Looking for bars in London? Read our review of The American Bar, an iconic, award-winning cocktail destination
The American Bar in a nutshell: It was voted the World’s Best Bar in 2017 – thanks to spot-on cocktails and lashings of art deco glamour The American Bar’s iconic status has long been established.
Where is it? A six-minute walk from Covent Garden underground station.
What’s the vibe? The American Bar isn’t out to intimidate – while the sleek, art deco-style cream fittings are smart, and the helpful, white-jacketed waiters impress, the vibe is quietly tasteful (aside from the dodgy carpet pattern), low-slung leather chairs are comfortable, the tinkle of jazz piano and the sound of cocktail shakers your only soundtrack for the evening.
What’s the drinks menu like? The bar has followed up last year’s award-winning Coast to Coast menu with Every Moment Tells a Story, a new roster of cocktails inspired by the black-and-white celebrity portraits – taken by Terry O’Neill in the 1960s and 70s – that adorn the walls of the bar. Interestingly, a clever tasting graph at the beginning of the menu organises drinks using length and darkness as its indices – moving from short, light drinks at the beginning, such as First Impressions (a Raquel Welch-inspired blend of redistilled Grey Goose vodka, El Diablo spice mix and clarified tomato water) to long ones such as Life and Times (Diplomatico Mantuano rum, umeshu, white port, honey water and tonic) and then short and punchy, like Return of the Polka Panther (based on a portrait of Peter Sellers in a bathrobe): Royal Brackla 16-year-old whisky, Italicus, eucalyptus and menthe.
Horror Quartet (inspired by a group shot of Christopher Lee, Vincent Price, Peter Cushing and John Carradine): Johnnie Walker Blue Label whisky, truffle honey, mezcal, cinnamon and Angostura bitters
Which cocktails to order? This menu was head bartender Eric Lorincz’s last before departing earlier this month, and his swansong is full of elegant creations. Favourites included The Dancer (based on a portrait of Shirley MacLaine) which saw Ketel One vodka matched with fermented artichoke, verjus, Italicus, oolong tea, Peychaud’s bitters and egg white. Creamy, light and floral but with depth, the tea added a welcome note of dryness, the artichoke a faint, vegetal hint in the background. That’s a Wrap (a relaxed Clint Eastwood, reading a newspaper in between takes for Joe Kidd) saw Woodford Reserve bourbon paired with cynar (a bitter, herbal amaro), mastiha (a liqueur made from mastic, a Greek tree resin), wood bitters and smoky ginger ale: the end result was punchy, with fragrant herbaceous, woody aromas.
Is there any food? The American Bar is generous – complimentary trays of peanuts, crackers and olives are constantly refilled, and there’s also a small roster of luxe bar snacks, from oysters and caviar to smoked salmon.
Anything else? Check out our review of afternoon tea at The Savoy.
Where to go nearby for dinner: If you don’t want to stray far then there’s the Savoy Grill on site or, if you’d like to eat dinner in another high-end, grandly venerable setting, then Simpson’s-in-the-Strand is just a minute’s walk away.
Price: Cocktails start at £18.
Words by Hannah Guinness