the bluffer’s guide to London’s signature cocktails

Cities are known for their drinks and for the bars where they were born. A recent trip to New Orleans was a bingo card-like adventure around some of its most celebrated spots and the cocktails they’re famous for: a sazerac at The Roosevelt; a grasshopper at Tujague’s; a vieux carre at Carousel.

While some of London’s most famous creations – the espresso martini, bramble, porn star martini, Collins – have sadly lost their home, there are still plenty of bars that can lay claim to some of the capital’s most coveted cocktails.

So do you want to know that one drink that you simply have to order at the big bars? Below are some of London’s signature cocktails, from established ones to newbies who have already earned their stripes. Bookmark the list below, keep it in your proverbial back pocket and prepare to look like a legend. You are very welcome.

Unfiltered Martini, Lyaness

    (Press handout)

(Press handout)

Ryan Chetiyawardana is perhaps one of the world’s best-known bartenders and London is fortunate to have two Chetiyawardana locations to explore. Seed Library in Shoreditch is a fine bar, but Lyaness on the South Bank is perhaps better realized and the new(ish) menu, called the 3.0 Cookbook, is a tour de force. Each recipe took months to create, with our favorite, a potato-based martini, addressing themes of cravings and its link to gut health. It’s a drink that arouses curiosity – something Chetiyawardana is a pro at – in a way that few other cocktails can; thoughtfully, but without lecturing. It also happens to be one of the tastiest martinis in London. A timeless drink that, knowing Chetiyawardana, won’t last forever.

£17.20 above ground, SE1 9PD,

Pastel, a stick with shapes for a name

The Bauhaus-inspired bar came out of the woods in 2021 with flavor-bending drinks that earned it some well-deserved kudos – none more so than the pastel. Pink, served by the bottle, it’s a wonderfully tasty weapon in the wheelhouse of owners Remy Savage and Paul Lougrat. A carbonated, more minor number, based on vodka, rhubarb forward and uses Capreolus raspberry eau de vie (which has its own cult following). Despite more bangers coming out of this minimalist neighborhood bar, the pastel remains resolute. A modern classic at its best.

£11, 232 Kingsland Road, E2 8AX, @a_bar_with_shapes_for_a_name_

One sip of Martini, Tayer + Elemental

    (Press handout)    (Press handout)

(Press handout)

If there’s one thing that makes crossing the Old Street roundabout worth it, it’s the one sip martini at the internationally respected Tayer + Elementary. Why? First, it’s the perfect size for martini Olympians and egg-and-spoon racers alike. Secondly, it comes with a generously stuffed blue cheese olive. Third, a drop of fino sherry keeps the wine dry and spicy. Stop by for a quick martini pit stop – or order it upon arrival to accompany the rest of the menu. And for €4? Come on…

£4, 152 Oude Street, EC1V 9BW,

Hanky ​​Panky, American bar

    (Will Stanley)    (Will Stanley)

(Will Stanley)

The Savoy Hotel’s famous American Bar has passed through many hands since the legendary Ada Coleman took over as head bartender, where she remained at the helm for 23 years. From March 2024 Angelo Sparvoli took over the celebrated position and while we wait for a new menu from Sparvoli, you can still get a classic handkerchief (gin, vermouth and Fernet Branca) invented by Coleman in the 1900s. We recommend starting the evening with a copy in her honor before delving into the cocktail book ‘Journal’, an account of the American Bar’s rich history.

£20, The Savoy, Strand, WC2R 0EZ,

Champagne Pina Colada, Coupette

    (Press handout)    (Press handout)

(Press handout)

You’d be forgiven for solemnly chanting these three words in anticipation as you reach the top of the stairs at Bethnal Green tube station: Champagne pina colada. Why? Because just like a beige beacon, this is a cocktail that deserves a detour on every trip to the East. Created by former Coupette founder Chris Moore, the ingredients are an array of deliciousness: white rum, rhum agricole, pineapple liqueur, pineapple juice, champagne and coconut sorbet. It’s visual ASMR: clean, crisp, and topped with a crunchy coconut crown. Is one enough? Probably – but we’ve been known to double down and have never regretted it.

£15, 423 Bethnal Green Road, E2 0AN,

Dukes Martini, Dukes Bar

    (Press handout)    (Press handout)

(Press handout)

It’s one of Ian Fleming’s favorite bars and it’s only natural that a martini at Dukes Bar is on your hit list. Originally created by Salvatore Calabrese, this martini is still served in the cozy hotel bar, preferably by bar manager Alessandro Palazzi, who has become synonymous with the cocktail. Preparation is where the magic happens: a frozen glass is swirled with vermouth (the excess of which is then discarded on the carpet) before five generous helpings of gin from the freezer are added. Amalfi lemon peel is squeezed over the top and then dropped into the glass. One is honestly enough. Two? You are on your own. Three? It is not permitted.

