Tis the season to be jolly… The festive season is well and truly upon us, bringing with a deluge of new bar openings and special cocktail menus. With so many places to drink and not enough time to visit them all, here's our pick of the best new bars in London to enjoy a few festive tipples this month.
The Exotic one – The Bar at Ella Canta, Mayfair
One Hamilton Place, Park Lane, London W1J 7QY
Ella Canta, the restaurant from Mexican chef Martha Ortiz has enjoyed a run of rave reviews since its September opening. Less well known however is Ella Canta’s own restaurant bar, a raised space at the back of the restaurant. Mirroring the direction in the kitchen, the bar at Ella Canta combines exotic ingredients, plenty of mezcal and even the odd (edible) golden grasshopper.
The bar menu features a selection of twelve signature cocktails entitled ‘Mexico’s Gifts to the World’. The drinks here are creative fusions of exotic and indigenous ingredients with concoctions such as their Flor de Nopal, a combination of Patron tequila, nopal (a type of cactus), pimento and prickly pear liqueur, agave and Mexican red wine – showcasing the extent of the concept. Those after something a little more recognisable might want to skip over to their list of Margaritas.
Eat this: Guacamole Nacionalista – Ella Canta’s house guacamole served with ricotta cheese, pomegranate and adorned with a gold grasshopper
Drink this: La Nina Fresa - Vanilla-infused Peloton de la Muerte Mezcal, Disaronno, Cocchi Barolo chinato, line, agave, Tepache
The Restaurant bar – Eve by Adam Handling
34 Southampton Street, Covent Garden, WC2E 7HF
Following a very successful year, chef Adam Handling has made his first foray into the world of drinks with the launch of his first bar, Eve, in the basement of his new Covent Garden restaurant.
The menu at Eve will feel familiar to fans of Oskar’s Bar at Dabbous. Here too, the drinks have been developed by chef Adam alongside group bar manager Tim Laferla, who previously worked on the drinks side at City Social and Simon Rogan’s Mr Cooper’s, Manchester.
The cocktails have been designed to showcase bold flavour combinations and are packed with chef-led ingredients - a quick scan of the menu turns up ingredients such as black olive, miso and corn husk.
Highlight drinks from the current menu include Paradise Lost – Banks rum, pandan, banana, ginger, popcorn and matcha tea and their own negroni riff Red to Black, featuring FEW bourbon, cherry, black olive, cocchi vermouth di Torino and Campari.
As to be expected, the bar snacks at Eve are very impressive. Those familiar with Handling’s cooking will notice signature dishes such as his Cheese & Truffle doughnuts and Smoked cod with caviar snacks making an appearance.
Eat this: Cheese & Truffle doughnuts, Frog leg popcorn
Drink this: Calypso Deep – Fords Gin, Olive Oil, sherry vermouth, white balsamic, sea foam. £11
The Speakeasy – Jack Solomons club, Soho
41 Great Windmill Street, Soho
Billed as ‘Vintage drinking, live music & old school Soho glamour’, this Soho speakeasy is named after Jack Solomon, the legendary boxing promoter who brought Muhammad Ali to Wembley Stadium. Behind a hidden door on Great Windmill Street, the newly opened basement bar is situated in the very room that Solomon used as his office and training gym for prizefighters.
Echoing popular drinks from the 1940’s and 50’s the drinks list here features a cocktail menu which focuses on whisky and other dark spirits of the era. The boxing themed drinks list includes Old Guard – Woodford reserve bourbon, bitters and apricot brandy (£13) and On The Ropes – cognac, maple syrup, Japanese whisky, cardamom bitters.
Eat this: Hot Smoked Trout with Horseradish, Crab croquettes
Drink this: Coffee and Cigarettes – Scotch whisky, vanilla liqueur, sweet vermouth, chocolate bitters. £13
For experience hunters – ‘Out of the Blue’, The Blue Bar at The Berkeley
The Berkeley, Wilton Place, Knightsbridge, London SW1X 7RL
‘Out of the Blue’, the new perception-bending experience at The Berkeley’s Blue Bar is sure to delight even the frostiest of drinking partners. The experience is a journey designed to enliven the senses and involves four bespoke cocktails, state of the art projection technology and takes place in an intimate room in another part of the hotel.
