London’s drinks wizards still lead the world when it comes to innovative concoctions. So forget that retro Cosmo and keep your cocktail cutting-edge with these hot trends.
MEAD IS BACK
Escaping from the historical re-enactment area of the drinks cabinet, this alcoholic honey brew is crossing into the mainstream. It sweetens a warming toddy-style mix of calvados and cider at Reverend JW Simpson in Fitzrovia, and – the surest sign that it’s becoming cool – an artisan producer has started making it in a London flat. Get yourself a bottle of Gosnell’s London Mead for a Christmas tipple with a difference.
AGE COMES BEFORE BEAUTY
More and more bars are introducing an aged element to their concoctions and maturing mixes in wood. Nightjar near Old Street serves a barrel-aged Zombie involving four rums, while Worship Street Whistling Shop in Shoreditch has a range of four-week-old blends including Chase Marmalade Vodka aged in lapsang tea oak barrels (which is topped with homemade lemonade for a sweet and tangy taste).
ICE IS SO OVER
No ice? Surely you need it to make cocktails cold? Not so, says Ryan Chetiyawardana, the genius behind Hoxton’s White Lyan. His team pre-mix before service (not the comes-in-a-tin-to-drink-on-the train variety, but careful, considered blends), and chill everything in fridges. They then ‘rebuild’ to order. Cocktails include the out-there Moby Dick Sazerac, made with ambergris (a sperm whale secretion). Where Ryan leads, others follow: expect to see more of this way of serving in London.
VEGGIES INVADE THE BAR
If you find getting your five-a-day a bit dull, then perhaps vegetable-laced cocktails are the answer. Leading the charge is acclaimed King’s Cross restaurant Grain Store, where bartenders use homemade pumpkin purée with caramelised maple syrup in a bizarrely brilliant Bellini, and infuse tequila with green tomatoes to make the mother of all margaritas. Healthy!
HOPS AND SCOTCH?
Beer: not just for breakfast, and not just for drinking straight, either. Pale ales, porters and stouts are being used to lengthen drinks where once we might have seen soda or lemonade: Hawksmoor’s Shaky Pete’s Ginger Brew teams gin and lemon with London Pride, while the crew at Oskar’s Bar (beneath restaurant Dabbous in Fitzrovia) have created a whole menu section of hoppy options, including the amazing Beer Grylls – a rum-based cocktail topped up with Einstök White Ale. A pint and a chaser in one…
MEAT BEEFS THINGS UP
‘Liquid lunch’ is no longer just a figure of speech: creative London mixologists are adding an extra protein oomph to their drinks. At Haggerston’s Beagle, a gin Bloody Mary is pimped with fish and oyster sauces (plus jalapeño for a kick). And have a butchers at the West End’s Talented Mr Fox where the must-try Bloody Mary is just that: it includes pigs’ blood, black-pudding distillate and bacon. If possible, White Lyan makes an even more primal drink: the Bone Dry Martini lists ‘chicken bones’ as one of its ingredients.
COCKTAILS GET CULINARY
Barmen seem to fancy themselves as chefs these days, whipping up all sorts of homemade concoctions to add to their brews. At Mr Fogg’s, they’ve created cherry brine and raspberry jam; at Soho’s Experimental Cocktail Club it’s whisky infused with the flavour of cigars and mezcal infused with tonka beans; the creative minds at Callooh Callay in Shoreditch make their own hibiscus syrup, star anise syrup and even turmeric syrup. Spicy.
FEELING THE HEAT
Say bah humbug to overboiled mulled wine and heed the hot toddy sermons of Reverend JW Simpson instead, where you’ll find a hearty mix of homemade douglas fir liqueur, port, dark rum, fresh ginger and grated nutmeg, shaken with a whole egg. Or try the Talented Mr Fox’s warm Kamma Ray, made with hop gin, wormwood bitter, Kamm & Sons ginseng spirit, apple juice, spices – and a cooker.
For more great cocktails bars go to timeout.com/bars