Quick Take: Tayēr + Elementary and Kwãnt are the buzziest and biggest new openings but Homeboy, FAM, Vermuteria, and Artesian are also worth a stop.
London has its cocktail scene locked down with lots of lovely bars from classic to creative and laidback to lux. But, the cool thing about being an energetic capital city is that it always evolves and showcases something new. Here is my selection of the London cocktail bars opened within the last year worth a visit:
This is likely the biggest new splash on the London bar scene. Opened earlier this year by cocktail power couple Monica Berg and Alex Kratena, it houses two different spaces with the front space being Elementary, which is open all day and serves simple, but delicious, batched drinks in small, medium or large formats alongside seasonal snacks. Step behind this space and you’re in Tayēr, a workshop of sorts (the name is a nod to taller, “workshop” in Spanish). This is where they let their creativity flag fly and the cocktail menu is in constant flux. Their vision, the workshop ethos, and experimental tendencies with the skills to back them up make this one of the most interesting new openings for cocktail geeks in awhile. The space is raw, industrial and airy with gorgeous personal touches like the modern hanging ceiling lights, delicate imported glassware and beautiful bar stools. Bonus: There is a four seat Kitchen Counter space, for an intimate five course cocktail and food pairing.
Pronounced “quaint” (the name is the phonetical spelling of the word), this bar is sexy and bolder than one would think with such a diminutive name. This downstairs bar of a trendy Moroccan-inspired Mediterranean restaurant, is a drop dead gorgeous space with a magical feel. Kwãnt transports you to another time and place, one that you can’t quite put your finger on in defining, but where you definitely want to be. Bartenders in white jackets spoil clients and the menu features cocktails created by globally acclaimed bartender Eric Lorincz, previously head barman at the Savoy’s American bar. It delivers old school glamor with a fresh and modern zest. Nothing gets overlooked here with a coffee/tea menu that is just as varied, impressive and perfectly executed as the cocktail menu. Plus: if you’re feeling really flush, there’s an extensive collection of vintage spirits to try solo or in a special selection of cocktails.
Opened for just under a year in a little nook of central london, the topnotch team behind FAM has created an all-inclusive space that many liken to a living room where you can hang with the family you choose, be it friends, close colleagues, members of the bar community, etc. The menu features fresh and interesting ingredients with some local touches, like the Devon flower honey in their popular margarita that uses a blend of highland and lowland tequilas. Here, the LP’s covering the wall are not just for hip decor, but also provide the groovy tunes pouring out of vintage speakers. And for warm summer evenings or people watching over your cocktail, there’s a 20 seat terrace on the front sidewalk.
Behind King’s Cross, where once stood a somewhat desolate and sketchy area now stands a fancy shopping center and food hall, Coal Drops Yard. In that new center amongst the spendy boutiques, you’ll find a few hidden gems of food and drink like the Vermuteria. This little cafe, inspired by the traditional aperitif scene in Spain, Italy and France, successfully surfs the on-trend low octane wave with an impressive selection of vermouths in a range of colors and flavors. It’s decorated with cycling memorabilia and vintage posters showcasing the bottles on its shelves. Like its drinks programme, the vibe is light, lively and fun. And if you’re in the mood for something larger or longer than a small glass of bitters, they also have vermouth based spritz and cocktail options. After, you can soak the drinks up with an ooey gooey grilled cheese sandwich from Morty & Bob’s just across from them in the inner courtyard area.
Though it’s been around for a bit over a year, it’s the first occasion I had to visit this award-winning cocktail bar with its tiny secret pub for some good drinks served with a solid side of Irish hospitality. Duo Aaron Wall and Ciarán Smith have paired up to create a friendly space offering delish cocktails, many of which are based (appropriately!) on Irish whiskies alongside comforting bar snacks (think cheese toasties and the like). The decor is also comforting with dark wood, deep green booths and arm chairs, a welcoming long bar and popping checked tiles. Note: they make a mean whiskey smash with a special mint and spinach syrup – don’t pass it up!
And in other news….
My favorite high end hotel bar team at Artesian has a new menu. As usual, much thought was put into this conceptual offering and the idea this time around is simplicity, with drinks limited in number of ingredients. Of course, the conceptual menu itself is also a well designed thing of beauty. If you stop in, tell the team hi for me – and also try the sake based cocktail (Special thanks to Emilio for the nudge to try that one – it will likely hit my top five cocktails for this year!)
Swift bar is not as new as the others here, but I hadn’t previously had a chance to yet check it out and considering there are some solid bar personalities behind it, I wanted to make that happen this time. I can report that I’m a fan of the oyster happy hour upstairs with its menu of spritz options – so much so that I hit it up a few days in a row (not my M.O. when I’m in research mode). It’s classy, friendly, tasty and I love the distinctly different vibes of the up and downstairs bars.
Finally, Dandelyan, the bar from Ryan Chetiyawardana (aka Mr Lyan) in Sea Containers has now become Lyaness. I didn’t stop in on this visit with limited time, but word on the street is that it seems a lot like Dandelyan…except more ‘female’ and they now feature a boozy tea time.
Also, if you’re looking for London bar info, some of my favorite industry friends to follow for top booze news in Londontown are: The Cocktail Lovers for all the latest in the cocktail word, Gin Monkey for cool projects and interesting timely scoops and tidbits like her recent gram on the Sipsmith and Paul Smith bottle collaboration at Selfridges, and Le Cocktail Connoisseur for global coverage with a strong London component.