The team have worked on developing the experience for over a year and whilst there are strong references to the work of visual artist Pipilotti Rist, you don’t have to be an arts buff to enjoy what is quite simply an impressive and well thought through experience.
Bookings are still available throughout December, and we’re pleased to report that the original Blue Bar is also still very much worth a visit.
How much? ‘Out Of The Blue’ is available hourly slots between 5.30pm – 11pm. It's priced at £200 for up to four guests
The Hotel bar – The Coral Room
The Coral Room 16-22 Great Russell Street, Bloomsbury, London WC1B 3NN
Taking over a previously unused space in the heart of The Bloomsbury Hotel, The Coral Room opened late last month. The bar takes its name from the distinctive coral coloured walls and features opulet period design courtesy of Martin Brudnizki.
It’s not all Instagram fodder here though, under the guidance of general manager Giovanni Spezziga (a familiar face previously at Scarfes bar and Benares), the new bar features a comprehensive selection of highball and spritz-style cocktails alongside an extensive list of English sparking wines - one of the largest in London, apparently.
Drinks from the opening menu which caught our eyes Midtown Swizzle - Havana Especial Rum, Lustau Sherry, Passion Fruit Puree, Lime Juice, Pineapple Syrup, English Sparkling Wine and their Big Smoke - Ancho Reyes Tequila, Quiquiriqui Mezcal, Orange Chili Syrup, Chipotle Tincture, Ginger Ale.
Eat this: Short rib sliders and spiced slaw
Drink this: Gin Lane - Hendricks gin, Viognier wine, St Germain elderflower, rose and agave. £13
The Glitzy one - The bar at Park Chinois, Mayfair
17 Berkeley St, Mayfair, London W1J 8EA
For those really looking to push the boat out, Park Chinois, Alan Yau’s decadent restaurant in Mayfair has just launched a selection of festive cocktails, available throughout December and into the New Year.
The bar team have created six opulent cocktails - each of which are made with a dark spirit (rum, cognac, rye whiskey) and paired with seasonal and spiced ingredients such as chestnuts, smoked citrus fruits, honey, vermouth and crimson saffron.
Eat this: Cornish crab fried rice
Drink this: Forbidden Apple – Whistle pig rye whisky fused with 20-year-old Tawny port, apple, Belsazar vermouth and creole aromatic bitters. £30
The Old Classic – The Bar at Quaglino’s
16 Bury St, St. James's, London SW1Y 6AJ
A perennial favourite with the Mayfair set and one of London’s most instantly recognisable venues, Quaglino's has launched a new cocktail menu which tells the story of its illustrious past.
Designed by bar manager Marco Sangion and head bartender Davide Arcucci the new menu features twenty new cocktails which tell the story of the bar’s heritage – dating all the way back to 1929 with original recipes from Giovanni Quaglino.
As to be expected from such an establishment, the drinks here are well presented, opulent and served with a dose of theatre. Highlight drinks include Her Majesty – Don Julio tequila infused with herbs, yuzu and bergamot juice topped with Italicus and yellow grapefruit soda – named after HRH’s 1956 visit to Quaglino's.
Drink this: The Martinez – Woodford reserve, Hennessy cognac, Antica formula, corn syrup and Fernet Branca. £13
Enoteca Rosso, Kensington - This newly opened Italian wine bar is just a few minutes from the Design Museum has an impressive list of wines from all across Italy with some keenly priced vintages available both by the glass and the bottle.
Bar Termini Centrale, Oxford Street - Opened earlier this year on Duke Street, we can’t think of better way to round off a mammoth shopping expedition to Selfridges.
Artesian - A perennial Hot Dinners favourite has recently announced an new all-star bar team. Bartender Remi Savage and front of house Anna Sebastian now head up the team.
The bar at Hawksmoor Spitalfields – Our go-to bar when out East, Hawksmoor’s Spitalfields Bar is perfect for both groups and couples - the short rib nuggets alone warrant a visit. It’s even more vital to see them this month as they’ll be closed all of January for a refurb.