Summer’s hottest cocktails: London’s top bartenders on what to drink in 2021

·9-min read
<p>Pour one out: this summer is set to be all about having fun</p> (Natasha Pszenicki)

Pour one out: this summer is set to be all about having fun

(Natasha Pszenicki)

The Roaring Twenties are here — slightly later than scheduled — and the bar is officially back (NB “roaring” was always a polite way of saying “drunken”). While a century ago, Fitzgerald and Hemingway may have raised hell with gin rickeys and hanky-pankys, the great summer of 21 this time around is looking for long drinks, great hits of tequila, spritz twists and plenty else besides. Here, six new openings and one expert hand tell us what they’ll be pouring to keep our spirits up as we dance deep into the night.

Golden Gai

 (Natasha Pszenicki)
(Natasha Pszenicki)

I think this summer, the spritz twists are going to be a big thing; they’re getting popular as people want low alcohol drinks to sip under the sun. I like things like a suze ‘n’ tonic, with all those herbal notes. But people like those bitter notes too at the moment — the Campari spritz is picking up — and I think maybe even the classic martini is going to be made into a long drink.

With the pandemic making it so hard to travel, I think we’ll also see a lot of people replicating holiday drinks. I think there’s going to be a big tropical vibe; rum is becoming more popular, especially the over-proofs with that pure, natural flavour of the sugar cane. It’s fresh. Here, I’ve gone for a barbero fresco which is a mix of sake, tequila and mezcal with rhubarb in it. It’s got a nice floral, spicy note and we add a little grapefruit to cancel out the sweetness of the rhubarb.

Barbero fresco

  • 15ml sake

  • 15ml tequila

  • 15ml rhubarb and lemon thyme syrup

  • 25ml lime juice

  • 5ml grapefruit juice

Shake, strain to a rock glass with ice. Garnish with a bit of rhubarb and a stick of lemon thyme.

Wilson Salemos, Head Bartender

16A D’Arblay St, W1,

The Painter’s Room, Claridge’s

 (Natasha Pszenicki)
(Natasha Pszenicki)

People’s knowledge is much better now, because they’ve been able to experiment at home [during lockdown]. We think that people who drink, say, martinis or gin and tonics or even Champagne are going to be really, really specific when it comes down to what they want, and bars will have to be prepared for that. Small brands and niche products are going to come to the forefront, and there’s been a big focus on craft spirits that’s only going to grow. I think people will be paying more attention to European producers this year, too; there’s a lot of new vermouths and amaros coming, new bottles from Italy, France, Spain and there’s some in the UK too.

At the moment, guests seem to want things very bright and easygoing with a little bit of bitterness. Our spritzatino is exactly that kind of drink, it’s effervescent and bright. This summer is all about simplicity, so I have pared back the drink to its purest form, so that it’s refreshing, light and elegant and can be enjoyed all day.

It’s what we’ll have at the Painter’s Room, which is Claridge’s first new bar in a number of years — we think it could be as many as 25.


  • 40ml Dolin Chamberyzette

  • 20ml Lustau Bianco Vermut

  • 20ml Amer Picon

  • 10ml Aperol

  • 10ml Muyu Chinatto

  • 2 dashes salt

  • 35ml Fever Tree soda

Build in a large rocks glass over block ice, give a quick stir and then top up with soda water. Garnish with strawberry slices, rhubarb slices.

Nathan McCarley-O’Neill, Director of Mixology

The Painter’s Room will open later this month. Brook Street, W1,

The Mezcaleria, KOL

 (Natasha Pszenicki)
(Natasha Pszenicki)

I think people want clean flavours, nothing too crazy in terms of cocktails, just things that are easy and refreshing; after lockdown, they want to enjoy life, not over-analyse things. It’s not about drinks that are too crazy. Spirits-wise — I would say this, wouldn’t I? — but I really do think mezcal is the rising thing of the moment. The other big one is rum. I think the rum industry has done really well in presenting itself as more modern, attracting new drinkers.

Our apple and rhubarb tatanka has both and it’s clean; just rum and rhubarb, really. Rhubarb is local, which we really care about, but it’s delicious too: you have fruitiness, earthiness, richness and that astringency that helps balance out a drink. None of those flavours get lost.

Apple and rhubarb tatanka

  • 45ml crabapple infused Oaxaca rum

  • 25ml rhubarb cordial

  • 2.5ml 10yr Somerset cider brandy

  • 80ml water

Force carbonate the entire liquid and then pour it over ice into the glass.

