1. Waeska at The Mandrake Hotel
The bar, hidden away within the new Mandrake Hotel, is a world of hedonistic fun with just a hint of the surreal. The eclectic interiors are decorated with priceless works of art, intriguing soundscapes and specially designed Azzi Glasser scents.
The team of talented mixologists is handpicked from leading bars around the globe by award-winning bar manager Walter Pintus (The Ritz, The Connaught), and the drinks collection is unlike anything else to be found in London. They are specially designed by Pintus and his international team – divinely decadent and made with the world’s most exotic ingredients. We love Satyr, made with truffle Portobello gin, saffron syrup, citrus, dry sherry and absinthe, and She Devil made with Somerset brandy, homemade rhubarb cordial, Campari, sea buckthorn tincture and champagne. All the syrups, infusions, garnishes and bitters are made on site – with even the ice handcrafted to perfection. This place really offers both substance and style, and it’s only a matter of time before the guidebooks wise up to Waeska’s glistening charms.
Nearest tube: Tottenham Court Road
2. Punch Room at The London EDITION
Punch Room may be just off the chaotic Oxford Street, but is thankfully a secret corner of calm in Fitzrovia, within The London EDITION. Their speciality is the daily changing sharing punch bowls or classic house punches. There is also a Scandal Water menu (Friday to Sunday) in partnership with Rare Tea Co for an alternative (and more exciting) answer to the famous British afternoon tea. This menu includes five Rare Tea Co teas, punch and food pairings – for example, smoked ham hock, green tea jelly, capers and cornichons matched with Emerald Green Mao Feng tea or Cold Ruby Punch. Or for those with a sweet tooth: almond, lemon and rosewater cake with English peppermint tea and Toledo Punch (who would have thought this combination could be so refreshing!). If punch tasting was a thing, this would be its birthplace.
Punch Room is inspired by the grand traditions of Great Britain – from the English country manor to the quintessential London private gentleman’s club. In the daytime, it’s quiet and relaxed, perfect for intimate catch-ups or playful daytime dates. In the evening, it caters as more of a hot spot for social groups, with Punch bowls available for up to eight people at £14 (US$19) per person.
Nearest tube: Oxford Circus, Tottenham Court Road
3. The Gin Bar at Holborn Dining Room
There’s only one bar for gin lovers in London – The Gin Bar at the Holborn Dining Room. It has the city’s largest collection of gin, specialising in gin cocktails with exclusive tonic pairings. Here you’ll find unique gin cocktails reflecting the flavours and ingredients of each British season, as well as spirits, wines and craft beers. The bar staff are very knowledgeable so if choosing between 525 varieties of gin sends you into a tail-spin, tell your waiter what interests you and let the experts whip something that will awaken your taste buds. Our suggested must-try cocktail is The Ace of Vesper, inspired by Vesper Lynd in the James Bond novel, Casino Royale. It includes Sipsmith VJOP, Sipsmith Vodka and home-made champagne vermouth infused with juniper berries.
The Gin Bar blends the sophistication of a hotel bar with the buzzy vibe of a diner thanks to the sexy booths – and rightly so, the generously portioned bar snacks are sensational. Try the griddled prawns with lemon and garlic butter, or the British cheese board selection which we’ll take with a gin cocktail over a glass of wine any day.
The experts here also hold gin tasting masterclasses. Guests learn everything from the stories of gin’s place in London’s history (with over 7,000 gin shops catering to Londoners in the 18th century, it is no surprise that the spirit’s popularity remains to this day) to how it is made. Of course, there is a chance to sample select blends throughout the class, and at the end, guests are given a gift box with ingredients to recreate their own perfect gin and tonic at home.
Nearest tube: Holborn
4. St James Bar at Sofitel London
This Coco Chanel-inspired intimate bar is one of the most gorgeous places in the city, and cocktails here are individual works of art. It is home to the amazing Dragon’s Son cocktail, containing a one-of-a-kind Greek spirit called METAXA 12 Stars. METAXA 12 Stars is created from a blend of barrel-aged wine distillates, the finest aromatic muscat wines from the Greek island of Samos and a secret bouquet of May roses and Mediterranean herbs. It is complex, smooth and refined, and for us, tasted like a mix between whisky and amaretto liquor.
