If I was planning a night out, drinking all kinds of cocktails across the capital, it's only right that I start where I grew up, in Portobello. Naturally the area has changed dramatically down the years, however Goldborne Road still retains something of the spirit I remember from my youth. The 108 Garage there, not only makes great cocktails, but is also my favourite restaurant in the area. Staying true to the owners’ Italian roots, they serve a decent Sbagliato here, so we can kick things off appropriately with an aperitivo. This ‘messed up’ Negroni, uses a light sparkling wine instead of gin. You can enjoy this very simply at the bar with their delicious whipped butter, taramasalata, chicken liver mousse and homemade bread.
Following that fine start I’d head South to Bermondsey, which has an endearing feeling of old London. The recently opened Nine Lives bar is run by the team behind the Sweet & Chilli cocktail agency. Owners Alan, Emma and Tom are three of the loveliest folk in the industry, and are sure to look after you. Furthermore, it’s a Zero Waste bar, where they seek to extract as much as they can from the lovingly sourced produce. If heading South of the river is all a bit much for you, order their Crossfire Hurricane and imagine you’re in the Caribbean, sipping rum, orange, passionfruit, lemon and pineapple through a bamboo straw.
The West End is blessed with some of the best bars in the world, and while statement bars can be a lot of fun, The Vault at Milroy’s is somewhere you can go anytime. It reminds me of the sort of place you want to find when you’re on holiday, and then brag to your friends about this secret basement bar you found, under the oldest whisky shop in town. You enter by pressing a buzzer on a bookcase, which then swings open and leads you down to a dimly lit haven of cocktails and intimacy. Considering the illustrious whisky shop above, the drink of choice is a Japanese Rose Garden. It’s my kind of seriously boozy affair, which could be a mess in the wrong hands, however the team here mix the Nikka by the barrel, cocchi rose vermouth, mirto rosso and Chambord, very nicely indeed. If you ever end up here, remember it’s a cosy vibe down there, so don’t knock a whole table of drinks over yourself, like I did the last time I was there. Smooth.
The Vault, Soho. Image: Evening Standard.
After drying myself off, I’d head North to Super Lyan. To be fair its Hoxton Street location is really East London, however it’s officially in N1 and we can certainly make allowances for its proprietor Ryan Chetiyawardana. He has presided over a pride of Lyan monikered bars at this same location, and he should be proud of them. This sites previous incarnation, White Lyan, was a game changer, with its pre-batched, no ice or citrus cocktails. Ever evolving, he has now opened Cub, a restaurant on the ground floor, which I haven’t tried yet. However, head downstairs and you’ll find Super Lyan, where even on a wet Wednesday night in November, bartender Simoné will charm you while serving a more classic range than its predecessor. Gin lovers should get busy with a Diamond Rickey, featuring Mr Lyan's gin, lime & almond liqueur and grapefruit distillate.
Super Lyan. Image: Maja Jaworska
Four drinks down and it’s time to round things off. Thankfully my Eastern offering isn’t that far away, on Kingsland Road. It’s fair to say that Untitled, from cocktail maestro Tony Conigliaro, divides opinion. To some it doesn’t fit in, has no place in Dalston, and is another sign of the areas gentrification. To others it's way ahead of its time, and the rest of Dalston needs to catch up. Personally, I think it fits in quite nicely, right now, and at any time. I love the fact that this super modern minimal cocktail bar sits directly opposite Arthurs, a proper East End café, run by father, son and grandson since 1935. Like a good cocktail, it’s the mix of their distinct and differing elements, that makes Dalston - and London - so compelling. Regardless of your views on what the bar does for the area, get over it, get inside and get involved. It’s one of those places where everyone is eyeing up everyone else’s drinks, which are all served in rather splendid vessels. I’m a big fan of the super smooth Gonzo, mixing tequila, caramel, ambrette and buckwheat. Ending the night on tequila should hopefully provide some fuel for what’s supposed to be a short walk home. Living around the corner is both a blessing and a curse.
Follow Dominic on Instagram @DomCools