A Tale of Two Cocktail Bars

Quite a number of cocktail bars on the list of the World’s Top 50 are in London, today I took time to visit #1 and #2.

The American Bar at The Savoy Hotel

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Probably the oldest cocktail bar in the world (127 years) and possibly the most famous, The American Bar was chosen as the #1 cocktail bar in the world for the first time ever in 2017.

I stopped in around 2pm (to avoid the rumoured busyness) and was lucky enough to get one of only four seats at the bar (most of the seating is tables). I ordered a Savoy Hotel classic (The Return of the Pink Panther) and settled in. I could write for hours about what I saw and experienced there but will summarize it as much as I can below.

History – 10/10

Come on, no bar has a longer history, at least half a dozen famous cocktails that I love were invented here, it’s an easy 10. It has its own museum in the hotel!

Atmosphere – 9/10

Amazing, a classy, gorgeous room, white suits on everyone working there, a grand piano, just loses a bit for being a pinch chilly and for how noticeably ill-fitting most of the white suits were on the staff.

Service – 8/10

As friendly and classy as everyone working there was I could still have used a pinch more interaction, still very impressive, engaging and welcoming.

Casino Test – 2/5

I request a Casino cocktail in each new cocktail bar I try, it’s an older, somewhat obscure cocktail that I love and how they handle the request says a lot about the bar. There’s 1 point for just knowing the drink, 2 for how they react to a request for a cocktail they don’t know and 2 for the quality of the drink itself. In this case The American Bar gets 2/5 because they didn’t know the drink, they reacted ok but not outstanding to the special order and because, for some reason, the finished drink was really not very good.

The Drinks – 3/5

As noted above the Casino was not great, the Pink Panther was quite good but not mind blowing, also serving an chilled glass on a glass coaster was not a well thought out plan, it kept sticking to the glass and clattering down onto the bar.

TOTAL – 32/40

Dandelyan

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Dandelyan was last year’s #1 rated cocktail bar and is currently rated #2. After The American Bar I went for a walk along the river and grabbed a bite to eat and eventually made my way across London to Dandelyan around 5pm.

I found a seat at the bar, the space is quite large and was about 1/3rd full (which is the perfect fullness for a bar). Two very friendly bartenders engaged me right away and we started chatting. I spent a couple hours there and ordered two drinks, my thoughts below:

History – 7/10

Dandelyan has only been around about ten years but it’s been on the top 50 list almost every year and has won more than once, what it may lack in history it makes up for in cachet.

Atmosphere – 8/10

A large room, themed around botanicals and green marble, well done with a view over the river and done without being fussy though I would like to see more wood.

Service – 10/10

Service at Dandelyan was amazing, friendly, intelligent, warm, they actually made me feel like they wanted to get to know me, it was a really heartwarming visit.

Casino Test – 4/5

My bartender did not know the drink but she made it clear she loved to learn, she talked about the drink and asked why I know it and she told me how she can’t wait to finish her shift so she can make herself one. Plus it was the best Casino I have ever tasted.

The Drinks – 5/5

I ordered their take on a Negroni first, which was perfect, then my Casino was also perfect. Nothing more to say,

TOTAL – 34/40

 

Conclusion

The American Bar was memorable but Dandelyan took the time to leave me feeling like visiting again.

After so much fun chatting the Dandelyan staff insisted I pop behind the bar for this photo… really, really cool.

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