I’ve always loved the idea of a hotel bar in London. A piano in the corner plays hummable hits while you sit watching the ladies and gents arrive with their Louis Vuitton steamer trunks with reception greets them like long lost friends.
Things have moved on from that, and though piano bars are aplenty, London hotel bars are not just for people watching anymore. Some of the best cocktail bars in London are in hotels. Many have to made it to the top of Drinks International Magazine’s list of the 50 World’s Best Bars. It would be remiss not to visit these hotel bars while in the London.
(NB: listed in alphabetical order)
The Best Hotel Bars in London
American Bar at the Stafford
You could say I am biased; my second home is the American Bar at the Stafford. What makes the American Bar so special is its old-world charm and its tongue in cheek decor: the whole bar is decorated from floor to ceiling with model airplanes, photographs, university baseball caps, football helmets and all sorts of US memorabilia.
Right in the middle of everything. Don’t be fooled though – Benoit Provost and his team take their craft very seriously and there is nothing casual about his attention to detail – every cocktail is a masterpiece.
Top tip(ple) – The Americans have come marching in – although I love a new menu, my go-to is the White Mouse, their iconic cocktail named for their resident spy, Nancy Wake, and is a sexy blend of Saffron Gin, Star Anise, Champagne and more. Their glassware is to die for.
- The Stafford, 16-18 St James’s Pl, St. James’s, London SW1A 1NJ
While this is one of the most ornate bars in town, Artesian’s new cocktail menu to be anything but. Maybe they’ve been inspired by the 100th anniversary of Bauhaus this year, as it’s all about minimalism. Two ingredients make up each of the 22 cocktails on the list. Anna Sebastian has gone but that doesn’t mean it isn’t splendid still!
Top tip(ple) – It’s really hard to choose as everything on their new menu sounds great. Keep playing with their physical menu fashioned as a twirlable double helix inspired by John Edmark’s Helicone.
- Artesian at The Langham Hotel, 1C Portland Pl, Marylebone, London W1B 1JA
Don’t think it’s all about the famous David Collins interior. Iconic thought it may be, the Blue Bar is way more than just a color. The cocktails are as stylish as the room in which they are served.
Now with their new Meta Menu, you could even call them cutting-edge. Four different categories make up the menu: Fresh & Easy, Elegant & Bubbly, Crisp & Clean, and Rich & Bold. Rifts on flavors you know, plus the addition of flavors you might not, make it so meta, dude.
Top tip(ple) – Having grown up drinking Creme de Menthe (don’t ask) , I love any minty treat and their Kryptonite combining Bourbon, Cacao mint and something called Invisible cream. Like its name – it could bring down Superman in one sip.
- The Blue Bar, The Berkeley Hotel, Wilton Pl, Knightsbridge, London SW1X 7RL
The Churchill Bar
Most people head to the Hyatt Regency on Portman Sqaure to dine at Chef Giorgio Locatelli’s Michelin-Star Locanda Locatelli, but they would be remiss if they didn’t pop into The Churchill Bar & Terrace for a cocktail or two. With Eduard, the friendly and attentive Team Leader, at the helm, this comfy bar greets as many locals as hotel guest with open arms.
The hotel itself has been open since 1970 and Edward revealed that many older visitors and even the children pop in tell him that it is their home in London. You certainly get that feeling – with its comfy chairs by the fire and velvet banquettes. Definitely a place you would think its namesake, Winston Churchill and his wife, Clemmie, would have settled in for a glass of Pol Roger or a very Dry Martini.
Don’t miss their new cocktail menu, UNITY, a celebration of the treasured traditions of the bar team’s respective cultures. The twelve signature cocktails explore innovative flavor and ingredient combinations inspired by the Americas, Asia and Europe. Also the summer terrace is open where they will be serving an exclusive menu of champagne and rosé to be enjoyed whilst imagining the south of France in central London.
Top Tip(ple) for 2023- Don’t miss the Longitude 40°, named after Europe and Asia’s continent border location in the map. Grape Skin Vodka mixed with Umeshu, a popular Japanese wine, and an Elderflower liqueur, garnished with fresh green grapes!
- The Churchill Bar and Terrace (at the Hyatt Regency London), 30 Portman Square, London W1H 7BH
We have to talk about Kevin! That would be Kevin Price Houghton, Head Bartender at Christina’s Mondrian, to be exact. He is the paragon of hospitality. Enthusiastic, gracious, and super knowledgeable on every aspect of the menu, as well as the process that has gone into not only the cocktails but every product used in the cocktail on the menu of the fabulous Christina’s Shoreditch.
Using almost all local or UK products, they “shine a light on the local landscape.” The attention to detail is well worth it as the cocktails are fab! It’s a hotel bar not to miss in London!
Top Tip(ple) for 2023- They’ve launched two new cocktails inspired by the biodiversity of the British wild: Meadow Highball and Banana Honeysuckle!
