Ian Fleming apparently came up with the idea for his suave spy in the bar at Duke's, which maybe explains his predilection for a drink – from Sean Connery to Daniel Craig, 007 has maintained that most famous of drinks orders, 'shaken, not stirred'.
In London, make like Bond with a vodka martini at the secluded and ultra-elegant Duke's itself, or go for the equally superlative offerings at the Connaught Bar or the American Bar at the Savoy.
One of London's most sophisticated drinkers without a doubt is Derek Edward 'Del Boy' Trotter, a man who knows where to get a good cocktail whether in Paris, New York or Peckham.
Although he’s fond of the interesting-sounding Caribbean Stallion, the creme de la resistance for this archetypal wheeler-dealer is the piña colada: and if you love your cocktails with a massive measure of kitschy fun (and even an umbrella if you’re lucky), try Trailer Happiness in Notting Hill, Ridley Road Market Bar or Rum Kitchen.
The perennially pissed Patsy was fond of vodka, she didn’t mind a wine, but the drink that really got her going was, of course, Bollinger champagne. Barely an episode of ‘Absolutely Fabulous’ went by without her swigging a bit of bubbly, and while we must stress the importance of drinking in moderation, there are a few bars in London that do champagne cocktails better than most.
The Beaufort Bar at the Savoy is famous for its list of fizz and isn’t scared to mix it up, and in the dimly lit Milk & Honey, she might have to ditch the shades to work her way through the list of keenly priced champagne cocktails. Meanwhile, the dinky Bar Termini in Soho serves one of our favourite fizz cocktails in the city, the Spritz Termini, with gin, rhubarb cordial, Aperol and prosecco. Could Patsy tell that it's not champagne? After a couple, probably not.
Before Soho was full of middle-aged media men who skateboard and restaurants with hour-long queues, it was actually a whole lot of fun, and one man who made the most of it was the artist Francis Bacon. He practically lived at the Colony Room in Dean Street, immersing himself in the swell of poets, painters, dancers and drinkers who populated this libertine borough.
You won’t find anything like the libertine abandon of Bacon’s day in London now, but if you appreciate the slightly louche, the underground, the dimly lit and the mildly debauched, head to Ladies & Gentlemen (in an old public toilets), Happiness Forgets in Hoxton, or Mark’s Bar.
Sir Francis Bacon
In the Middle Ages, *everyone* drank alcohol – it was safer than water, and we do know that the Lord Chancellor was partial to an aged wine. However, being the father of scientific methodology, Sir Francis would probably have been fascinated and delighted by the technological advances made in the world of booze – foams, airs, essences, redistillations, tinctures, deydrations and spherifications.
If you’re all about the cutting edge of cocktails, you’ll want to try 69 Colebrooke Row, Peg & Patriot in Bethnal Green and startender Ryan Chetiyawardana’s White Lyan.
Staking a claim for the most legendary London drinker of all, the good doctor was always philosophical about his imbibing and seemed to have visited just about every tavern, pub, alehouse and inn between Shoreditch and Shepherd’s Bush. In the eighteenth century, this city would have got merry on wine, on ale, and on proto-cocktails – punches, shrubs and flips.
So if you want to explore London’s history without having to read a textbook, try out the extra-old-school concoctions at the Punch Room in the London Edition hotel, the Permit Room under Dishoom, or Nightjar, where the cocktails are grouped by chronology.
Arthur Conan Doyle’s fictional snooper was famously fonder of intoxicants a bit harder than booze (he was bang into the cocaine and morphine). But being a legendary uncoverer of secrets, Holmes would have no doubt enjoyed seeking out some of London’s underground, hard-to-find and hidden away drinking spots.
Look for the doorman standing in front of the scruffy door in Chinatown for Experimental Cocktail Club; walk up and down Poland Street a few times, make sure you’ve got the right address, then press the barely marked buzzer to get into Milk & Honey; head away from the Spitalfields crowds and down a steep set of stairs into the incongruously named Discount Suit Company.
‘I have taken more out of alcohol than alcohol has taken out of me,’ runs just one quote by the portliest of PMs. What Winston *didn’t* drink is probably more notable than what he *did* – brandy, champagne, claret and Scotch were all knocked back with gusto. But being the bestest Briton to have ever lived, his favourite was of course patriotic old gin, which he drank in the way the rest of us drink water.
So if mother’s ruin is your tipple of choice too, go to Portobello Star, which has its own house gin, or Worship Street Whistling Shop, which has countless varieties, or the American Bar at the Savoy, which was known to serve the the cigar-chomper-in-chief himself on occasion.
Now 41 but still partying harder than most of us ever will, the Croydon-born Kate is a reveller of the highest order. The list of drinking spots she’s been papped heading into and falling out of would fill a whole bar guide; you probably won’t command the same tabloid attention with your own socialising, but you can still make like the model and hit the town like tomorrow’s been called off.
London Cocktail Club is a certified chain now, with branches all over the city, but they all have their own personality – it’s officially impossible to have a quiet night in one. Like Kate, Callooh Callay is still going strong after many years, and is one of Shoreditch’s classier venues; Tonteria in Sloane Square is somewhere that Kate herself has probably been, and is a celebration of all that’s fun and kitsch about tequila.