(Not So) Dry January: Martini Madness in London

Dry January … it just sounds so, well, dry. But it doesn’t have to be. We all know that maybe we hit the sauce (be it cranberry or booze) a little too hard round the Christmas/New Year period, so everyone’s been cutting back. Yet switching completely to the green shakes and kale chips isn’t so enticing anymore. We’re here to help. If you’re not avoiding drinking completely, it’s time to try one of these delicious vermouthy Martinis. Plus, you’re going to look pretty bad-ass ordering off-menu drinks. If that doesn’t put 2015 off to a good start, we don’t know what will.

Noilly Prat Steve Law - French Pride - ©Olivier Octobre-15
©Olivier

MASH

An underground masterpiece, MASH is big, bold and definitely beautiful. Reminiscent of cruise ships from a more decadent era, this Soho staple is perfect for post-work tipples or massive steak dinners.

Drink to try: If you’re looking for award-winning concoctions, swing by MASH to try the UK’s BEST tasting Noilly Prat classic dry martini cocktail. Ask if bartender Steve can knock you out one of his French Pride numbers, a balanced combination of white truffle honey, Noilly Prat Original Dry vermouth and Bombay Sapphire gin. Plus it comes with truffle-stuffed olives. Delicious? Hells yes.

Noilly Prat Mike Foster - Lip Stinger - ©Olivier Octobre-10 crop
©Olivier

69 Colebrooke Row

If you’re in the mood for a mysterious tipple, then head to the Bar With No Name … or as it’s better known, 69 Colebrooke Row. Courtesy of cocktail maestro Tony Conigliaro and his lab (a.k.a. the Drink Factory), this cosy hidden bar is constantly breaking ground with its innovative creations.

Drink to try: Ask for Mike’s twist on a gin classic — the Lip Stinger. Equal parts vermouth and gin, with a few dashes of orange bitters and a drop of absinthe to finish it off. Lip stinging? Yes. Tasty? Yes.

Beaufort Bar at The Savoy

Beaufort Bar

The Beaufort Bar at The Savoy is an art deco masterpiece and one of the singularly most decadent drinking holes in London. And by hole, we mean hotel extraordinaire. Walking in, you’ll feel every ounce special occasion — even if it’s just a Monday after-work tipple. Even though the Beaufort is a new addition following the 2011 multi-million refurb, the bar is set up on the hotel’s former cabaret stage where legendary performers used to entertain. From Frank Sinatra to Marilyn Monroe, the world’s greatest have whiled away the hours here … and you should too.

Drink to try: Ask Lorenzo to make you his land- and sea-inspired MM Cocktail — a decadent combination of vodka, dry vermouth, two dashes of pomelo bitters, a Parmesan water and Islay scotch rinse, with an oyster leaf and vanilla caviar garnish. It might sound a little crazy, but damn it tastes good.

Quo Vadis Soho Bar

Quo Vadis

A classy club in the heart of Soho, Quo Vadis houses the masters of Martinis. But you know what else they do well? Everything. So if you’re in the mood for sophisticated sipping, mosey on down.

Drink to try: If the ever-smiling Simone is behind the bar, ask to try The Harmony. A Martini twist made with chinotto liqueur, Noilly Prat Original Dry vermouth and Bombay Sapphire East Dry gin — it’s balanced and dry with gentle bitter notes. 

Noilly Prat Ally Martin - Martini a Marseillan - ©Olivier Octobre-6
©Olivier

Peg + Patriot

The bar pays tribute to the grandeur and opulence of the original Town Hall building, yet there is a level of restraint that keeps things just the right amount of casual. And with plenty of spots to perch around the island bar — with an extra brass counter for your drinks — this is perfect for bar-side or table-side boozing.

Drink to try: Ask bartender Ally Martin for a Martini au Marseillen — a slightly salty mix of Bombay Sapphire Dry gin, Noilly Prat Original Dry vermouth, a splash of saline solution and garnished with a caper berry.

trailer happiness notting hill

Trailer Happiness

A subterranean Tiki party spot that is always up for a wild night fuelled by rummy cocktails. The 70s basement décor is cheeky and cheerful, much like their staff and drinks. So when you’re looking to cut loose, there’s little better than this ode to Polynesia/Tiki-Americana.

Drink to try: In true Tiki-style, the Smoki Joe Martini is all about the fire and flare — though a notably more restrained approach than some of the volcano drinks (which you should also try). We’ll leave the rest as a surprise.

— Sasha Filimonov, @SashaSips

Yum Yum Ninja (Ninja Bar)

Yum Yum Ninja Bar Brighton

*Currently closed for refurbishment … but keep an eye out for their next move!*

So this ninja walks into a bar … or did he? Sorry, we couldn’t resist. Yum Yum Ninja is only so slightly off the beaten track, and when you find it you’ll be treated to a massive alfresco courtyard lit up with colourful lanterns. Inside the Asian theme runs thick with paper-clad shoji screens, wooden birdcages and seriously tasty food. Upstairs lies the dark and mysterious Ninja Bar kitted out with draped ropes and wooden rafters. You wouldn’t be too surprised if someone swung down from the ceiling.

While the space is a bit stealthy, the drinks are anything but – here it’s all about fun and joy. So don’t be afraid to get those big fiery numbers on the menu that marry both Asian and Tiki flavours. Try the twist on a classic Sour, the Akira, with barrel-aged tequila, lime, egg white and a hint of almond and anise. For a long, sweet and boozy number, try the Fogcutter with Appleton 8 Year Old Rum, more rum, pisco, gin and to keep it sane there’s a splash of orange and lemon juice.

The dim lighting makes it perfect for a date or a cheeky catch-up, while the hefty booze will keep the conversation flowing.

Best Bars tip: Keep in mind the upstairs bar is open Wednesday to Sunday. And always make sure to head downstairs and line those bellies — a sake tasting flight will take you down faster than you can say “hiiYAAAA”.

— Sasha Filimonov, @SashaSips

Yum Yum Ninja, Brighton