Time for a Tipple: London’s Hottest Hotel Bars

Feels like every luxury hotel in London made the most of the pandemic, either by using the time to refresh tired spaces or creating new ones altogether; while mixologists with time on their hands used London’s lockdowns to study up on their chemistry. The craft put into elevating the cocktail culture has soared to new heights, in spite of decreasing alcohol consumption. Visitors to London are truly spoiled for choice. As difficult as it was to narrow the list down, we’ve highlighted a few notable new and classic offerings that should be on your radar.

New & Fabulous

Le Magritte at The Beaumont

Le Magritte Bar
At Le Magritte at The Beaumont, old School cocktails are the thing to order. They have also elevated the bar, on bar food. (The Beaumont)

Formerly a lounge for in-house guests off the lobby, the new Le Magritte at The Beaumont already feels like a classic. When we visited on a random Wednesday night it was buzzing with a well-heeled mix of after-work Mayfair finance types and creatives that looked like they just popped over from a high-fashion shoot at nearby Selfridges. Old School cocktails are the thing to order — the negroni was sublime — the menu was bountiful with a choice of bourbons, and American whiskies. The nibbles menu had an American flair — retro (and delish) corn dogs, intricate square-shaped Deviled eggs with caviar and polenta fries with jalapeno dip — suffice to say they’ve completely elevated the bar, on bar food. Adjoining Le Magritte is the chic, sheltered terrace overlooking tranquil Brown Hart Gardens, with 1920s-style rattan armchairs and café tables, a perfect spot to enjoy drinks, cigars and a sunny afternoon.  

Common Decency at the NoMad London

NoMad London
NoMad London is anchored by a central atrium that gives off greenhouse vibes by day and transforms into a moody space by night.  (NoMad London)

A beautiful, new 91-room hotel that opened amid the pandemic in April 2021 is the stunning NoMad London in Covent Garden, just across from the Royal Opera House. New York-based interior design studio Roman and Williams led the renovation of the 19th-century former Bow Street Magistrates’ Court and Police Station. The hotel is anchored by a breathtaking central atrium that gives off greenhouse vibes by day and miraculously transforms into a deliberately moody space by night. The art-filled public spaces offer comfy jewel-toned furniture, deliberate nooks, and open spaces that cater to different moods. The Sydell Group, which created the NoMad (originally in N.Y., now in L.A. and Vegas), and operates The Ned here in London, knows how to create a scene; the hotel has already hosted a who’s who of celebrities and after-parties in its 9,000 square feet of event space. There are several bars; a cozy Library; and a modern pub with Mexican flair, the Side Hustle; but the real nighttime action is in the building’s former coal storage areas which have been seductively redesigned into intimate private rooms and a main salon with campy live performances by drag queens and cabaret singers. So fun! 

Dandy Bar, The Mayfair Townhouse

The Dandy Bar is the heart and soul of the relatively new Mayfair Townhouse (it opened in January of 2020 only to be shuttered two months later for the first lockdown), the latest U.K. offering from Iconic Luxury Hotels, operators of Chewton Glen, Cliveden House, The Lygon Arms, and 11 Cadogan Gardens. The 172-room hotel is a combination of 15 Georgian townhouses that take up one side of Half Moon Street, an address famous from Oscar Wilde’s “The Importance of Being Earnest,” whose colorful Victorian characters have inspired the hotel’s cheeky personality. When we popped by, the stylish Art Deco space designed by Goodard Littlefair was pleasantly filled with a smattering of tech bros at the bar and stylish women who we guess must work in the nearby art galleries, seated in the comfortable leather banquettes sipping the signature Green Carnation, a rum drink with ginseng and pistachio soda, slightly naughty yet almost feels healthy. We think Wilde would approve.

Dandy Bar, The Mayfair Townhouse
The Dandy Bar has comfortable leather banquettes. Its signature is the Green Carnation, a rum drink with ginseng and pistachio soda. (The Mayfair Townhouse)

New bars at The Londoner

The Londoner, part of Preferred Hotels & Resorts’ prestigious Legend Collection, was developed over several years at vast expense (reportedly over £500 million) by Edwardian Hotels, who call it the world’s first super boutique hotel. Situated on London’s Leicester Square with 350 bedrooms and suites, six concept eateries and bars, residences, a spa, private screening rooms, seven inspiring meeting spaces, and a ballroom for 850 guests, we have to agree with the “super boutique” moniker.  

The two new bars do not disappoint. The Stage is a pink-hued Champagne bar in the lobby, and 8 at The Londoner is an Asian-inspired rooftop affair with retractable skylights. Created by Amir Jati, who spent a decade leading Nobu’s global private dining and events team, and has won numerous awards for the Edwardian Group, the spaces live up to the hype. The Stage is a perfect setting for an after-show tipple, and that’s who we found on a recent visit, theatergoers relaxing with twinkling glasses of bubbles. 8 at The Londoner is like nothing else, a quiet oasis overlooking the neon lights of ever-busy Leicester Square, featuring a chic lounge area with a fire pit at its center, a Japanese-inspired minimalist terrace, and a breathtaking Shima Garden. Nibbles are kind of a Japanese fusion, featuring an extensive robata offering and a moriawase section with tartare, sashimi, and sushi rolls on offer. Lots of champagne, Japanese whiskies, sake and cool Asian cocktails (think: Lychee Martini and Yuzu Margaritas) feature on the drinks menu. 

