London is understated and classy. If there’s anywhere in the world a sophisticated gentleman can feel at home, it’s here in The Old Smoke (no one uses that nickname anymore, but they should).
There is, of course, a lot to see and do here, but the best reason to visit is probably the gin. Gin is to London what wine is to Paris or beer to Munich. It’s local, varied and always available wherever you go. From Winston Churchill to James Bond, British culture has always had a special place for all things juniper.
Here’s a gentleman’s guide to getting the most out of this sophisticated elixir.
Balthazar sure sounds traditional, but it has only been around since 2013. The place is inspired by the legendary Balthazar in New York City. It’s a contemporary bistro with Brian Silva as the resident cocktail expert. It’s small and has a rather charming interior. It’s between Temple and Covent Garden Station.
Don’t be misled by the name. This spot is pure British. No gentleman’s guide to gin would be complete without a mention of the American Bar. The place has a pretty high brow reputation. The last drinks expert who worked here was a legend and the new one (Erik Lorincz) has been named Best International Bartender at Tales of the Cocktail. It’s not cheap but the drinks are excellent. The White Lady or the Negroni are recommended since they both have gin and date back to the 1950’s.
Part of the Grade 1-listed St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel, Booking Office used to be a ticketing hall for a train station. The high ceilings and station-like interiors still stand, but don’t expect to see the old rail cables and mountings still in place. One look at the white marble bar and you know this place has the classiest interiors in London.
Alessandro Palazzi is in charge at the Duke’s Bar at the Duke’s Hotel. There’s two things that make this place special – Ian Fleming was a regular here and Palazzi is said to mix the world’s best Martini. It’s in the heart of Mayfair, so you know it’s a place for a quite drink.
Princess Victoria seems like a pretty commonplace name now, but this bar was actually opened in Victorian times. The West London pub opened its doors in 1829 and has since been known as a palace for gin. There are wooden panels on the door, traditional British pub setting and a carved wood ceiling. That’s the reason Princess Victoria has a special place in gin history.
The best thing about London is that it’s a city that straddles the old and the new. There’s an old pub with a serious reputation just across the street from a modern art gallery and it all comes together nicely. It’s the perfect place for a gin-loving gentleman.