To paraphrase 1960s crooner Andy Williams, the most wonderful time of the year is upon us, and with it comes the inevitable overindulgence of food – and quite often (far) exceeding your recommended intake of alcohol units. But can we really be blamed? On a damp, chilly winter’s evening, there’s no denying a warming libation hits the spot. And what a lot of choice there is, with artisan cocktail bars, gin palaces and five-star hotels concocting ever-more elaborate and inventive brews to lure us in.
With dry January on the horizon, we’d say it’s best to enjoy the festivities while they last. So, if you’re partial to a tipple or two, we’ve rounded up a few of our favourite hot spots around the world, where you’ll definitely want to pull up a pew and knock back one (or three).
The Botanical Club, Via Tortona, Milan
Situated on the Via Tortona in Milan’s now uber-cool Isola neighbourhood, the Botanical Club has become something of an institution amongst the culinary cognoscenti of Italy’s second city. It’s USP? Well, the clue is in the name. Not only is the bar and dining room filled to the brim with greenery – which makes it feel like you’re sat in some sort of new-age hot house – but it also happens to be the home of the first small-batch Italian gin distillery. So, if mother’s ruin is your tipple of choice, this is definitely the venue for you. Owners Alessandro Longhin and Davide Martelli keep the cocktail menu rotating every month, and their signature home-made gin is always a key ingredient in their range of indulgent libations.The must-try tipple: Go for the 1821 - spleen et Idéal gin, lime cordial, lemon juice, ginger beer and angostura bitters. It’s a botanical-rich concoction, containing citrus fruits (how very Italian), warming ginger beer, and a floral hit of gin and a dash of bitters to balance out the sweetness. The work of a master mixologist.
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Aldo Sohm Wine Bar, New York City
Touted as the more relaxed off-shoot of the three Michelin Star Le Bernardin, Aldo Sohm Wine bar in Midtown Manhattan is described by its founding partner (who gave the venue its name) as “It’s like when you go to the dentist, and the dentist gives you painkillers, and all of a sudden there’s no more difficulties”. That definitely sounds like a place we’d like the spend the evening. The deco and ambiance are sleek and varied but not too eccentric – think Keith Haring paintings, designer stemware and vintage Grace Jones on the sound system. But the star of the show of course is the wine list, as well as a complementing menu of high-end charcuterie and sharing plates.
Must-try tipple: As you would expect, the wine is extensive (consulting the sommelier is advised) but we would recommend sampling one of their rare orange wines – all the rage at the moment – which, if you’re a fan of cider, you’ll definitely find to your taste.
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The Gibson, London
Anyone that knows a little about the history of London will be aware that it’s essentially a series of small villages that have melted together over the centuries, and each village comes with its own distinctive tribe. Old Street, North East of the British capital’s financial district was for many decades a down-at-heel area, but after the artists and bohemians moved in the in ‘80s, it started to clean up its act. Today, it still retains just enough grit and grime to feel authentically inner-city but is brimming with the sort of neo-boho establishments the cool crowd – whether locals or visitors – seek out. One of the newest additions to the scene is The Gibson – an atmospheric bijou spot that’s a curious blend of 1920s underworld Paris and Gatsby Era decadence. It quite literally transports you to the silent movie era (think The Artist). The cocktails are other-wordly too, containing some rather unorthodox ingredients such as June beetle infusion, washed mango butter and golden habanero jam...this is certainly not the place if you’re straight-up with your drinking habits, but if you’re more into experimental brews, this establishment will definitely float your booze boat.The must-try tipple: The Gibson – the bar’s signature cocktail is a martini-inspired formula made with pickled onions (not as bad as it sounds) and is a savoury dry-drink lover’s dream.
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Bar Hemingway, The Ritz, Paris
There are some bars whose names are embedded in the psyche of every committed cocktailer and The Ritz’s Bar Hemingway – named after the intrepid writer, war reporter and adventurer after he famously ‘liberated’ the bar from the Nazis in 1944 – is one of those. The list of patrons over the years reads like a who’s who of the most influential figures of the 20th century and includes authors Marcel Proust and F.Scott Fitzgerald and designer Coco Chanel, who incidentally lived at the hotel for thirty years. The bar itself is kitted out with an eclectic mix of memorabilia on the walls that regales the life of Ernest Hemingway and the establishment’s rich history – think preserved shark’s jaws, vintage typewriters, boxing gloves and calling cards of legendary regulars. But what about the drinks? Well, it is the Ritz and the head bartender, Colin Field is a legend in his own right. The Observer once described him as “the LeBron James of liquor, the Matisse of martinis, the Yves Saint Laurent of gimlets”. Whatever your tipple – classic or contemporary, you can be sure this mixology magician will whip you a little glass of heaven.
The must-try tipple:
Master mixologist Colin Field describes the Serendipity cocktail as “France in a glass” – calvados, apple juice, fresh mint, and champagne. Punchy, refreshing and effervescent all at once – sounds like a winning combination to us.
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