You know how to EAT THIS CITY. With top chefs as tour guides, you’ve learned how to scout out hot spots for breakfast and brunch, where to go for a delicious date night, and how to feast like a local liege in the cities you love. But where do you wash it all down? Do you know how to find the best brewpub? Who makes the meanest of bloody marys and the most sparkling of mimosas? What bars transport you?
You’re about to find out. Welcome to DRINK THIS CITY!
Kelsey Ramage is an awarding winning, innovative, punk rocking, bartending superstar. Ramage got her start bartending in Vancouver before jumping across the pond to foggy ol’ London towne.
Ramage refined her skills and ascended to that aforementioned stardom by slinging drinks at the world’ best bar, Dandelyan. Then Ramage took those skills and opened up the pop up that’s going to change waste in bartending with her partner Iain Griffiths called Trask Tiki. Ramage now travels the world collecting bar and restaurant waste and turning it into some of the best drinks you’ll find anywhere. What’s more punk rock than that?
We caught up with Ramage at the Tahona Society’s cocktail competition where she was judging some of the best up-and-coming bartenders as they plied their trade with a single, sustainable cocktail. Given Ramage’s time in London at Dandelyan, we had to let her guide us through the best bars, watering holes, and cocktails the city has to offer right now.
Classic Cocktail Bar
There is a reason this East London bar has become a haunt for many bartenders in the city, it’s fucking great. Their menu is a constant rotation of classic cocktails that these guys research and bang out. Plus, you can easily order off-menu drinks knowing they will be perfectly balanced. There’s always a curated hip-hop soundtrack on in the background. And the staff are consistently awesome to sit in front of at the bar.
Craft Cocktail Bar
There have been a few new bars popping up in this area recently and one of my favorites is Three Sheets. It opened in September of 2016 by brothers Noel and Max Venning. The interior is fairly laid back and minimal with a simple back bar that really serves the drinks, which are exceptional. They serve coffee by day and turn into a small cocktail bar by night. I’ve drunk through the menu a few times now and still can’t get enough of this bar. The French 75 is fucking angelic.
If you haven’t experienced our stunning Scandal Water x Penhaligons afternoon tea yet, there’s still time. The special scent-led pairings inspired by their Portrait Collection’s callous Countess Dorothea and the dogged Monsieur Beauregard are far too tempting to pass up and won’t be around much longer… #punchroomldn #londonedition #scandalwater #afternoontea #penhaligons #portraitscollection
London has had a few Tiki bars pop-up and fade away but the category remains pretty underdeveloped aside from a few rum bars through the city and Mahiki — a tiki nightclub which serves their drinks in massive treasure chests. For us, Tiki is really about the concept of escapism and the Punch Room really does it well. It’s in a quiet, oak-walled room in the back of the Edition hotel, with a small bar in the back corner. As the name would suggest, the cocktail menu consists of about 30 different punches and rums and is definitely not a spot to miss.
This place is a staple. The front room has a small and (little) quieter bar than the back room which is a huge, dark mass of tables and blacklights. In between the two, sits a massive jukebox with everything from Motorhead to AC/DC to Slayer to Dio. Getting blasted and playing guess the band from the massive mural on the back wall is a rite of passage. Everyone will know it’s your first time, but, fuck it, it’s fun. The beer selection there is pretty great with a lot of London brews, but I always do a Jack and Coke.
Coupette was only recently opened in Bethnal Green, an area that hosts other notable mentions like Sun Tavern and Satan’s Whiskers. It is an area that has seen some amazing growth in the last few years, and this bar is a fine example of that. The menu is French influenced with a focus on Cognac, Armagnac, and Calvados but it’s far cry from the boring reputation those spirits have, with a Champagne Pina Colada (yes you read that right) as their signature serve of radness. On the weekends, it also does a laid-back brunch menu with a definitive French influence.
This bar is truly one of my fav hangouts in London. It works as a date spot or just somewhere to go and have a quiet beer by yourself. They are known for their Irish whiskey selection, and they always have about 5 local brews on tap. Prices are great. Watch out for their pints. They’re about 24 ounces! You can also have em by the half too if you really want. The bartenders there are always great for chatting about the whiskey, some weekend shenanigans, or to just leave you to read your book.
These guys literally have a microbrewery that they swung open in a shipping container in a backyard in East London. When you visit them, you’ll walk down a side lane which opens up into an unsuspecting little courtyard with two other shipping containers that house a bakery, coffee shop, and small garden area. When you walk into their container, you’ll hear blasting German hardcore and meet the master brewer, a big burly dude who then drops everything to give the full swing tour. Their tasting room is open Fridays & Saturdays 5-11pm and can be found now in quite a few bars and pubs in London.
I can’t really leave this one off the list, can I? Personal involvements aside, Dandelyan is a London staple. While categorically it is a hotel bar with a beautiful interior, it has a distinct chilled vibe to it. It’s more of a laid-back cocktail bar that happens to be in a hotel. I always like sitting at the bar, but having a table overlooking the Thames on an afternoon is pretty wicked as well. That all said, drinks are great and the team is exceptional.
Themed Bar or Immersive Experience
While there aren’t many theme bars in London — aside from a ball pool bar in Shoreditch which is every bit as heinous as it sounds — I think the Connaught definitely deserved a mention. It’s truly one of those bucket list experiences. The entrance to the hotel is ornate and beautiful. It feels like you’re stepping back in time. The service is second to none. Someone meets to whisk your coat away and lead you into the bar. It has a pretty swanky beautiful interior, so dress up if you like but there’s definitely not a dress code. Iain and I have definitely rocked up looking, well, like we usually do, ripped jeans, Docs, and patched denim. The bar itself is small and intimate. They are best known for their martini cart where they’ll custom make a martini in front of you, tableside. Definitely, one not to be missed.
Bar Run By A Friend
"Carrotland Sour" – a sour inspired by Sri Lankan heritage and ingredients found there. Based on @colombo7gin, it uses carrot as a base – both juiced, and using the pulp to make a syrup. (Facts! Carrots used to be purple before an act of patriotism by the Dutch [big influencers on Sri Lanka] selectively bred them to orange). We also take coconut oil to wash the gin and give an amazing depth of flavour. New drink live now! 🥕
Almost put this one under ‘classic bar.’ I was a bit surprised that Ryan Chetiyawardana’s post White Lyan project was something that wasn’t crazy high-concept. It’s a neighborhood bar with a killer menu of reinvented classics. If you are overly familiar with the Lyan style, you might be able to see the connection but really they are just some wicked fucking drinks. The space is cozy and comfortable and the team they have on are fun and chilled and some of the best around.