Silverleaf, Pan Pacific London

Silverleaf, Pan Pacific
Silverleaf at the Pan Pacific London is one of the first independent cocktail bars to be part of a luxury hotel’s offering. (Julian Abrams)

Situated in the City of London, just by Liverpool Street, the gleaming 237-room Pan Pacific Hotel, which opened in September of 2021, is mainly situated in a new glass tower with sleek interiors by esteemed design duo Yabu Pushelberg. Cleverly the property also includes a 144-year-old building, Devonshire House, which has stunning views over Bishopsgate Plaza. The space has been re-designed by Design Research Studio (part of the Tom Dixon empire) with interiors focused on “the elements” — think: blackened hot rolled steel, marble, charred timber, and salt-glazed hand-crafted British bricks — to offer a cozier contrasting vibe to the uber-modern main hotel. There’s also a private area called “Alba” that fits 12, which should prove popular for intimate events. It’s one of the first independent cocktail bars to be part of a luxury hotel’s offering, as the project has been put together with the help of Martyn “Simo” Simpson, owner of the long-standing Milroy’s in Soho, and his team who have managed some of London’s most popular cocktail spots. Silverleaf just opened in February and has already been adopted as a local watering hole for the finance folks.

Chic & Charming

Artesian at The Langham

Just off the lobby of The Langham, London, the chic Artesian sets a scene with its backlit bar, soft purple leather banquettes, and comfy club chairs; the staff are warm and inviting, and the crowd is a mix of BBC broadcasters and well-heeled tourists. New head bartender Giulia Cuccurullo, who just reached the finals of the 2021 Margarita of the Year Competition, has created an ambitious drinks menu. Themed “Connections,” and inspired by shared experiences that have brought us together over during the pandemic, the 20 drinks are divided into sub-themes of “wellness, community, celebration, sustainability, and happiness.” Each cocktail is multi-dimensional, nearly works of science, yet they don’t take themselves too seriously. Many are even offered without alcohol. As an example, the drink my companion chose, Layer Cake had Bacardi 8 Rum, kernel stout syrup, chocolate malt distillate, coconut cream, and while it didn’t look like a cake, it was impressively layered and had a hint of sweetness but not cloying. My choice was The Butterfly with Michter’s Bourbon Whiskey, peach liqueur, lychee liqueur, lime, butterfly tea, Bittered Sling Grapefruit and hops bitters, and had a lovely balance of flavors. Most of the waitstaff are bartenders as well, quite knowledgeable and happily take time to explain each drink and the flavor profiles. As a side note, not sure what they’ve done with ice cube technology at The Langham, but they have the most beautiful crystal clear cubes that take more than 45 minutes to melt, which is perfect because you want to linger.

Artesian at The Langham
The Artesian, just off the lobby of The Langham, London has a backlit bar, soft purple leather banquettes, and club chairs. (Artesian at The Langham)

The Classics

The Connaught Bar at The Connaught

Voted the best bar in the world.  With it’s sexy 1920s inspired cubist interiors designed by the renowned David Collins Studio and talented team of master mixologists — Agostino Perrone, Giorgio Bargiani and Maura Milia — it’s easy to understand why The Connaught Bar, has been named the World’s Best Bar for the second year in a row.  The signature drink is the Dry Martini, which arrives via a trolley, pick your choice of gin (we suggest the bar’s own, distilled on site) sit back, and enjoy the show as they expertly combine with bitters and a special ‘flavour card.’ If Martinis aren’t your bag, try some of the new offerings in the new Impressions drinks menu.

The Donovan Bar at Brown’s Hotel

A classic celebrating being a classic. This year marks 185 years since Brown’s first opened its doors in 1837. In honor of this special anniversary, the “Maestro”, Salvatore Calabrese, a former president of the UK Bartender’s guild who’s been mixing drinks since he was 12, has created a special “Once Upon a Time” menu that celebrates the iconic figures, moments and happenings of the hotel which should be fun to try. A top Mayfair spot for relaxing and having a quiet conversation. 

Gong, Shangri-La at The Shard

Go for the views, stay for the food. The highest bar in western Europe, a cocktail here is a must for any itinerary. Perched on the 52nd floor, offering incredible views of London’s iconic skyline, it’s easy to lose an afternoon into the evening as you sip delicious drinks accompanied by sushi, gyoza or a Bento Box at Gong at Shangri-La at The Shard.

The American Bar, The Stafford

More English than American, The American Bar at The Stafford London is part of the great tradition of the American cocktail bars renowned in London and Paris during the 1920s and 30s. One of the oldest and most famous bars in London, it attracts a sophisticated crowd, think Dukes and Duchesses. Good to know: The bar sits alongside a courtyard, perfect for alfresco moments and enjoying cigars. 

The Artesian
At the Artesian, the new head bartender Giulia Cuccurullo, has created an ambitious drinks menu, themed “Connections.” (@lateef.photography)

The Dukes Bar at Dukes

For James Bond lovers and martini aficionados. The legendary bar inspired Ian Fleming to have his iconic James Bond character order a martini, “shaken, not stirred.” Dukes may be the definition of a classic London bar, with its cozy deep navy club chairs and the best olives and bar snacks.  

The New York Bar, The Rubens 

In the shadow of Buckingham Palace, The New York Bar at The Rubens is one for romance, with its opulent red interior, classic cocktails, a champagne from the trolley and flights of gin. With nightly live music, this is the top choice to get cozy with someone you love, settle in, and enjoy it all. 

The Bar at The Athenaeum

For those with a thirst for knowledge, The Bar at the Athenaeum offers an impressive collection of whiskeys and masterclasses to teach you about them. Tucked behind the Athenaeum’s lobby with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking a living wall, a smattering of comfortable sofas, and plush club chairs, this may be the best learning environment in the world.

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