Think of it as the Olympics of the drinks industry. Tales of the Cocktail’s 10th annual Spirited Awards touched down in New Orleans recently to hand out accolades to the most talented folk in the industry. Out of 19 International awards, London cocktail bars swooped up 7 of them, another 3 Brits picking up Best Brand Ambassador, Best Bar Mentor and Best Cocktail Publication – a reminder that we truly do live in one of the world’s foremost cocktail capitals.
One of London’s most iconic bars, The American Bar at the Savoy was the place where Harry Craddock penned his Savoy Cocktail Book – still a bartender’s bible close to 100 years after its initial publication. These days, the bar team is led by the inimitable Erik Lorincz, the venue’s eleventh head bartender (and himself a prior Best International Bartender award-winner). Stop by to sample the bar’s current London Menu, which includes drinks inspired by various London neighbourhoods.
Best International High Volume Cocktail Bar: Callooh Callay
Down a Shoreditch side street, Callooh Callay cultivates an Alice in Wonderland-style immersion into a world of boozy fantasy – and whether you land a table in the back room, book at the upstairs Jubjub bar, or simply grab a barstool, expect an evening of happy decadence. After a menu overhaul last year, the cocktail list has never been better. Callooh Callay has a special place in our hearts as it was the bar that Launched Kamm & Sons in 2011.
Best International Hotel Bar & World’s Best Cocktail bar:
The Connaught Bar at The Connaught hotel
The double award-winning Connaught Bar at The Connaught was undoubtedly one of the brightest stars at Tales of the Cocktail 2016. In person, this storied cocktail bar is an Art Deco beauty, with the drinks to match. Its globetrotting cocktail menu features flavours both Continental and Far Eastern, while its roving Martini Trolley is one of the capital’s quintessential tippling experiences.
Last year it was the World’s Best New Bar, and this year it’s got the World’s Best Cocktail Menu. There’s no doubting it: Dandelyan is special. Helmed by Ryan Chetiyawardana (previously the World’s Best Bartender himself) and Iain Griffiths – the dream team behind Hoxton’s acclaimed White Lyan – its menu concept changes at regular intervals, though its broad theme of “Modern Botany” is a constant.
Best International Cocktail Bar: Happiness Forgets
Unfussy and unpretentious, Happiness Forgets – tucked away in a small basement space on Hoxton Square – has the atmosphere of a friendly neighbourhood bar with the bonus of a world-class cocktail menu. It’s a heady combination, and one which has earned it the deserved title of Best International Cocktail Bar. Happiness also hosts a steady stream of international bartenders on guest stints behind the stick, so it’s worth dropping in regularly.
Bartender Ali Reynolds has had one hell of a year. After being singled out as the World Class Champion for the UK last year, his Hawksmoor Spitalfields bar has just been named the Best International Restaurant Bar. A jewel-toned gem downstairs from the main dining room (in a space that was once an illegal strip club – it’s come a long way), the bar’s drinks are inventive and indulgent, and the perfect precursor to a decadent steak dinner.
Best New International Cocktail Bar: Oriole
A subterranean drinking den underneath Smithfields Market, Oriole is younger sibling to the always-impressive Nightjar. But where Nightjar leans towards the low-lit speakeasy end of the spectrum, bright and beautiful Oriole is billed as an explorer-themed ‘cabinet of curiosities.’ If anything unites the two bars, though, it’s a predilection towards baroque drinks – and the serves here are some of the most creative and unusual in town.