The spirit can be enjoyed both on the rocks or in a cocktail. The Dragon Son cocktail is inspired by Vlad III Dracula, and includes the spirit infused with Nuit d’Eté, Sauternes infused with Bulgare tea, Taylor’s 20, sugar syrup, Campari and homemade sloe gin mousse. The ice block in the middle is like a mini ice sculpture.
Want to turn heads? Order the Enchanted Rose. It comes in a glass bell jar, and when lifted, smoke disperses like that of magic. Disney magic to be precise – the fairytale cocktail was inspired by Beauty And The Beast, featuring both sour and flowery notes, created from Belvedere vodka infused with red berries, framboise eau de vie, white tea syrup, St Germain liqueur, Peychaud’s bitters and rose water.
Nearest tube: Piccadilly Circus
5. Out of The Blue Bar at The Berkeley
Probably the coolest new drinking experience in the capital, Out of The Blue Bar at The Berkeley is an explorative journey of taste that will have you telling your friends about it for months on end. This tiny hidden room has space for up to four guests at a time, who are transported on an intense journey by stimulating the senses through a combination of the finest ingredients and bespoke technology.
You step into a secret space and sample specially curated cocktails while amazing visuals, smells and sounds are pumped into the room to invigorate your senses. The cocktails are revealed at the end – they’re all served in identical cups – of the session. Which cocktail are you drinking while watching projected footage of a sunset on a beach, with fruity aromas and ocean breeze circling above? We don’t want to give too much away and risk ruining your experience, but this definitely is a must do with a date, with some in-laws, or with a group of cocktail-loving pals. Slots must be booked in advance (5:30pm to 11pm daily) by emailing email@example.com.
Nearest tube: Knightsbridge
6. Chess Club
Chess Club is a six-storey townhouse in Mayfair where both the architecture and the atmosphere give this new private members club the feeling of a beautiful private home. We like to think of this as a more exclusive, sexier Soho House.
The interiors by designer Fran Hickman create a sumptuous world where every surface is considered: velvet, marble, butterflies and hand-painted panels surround. The chess theme adds a fun element to an evening at the club, with luxury boards dotting the venue. In fact, each month, a cultural programme hosted by key figures in the worlds of fashion, drinks and more are held, including chess game evenings and a wine club.
Our suggested cocktail to sample: the Saint Germain Des Pres – made with Hendrick’s Gin, St-Germain elderflower liqueur, lime juice, elderflower cordial, cucumber juice, egg white and spicy tincture. This light and fluffy cocktail is so refreshing it will have you wondering why it isn’t bottled and sold in health shops.
Nearest tube: Green Park
7. MKNY LNGE
MNKY LNGE is the place to be seen for Mayfair darlings; the lounge is accessible separately from the Latin American restaurant MKNY HSE. The swanky interiors include a collection of contemporary art, including a glass sculpture by celebrated light artist Chris Wood – made from dichroic – a material originally developed by NASA. Random fact: this is the nicest smelling bar we’ve ever been to.
The vibe is relaxed early on in the night, and later the music gets livelier as the party swings into the early hours. The MNKY LNGE has some stunning, rare and distinctive tequilas and mescals alongside a selection of signature cocktails and MNKY Botanicals. MNKY Botanicals are available in five different flavour infusions, including the floral and refreshing Monkey 47 – made with Merchant’s Heart Hibiscus Tonic, plum wedge and edible flowers, and the intense and spicy Bloom – made with Merchant’s Heart Pink Peppercorn Tonic, cracked black pepper, grapefruit twist and mint. Drinks are beautifully presented and at various points through the evening, a miniature toy monkey (note the MKNY reference) joins your dish or drink serving. The idea is sales genius as you’ll find yourself ordering more because of the monkeys (the drinks are pretty great too though). The bites at the bar are tapas plates including the chu-toro tartar, grilled octopus, and our favourite, the yellowtail sashimi.
Open throughout the day from Tuesdays to Fridays, MNKY LNGE is also a trendy spot for coffee meetings with the city’s A-List crowd.
Nearest tube: Green Park
PHOTOS: THE MANDRAKE, NIKOLAS KOENIG (PUNCH ROOM), ROSEWOOD LONDON (THE GIN BAR), SOFITEL LONDON ST JAMES FACEBOOK, CHESS CLUB, MKNY HSE, THE BLUE BAR
This article was originally published by Singapore Press Holdings.