We love our cocktails in London and there are so many places to try incredible, innovative recipes. However there is something particularly exciting about being made a cocktail with an interesting history. Thanks to the film adaptation of The Great Gatsby a few years back, there was a resurgence in prohibition era cocktails. America attempted to ban alcohol in the 1920’s and early 30s, but instead a culture was born full of decadent cocktails and glitzy parties. Not only shall we have a look at three classic cocktails, but here are also the best London bars to find them (and their updated versions).
After looking through The Savoy Cocktail Book from 1930, it is clear that there was an enormous array of cocktails throughout this period. It was Harry Craddock, the head barman at The Savoy hotel, that decided to record his classic collection. Today you can still visit the stunning hotel and enjoy drinks that make you feel you have stepped back in time. As well as the American Bar, The Savoy's Beaufort Bar is famous for its theatrical drinks and dramatic décor. They have a cocktail menu that takes you on a tour of the hotel through its legendary tales and extraordinary guests. This is the perfect place to start your cocktail journey…
Classic cocktail: Gimlet
Modern Twist: Pomelo & White Pepper Gimlet Where: The Savoy’s Beaufort Bar (99 Strand London WC2R 0EU)
The Gimlet cocktail is traditionally made of just gin and lime juice, and a description from 1928 was “gin, a spot of lime and soda”. However in the 1953 Raymond Chandler novel The Long Goodbye it stated that "a real gimlet is half gin and half Rose's lime juice and nothing else”. The delicious modern twist at the Savoy’s Beaufort Bar is one not to miss! Their Pomelo & White Pepper Gimlet includes Bombay Sapphire Gin, with a pomelo and white pepper cordial. Whilst a classic gimlet (as seen in the photo by Gin Foundry) is rather simple and delicious, the ‘modern twist’ is fragrant, full of fiery pepper and particularly special!
Classic cocktail: Clover Club
Where: Bar Américain at Brasserie Zédel (20 Sherwood St, Soho, London W1F 7ED)
If you want to recreate the full Art Deco experience, then Bar Américain at Brasserie Zédel is the place to head. This basement bar, part of the Zédel complex, is perfect for a place to stop en route to dinner or for a nightcap before heading home. It has a stunning Art Deco design that hasn’t changed in decades. The cocktail menu also has all the classics you would like to see. For that reason, it is nice that they have kept to the original recipe for their Clover Club. This cocktail actually pre-dates Prohibition and takes its name from a men’s club in Philadelphia. It was popular during the twenties though and according to ‘Bottoms Up’ in 1928, it was American comedian W. C. Fields favourite drink. The Clover Club is a classic cocktail, with a rich, silky texture, consisting of gin, lemon, raspberries, egg white and sugar.
Classic cocktail: Charlie Chaplin
Modern Twist: The Nightjar’s Charlie Chaplin Where: The Nightjar (129 City Road, London, EC1V 1JB)
The Charlie Chaplin was first created at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York sometime before 1920. It was just before Prohibition and the Charlie Chaplin was named in honour of one of Hollywood’s first A-listers. The Charlie Chaplin is fruity, citrusy and very sweet. The equal mix of lime, apricot brandy and sloe gin is documented in A.S. Crockett's "The Old Waldorf-Astoria Bar Book”. The Nightjar has a brilliant selection of historic cocktails and their version of the Charlie Chaplin is definitely one to try! It features some unusual ingredients including a bael fruit infusion, Madeira wine, their own grenadine, aronia berries and peach bark. With the Nightjar’s extensive menu, you can sit back, relax and follow your Charlie Chaplin with a gin-filled Moulin Rouge or Diki Diki.