Ever heard of a little thing called London Cocktail Week? It's back from the 12th until the 22nd October and, as always, co-founders Hannah Sharman-Cox And Siobhan Payne have pulled out all the stops to make this year's event bigger and better than ever before. Too impatient to wait until next month, we caught up with them for the intel on what you really need to know for about this year's lineup (past unlocking all those £8 libations, of course). From budding at-home mixology contests and insider tips to cocktail tours and hot areas, here's everything to keep under your hat.
If someone’s goal is to visit and enjoy as many top-tier bars in one evening, what pocket of London would you recommend they start the festival in?
Our most densely populated area for participating bars is Soho - but with Covent Garden, Fitzrovia and Mayfair all such a short walk away - this is the perfect place to head if you don’t fancy relying on public transport. The full London nightlife experience can be found on these streets - from five star hotel bars to clandestine, subterranean cocktail bars. Whatever you’re in the mood for - you’ll find it.
If you both had to spend the rest of your life going to one London bar and one London bar only, where would it be and why?
That is SO HARD! And is why the festival is stretched over even more than a week now - because it’s impossible to fit so many of London’s truly great bars into just a few days. But in the interest of answering the question… well - a warm welcome and a comfortable corner are high on the list for us… and if we have to go for the rest of our lives - some kind of distraction would be nice… so maybe Scarfes Bar at Rosewood London because of their fantastic live band (and undeniably delicious cocktails of course).
Can we expect to see any international bar takeovers for London Cocktail Week 2023 and if so, who should we have our eyes peeled for?
We are so fortunate that the great and the good of the global bar industry want to fly in and be part of London Cocktail Week. Each year we have many many takeovers per day happening with bars from America, Asia, Africa, Europe all making the journey… We collate all these takeovers on our website and publish the timetable mid September (when flights get confirmed) so keep checking back to see which bars from around the globe you can experience without leaving London.
London Cocktail Week is about recognising and celebrating the best in class. There are hundreds of incredible bars dotted across the city, including some undiscovered gems. Which bar is currently under the radar that everyone should know about?
As always the idea of the Curated Cocktail Tours is to encourage you to explore a whole new area, with bars you may not have been to before… We work super hard to ensure we’re seeking out new spots and inviting them to be part of the festival. We’ll collate all the new openings into one collection on the website if you’re someone who likes to be ahead of the curve. But if we had to pick just one - Nobu Portman Square. It has a gorgeous heated terrace, the bar snacks are inevitably on point and the service, the interiors and the drinks are really indulgent. And it’s never too busy. Guess it might be now.
If you had to see two London bars come together to create a love child, who would they be and why?
Ha! We would like the drinks and service of Duke’s Hotel (never able to take part in London Cocktail Week because they’re just so busy mixing those outrageously good martinis) with the space, style and unbeatable view from 12th Knot at Sea Containers. Both completely wonderful in their own right - but we’d be delighted to see what happens if they came together.
If you had to choose two London bartenders to team up and be at the helm of a new bar, who would they be?
We love to champion women behind the bar - so let’s put Keila Urzaiz de Calignon from Satan’s Whiskers (Bethnal Green) with Rosey Mitchell from Three Sheets (Dalston) in a gorgeous new venue and see what they come up with.
The Connoisseur's Collection is a brand new element of this year’s festival. In a nutshell, what is it and why should we be encouraging people to get booking these exclusive experiences now?
The Connoisseur's Collection is going to be something really, really special and unlike anything we’ve done before. We’re working with a small selection of venues that can’t normally take part in the festival and who are all, in their own right, world-leading bars. The likes of Sexy Fish, Scarfes Bar and The Savoy - to create a bespoke, one-off experience especially for London Cocktail Week. This could be anything from a rare whisky tasting to a private cocktail tasting with a famous bartender - but will essentially be showcasing why London is the cocktail capital of the world. These experiences will be reservation only and not part of the £8 Curated Cocktail Tours.
Another new element to this year’s festival is Britain’s Best Home Bartender. What do you shake up at home if you’re planning a night in?
Yes. We’re on the hunt for aspiring home mixologists to take the title - with an unbelievable prize up for grabs. £5,000 to spend at The Whisky Exchange on your dream home bar set up, an all expenses paid trip to the Johnnie Walker Experience in Edinburgh (which is truly mind blowing - we’ve been) plus it’s all in cahoots with TV's best loved bartender Merlin Griffiths who is throwing in one of his brand new signature gold plated bar kits. Three finalists will come down to London during the festival to compete for the crown - it’s going to be brilliant.
If we’re mixing drinks at home - no contest - Tiny 50/50 martini’s… There’s never a wrong time to drink one (or a few - because they’re only small and not too strong.).
Our audience loves being on the pulse of what’s new in the city. What’s the newest and hottest opening they should be checking out during this year’s London Cocktail Week?
We’ve always loved anywhere with dancing, so when Stereo in Covent Garden agreed to take part we were really excited. Food’s great (try the wings), drinks are great - it looks GORGEOUS - if you’ve not been - make a date.
And if you’re of a certain age - yes - it was Roadhouse.
Convinced that you need a ticket to London Cocktail Week? Buy your wristbands here for £8 cocktails at the capital’s hottest bars from the 12th to the 22nd October 2023 and sign up for our bi-weekly newsletter for more news in your inbox.