted it by asking the bartender, Fosco Scarselli, to strengthen his favourite cocktail, the Americano, by adding gin rather than the normal soda water.
To be part of the centenary celebrations marking the creation of this iconic drink, and to add a local London twist from Dukes, I’ve created The Londinium, using ingredients from Sacred Spirits, a Highgate-based distillery.
Pour all ingredients together into a short rocks glass with ice, stir and garnish with a slice of organic orange
London Martini, by Max and Noel Venning of Three Sheets
510b Kingsland Road, London E8
We wanted to create something from our bar, Three Sheets, that felt like London, using local products. For us it had to be a martini: they represent London perfectly. Clean, strong and subtle in flavour but straight to the point.
We’ve used Victory gin, from an award-winning distillery in Walthamstow, and Vault vermouth — a British vermouth made with English wine. The hint of beetroot spirit adds an earthy note to the cocktail that reminds us of the smell before an early-summer rain shower.
Combine ingredients into a cocktail glass with ice; stir until cold, and strain into a martini glass. Garnish with a slice of pickled rainbow beetroot
Bitter Orange, by Denis Broci of Claridge’s Bar
Claridge’s, Brook Street, London W1
The drink I’ve created for Claridge’s is called Bitter Orange — a twist on the classic Negroni, which celebrated its 100th birthday in 2019 and is one of the best-selling cocktails in London (and around the world).
To me, Bitter Orange’s components are cosmopolitan and represent London’s diversity. I used Beefeater gin, which is made in London, alongside French and Italian ingredients. Muyu Vetiver Gris, inspired by the Amazon, is intensely aromatic (vetiver is a key component in many perfumes) and has notes of timur pepper, patchouli, petit grains and cedarwood.
Stir all ingredients and pour over a block of ice. Garnish with an orange coin
The Globetrotter, by Brian Silva of Rules
34—35 Maiden Lane, London WC2
We have customers from all over the world at Rules, our classic bar upstairs from the restaurant, and they often request an off-menu or bespoke cocktail. This recipe is called The Globetrotter as I’ve drawn inspiration from our global customer base, and because it’s bespoke for FT Globetrotter.
The Globetrotter is a take on the Manhattan, pairing American bourbon with a couple of Italian aperitifs — perfect for a late-night cocktail after dinner or the theatre. I’ve been blending vermouth with aperitifs and other herbal spirits for a long time, and I always enjoy creating twists on classic cocktails. It’s finished with a dash of Islay malt whisky, which adds a slight smokiness to the drink. If you’re making this at home, add a few drops on top of the blackberry garnish. Or better yet, come and order one in person — this drink is featured on our new menu.
Add all of the ingredients into an iced mixing glass. Stir to dilute and chill for 20 seconds. Strain into a large iced rocks glass. Garnish with a blackberry and spray or drop on the whisky
Hawksmoor Calling, by Liam Davy of Hawksmoor
5A Air Street, London W1
My bartending career in London was mainly spent in the West End, and the essence of the city for me was always scampering around after-hours, drinking cocktails at Milk & Honey, eating Chinese at 3am at 1997 or trying to get into Trisha’s.
As a 23-year-old on minimum wage (plus tips!), being able to sit in a booth at Milk & Honey — at that time the best bar in the world — and drink their peerless cocktails until past closing time on a Friday night was the very height of sophistication and the definition of my early London experience. The London Calling, a little gin sour devised by bartender Chris Jepson, was a perennial favourite — and we created a homage to it at Hawksmoor Air Street (a latter-day West End institution)
This drink uses London’s finest Beefeater gin infused with chamomile and honey, and made into a simple Collins-style cocktail with manzanilla sherry, lemon and soda.
For the gin: infuse four chamomile tea bags (or 5g of loose flowers) into a 700ml bottle of gin. Strain the tea, add 250g honey and stir until dissolved. Keep refrigerated
Build all of the ingredients in a highball glass with cubed ice and stir. Garnish with baby’s breath (as seen above), borage flower or a lemon twist
Flamingo All-Nighter, by Rachel Reid of Swift Soho
12 Old Compton Street, London W1
Our London-inspired cocktail is based on the Flamingo Club, a nightclub on Wardour Street, in Soho, in the 1950s and ’60s near where our bar Swift is today. The Flamingo was a popular live-music venue, where famous musicians such as members of The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and Jimi Hendrix hung out and listened to jazz and R&B. It became a meeting place of diverse music and cultures, and a safe haven from racial prejudices (it was one of the few places at the time that employed Black musicians).
As we emerge from the long winter and spring lockdown, we are hoping to welcome nights out and concerts back again into our lives again. Our drink, The Flamingo All-Nighter, is what we think is the perfect libation to enjoy as we do so.
Combine all ingredients, shake with ice and strain into a chilled coupe
At the time of publication, bars and restaurants in London are open both indoors and outdoors for groups of up to six people. The usual caveats apply: please check websites and opening times carefully, phone ahead and do additional research
What’s your favourite London-inspired drink? Share yours in the comments
Follow FT Globetrotter on Instagram at @FTGlobetrotter