200 bourbons, 250 tequilas, 300 gins or 900 whiskies?
Whatever your spirit of choice, there’s a bar in London that can satisfy even the most discerning of drinkers. Whether hidden away in restaurants, hotels, or private members’ clubs, down back alleys or in far-flung corners of England’s capital, there are bars which have unrivalled spirits collections. Here’s Chilled’s choice of the London liquor kings:
The Bourbon Bar at the JW Steakhouse restaurant, inside the Grosvenor Hotel, has over 200 rare, pre-Prohibition, single barrel and small batch bourbons. Thanks to a unique partnership with Jim Beam, the bar’s signature pour is the Jim Beam Single Barrel. This is the first ever Jim Beam single barrel bourbon to be hand selected and exported from the USA to anywhere in the world, and was brought to London from Kentucky in 2014. There are also tasting flights and a lengthy bourbon cocktail list.
The Graphic Bar on Golden Square claims not merely London’s largest gin collection but the biggest in the UK. The base of the claim is 305 gins and counting – and they are counting. Check their website for the latest tally, which may have gone up by the time you read this. They have cocktail recipes going back 200 years (anyone for a 1903 Hanky Panky?), and a Gin Social on the first Monday of every month, which includes a food pairing. The Graphic side of the bar’s name is down to the changing cutting-edge art installations, from street artists and Turner Prizewinners alike.
Cottons Rhum Shack in Shoreditch is a Caribbean restaurant with a laid-back vibe,as well as jerk chicken and curry goat on the menu, plus Red Stripe beer and, rather unexpectedly, the best rum collection in the United Kingdom. It’s been amassed over 25 years, and amounts to a few hundred different types although they stopped keeping tally a while ago and prefer to drink it rather than count it. Yeah, mon.
Just north of Warren Street tube station, Mestizo is not only an acclaimed Mexican restaurant, its bar carries a range of over 250 tequilas and mezcals. Its Tequila Bar was once voted the sexiest in Europe by Travel+Leisure magazine, and they regularly put on events such as an annual Enchilada Festival, a Chili Pepper Festival, a Mole Festival, and of course a Margarita Festival, which lasts for the whole of August. If you’re bewildered by the choices, there are tequila and mezcal tasting flights.
Ironically enough, the world’s most widespread spirit, vodka, provides the smallest collections in London. Bar Polski, hidden down a back alleyway just off Holborn, is a friendly place with the feel of a Polish cafe, and has about 55 vodkas available.
The Baltic Restaurant and Bar claims over 60 vodkas, all kept in a freezer in glasses ready for serving. The list is strong on Russian and Polish vodkas but ranges from New Zealand to Kazakhstan. They also infuse their own vodkas so can offer some unique flavors.
The Revolution Bar chain, though, takes the vodka prize for offering customers 100 different ways to enjoy vodka. These include 30 different flavors made in-house, which just like candy can be picked-and-mixed in either six or ten shot flights. Pancake syrup vodka, anyone? The branch on Leadenhall Street is one of the more central ones.
The biggest whisky collection in London? Well, it depends how you’re counting. The Bar at the Athenaeum Hotel in Mayfair has over 300 whiskies and claims the title of best-stocked whisky bar in any London hotel.
The Soho Whisky Club has over 500 whiskies available by the dram, including many that are rare and no longer commercially available, and is the best-stocked whisky bar in central London. However, it is a private members’ club and you’ll need to find an existing member to propose you for membership. Either that or befriend a member, as members can take up to three guests in with them.
The gold medal, though, goes to Boisdale of Canary Wharf, with a staggering 900+ whiskies on their list. This buzzing restaurant, bar, and events venue serves Scottish cuisine, has an oyster bar, a cigar library, and a great view over the River Thames towards the city skyline. There are regular tasting evenings of all spirits, not just whisky, as well as Sunday jazz lunches, and evening concerts too. They have their own brand whisky, and a list that extends from Aberfeldy to Whyte & Mackay. If you want a 1984 43-year-old White Bowmore it’ll set you back £1071.45 for a 50ml measure.