London’s drinking scene has an ambitious, layered personality (and October 3-9 is Cocktail Week)

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DrinkUp London
Torie True's picture
Torie True
September 30, 2016
The bar for innovation is constantly pushed higher. Here's stuff to look forward to.

A regular night out in London is easily made original with intelligence and artistry. Both the city's drinking culture, and its dwellers who earlier nursed only gin-induced hangovers, have seen a new dawn. Whether it’s craft beers, gin distilleries or cocktails, London has seen modish reinvention in the way people view alcohol. A dramatic shift in food culture set the ball rolling, and the drinks world followed closely.

Bars in salubrious hotels attract discerning, sophisticated drinkers. A chapter of the menu at the Dandelyan bar in the Mondrain Hotel reads like it were out of an adventure novel: “Hunter, Gatherer, Shaman, and Explorer”. The drinks are based on “human interaction with plants and are inspired by the botanical wilds of the British countryside and around the world”.

Speakeasies (America’s “secret” prohibition-style drinking clubs of the 1920s) have begun to feel at home here, too. Underground entrances, live jazz, award-winning mixology, leather chairs and candlelit soirees are the norm at these seductive, clandestine watering holes. Known names like Nightjar, Blind Pig, Call Me Mr Luck, Reverend JW Simpson, and Evans and Peel Detective Agency achieve that delicate balance between mystery and popularity. Russian mules and pina coladas rest neatly on a counter in the past.

From October 3-9, London Cocktail Week will allow Londoners and visitors a chance to embrace the city’s playful drinking culture—under two roofs.  Old Spitalfields Market will be home to The London Cocktail Week Village, and Piccadilly Circus to The World Class House.  The former will take up the entire market space, with pop-up bars from both rising stars and big name mixologists. The Patron Cocktail Lab Takeover will include seven international bartenders from the 2016 World’s Best Bar List, who will personalise cocktails to suit individual tastes. Little Bat—a new cocktail bar that seems to be getting a lot of attention—will stir together drinks meant specifically for Cocktail Week. Sipsmith, the celebrated distillery that has championed small batch production, will be there with its juniper-laced concoctions, too. Street food and music are expected to add to the festival atmosphere—and help drinkers pace themselves.

Over at The World Class House, sensory exploration and avant garde drinking trends will set the tone. The space encompasses bars spread over five floors in a labyrinth of secret rooms. Expect exciting cocktail menus and engaging master-class sessions curated by a host of big names (including Tanqueray No Ten Future Forest, Ketel One Vodka Kitchen, and #Lovescotch). There are few smoother ways to glide into chilly autumn.

*London Cocktail Week is now in its seventh year. To join in the revelry and avoid queues, purchase a £10 festival pass from beforehand. The pass will allow access to all 250 participating bars. Each will offer a signature drink at £5 to bearers of LCW wristbands.