Culture

Shaken Not Stirred: 7 of London’s Hottest Hotel Bars

The Stack recommends where to go for a cocktail this summer

By Emma-Louise Boynton

6 August 2021
D

rinking cocktails at a chic London bar is almost as good as sipping something sweet on a sunny beach - almost. Get inspired by our top 7 recommendations and try them out for yourself this summer.

Scarfes Bar at The Rosewood Hotel, Holborn

Why it’s excellent…

In Scarfes’ library-themed bar, you’re instantly enveloped in the cosy romance of a place that feels as if it was plucked directly from a Scott Fitzgerald novel - think plush velvet chairs, dark oak shelves crammed ceiling-to-floor with vintage-bound books, a fire crackling close by.

To add to its novelesque charm, Scarfes has a freshly reworked cocktail menu based on the Enneagram personality test (the ‘Enneagram’ is a model of the human psyche which proposes there nine personality types. Although it hasn’t been scientifically validated, it’s often used in various iterations for personal and professional development). The menu will consist of 18 drinks – two contrasting tipples to represent the extremes of each persona – with each personality type represented by a notable figure in cultural history. Confused? Just imagine how you’ll feel after two drinks.

Order...

The Princess Diana ‘Dynasty’, which represents the ‘Loyalist’ personality type. It’s a citrusy Champagne cocktail that will leave you feeling refreshed.

You should know that…

Scarfes Bar is named after British caricaturist, Gerald Scarfe. The walls are littered with his paintings, including satirical representations of politicians, musicians, and Disney cartoons, including well-known depictions from Disney’s Hercules and Pink Floyd’s The Wall. Scarfe refers to the bar as “my personal art gallery, where you can see my life on the walls”.

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Dukes Bar at Dukes London, Mayfair

Why it’s excellent…

Dukes Hotel has been around for over a century (since 1908, to be precise), and its bar is an old haunt of the author, Ian Fleming. It was here the creator of James Bond famously sipped Martinis and, as legend would have it, first coined the line “shaken not stirred”. Home to the ultimate ‘classic Martini’, Dukes boasts a recipe perfected by its former head barman – and cocktail legend – Salvatore Calabrese, who invented the “direct Martini” process sometime in the mid-’80s. His trick? Use vodka or gin stored in a freezer (the alcohol must be -22℃) and chilled glasses. Today, the hotel’s current head bartender, Alessandro Palazzi, continues Calabrese’s tradition of serving his Martinis from a rosewood trolley.

Order…

A classic Martini, obviously.

You should know that…

Each Martini is rumoured to contain a dizzying five shots of alcohol. So, to keep you on your feet, there’s a two drink maximum. As American poet Dorothy Parker famously wrote: “I like to have a Martini, two at the very most. After three, I'm under the table, after four I'm under my host.” You’ll be grateful for the limit.

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Dukes Bar at Dukes London, Mayfair

The Coral Room at The Bloomsbury Hotel, Fitzrovia

Why it’s excellent…

With its bright coral walls, marble-topped, Art Deco bar and general Jazz Age ambience, The Coral Room makes you feel chic as you take a velvety seat next to a sprawling palm tree with gentle jazz humming in the background.

Set in the Bloomsbury Hotel – a Grade-II listed, Neo-Georgian building, which pays homage to the group who first made the area famous, the Bloomsbury set – this vibrant, salon bar is the perfect place to get creatively re-inspired. As you wander the hotel halls in pursuit of your first cocktail, take a second to stop by The Living Room where the walls are lined with portraits of writer Virginia Woolf, and painters Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant.

Order…

A Bloomsbury Blush – it’s fresh, it’s floral, it’s topped with Ridgeview Bloomsbury Sparkling Wine, made in East Sussex.

You should know that…

Right outside the entrance to the hotel is an ode to the bohemian joie de vivre embodied by the Bloomsbury set, and a reminder of their complicated romances. The inscription reads: “They lived in squares... they loved in triangles.”

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The Coral Room at The Bloomsbury Hotel, Fitzrovia

The Leopard Bar at The Montague, Fitzrovia

Why it’s excellent…

If what you’re searching for one rainy summer’s eve is a little bit of decadence, this is your spot. The Leopard Bar takes its name very seriously – from floor to ceiling to cushion to menu, everything is leopard print. It is deliciously lavish and yes, a little tacky, but the cocktails are strong, the lighting low, the ambience made for some post-lockdown indulgence.

Order…

Lean into the theme of the evening and go for their signature Leopard cocktail, complete with a dusted paw-print topping.

You should know that…

The Alfresco space outside the Leopard is transformed seasonally from an Alpine Ski Lodge in the winter to a Beach Bar in the summer. Should you need to take a breather from the leopard print, slink outside for a sand-strewn mini-break.

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The Leopard Bar at The Montague, Fitzrovia

The Rooftop at The Standard Hotel, King’s Cross

Why it’s excellent…

Stretching across the hotel’s 11th floor, The Rooftop is The Standard Hotel’s brand new bar (opened 1 May), offering panoramic views of the city and Margaritas so spicy they’ll make your head spin.

Order

A Spicy Tommy’s Margarita. Or two.

You should know that…

There is a not-so-secret Banksy drawing on the northern side of The Standard building. It depicts a rat holding up a placard. Head out to the restaurant garden, look up and see if you can catch a glimpse of what’s on his sign.

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The Rooftop at The Standard Hotel, King’s Cross

Seabird at The Hoxton, Southwark

Why it’s excellent…

Transport yourself to a coastal paradise at The Hoxton hotel’s rooftop bar, Seabird. Filled with palm trees, lined with Mediterranean tiles and strung with fairy-lights, Seabird boasts London’s longest oyster list, alongside an extensive menu of sea-to-table delicacies that will make your mouth water. With its sprawling 14th-floor view of the City, Seabird’s alfresco terrace is the perfect place to while away a balmy (read: rainy) summer evening.

What to order…

Champagne and oysters. Followed by The Skimmer cocktail, which includes salted grapefruit.

You should know that…

Seabird was founded by award-winning duo Joshua Boissy and Krystof Zizka, who are also the brains behind Brooklyn’s widely lauded oyster bar and absinthe café, Maison Premiere. As you slurp down your oysters, know you’re in safe hands.

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Seabird at The Hoxton, Southwark

Berners Tavern at The Edition, Fitzrovia

Why it’s excellent…

Set in a baroque ballroom with high ceilings, an opulent chandelier centrepiece and walls splattered from top to bottom with gold-framed artwork, Berners Tavern transports you to a period-drama-esq party scene as extravagant as it is fun. The cocktails are delicious experiments in unpronounceable ingredients and expertly whet your appetite for their menu of seasonal dishes, which are worthy sticking around for.

Order…

For the sake of novelty, opt for The Cursed Collector, which includes “Dragon’s blood tincture” and a drop of absinthe.

You should know that…

Berners Tavern is the creation of Ian Schrager, who co-founded New York’s notorious, disco-era party-spot, Studio 54. While Berners Tavern isn’t quite as salacious, something of that New York glitz lives on here.

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Scarfes Bar at The Rosewood Hotel, Holborn

The Short Stack

Drinking cocktails at a chic London bar is almost as good as sipping something sweet on a sunny beach. Almost.

By Emma-Louise Boynton

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