The Handbook
The Handbook

London is the cocktail capital of the world. The city’s bars attract the best mixologists from across the planet and the result is a diverse and eclectic scene that’s second-to-none.

But of course with most bars still Covid-closed, London is still not back to its usual form. So if we still can’t go to our favourite bars, they’ll just have to come to us…

Which is exactly what I did last weekend. My backyard barbecue  for five friends was transformed, albeit momentarily, into Murder Inc., The Vault at Milroy’s Soho, The Cocktail Trading Company and The Proofing Room, and for a glorious few sips we were ensconced once again in our fave haunts.

Passion Fruit Iced Tea Cocktail (At The Vault at Milroy’s Soho)

First up, we ‘went’ to The Vault at Milroy’s Soho. The real-life bar, on Soho’s Greek Street, is a delight, with entry to the speakeasy-like bar via a hidden behind a bookcase.

Their cocktail has been premixed by bartender Richard Patrulei and it’s certifiably delicious.

Created with J&B Rare Scotch Whisky with Yerba Maté Cordial (made by brewing Yerba Maté Tea and Passion Fruit Syrup) Richard says “After tasting J&B Rare for the first time, these incredible notes came through of candied apples and warming citrus.

“I’ve always wanted to counteract the standardised approach of pairing with polar opposites and what is more opposite to campfires and autumnal notes than a beach setting, similar to that of Brazil.

“I’m sure everyone right now is itching to have a nice warm holiday. The aim was to pair those homely woody notes with these sharp citrus bursts coming from the acids in fresh passionfruit & Yerba Maté tea to give a truly delicate, fresh & fruity taste. Especially during times like these, I really wanted to give people that beach experience without you needing to even step out of your kitchen.”

And he will be relieved to hear that the unseasonal temperatures and the combination of flavours led one of my guests to exclaim ‘if I close my eyes I could be in Barbados!”. Not quite Brazil, but a world away from South West London.

Buy Milroy’s Passion Fruit Iced Tea Cocktail online from The Vault’s sister bar, The Proofing Room, theproofingroom.co.uk for £13.95 including delivery and serves two.

Rusty Phocus Cocktail (At Murder Inc.)

Next up on this virtual bar crawl, I went to Murder Inc. Visiting Fitzrovia was never easier, though you can’t help but miss the brilliant atmosphere of the Hanway Street basement.

But you can relive it in drinks form with their Rusty Phocus cocktail. The creation, from resident mixologist Holly Law, is a peppery, spicy treat. I was a fan.

According to Law, “While going down the classic route for mixing good Scotch you can’t really go wrong”, says Holly, “It’s still fun to go off-road every now and then, so this is a very different approach to the classic highball.

Here we’ve got J&B Rare, a saffron-honeyed pinot noir, assam tea and clarified bergamot soda”.

Buy Murder Inc.’s Rusty Phocus online from The Cocktail Trading Company at thecocktailtradingco.slerp.com for £12.50 plus London delivery.

Equine Cocktail (At The Cocktail Trading Company)

Remember that time Daniel Radcliffe got a little not-PG with a horse in the play Equus? Well now there’s a cocktail all about it.

The invention of The Cocktail Trading Company’s Peter Lidstone, his Equine Cocktail has real gingery vibes (so more Ron than Harry?) and is smooth and tasty.

According to Peter, “Scotch and dry ginger ale is great; it works for so many in endless moods and settings. While it ain’t broke, there’s nothing stopping us playing around with it a bit, so we’ve got J&B Rare, a ginger earl grey infusion, and fresh sage and light white wine cordial, all clarified and carbonated.”

We’d have to agree!

Buy The Cocktail’s Trading Company’s Equine online from The Cocktail Trading Company at thecocktailtradingco.slerp.com for £12.50 plus London delivery.

Elderflower Highball (At The Proofing Room)

Ending our tour of London’s greatest cocktail bars, we go to The Proofing Room to sample an Elderflower Highball.

The taste of sun and summer weddings, the light cocktail is perfect for the warmer weather.

According to Chris Tanner, mixologist at The Proofing Room, it’s “A crisp, spring time highball with hints of elderflower and a herbaceous backbone from eucalyptus. The Elderflower Highball is a refreshing spritz style drink bolstered by the sweet honey notes of J&B blended Scotch Whisky”

Buy The Proofing Rooms’ Elderflower Highball online from The Proofing Room, theproofingroom.co.uk for £13.95 including nationwide delivery and serves two.

Of course, you could make your own versions of these, they all feature J&B Rare, a blended scotch that came out of the 1930s and the era of the speakeasy. The whisky is available from Waitrose, amazon.co.uk, thewhiskyexchange.com masterofmalt.com and Justerini & Brooks.

Or let the experts do their thing, visit those that are open and al-frescoing or just purchase one of the readymade cocktails above!


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