£25, 35 St. James’s Place, SW1A 1NY,

Quick Irish coffee, Swift

    (Lateef photography)    (Lateef photography)

(Lateef photography)

There are a number of contenders for the best Irish Coffee in London, but Swift is perhaps best known for his take on a cocktail that started in 1943. The fact that you can see both regulars and tourists drinking it in the height of summer is testament to its appeal. Swift’s now famous version consists of Jameson Caskmates Stout, Swift’s own coffee blend, dememera syrup, cream and a dusting of nutmeg. There are three Swifts in town (the OG in Soho, the baby of the group in Shoreditch and the newest in Borough) and you’ll find the same rendition of this classic in all three.

£11, W1D, EC2A and SE1,

French 75, three sheets

    (Press handout)    (Press handout)

(Press handout)

At Kingsland Road and French 75 is the destination drink in Dalston. The name is somewhat misleading, as it’s not quite a French 75 in the classic sense of the word, but the wizards at this small bar with a big taste have used its structure as inspiration for their signature cocktail. Acidity and sweetness are perfectly balanced with gin, lemon, verjuice, moscato and orange blossom, and the entire drink is clarified and carbonated using a keg and served from a bottle, just like a glass of fizz. If you’re going with a group, order a bottle for a touch of class at the start of the evening.

£13 (£69 per bottle), 510b Kingsland Road, E8 4AB,

East 8 Hold Up, Satan’s Whiskers

This modern classic, invented by owner Kevin Armstrong at the legendary (but now closed) Milk & Honey in London, has happily traveled with him from Soho to Satan’s. Named after a robbery that took place during E8 when Kevin dropped off a colleague, the cocktail consists of vodka, Aperol, pineapple, lime and passion fruit and, like all the bar’s other classics, is the best version you can get of the cocktail . in the city.

£11, 343 Cambridge Heath Road, E2 9RA,

Pineapple Miso, Silver Leaf

There aren’t many places in London where you can get an award-winning cocktail after 2am, but Silverleaf delivers the goods with the cult-loved pineapple miso. The highlight of the debut menu consists of just four ingredients: Craigellachie 13, pineapple caramel, brown butter and miso. There is fat washing and clarification. And a white chocolate garnish. The bar may have launched a new menu since then, but thankfully the pineapple miso has been given signature cocktail status – thanks to the umami gods.

£16, 3rd Floor, Devonshire House, 3 Bishopsgate, EC2M 4JX,

Connaught Martini, Connaught Bar

    (Courtesy of the Connaught)    (Courtesy of the Connaught)

(Courtesy of the Connaught)

Another bar, another iconic martini. Probably one of the most filmed drinks on social media, it’s no surprise that the Connaught martini has made the hit. Ago Perrone and Giorgio Bargiani (alongside Maura Milia, who left the team earlier this year) have created a modern classic with the added theater of a trolley where guests can choose their own bitters to personalize their drink. Cast from a great height, it’s a wonderfully theatrical occasion and provides an iconic London cocktail bingo moment – for as long as you can get in it.

£28, 16 Carlos Place, W1K 2AL,

Black velvet, rules

The elder statesman of this list, the Black Velvet, is a classic that comes with the reverence you can only find in restaurants as classic as Rules. A blend of stout and white sparkling wine, created in 1861 at the members club Brook’s Club to commemorate the death of Prince Albert (“even champagne should mourn”). While more modern variations exist, the OG is a piece of London history and legendary bartender Brian Silva doesn’t mess with a perfect format. Rules’ now famous version, with Guinness and champagne, is served super cold in a silver tankard – it’s really the feather in Rules’ cap.

£19.95, 34-35 Maiden Lane, WC2E 7LB,

Breakfast martini, velvet

    (Courtesy of    (Courtesy of

(Courtesy of

Opening in 2022, Velvet at the Corinthia Hotel may not be the birthplace of the breakfast martini, but this signature cocktail, created by figurehead Salvatore Calabrese in 1996 in the Lanesborough Hotel’s Library Bar, has followed it to its new home. Technically it’s not a martini, but the ‘breakfast’ element comes from the addition of orange marmalade in addition to gin, Cointreau and lemon juice. The bar isn’t open in time for breakfast, but it’s perfect for some after-work pep.

£22, Whitehall place, SW1A 2BD,

Mirror Margarita, Hacha

    (Press handout)    (Press handout)

(Press handout)

The Hacha’s Mirror Margarita agave bar has been so successful, you can now buy it in stores to get your fix. But it’s no better to have one served in the original Dalston or newer Brixton bar. The signature serve, created by co-owner Deano Moncrieffe, has gained fame for being completely transparent (like a glass of water) and for its clean and balanced take on the original cocktail. You can have it served with tequila or mezcal – the original tequila is the better choice in our opinion – and the bar often partners with different brands to give regulars new takes on the old favorite. Just perfect.

£11, 378 Kingsland Rd, E8 4AA and 12 Market Row, SW9 8LD,

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