Christmas time, mistletoe and wine…
Disclaimer: we have been invited guests to the bars marked with a star,
but I’ve been to most of these already on my own dime, and more than once…
It’s unmistakable. It’s the time of year that people get a twinkle in their eye, rosy cheeks and feel the need to get out an celebrate with their nearest and dearest. And why not, indeed.
The last few weeks have already been a dizzying array of fairy lights, festive drinks and Santas running amok – interspersed with the odd early night, tucked up with the cat and husband because life is all about balance. So, much like my list of favourite cocktail bars in summer, I thought I would share a few of my favourites so far this winter… They all have something special about them, have delicious cocktails and aren’t super noisy (something I hate) but have a nice atmosphere.
Underground Station: London Bridge
Beautiful panoramic views of London, delicious cocktails and a dessert menu that supports the work of the Red Cross, what more can you need? I ordered their special Christmas Cocktail, a chilled mulled plum wine which is a modern twist on Stone’s Ginger Wine using seasonal plums fermented for 21 days, which has also been given a beautifully festive garnish of an orange slice, red currants and cinnamon. In the true spirit of giving 50% of the sales of the cocktail are donated to the British Red Cross and two of its fundraising programmes, the UK Solidarity Fund and the London Fire Relief Fund.
How about a breathtaking Christmas tree made out of shards, suspended over the skyline?
We were simply amazed by the stunning ‘The Tree of Glass’, that seems to float in midair. Designed by Lee Broom collaborating with contemporary glassware brand Nude, it follows in the footsteps of past designers such as Matthew Williamson, Vivienne Westwood and Sir David Attenborough.
You can also take a piece of the tree home with you – in the New Year each of the 245 pendant lights will be available to purchase from the Lee Broom website, with all of the proceeds being donated to the Red Cross.
We also tried the poached pear sitting on a Christmas pudding crumble, served with eggnog and decorated with gold leaf in a homage to the Shard and dipped our spoons into the mandarin Eton Mess, both of which were a really lovely crowning moment to our day. Oh, and proceeds from the puddings also go to the charities.
The American Bar at the Savoy
Underground Station: Charing Cross/Embankment/Temple
Always a favourite of mine – including a recent birthday lunch – not only has The Savoy bar been officially recognised as the home of the best bar in the world, the London’s Art Deco grande dame claiming the coveted Number 1 spot at The World’s 50 Best Bars awards in October, but it is home to one of my all-time favourite cocktails, the Merry Major Oak.
A winter warmer of Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel bourbon, Aperitif de Normandie, ruby port and Angostura bitters, the Merry Major Oak was created in honour of Sherwood Forest’s much-famed tree the Major Oak appears to be a number of trees that fused together. Legend has it that due to its size, this then became the shelter for Robin Hood and his band of merry men, as they stole from the rich and gave to the poor.
Dalloway Terrace, Bloomsbury Hotel****
Underground Station: Tottenham Court Road
An Instagram gem of London spots, we’ve spent many an hour around these marble tabletops, brunching, freelance working, afternoon tea-ing and eating dinner with friends – but a recent brunch that segued into cocktails was a special treat. Blueberry buttermilk pancakes with lemon curd, pastries and granola, shakshuka, eggs benedict, French toast, a simple fruit salad or bowl of porridge.
Brunch is always a leisurely affair, but tucked under heaters and amongst the fairy lights and greenery, who wouldn’t want to linger? We tried a sip of each cocktail; the mulled wine, the hue changing ‘Just Another Rum Punch’, a Bourbon Brittle which contains peanut butter bourbon with Frangelico, hot chocolate and Mozart dark chocolate – accompanied by a gingerbread man – and the table favourite, spiced pear flip comprising Xante pear, Ron de Jeremy spice, spiced syrup, maple syrup and a whole egg.
….and whilst you’re at Dalloway Terrace, pop into…
The Coral Room, Bloomsbury Hotel****
Underground Station: Tottenham Court Road
Brand new, the Coral Room is a stunning ode to Art Deco. Rich walls infused with vibrant colour, metallic accents, stunning chandeliers and a stunning wraparound bar, not to mention a proliferation of cozy sofas in which to sink into. I don’t need a magic eight ball to know that I’ll be back there for a winter afternoon with my laptop and something delicious to accompany it.
And, if you’re struggling for a topic on a date, just ask the other party whether they think the colour is pink or orange, and then wait for another answer as the sun sets.
Underground Station: Covent Garden/Temple
Fuelled by a veritable feast and a cheeky glass of wine, my date and I trotted along Aldwych, tightening our scarves and chafing our gloved hands in the cold winter chill. Having not been into the Waldorf for years, both of us were looking forward to a festive visit.
We perused the 12 Nights of Christmas cocktail menu, struggling to pick just one of the options. I ended up enjoying a ‘Sprig of Mistletoe’, whilst my curious date sampled the quality of their espresso martinis – they were both very, very good. And the beautifully dressed Christmas Tree in the foyer put a festive spring right into our step.
St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel
Underground Station: Kings Cross/St Pancras
The award for most beautiful cocktail surrounds has to go to the St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel. From the moment you walk up the curving drive and spy the red brick arches to sitting down, it almost doesn’t matter which bar you end up sitting in. Oh, and the famous Wannabe (Spice Girls) staircase is just beautiful (and when you’re finished, there are so many delicious restaurants to eat in around Kings Cross – full post here.) Perfect for wasting precious time and full of zigazig ah.
**** On my most recent visit, we were guests of the hotel and Veuve Cliquot, sampling glasses of their classic brut champagne admist flurries of (fake) snow, and learning about the incredible history of the champagne label. Madame (or Veuve) Clicquot was born in Reims in 1777. As the daughter of Baron Nicolas Ponsardin, her social standing allows her to provides an excellent education, founded upon the traditional morals and values of the time.
In an era when women were excluded from the business world, she dared to assume the head of the company, a role she undertook with passion and determination. Madame Clicquot’s character might be summarized with two words: audacious and intelligent.
We also enjoyed the new ‘Rich’ style of champagne, designed to be served with ice and and extra flavour. Slices of cucumber, pops of pineapple, slivers of ginger, a dart of pepper (as in capsicum), dashings of tea, twirls of lime or even curls of grapefruit peel. We really enjoyed the flavours that we tried, especially enjoying the rose champagne dosed with raw ginger.
I mean, isn’t this the face of someone having fun (and feeling awkward about posing, so she shoves her hands in her pockets by default…)
Where are your favourite cocktail spots this London winter?
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