“What are the best new bars at the moment?” is a question I’m often asked. With so many great bars around Britain, especially in London where I live, it’s always a challenge to come up with a list. Fortunately, the organisers of the Tales of the Cocktail festival in New Orleans offer a useful aide memoire each year through their Spirited Awards. These are voted on by people in the bar and drinks industry who looking for excellence in hospitality and drinks – two of the main criteria I look for when choosing a bar. The latest list of the “top 10 nominees”, announced this week ahead of July’s awards ceremony, provides a run-down of the places old and new that are rated highly by those in the know. Starting with the newcomers, here are the UK bars on the list:
Tayēr and Elementary
Monica Berg is nominated for international bartender of the year after opening Tayer and Elementary with another award-winning bartender, Alex Kratena, in Old Street in London in the spring. It is made up of two bar concepts which reflect the pair’s background working in top cocktail bars: Monica was most recently at Oslo’s Himkok while Alex was head bartender at Artesian at London’s Langham hotel. Elementary (pictured top) offers a short collection of cocktails alongside bottomless coffee and snacks from 11.30am till late. Served to guests sitting at a long communal bar next to the bartenders, the cocktails have a strong focus on seasonality and are poured using a bespoke dispense system. Tayēr, from the Spanish word “taller” meaning workshop”, is a “progressive” bar that combines modern and traditional techniques to create cocktails and food that “express purity”. Guests sit around a large open counter where they can see bartenders and chefs at work. (Photo by Bernard Zeija)
152 Old Street, London EC1V 9BW https://tayer-elementary.com/
Lyaness opened at the end of March and is already nominated for best new international cocktail bar in the Spirited Awards. It is building on the team’s established reputation for running Dandelyan in the same space at Sea Containers London hotel, formerly Mondrian London, for the previous four years. The layout is the same but the original designers, Lore Studio, have returned to give it a new look of pale blues and soft greys. It is the work of Mr Lyan, headed by Ryan Chetiyawardana, which has a track record of cocktail and culinary experimentation at its venues which currently include Cub in east London and Super Lyan in Amsterdam. At Lyaness, the menu focuses on seven core innovative ingredients, with names such as Infinite Banana, Purple Pineapple, King Monkey Nut and Aromatised Milk Wine, developed with collaborators such as Copenhagen distillery Empirical Spirits and scotch whisky bottler Compass Box. My favourite so far is the Queenie Harvard, reminiscent of a classic Manhattan, which is made with the bar’s new ingredient called Ultra Raspberry plus Martell VSOP and Cordon Bleu cognacs, chestnut, acorn sweet aperitif and Dubonnet.
20 Upper Ground, South Bank, London SE1 9PD https://www.seacontainerslondon.com/food-drink/lyaness/
Another nominee for best new international cocktail bar is Homeboy which was opened in Essex Road in Islington, north London, in December. Promising “modern Irish hospitality”, it has been created by Irish duo Aaron Wall, previously at London bars Callooh Callay and The London Cocktail Club, and Ciarán Smith who was at The Dorchester in London and Waldorf Astoria in New York City. Its décor aims to create a relaxing and cosy “at home” feel – like being in your living room but with a bar. It has a good selection of Irish whiskeys and beers, including Guinness, with a cocktail list that demonstrates great ways of mixing Irish whiskey as well as the team’s use of modern techniques to create new drinks. There’s a homely feel to the food too, such as loaded fries and poutine and Da’s Irish Stew and Ma’s Brown Bread which are based on recipes from Ciarán’s dad and Aaron’s mum respectively.
108 Essex Rd, Islington, London N1 8LX https://homeboybar.com/
The Donovan Bar at Brown’s Hotel in Mayfair is one of London’s most established cocktail bars, named after the photographer Terence Donovan whose pictures can be seen on the walls. However, it has been nominated for best new international cocktail bar after its extensive refurbishment in April last year, remodelling the space to position the main bar centre stage. The new look from Olga Polizzi and Inge Moore features British racing green with tones of white and grey and touches of gold plus details inspired by photography such as shimmering surfaces, matt finishes and a glass bar top on a bronzed panel reminiscent of a wet tray for developing photos. The hotel also made a statement about its new beginnings by bringing in legendary bartender Salvatore Calabrese for an indefinite residency, creating a new menu featuring 16 1960s-inspired cocktails.
Brown’s Hotel, Albemarle Street, Mayfair, London W1S 4BP https://www.roccofortehotels.com/hotels-and-resorts/browns-hotel/restaurants-and-bars/donovan-bar/
343 Cambridge Heath Road, Bethnal Green, London E2 9RA
Sager and Wilde
Lobby Bar at The London Edition
10 Berners Street, Fitzrovia, London W1T 3NP https://www.editionhotels.com/london/restaurants-and-bars/lobby-bar/
Punch Room at The London Edition
10 Berners Street, Fitzrovia, London W1T 3NP https://www.editionhotels.com/london/restaurants-and-bars/punch-room/
The American Bar at The Savoy
The Savoy, Strand, London WC2R 0EZ https://www.fairmont.com/savoy-london/dining/americanbar/
Beaufort Bar at The Savoy
Artesian at The Langham
Connaught Bar at The Connaught
Connaught, Carlos Place, Mayfair, London W1K 2AL https://www.the-connaught.co.uk/restaurants-bars/connaught-bar/