With the very first cocktail bars in the early 1800s often doubling as reception area, it’s no surprise that hotels and good cocktails have gone hand-in-hand for quite a while. Nowadays, bartenders may no longer be charged with running the check-in, but three new London hotels prove that the link between top‑flight libations and a place to lay your head is still as strong as ever.
New for Covent Garden, one of our favourite areas, is the elegant Henrietta Hotel. Having opened this spring and situated just a stone’s throw from Covent Garden Piazza, this 18-room boutique hotel is the latest venture for the Experimental Group, the louche Parisian collective that made its name with a tiny cocktail bar before growing into an empire of 19 bars, restaurants and hotels that caters to deep-pocketed bohemians from London to New York.As anyone who’s been to Experimental Cocktail Club Chinatown, Joyeux Bordel or Compagnie des Vins Surnaturels will know, these guys always put good food and drink first. But this time they’ve brought in the big guns with an 80-seat restaurant on the ground and first floors serving “light and simple dishes” by culinary pin-up Ollie Dabbous, and two bars mixing drinks by cocktail authorities Anistatia Miller and Jared Brown. For the interior, inspiration has been drawn from Covent Garden’s history as an orchard and later a fruit and veg market, filling the space with dried flowers, plants, hand-painted murals and lush green fabrics topped by an arching glass atrium. The cocktail list is verdant, too, with ingredients foraged or grown around Miller and Brown’s home in the Cotswolds. True to the naughty spirit of Experimental Cocktail Club, there are some guilty pleasures, too, such as A Fall of Moon Dust: a grown-up ice-cream float made with vanilla ice cream, maraschino, Cointreau and champagne that is absolutely amazing.
Each of Henrietta Hotel’s beautifully rooms – including two rooftop suites with terraces overlooking the London skyline – boasts a fine mini-bar with a choice of bottled cocktails. So if you can’t bear to leave the comfort of your room, you don’t ever have to.
One of our longtime favourite groups to stay, eat and drink in, Soho House’s latest experience arrives lined with 3,000 safety deposit boxes. Throw in a huge metal porthole entrance and this fortified lair looks like something out of a James Bond movie. It’s actually the real deal though, installed by the building’s former owners Midland Bank – with the 3,000 keys to prove it. Softened with rich velvet sofas and low lighting, this moody bunker is all old-school glamour, with a menu of martinis, champagne cocktails and late-night digestifs served in vintage-style glassware.Eight floors up on the roof, meanwhile, a second members’ bar complete with pool, daybeds and spectacular views of the City will offer up a more sunshiney list of refreshers, including Aperol Spritzes and Moscow Mules. For more private gatherings, there will also be two ornamental domes on the roof that have been ingeniously converted into chandelier-clad party pads. These will serve a similar feel-good menu to the main bar, with the option of having cocktails bottled under crown cap, so they can be pulled from a great mound of crushed ice like a beer.
Even if you’re not a member, you can get a good drink in this Grade I-listed monolith. On the ground floor in the cavernous former banking hall, the public at large can choose from an astonishing seven restaurants, including an American-style diner and a Parisian café (members and hotel guests also have access to the more formal Lutyens Grill). The most extensive bars, though, will be located at Cecconi’s – which promises a selection of aperitivi and a great choice of vermouth – and the more Anglophile Millie’s, a 24-hour bar specialising in seasonal gin-based drinks, Bloody Marys and pick-me-ups including a twist on a French 75 made with English gin and sparkling wine. Non‑alcoholic and low-alcohol cocktails, as well as kombucha and fresh juices, will also be in plentiful supply throughout. And when the party’s over, it’s just a short ride in the lift up to the 252-room hotel, an opulent collaboration with the Sydell Group furnished in the style of a transatlantic ocean liner with chandeliers, antiques and some very grand four-poster beds.
Another major opening in London is The Distillery, a micro-distillery, bar and boutique hotel from the makers of Portobello Road Gin. With 100 gins on the menu, don’t expect your stay to be hangover free – but at least it’s not far to stagger to bed.
Housed in a handsome old pub opposite The Electric, it offers gin fans the full immersion over four floors, starting with a three-hour Ginstitute masterclass in the basement where you can blend and bottle your own recipe. This is also the place to meet the family of pint-sized copper pot stills that produce The Distillery’s own limited edition spirits, which find their way into the cocktails served in the “pubby” Resting Room on the ground floor.
On the first floor, the light-filled GinTonica bar serves more gins from around the world in elaborate G&Ts, accompanied by delicious tapas from an open kitchen that can also be enjoyed in a private dining space on the second. And high up on the third, a trio of cosy bedrooms afford superb views of Portobello Market. Kitted out in a mix of cool neutrals and midcentury furniture, these rooms are hip rather than high luxury, but every detail says “make yourself at home” – from the record player (complete with vinyl from neighbouring Rough Trade) to the mini-bar, which comes stocked with bottled cocktails, craft spirits and a selection of bar tools.