Maxim Schulte, Bar Manager

9 Seymour St, W1,


 (Natasha Pszenicki)
(Natasha Pszenicki)

From what I’ve gauged, people want to learn about new things, and so I think we’re going to be selling some really interesting stuff as they move away from the classics they can make at home. One thing I’m sure is going to be big is spritz-style drinks, which all have a herbaceousness and a bitterness seeping in; they’re lighter, with less alcohol, what you might call “session cocktails”. I think that European aperitivo culture is coming over and I do think there’s going to be more drinking, more spending, and more time in bars; the amount of beer I sold the first few nights after lockdown was crazy…

We’re a Japanese-style highball bar and the Japanese vibe is all just simplicity and quality — this mango collins has it in spades, and it’s light and easy to drink which, as I say, seems the thing this year. But I have noticed people seem more curious and know a bit more — I’ve seen people asking about aged agave spirits, which never happened before, and corn spirits are picking up. Oh, and the other thing — people want to be refreshed. We’re just about to get a slushy machine!

Mango collins

  • 40ml Roku gin

  • 20ml mango sherbet

  • 15ml lemon juice

  • 15ml Kam and Sons

  • 100ml soda

Pour the first four ingredients into a tall glass full of ice and stir, then top up with soda water. Garnish with a mango slice.

Hamish Denny, Head of Drinks

Opens today, 36 Charlotte Rd, EC2,

Frank’s, Maison Francois

 (Natasha Pszenicki)
(Natasha Pszenicki)

It’s been a bit of a dark winter, to say the least, and people are hungry and thirsty for entertainment and eating and drinking out. There have been so many brilliant people doing meal kits and drink kits but people have been starved of nights out, of having a good time, of enjoying themselves — I mean, just the pure pleasure of sitting down at the bar and looking at the cocktail menu is going to be glorious. That’s what we do at Frank’s.

We’re not really trend-led, but our cocktail programme essentially is just to go above and beyond what we believe in, which is fundamentally respecting brasserie culture and brasserie cuisine. People seemed to get more into wine over lockdown and we’re excited about our wine programme — we’re going to host lots of nights, with lots of natural and biodynamic wines — but otherwise we have both fresh, uplifting drinks to give you a buzz, like our new white port negroni, or something more comforting and classic, like our vieille prune sour, which is one of those moreish drinks that feels nostalgic, though it’s basically unavailable elsewhere. We serve it straight up, and we’re hoping people will sip them in our hidden bar, where it’s loud, noisy, with a great play list. It’s fun. We need that.

Vieille prune sour

  • 50 ml Vieille prune

  • 25 ml lemon juice

  • 20 ml honey water

  • 1 egg

Shaken to a fluffy perfection garnished with dehydrated lactofermented Nebbiolo grapes.

Francois O’Neill, Co-owner

34 Duke Street, SW1,

Mezcaleria El Colmillo, El Pastor, Soho

 (Natasha Pszenicki)
(Natasha Pszenicki)

After the lockdown, people are willing to stay longer and have a good time and enjoy all the evenings that they missed over the past year. I think this summer is going to be really great — it’s time to recover! — and as a bartender we’re looking forward to making people feel amazing again.

Working at El Pastor, we always have tequila — it’s always been our most popular drink but mezcal is picking up. It’s a big spirit, a powerful one, with so much flavour. This year people want to be refreshed and I’ve been noticing that our mezcarita is starting to get well known; it’s almost like people start with a margarita and then want to upgrade, and the mezcal gives a mezcalita a smokiness and a complexity over a regular margarita. It feels like a Mexican summer in a drink — it has lime, it has agave, it’s sweet and sour and smoky. And it also has that salt rim. The moment you taste the salt you know you’re going to have a good time.


  • 45ml Mezcal Verde Momento

  • 25ml freshly squeeze lime

  • 20ml Aguamiel

Add all the ingredients into a shaker, shake vigorously for approximately 15 to 20 seconds, the strain the ingredients into a tumbler filled with ice cubes and salt rim. Garnish with a lime wheel or a wedge.

Carlos Fontoira, El Pastor Head of Bars

Opens today, 66-70 Brewer St, W1,

The Connaught

 (Natasha Pszenicki)
(Natasha Pszenicki)

I think now more than before, maybe, people want to be looked after, and we want to look after them. We opened and it was like nothing had happened — people are coming in. The cocktail industry is becoming much more gourmet — we see there is as much interest in bars for cocktails as there is in restaurants for dishes — and people are challenging bartenders to try something new though for us, we always provide inspiration.

We’re seeing an increase in Champagne drinks, as they’re celebratory, and the martini will never die — it’s so versatile and besides, you feel cool holding the glass. But long and refreshing drinks are on the up, and don’t need to be boring, while the last decade has been very big for agave and more recently for mezcal particularly, which is why I’ve made the voronoi, which has mezcal and tequila and offers freshness, spiciness, roasted notes and the fragrance of a lime skin from our homemade sherbet. We will always have a lot on not just, say, a Manhattan.


  • 20ml tequila blanco

  • 10ml mezcal

  • 15ml Vetiver MUYU liquer

  • 25ml lime sherbet

  • 3ml Cocchi Rosa

  • Dried mace

  • 2 dashes bittered slings grapefruit and hop bitter

Shake and strain into a coupette glass, garnish with painted cocoa butter coins around the glass

Agostino Perrone, Director of Mixology

Carlos Pl, W1,

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