Say the words “Britain” and “cocktail,” and most people will think of the G&T. It was created in colonial days by taking quinine tonic, designed to prevent malaria, and mixing it with gin to disguise the bitter taste of the quinine. Add ice and a slice of lemon or lime and you have the classic cocktail recipe that has conquered the world.
But there’s so much more to British cocktails than the G&T. For hundreds of years, the British have been mixing spirits, wines, spices, and fruit to create a unique drinks heritage. Nowadays in London, barmen are rediscovering old recipes and updating classics to create uniquely British cocktails. Here are some to try:
“Antifogmatics” and other remedies
The Marmalade Cocktail at Hawksmoor, a scrumptious blend of gin, Campari, lemon juice, and English marmalade, is a member of the “antifogmatics” family—at least according to Huw Gott, the owner. These concoctions were meant to keep out the cold, damp fog of Old London Town. The ingredients are shaken hard with ice and served in a Martini glass, reinforced with a twist of orange. There are other Hawksmoor locations, but the original in Spitalfields is just a brisk walk from Hotel Indigo Tower Hill. On a misty winter night, you can almost imagine Jack the Ripper stalking the East End. Suitably steeled against the gloom, the menu offers other aptly named restorative drinks including “Gloom- Lifters,” “Eye-Openers,” “Pick-Me-Ups,” “Morning Jolts,” and, for when all else fails, “Corpse-Revivers.”
A rose by any other name
The folks at Bar Termini—booking is highly-recommended—are masters of blending traditions. The bar itself, right in between Hotel Indigo London – Paddington and Hotel Indigo London – Tower Hill, is styled after an Italian railway station bar, and they produce an English-twist on the classic Negroni. The Rosato, barman Max Venning says, is a standard Negroni that is “cooked for 30 minutes with dried rosebuds, with a touch of rosewater added after.” The result is smoother, nuttier, and—dare we say—more delicious than a standard Negroni.
An apple a day
At Mark’s Bar on Brewer Street, there’s another English take on a classic. This time, it’s a remake of the brandy sour. Their Temperley sour, similar to an apple port that’s shaken with ice and served with a cherry, celebrates England’s apple bounty. Mark Hix, the owner, first created the drink with homegrown crab apples from his house in Dorset. He explains, “We eventually moved to using Bramley and we decided to name the drink after Julian Temperley, the man behind The Somerset Cider Brandy Company, who has been supplying us for years.”
Just over the water from Hotel Indigo Kensington is Powderkeg Diplomacy. Co-owner Ollie Maskell gives us an inside look at one of their creations. A fresh take on Britain’s naval heritage, Baron’s Navy Grog consists of “two explosive (literally), powerful, oily rums.” One is based on the blended rum from the British Caribbean that sailors would have drunk three hundred years ago, and the other is a traditional pot still rum from Jamaica. “Both bottled a ‘gunpowder proof’ of over 54.5 percent ABV!” adds Maskell. It’s all layered with a splash of Pimento, homemade Falernum, a spiced lime and almond cordial, and cooled off with a squeeze of fresh lime juice.
Gin is not only for G&Ts
Gin goes with London almost as well as it goes with Tonic, and the recent explosion in small-scale distilling has produced stars like Portobello Star in Notting Hill near Hotel Indigo Paddington. Not only do they distil their own gin, but they also mix some unique cocktails like the Charles Dickens Hot Gin Punch. Charles Dickens “knew a thing or two about drinking—particularly gin,” says Jake Burger, owner. Their recipe for Hot Gin Punch is adapted from Mr Micawber’s in David Copperfield. It requires half a bottle of Portobello Road gin, a quarter bottle of Madeira, boiling water, brown sugar, lemons, cinnamon, clove, and nutmeg. Warm and reinvigorating, this drink will bear you back to your hotel room on a wave of happiness.