Hotel bars have been integral to London’s drinking story. The American bars that arrived on UK shores towards the end of the 19th century delivered classic cocktail culture across the pond. And visiting many of them now can be like sipping history, thanks to the glamourous guests over the years who rested their heads at the hotels attached. You can imagine drinking a Martini in the same seat as Sinatra (even if he’s said to have been more of a Jack Daniel’s man) at somewhere like the Savoy.
But rather than simply looking back, in more recent years, London’s hotel bars have become some of the most progressive places to drink cocktails in the city. With the aim to draw in an affluent clientele and sell them a slice of the luxury life, hotels have invested big in their bars and have snapped up the best talent behind the stick. As a result, London hotel bars have almost consistently held the number one spot at the World’s 50 Best Bar awards in the last ten years, with Artesian at the Langham, Dandelyan at the Mondrian, the American Bar at the Savoy and the Connaught Hotel’s flagship bar each having held pole position.
The evolution continues, post-pandemic. Where, in the most part, hotel bars of the past might have been about sophistication and all-out glamour – with friendly but formal service from a tuxedo-wearing staff – there’s been a spate of recent openings that seem to be altogether more relaxed. One of 2022’s biggest launches, Seed Library – the latest bar offering from Ryan Chetiyawardana (of the aforementioned Dandelyan) – deliberately takes a pared-back approach. Upon its launch, Chetiyawardana told me that he and his team tried to shape a bar they’d ‘want to hang out in’, and that the pandemic helped them cement a fun-filled vision for their venue.
Well, isn’t a bit of fun what we’re all craving this summer? Read on for a look at some of the more recent hotel bars to launch in London, which are turning the party dial up to 100. The following are informal hangouts serving up cocktails of the highest standard. And each of them has its own entrance – so you won’t even have to exit through the lobby once you’re three sheets to the wind…
London hotel bars that are bringing the fun
This maze of rooms opened at west London’s Mandarin Oriental at the start of 2022 and has already hosted its fair share of parties for the fashion set. At its heart is a bar helmed by Pietro Rizzo, who previously ran the drinks programme at Mr Fogg’s, a quirky group of Victoriana bars in London. Here, he’s themed drinks around Oscar Wilde collaborator and illustrator Aubrey Beardsley, so expect ostentatiousness in abundance. Case in point: ‘Free-flowing’ Champagne and sake is part of the offering with the weekend brunch. In honour of Beardsley’s obsession with Japanese culture, expect cocktails to be centred around Japanese and Asian spirits.
The name makes the latest bar from London cocktail supremo Mr Lyan sound so studious. But founder Ryan Chetiyawardana says it’s a ‘stripped-back’ concept. The menu cements the vibe: cocktails are minimal by Lyan standards, from a Coriander Gimlet to a Chile Margarita. Tucked away in a nook of the basement of One Hundred Shoreditch, you can imagine a soirée or two carrying on into the wee hours in this moodily lit room. If you do find yourself swept up in it, there’s the Ballermaker on the menu: a bottle of Krug served with shop-bought Potato Smilies on the side. This might be the first time a children’s dinner staple has made it as a mainstay on a hotel bar menu – and we’re here for it.
Comparisons have been made with the bar in American Psycho, and this minimal, mirrored cocktail bar is on the foot of the financial district. But don’t let that fool you: Silverleaf is not just for the yuppies. The team behind the bar – led by Chris Tanner of whisky specialists Milroy’s – are an affable bunch whipping up drinks that are said to be inspired by nature. Siphoned off from the Pan Pacific, it feels like Silverleaf very much has its own thing going on, rather than acting as an extension of the hotel. Its private tasting room and events space takes that escapism one step further: Alba is an intimate, darkened room with what looks like a chunk of moon rock suspended from its ceiling. Tastings here should be out of this world.
If you needed confirmation that this destination on the tenth floor of The Standard hotel was bringing the fun, just cast your eyes above the bar, where a sizeable mirror ball is suspended in all its glory. The vibe is ‘dripping in disco’ with plush velvet furnishings and a playlist of funk – and a 3am closing time locks in the party bar status. Drinks might come in all colours of the rainbow – one’s even sky-blue and topped with a cloud of foam – but there’s substance behind the style, considered flavours coming from drink consultancy Supernacular. On your way back down, it’s hard to miss a human-sized statue in the shape of a male appendage, the likes of which you’d never see at The Savoy. It might be a bit garish, but it completes the undeniably playful line-up at Sweeties.
A former police station annexed to London’s Nomad outpost is the site for Side Hustle, perhaps the most ‘party’ of all these bars thanks to blasting cumbia tunes and a team of bar staff celebrating when their favourite hit comes on or when somebody orders a drink they love. It’s the kind of place where you’ll want to be sitting up at the bar, although there’s plenty of booths for larger groups, fitted with fetching forest-green, leather banquettes.
The bar first opened in between lockdowns in 2021, and has already made a name for its agave-based cocktails, an unforgettable Paloma counted among them. Windows are reassuringly shuttered on all the antics, shielded from the eyes of Covent Garden’s tourists.
Christina’s is channelling neighbourhood bar in the heart of Shoreditch, an add-on to the Mondrian, which plugged the gap left by The Curtain hotel in the middle of the pandemic. Murals of leaves and geometric shapes in pops of pastel colours and earth tones frame a harmonious bar shelled in bronze. It’s all very low-key and bling-free for a London hotel bar and instead feels like an unpretentious, all-day hangout. Cocktails – with a new menu dropping this July – look to Italian aperitivo culture for influence, and a snack menu of katsu sandos runs in support. And if you thought London’s natural wine trend had been woefully overlooked from this list, look no further…