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Eight London cocktails you must try before you go teetotal

David Clack

Moving to London is like letting one of those little robot vacuum cleaners loose on your bank account, indiscriminately sucking up tenners until you collapse to your knees, begging for just the tiniest iota of financial mercy.

At some point, something’s got to give, and you’re going to have to ditch one of your vices. Assuming you’re not a crackhead, it’ll probably be booze. But before that sorry day rolls around, be sure to get your chops around these eight top-quality cockers, which must surely rank among the dreamiest drinks on Earth.


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Martini at Dukes

Let’s get this straight – £20 is a lot of money to spend on a drink. One of few places in the city where such a transaction can be considered value for money is at Duke's, the Mayfair hotel bar where James Bond writer Ian Fleming would head after a hard day at the typewriter. Shaken, stirred or otherwise, any version of 007's sharpener of choice you order will be the best you’ve ever had.


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Beeswax Old Fashioned at White Lyan

No ice, no garnishes and certainly no umbrellas: Ryan Chetiyawardana rocked the city’s drinking scene with his stripped back approach to spirits when he opened White Lyan in 2013. Drinks at his Hoxton Street bar are all made with the bar’s own house spirits – here it’s scotch, teamed with sugar, bitters and beeswax. Don Draper may not approve, but we certainly do.


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Aperol Spritz at Frank’s Cafe

Aperol, prosecco, soda, ice. There’s nothing especially remarkable about the way Peckham’s loftiest cocktail bar puts together its version of the citrussy summertime staple, it’s just that drinking it on a balmy summer evening while overlooking central London from its famous vantage point brings the experience into a whole new dimension. Snapping a shot of your drink with the city skyline in the background is practically the law.


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Beyond the Sea at Nightjar

A novelty receptacle is no guarantee of a great cocktail (indeed, it’s often a sign of style over substance), but this beauty, served up in a conch shell, delivers on all fronts. Amidst gin and sherry, the most intriguing ingredient is ‘plankton air’. Nope, we’ve no idea how that works, either.


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Prairie Oyster at 69 Colebrooke Row

It takes a brave barman to reinvent something as classic and as omnipresent as the bloody mary. It says a lot about Tony Conigliaro’s boozy acumen, then, that this odd-looking twist on the morning-after pick-me-up works so well, delivering the spicy hit of the drink that inspired it, while pulverising your preconceptions about what a cocktail should taste, smell and even look like. Down the hatch in one, now.


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Negroni Rosato at Bar Termini

It took some time, but London’s cocktail drinkers have finally come round to the European way of doing things: short, bitter and boozy. This tiny Soho drinking den is the perfect place to join their ranks – one sip of this bone-dry rendition of the classic Italian aperitif and you’ll wonder what you ever saw in piña coladas.

Ginger Mojito at Ridley Road Market Bar

Lord knows how many gallons of this refreshingly unpretentious drink east London’s cool kids get through on a hot, sunny day. Sure, it’s not the classiest cocktail you’ll ever drink, but it’s fresh, it’s boozy, it only costs a fiver and it comes in a dancefloor friendly plastic cup. So do yourself a favour and order two at once.

Tom Collins at Portobello Star

Just as any beer tastes better drunk in the same railway arch it was brewed in, so this simple combination of gin, lemon and soda sparkles more satisfyingly than ever when sipped in the home of Portobello Road gin. There are more boundary-pushing, more photogenic (and plenty more intoxicating) drinks on the menu here, but when simplicity is done so well, why bother branching out?

Find more world-class boozes with our guide to the best cocktails in London.


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