- Christina’s Shoreditch (at the Mondrian Shoreditch), 45 Curtain Rd, London EC2A 3PT
What can you say about the Connaught Bar that has not been said already? Cocktails, interiors, martini trolley, Ago Perrone – tick, tick, tick, tick. Every award has been won, every honor has been received, every prize has been collected. Still, no matter how much you’ve read about the stature of the Connaught Bar, you can never fully know it until you’ve experienced it yourself.
Whether it’s your first time or your fiftieth, everyone at the Connaught Bar makes you feel as if you are one of the family. In my opinion, that is what makes the Connaught so special and not to be missed on any trip to London.
Top Tip(ple) – If this is your first time, you kind of have to order their Classic Martini, it’s a rite of passage.
- Connaught Bar, The Connaught, Carlos Pl, Mayfair, London W1K 2AL
The Donovan Bar
I remember going to Brown’s Hotel when I was younger for their toasted scones – why didn’t every tea room in London serve toasted scones? I still can’t answer that question. Now, as an adult, I frequent Brown’s for their cocktails rather than their scones. With Il Maestro Salvatore Calabrese at the helm, they are wowing me with more than just hot buttered scones!
Since I’ve lived in London, The Donovan Bar has seen a few changes, both architectural and behind the stick. Many years ago, I interviewed the former Head Bartender Riccardo Vecchio for my first season of Lush Life podcast. That was at least six years ago and Riccardo has gone on to other ventures. Now running the show is the aforementioned Salvatore Calabrese, one of the world’s most famous bartenders and cocktail authorities.
As of July 2023, The Donovan Bar has just launched its first signature menu entitled Evoke. This chic, new menu has been conceived by Salvatore and his right-hand and Director of Mixology, Federico Pavan. It is meant “to reflect the journey into, through and beyond emotions. Each cocktail represents different flavours, ingredients and techniques intended to provoke different responses, from comforting nostalgia to a heady adrenaline rush.“
The cocktails are “designed to produce complex emotions through taste, aroma and sight…Each cocktail will provoke different emotions and interactions to the drink unique to the individual enjoying it.
This is quite heady stuff and might not translate well into a cocktail if Salvatore and Federico were not in charge. With these two, you can be sure that these theoretical semantics translate into fabulous cocktails!
I sampled Red, inspired by the Italian saying “diventare rosso come un peperone”, or why are you red like a pepper? Never would I have believed I would say that a red pepper forward cocktail would be one of my favorite of the nights. Of course, with other ingredients such as Patron Reposado, Amaro Santoni, and Bubbles, Red was sure to be a winner.
Funnily, my other favorite of the night was was also vegetal in nature and a vivid green in color. The Comfort Zone is a blend of floral and vegetal flavors using with Bacardi Reserva Ocho and Plum Elderflower mixing with acidified Celery and Bareksten Absinthe, it’s also gorgeous in color.
They are all splendid and equally as divine to drink as they are to look at – not an easy feat!
Top Tip(ple) – The piece de resistance is the Escape From Reality! Spoiler alert – check out my instagram post to see what the fuss is all about. If you don’t know anything about it yet, then order it!
- The Donovan Bar at Brown’s Hotel, 33 Albemarle St, London W1S 4BP
What can I say about Alessandro Palazzi that hasn’t been said already? For those who don’t know, Dukes Bar is the haven for all things martini, thanks to Ian Fleming making it his watering hole. Don’t think the bar is a one-trick pony!
Every cocktail is made with the attention and respect it deserves. Still, if you order a martini, their super glam trolley arrives before you to conjure up the celebrated combination of gin (or vodka) and vermouth!
Top tip(ple) – Dukes Martini, but remember you are only allowed to have two, so sip them slowly.
- Dukes Hotel 16-18 St James’s Pl, St. James’s, London SW1A 1NJ
Homey and inviting, Scarfes Bar in the gorgeous Rosewood Hotel in Holborn, is named after the renowned British artist and caricaturist Gerald Scarfe. It’s inspired by the atmosphere of a drawing room, with live jazz music playing each day from a host of talented performers evoking a convivial and sophisticated yet intimate atmosphere and located a short distance from London’s Covent Garden.
The bar’s cocktail programe is led by Director of Bars Martin Siska and Head of Mixology Yann Bouvignies. The mixology team create their very own home-made syrups and distillates within their Lab, which they use within all their cocktails and new menus at the bar. The drinks are a combination of minimalistic, but perfectly executed, textured drinks and innovative technology.
- Scarfes Bar, Rosewood London, 252 High Holborn, London WC1V 7EN
In the basement of the new One Hundred Shoreditch hotel – the Seed Library is changing up things, as Mr. Lyan always does and creating a “lo-fi, analogue approach to bartending.” Whatever they call it, I say it translates as great cocktails.
We tried the Summer Whisky Sourz, the Galangal Penicillin (hoping it might help my post-Covid runny nose!), Coriander Seed Gimlet and the Raspberry Leaf Bellini. Accompanied by fabulous croquettes – how did croquettes become the perfect cocktail accompaniment – I was happy as only one who is holding a well-crafted cocktail can be. God I love living in London! Thank you Mr. Lyan!
- Seed Library, One Hundred Shoreditch Hotel, 100 Shoreditch High St, London E1 6HU