Banh Bao Brothers
This discreet new bar is hidden away in one of the railway arches in Waterloo’s graffiti-covered Leake Street. Given the location, the prices seem a bit steep but the experience is certainly a novelty. In keeping with its Vietnamese food, the Bahn Bao’s signature cocktail, the Jade Dragon Kiss, uses pandan, banana liqueur, lime and rum, and comes with a highly instagrammable aerial view. All of its cocktails include Vietnamese flavours, so expect prosecco with jackfruit, lotus tea infused vodka, and lychee martinis.
The Savoy American Bar
Not resting on its 140-year-old laurels, The American Bar is still inventing showstopping menus. This time it’s the Savoy Songbook. The twenty cocktails are inspired by lyrics from the piano bar’s favourites – the menu even comes with its own accompanying live album and Spotify playlist. The presentation of each cocktail is extremely thoughtful: the ‘I Love You’ comes with Savoy headed writing paper, an envelope and a pen for you to drunkenly scrawl a love letter, which they will post for you.
Lonely Street (pictured above) is a fitting tribute to Heartbreak Hotel by Elvis. The brooding cocktail with a smokey scented top layer is made from white port, coffee oil, baklava and 17 year-old Craigellachie: a heady mix to soothe your aching heart.
Genuine Liquorette, an outpost of the New York original, has alighted on Instagram catnip with their Cha-Chunker cocktails. A playful twist on a spirit and a mixer, the cha-chunker is a machine that punches a hole in can tops, so that a miniature can percolate its contents into your drink. The Americano, pictured here, comes with Campari, Cocchi Torino, mixed into a can of San Pellegrino blood orange.
A low lit, cavernous cocktail bar beneath Blandford Street, Purl is designed for nefarious goings-on. In keeping with the decadent atmosphere, the photogenic cocktails are always immaculately turned out. Many come in an array of intricate vessels, some of them with several components, to be tasted in order – this is flavour with a lot of science. The rum-based Mr Hyde envelopes you in a delicious cloud of Calvados wood smoke.
Packed to the gills with a cocktail of characters on the leather banquettes, there is a lot fighting for your attention around the bar at Sexy Fish. Despite having opened four years ago, it still has the buzz of somewhere new, admirably holding its own among the mushrooming flashy Mayfair bars that now surround it.
Every time a drink comes to your table it will have you twitching for your camera. The Monolith is particularly sultry and memorable. Made with Ron Zacapa rum, thyme, balsamic, rosemary and lavender, it has an evocative hint of Catholic church aroma to add to the intrigue. With Sexy Fish’s onyx floor, mural that covers the whole ceiling, and pair of comely mermaids at either end of the bar by Damien Hirst, there are plenty of suitable backdrops for your perfect shot.
Where better to take you through from Saturday night to Sunday morning than a Silvio Berlusconi-themed night club? There are two Bunga Bungas now, following on from the enduring success of the Battersea original. Channel the seedy exuberance of the man himself with one of their kitsch cocktails. The Leaning Tower of Pisa (rum, pineapple juice, and lemonade) for six people comes in a ceramic replica of the tower with straws sticking out a jaunty angles. Instagram away, but given that karaoke that starts up in the evening, there are bound to be plenty of Bunga Bunga moments that you wouldn’t want surfacing online.
Hats off to Artesian for bucking the maximalist trend and going its own way. The presentation here is sleek and minimalist, but just as photogenic. This matches the offbeat new menu, in which each cocktail cleverly uses just two principal ingredients. If that sounds unexciting, we’re not talking about gin and tonic here. They have come up with unique ideas: champagne and cream, bourbon and maple water, gin and beetroot. Don’t worry, these drinks do taste delicious – they aren’t just experimental for the sake of it. Saint Germain (a French elderflower liqueur) and red carrot is a good one to ask for. It’s mellow and refreshing.
Here’s one for your next date: Gloria. This Italian restaurant, which actually comes from Paris, has opened an outpost in London and it’s a giddy riot of extrovert colour and pattern and bonhomie. Even a trip to the lavatories is an adventure thanks to a baffling series of velvet curtains and some disconcerting two-way mirror cubicle doors. Warm, welcoming and happy, it’s easy to see why all of Shoreditch flocks to Gloria for a pick-me-up. Judging by the regular choruses of ‘Happy Birthday’, it’s a popular place for celebrations. Their rich take on the Pina Colada, Colada Me Later, is Appleton Estate rum,
Wray & Nephew rum, pineapple, mango, popcorn syrup, coconut and almond milk. Close your eyes and you could be on holiday.
Mr Fogg’s Gin Parlour
Have we reached peak gin? Definitely not, according to the fierce competition for tables at the Mr Fogg’s Gin Parlour. This one-stop shop for gin is a handy place to know about in Covent Garden, where the other nearby options are a bit grim. The dinky tables are enveloped by a dizzying amount of cluttered Victoriana – the interior would suit Sherlock Holmes down to the ground. As there are 150 gins behind the bar, there is plenty of scope to explore by ordering a simple gin and tonic. However that would mean missing out on some elaborate, unusual creations. The Mississippi Mint Smash made with Italian dry gin from Rome, amaro, coffee stout syrup and fresh mint will blow the cobwebs away.