London has an eclectic mix of drinking establishments and is home to some of the best bartenders in the world. In fact, the 2017 World’s 50 Best Bars (compiled annually by William Reed) gives the top two spots to London cocktail bars – The American Bar and Dandeylan.
It’s no surprise therefore that London leads the way in cocktail trends, with bars focusing on creating unique cocktail menus that reflect their own ‘personalities’ as well as wider issues and agendas, from popular culture to environmental issues.
London’s top cocktail trends:
For a long time, bars have been using the environment around them to influence their cocktail creations. Natural flavours and ingredients have formed the basis for several well-known cocktail menus. Dandelyan, for example, launched with a menu focused on seasonal field guides, splitting cocktails into cereal, vegetal, mineral and floral. The most recent menu from Ryan Chetiyawardana and co. is inspired by hunters, gatherers, witch doctors and explorers, highlighting the way in which botany has shaped history and the way we understand flavours. The menu highlights three historical crops – mint, grapes and hops as well as a section with exciting twists on classics.
Reflecting the wider issue of sustainability, London bartenders have also led the way when it comes to creating environmentally sustainable menus, and this is a trend that continues to develop across the hospitality industry. In 2016 Duck and Waffle launched a two-part menu with sustainability at its heart, ‘Urban foraging vs. Urban Decay’. The menu focused on ingredients foraged in the capital, most of which would usually go to waste and many of which were found in their own kitchens, including gin infused with tomato stalks and a homemade banana skin cordial.
With the health food boom that has been in full swing for the last five years came an increased knowledge of the benefits of a healthy digestive system – leading to a demand for fermented foods which are known for their benefits to the gut. This movement didn’t stop in health food stores however, becoming a major cocktail trend too. Kombucha and kefir have been increasingly turning up on cocktail menus, with creations such as the Laverstoke Julep from The Nightjar (Star of Bombay, Oolong Kombucha, Geranium & Rose Syrup, Abu Lemon, Muscat wine, Pine Nuts, Champagne). At the recent Cocktails in the City event in London, Tomasso Cicala, Head Bartender at TT Liquor, explained; “there is currently a trend for sharp, punchy flavours in cocktails and, when used in the right way, these can be achieved with the use fermented ingredients”.
Infusions and homemade syrups:
One of the most identifiable trends at Cocktails in the City this month was infusions – with a wide range of cocktails containing ingredients made from scratch by bartenders. Different varieties of tea were particularly prevalent, with Hawksmoor Spitalfields Bar serving tea infused Johnnie Walker Black Label (a choice of Jasmine, Rooibos, Lapsang or Earl Grey) while Mr Fogg’s creation used both homemade lemon verbena tea syrup and homemade lavender syrup. As more bars spring up across London and the rest of the country bartenders are having to stand out from the crowd with unusual and individual cocktails, and the use of homemade ingredients is proving a great way to do this.
While these are just a few of the trends that are driving London cocktail culture at the moment, they demonstrate the work that highly skilled mixologists are putting into keeping the city’s reputation as the most creative bar scene in the world. Succinctly put by Roman Shabodalov, assistant manager at Hawksmoor Spitalfields Bar; “it’s all positive trends at the moment – recycling, straw refusing, zero waste, kefir, kombucha…I’m just happy drinks in jam jars are gone!”