World Martini Day: the best in London, from Dukes Bar to Egerton House

Cool stuff: The martinis at the Lowback are chilled to -12°C  (Handout)
Cool stuff: The martinis at the Lowback are chilled to -12°C (Handout)

Martinis are a cause for questions. Gin or vodka? Dry or dirty or, god forbid, sweet? Shaken — a gargantuan error with Bond to blame — or stirred, or poured straight from the bottle? The possibilities for personalisation are endless, which is part of the martini’s great appeal: you can enjoy it as you see fit.

Recent years have also seen a diversification of the spirits used. Bartenders dabble in agave-based tequila and mezcal as well as brandy and even aquavit; these more unorthodox spirits proving popular with Londoners looking to (re)discover this much-adored drink.

Below, having taken one in the liver, we’ve pulled together the very best London has to offer. From bucket-list martini meccas to places having fun with avant garde twists, here’s where to head for a fill of fog-clouding fun that only a martini can deliver.

Connaught martini at the Connaught Bar


The Connaught Bar’s signature martini has established itself as one of the city’s best because it’s not just a drink, it’s an experience. It starts when one of the bartenders rolls over the stately bar cart tableside. Guests are prompted to choose their preferred spirit (gin or vodka), flavour of housemade bitters and whether they’d prefer their martini wet, dry or otherwise. This is the point to pull out a phone out and catch the show. With the lavish room serving as a fitting backdrop, the martini is deftly stirred before being flamboyantly poured from the mixing glass held over the bartender’s head and into one of the bar’s custom martini glasses. It’s sexy, bold and elegant — little wonder the bar boasts the title of “world’s best”. What to see exactly how they make them? David Ellis gets a lesson here.

Carlos Place, W1K 2AL,

Verbena | Olive Oil at Silverleaf

This Tom Dixon-designed bar adjacent to Liverpool Street’s Pan Pacific London focuses on seemingly minimalist drinks built around familiar flavours. The Verbena | Olive Oil, by now a signature of the bar, is a sophisticated take on the classic martini that marries gin, dry mastiha, olive oil, lemon verbena cordial and orange bitters. It’s a martini for the masses — bright, citrusy, floral and downright delicious.

80 Houndsditch, EC3A 7AB,

The martini at Dukes Bar

Dukes Bar is a bucket-list destination for most martini connoisseurs. Its spin was regularly hailed as “the best martini in England” back when legendary bartender Salvatore Calabrese developed the “direct martini” in the Eighties — and it’s still served in this style today, poured from frozen bottles into frozen glasses with insouciant flourish. The hotel is also the place where author Ian Fleming, a regular at the bar while writing the Bond novels, penned the infamous line “shaken, not stirred”. The high-octane martini at Dukes Bar comes with a clear warning: no more than two should be consumed in one sitting. For martini lovers with a competitive nature, this may sound like a challenge, but two filled-to-the-brim glasses of what’s literally just frozen gin — or vodka — with a whisper of the bar’s “sacred” vermouth and bitters is enough to leave even 007 himself wobbling out of the place. Besides, rumour has it that the glasses are so big, these are double measures, which makes the prices somewhat easier to stomach.

35 St James’s Place, SW1A 1NY,

Dry martini at the American Bar at the Stafford

Ask any seasoned martini drinker in London where to go for the best one, and the American Bar at The Stafford is likely to make the shortlist. This history-filled spot, decorated with an assemblage of worldly memorabilia — including artefacts, celebrity-signed photographs, sporting mementoes and baseball caps — serves a dry martini that is near flawless. To make theirs, a London dry style gin is mixed with a touch of dry vermouth and orange bitters before being stirred and poured into a chilled martini glass. Halfway through the drinking session, if your glass loses its chill, a waiter will come around and pour your martini into a freshly frozen one. It’s the pinnacle of five-star service.

16 St James’s Place, SW1A 1PE,

Walter Gibson at the Nomad


When the Nomad brought its American cocktail pedigree to London in the summer of 2021, there were always going to be sceptics. But within a year, the hotel had proved its five-star status by sweeping awards for its bustling bars — Side Hustle, in particular — and today, it remains a bona fide star of the capital’s cocktail scene. While the bars all do a killer classic martini, the Nomad’s signature, the Walter Gibson, is a masterpiece. Composed of gin, vodka, Vouvray, and pear eau-de-vie, it’s pre-diluted and chilled so that it can be poured directly out of a beeswax-lined bottle tableside into one of hotel’s branded coupe glasses, with a side of DIY pickled vegetables for garnish. Some guests toss the menagerie of pickles into the martini; others nibble on them as snacks that accompany the drink like a booze-filled happy meal. Both methods are legitimate, as is this martini.

28 Bow Street, WC2E 7AW,

One Sip martini at Tayer + Elementary


Tayer + Elementary, which houses two bars within one space — a high-concept cocktail bar in the back (Tayer) and high-volume service bar in the front (Elementary) — is currently ranked second in the list of the World’s 50 Best Bars. While the innovative drinks that champion seasonal and local ingredients at Tayer make it a can’t-miss destination for cocktail lovers, Elementary has its own allure as well — part of that being the unassuming One Sip martini. The micro-sized martini — made with vodka, vermouth di Torino and fino sherry — is served ice-cold in a shot glass that’s garnished with a plump blue cheese-stuffed olive. Have one to get the night started, or knock back a few and make it a full scale affair.

152 Old Street, EC1V 9BW,

The classic martini at Egerton House

 (Egerton hotel)
(Egerton hotel)

Calling yourself “London’s best martini” is a bold claim but the Egerton does so with pride, and in the Standard’s opinion deserve to. The recipe the luxurious hotel bar deploys is so devilishly simple that it even spells it out on the website: “We start with a frozen glass, chilled to 22 degrees below. A dash of vermouth first, then gin as cold as the glass… we normally finish things off with a single squeeze of lemon rind, nothing more, nothing less.” There are flashier places in town to sink one or two martini’s and doubtless more affordable options too, but there is something beautifully appealing about the Egerton version. Straightforward, honest, brimmed, strong. It’s not granduer or flim-flam, it’s just a damn good martini. Plus, it usually comes with slices of Welsh rarebit, to keep you steady.

17-19 Egerton Terrace, SW3 2BX,

Dec’s martini at Amaro Bar


West London isn’t known for being a hot cocktail destination, but Amaro Bar gives Londoners a reason to venture beyond Mayfair for some top-notch drinks. Owned and operated by former head mixologist at The Savoy, Elon Soddu, Amaro brings the hospitality and mixology experience of a five-star hotel to the intimate premises of a 38-seat local independent cocktail bar, but with a touch of Italian flair. Dec’s Martini, an homage to Soddu’s mentor at The Savoy, Declan McGurk, is a showcase of the bar’s pedigree. The carefully concocted, yet simple blend of gin, Cocchi Americano and mezcal is stirred together and served in the traditional v-shaped glass. The result is a drink that’s greater than the sum of its parts — a martini that you’ll catch yourself thinking about from time to time. Like it here? Try its sister bar, Twice Shy, which comes Ben McCormack approved.

15 Kensington High Street, W8 5NP,