5 Must-Drink Martinis In London
The best London cocktail bars for when you don't just want a drink, you want a martini.
You always remember your first martini of the night, but you very rarely remember your last. What you must always remember is what you want. Ice cold, of course. Colder than the Murdoch family ice cream party—that’s how cold a martini should be. Then the rest is up to you. Vodka or gin (the answer is gin). Bone dry, dirty, or somewhere in between? A martini is the perfect way to start your meal, day, or night. Just make sure it doesn’t come to a premature end.
What’s cooler than being cool? Ice cold, baby. And that’s exactly what the martinis at Dukes are all about. That and the fact they contain five shots of gin. The old-school hotel bar in St James’s is world-renowned for its sucker-punch martini—this is Sir Ian Fleming’s former favoured drinking den after all—but they’re far from quantity over quality. Everything is stored in the freezer and drinks are prepared tableside with a flourish. Frosty glasses are given a theatrical vermouth rinse, gin is dramatically poured from a height, a strip of Amalfi lemon skin is peeled and twisted over the glass. Not shaken, not stirred, absolutely bloody delicious. Just don’t make any plans afterwards.
Few things quench your thirst like a perfectly mixed martini. In fact when done to a tee it’s almost—almost—like drinking ice-y flavoured water. Leroy’s martini is done to that tee. It’s a gin cocktail that comes dry and can be drunk dirty or with a twist. The delicate coupe glass it arrives in is cloudy through frosty treatment, just as it should be, and the drink itself is so slick, so rounded, and so smooth that it goes down like the elixir of life. This is a martini that drinks very easily. One is a must, two is probable, three will have you all over Shoreditch.
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Three Sheets’ on-menu earth martini, with vodka and a slice of beetroot, is super refreshing but the off-menu, classic gin martini is even better. It’s minimalist, chilled, and pared back, much like the small Dalston bar. Order with a twist, the lemon peel oil pooling on the surface, for a confidently citrusy drink. Or with an olive that lazes at the bottom of the glass and doesn’t much interfere with the clean, crisp cocktail—our notes read ‘basically like iced water, goes down quickly, ordering a second is essential.’ There’s nothing more written after that…
photo credit: Felix Speller
One of the newer kids on the block, Soma is a brilliant moody Soho cocktail bar from the team behind Kricket. As per the restaurant group’s Indian influence, things are done a little differently here. But different is good. Before ordering it will more than likely be stressed that their martini is an acquired taste. Pickled mooli and curry leaf vermouth feature. But traditionalists do not fear: this a superb, top-tier martini that swaps brine for a flirty whisper of pickle. Its temperature is also positively glacial.
We’re loath to make a toast in a restaurant with a Margaret Thatcher mural, but the be all and end all is that Rules mixes some of the best martinis in town. Right in the heart of Covent Garden, London’s oldest restaurant is a master at old-school martinis. On our most recent visit—a festive meal where the only available table was at 11pm—we kicked the evening, or what would soon become the early hours, off with a dirty gin number. It was impeccable. As dry as a Tory party conference.