It’s no secret that Grouper loves cocktails. In honour of our Drink Like Drake-themed launch party in London this week, we journeyed around the world to excavate the origins of your favourite classic cocktails, and found out the best London spots to sample each one. Cheers, proost, la chaim, na zdrowie!
1. Bloody Mary
The origin behind this spicy “hair of the dog” drink is a little hazy. We do know it’s named after Queen Mary I of England, nicknamed Bloody Mary because of her 16th century execution of hundreds Protestants. The most common tale says the drink was invented in the 1920s at New York Bar in Paris, a popular hangout spot for creative dudes like Ernest Hemingway. Because vodka and tomato juice were a common drink combo at the time, this Parisian bar took it up a notch by adding pepper, worcestershire sauce, celery, and lemon.
Where to find it: The Hawksmoor boasts multiple locations around London, most notably Spitalfields and Seven Dials. Their classic Mary comes extra-thick, said to be made from a passata base. Want to be a bit more adventurous? Try their “Mary of the Month”, which was once made with mustard, garlic, and cayenne pepper! Good enough reason to prolong your hangover?
The powerful combination of sweet, salty, sour, and bitter are unique to the classic Mexican margarita. Inspired by the elements of a traditional tequila shot (tequila, salt, and lime), it was created into a tastier delight when fussy customers at a restaurant in 1930s Tijuana demanded something more palatable. The tale goes that the drink was named after the beautiful woman who first requested it.
Where to find it: Mexican street food kitchen Wahaca has expanded throughout London, so it’s the perfect landmark to pop in for a refreshing margarita in whichever part of town you may be. Keeping true to their Mexican roots, all of their cocktails are tequila-based.
3. Classic Martini
A chilled glass, the purest gin, a touch of dry vermouth, and an olive to top it off—it’s an iconic American drink. Most accounts would say the martini has been around since the 19th century, named after the Californian town “Martinez”, where locals leisurely enjoyed the cocktail. It ironically gained its popularity during the Prohibition era, when gin was the most readily available spirit. Whether shaken or stirred, the modern day martini has evolved far beyond its old-fashioned roots.
Where to find it: If the classic martini is what tickles your fancy, Callooh Callay will surely impress. Their salt and vinegar-infused martini will sink into any Londoner’s heart with its added smoked sea salt and a sherry vinegar syrup, topped off with a sea salt spray and assorted olives.
4. Cuba Libre
You could refer it it simply as a “rum and coke”, but it’s so much more than that. The drink’s roots date back to the time Cuba gained its independence, when off-duty American soldiers in Havana enjoyed the refreshing drink and toasted to Cuba’s independence: “Por Cuba Libre!”.
Where to find it: Where better to enjoy this delectable mix than in an authentic atmosphere? Cuba Libre in Islington will serve up the ingredients for a Cuban night out without leaving London.
5. Whiskey Sour
It’s said to date back to the 1700s when British sailors added lime to their liquor to prevent scurvy. In 1962, a Peruvian newspaper cited Elliot Stubb, an English steward of a ship named Sunshine, as the inventor of the drink. The classic combination of whiskey, lemon juice, sugar and an optional egg white today is still just as appetizing as ever.
Where to find it: Enjoy it in true Prohibition style at the hidden Shoreditch bar Nightjar. Their “Delicious Sour” comes with a crab apple infusion, bee pollen syrup and oolong foam. So what if you don’t know what oolong foam is? We guarantee you won’t be disappointed.
Born straight out of Cuba, at a time when cheap rum simply wasn’t drinkable solo, farmers did what they could to make it taste better. With mint, sugarcane, and lime in abundance, our favourite summer cocktail took its form. Soon after it was being served at the hottest spots around Cuba’s beaches, before spreading around the world.
Where to find it: The mojito is a tough one to get just right, but London Cocktail Club knows a thing or two about it. With six wedges of lime and twelve sprigs of mint to a glass, the bartender gives it a firm muddle and it’s good to go. There’s a lot of love in that.
This classically strong gin cocktail takes its cool back story from a real person, Count Camillo Negroni, an Italian nobleman who also spent some time touring America as a gambling rodeo cowboy. In 1919, he asked a bartender at Florence’s Caffee Rivoire to strengthen his then trendy Americano (campari, sweet vermouth, and soda) with gin. The family Negroni went on to found the Negroni Distillerie.
Where to find it: Tucked away in a cosy basement on Hoxton Square, Happiness Forgets serves up a delectable range of cocktails. Their crisp and cool Negroni is one you definitely won’t forget.
A more modern drink, the cosmo is said to have been invented in South Beach, Miami (not New York City!). When famous bartender Cheryl Cook decided the overly popular martini was too boring, she set to creating something more “visually stunning”. The pink of cranberry juice did just that, thus making it a favourite for women worldwide.
Where to find it: Head down to the Covent Garden Cocktail Club to enjoy a straight-up cosmo infused with orange bitters and zest. The best part? Their 2-for-1 Happy Hour Tuesday through Saturday from 5-7pm and all night Monday.
It’s perhaps one of Spain’s most prized symbols, dating back 2,000 years to when Romans made their way through the Iberian Peninsula, planting vineyards in their path. The alcohol in wine killed off the bacteria in water, and herbs and spices helped make the wine taste better. An accidental combination made this drink a popular one, which we now enjoy with alcohol-soaked fresh fruit and much smoother bottles of red.
Where to find it: A pitcher of sangria simply cannot be enjoyed without a variety of tapas. That’s why we’d hands down suggest Boqueria, a lovely little tapas establishment south of the river in Clapham that offers some seriously punchy pitchers. A great place for a large group!
10. Gin & Tonic
No one can argue that the killer combination of the great G and T makes for London’s most-loved drink. It was first introduced by the British East India Company in the 1700s when they discovered the main ingredient in tonic water, quinine, helped prevent malaria. Tonic originally mixed with lime, gin, and a bit of sugar to fight its bitter taste. Needless to say, the rest is history.
Where to find it: There’s no beating around the bush when it comes to a Londoner’s gin and tonic. Take yourself back in time at 214 Bermondsey Gin & Cocktail Bar, a speakeasy hidden behind an Italian restaurant offering abundant gin varieties to sample with your tonic and lime.
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