Where to drink the perfect martini in London

Our resident spirits expert, Neil Ridley takes up the arduous challenge to find London's best martini and sets off in search of ten of the capital’s finest examples

Tayer One Sip Martini
(Image credit: Courtesy of Tayēr + Elementary and The George)

All hail the martini: the pinnacle of louche sophistication, artistry, refinement and glamour. For over a century (and, arguably much longer,) it has been seen gracing the hands of the fabled and famous; from racing drivers, acting royalty, actual Royalty and a few enigmatic, debonair spies along the way. As a classic cocktail it has managed to seamlessly shift and twist, chameleon-like across genres, offering both a sense of familiarity in any location around the globe as well as being a solid, no-nonsense foundation for whatever contemporary trend a bartender attempts to throw at it.

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inside shot of a bar with stools alongside it, a london cocktail bar

(Image credit: Jason Bailey Studio)

In many respects, it is the Ultimate Cocktail Experience; bespoke to each and every devotee, from the choice spirit, the perilous ‘wet or dry?’ dance it plays out with the vermouth, the ritualistic preparation methods (shall we shake tonight, or stir?) and of course, the all important glassware and garnish. It is admired by bartenders today as much for its beautiful simplicity, as it is for just how much of a true test it presents to even the most seasoned of professionals, requiring great skill, care and attention to create a signature work of art.

Get it right and you will forever find favour amongst its many aficionados… stray too far from the traditional and you’ll be royally chastised.


(Image credit: Dukes)

For me, writing about the martini is very much like penning a love letter which reminisces heavily on the past: in the 20 or so years I have been enjoying them, I think I could honestly recall every ice-cold sip; each one consciously-coupled to a vivid memory of whereabouts I was drinking and who I was drinking with. No other cocktail comes close when it comes to iconic status, rightly earning its very own day of celebration and reverence.

In advance of this hallowed day I decided to put together list of criteria on which to base my ten favourite London-based martinis. Yes, this would be an immensely enjoyable experience, but by no means an easy one, given just how many incredible examples of the cocktail there are in the city. To make life slightly easier, I wanted to balance my list between the contemporary and the classic: examples which purists could purr with delight over and contrastingly, ones which those curious to push the boundaries of the meaning of the martini would also enjoy… rest assured, you’ll find no hipster cold-brew Espressos or pimped-up Pornstar Martinis here… just the real deals.

I’d also be considering the bar’s choice of spirits and their openness for making recommendations, the quality of garnish (I’m a lemon twist-type of guy, rather than an olive, but both were considered for the sake of fairness,) the brand of vermouth used, type and size of glassware and perhaps most importantly of all, the balance of the cocktail itself and how perfectly it is prepared.

Here are my results, in no particular order. You may fundamentally disagree with me, which is absolutely fine. After all, It’s what makes the martini such an engaging conversation starter.

The ten best martinis In London

Dukes Hotel

Choice of Spirit: No.3 London Dry Gin


(Image credit: Dukes)

Ok, so a no-brainer here, given that it’s perhaps the most famous martini location in the city, if not Europe, but what head bartender Alessandro Palazzi has done for the cocktail deserves a knighthood. An exponent of the Martini Trolley, he has perfected a captivating serving ritual: a few dashes of vermouth in the glass, (Palazzi has co-created the recipe with London-based craft distillers, Sacred,) which are then ceremoniously dumped on the carpet before around five measures of frozen, neat gin or vodka are poured straight in - without dilution, before being topped off with a large slice of Amalfi lemon zest. It’s a truly visceral drinking experience - and not for the faint-hearted (there’s a two cocktail limit, given the strength,) but the results are breathtaking in every respect.

Dukes Hotel- 35 St James's Pl, St. James’s. dukeshotel.com Price: £25+

Bar 45

Choice of Spirit: Seastrus gin and vanilla-infused Elit vodka

45 Park Lane Infinity Martini

(Image credit: 45 Park Lane)

Nestled upstairs at the 45 Park Lane hotel, Bar 45, and its manager, Enrico Perri has created a signature ‘Infinity Martini’: a highly complex recipe of both gin and vanilla-infused vodka, truffle, umeshu plum, fig essence, Japanese Shochu and bitters. Whilst it strays from what could be called the the classic style, its sophisticated credentials are impeccable: bold and rich with pronounced umami notes and a lingering juniper and drying spiced note. The bespoke glassware, hand painted by Yayoi Kusuma and ‘infinity’ Crome ball ‘garnish’ only add to the theatre and mystique.

Bar 45 - 45 Park Lane, Mayfair. dorchestercollection.com Price: £28

The Vesper Bar

Choice of Spirit: The Dorchester Signature Old Tom Gin

VESPER BAR_ Vesper Martini_

(Image credit: The Dorchester collection)

Arguably the beguiling, more powerful sibling to the martini, the Vesper was created by Ian Fleming and became a star in its own right after appearing in the Casino Royale novel - and of course its cinematic adaptations. Here, at the Vesper bar, under the supervision of bar manger, Lucia Montanelli it is, unsurprisingly, the signature cocktail, paying perfect homage to Fleming’s espionage masterpiece: A rich, beautifully balanced-yet clean cocktail, full of decadent sweetness, thanks to the Old Tom gin and touch of Stolichnaya Elit, alongside a touch of re-distilled ‘forbidden fruit liqueur’ and a heady aromatic waft of citrus zest, which is sprayed from a height onto the glass.

The Vesper Bar-The Dorchester Hotel, Park Lane, Mayfair dorchestercollection.com Price: £25

Nipperkin Bar

Choice of Spirit: Boatyard Vodka and Renais Gin


(Image credit: Nipperkin Bar)

Hidden away in the subterranean basement of Niju, the ultra-chic Japanese restaurant on Berkeley Street lies Nipperkin, a bar, designed around a very cosy living room concept, making drinks with a distinctly British twist, using Japanese-style precision and skill. The menu focuses heavily on British-Isles-based spirits, herbaceous infusions and homemade distillates which head bartender Angelos Bafas and his team have fully employed on their ‘Martini’ - called the Ramson, a blend of Boatyard vodka, Renais gin, wild garlic, a truffle infusion, and Vault coastal vermouth. It’s a complex and very savoury twist, which fortunately doesn’t stray too far off the beaten Martini pathway.

Nipperkin Bar - Niju - 20 Berkeley Street, W1 nijulondon.com Price: £19


Choice of Spirit: Sipsmith Gin


(Image credit: Ladislav Piljar)

Kwãnt (a play on the word quaint,) is a highly conceptual bar established by Erik Lorincz, one of the world’s most awarded bartenders and it’s easy to see why the place has become something of an industry buzzword. From the gentle, swirling ceiling fans to the imposing square ‘open plan’ bar at the heart of the room, everything about Kwant breathes an air of impeccable taste and curation. The Garden Martini mixes all the hallmarks of the classic (juniper-rich Sipsmith gin, Noilly Prat vermouth,) but embellishes it with an earthy sweetness, by bringing in a touch of parsnip infusion. It only adds to the overall complexity and balance of the drink, created by a team very much at the top of their game. For those serious about their Martinis Kwãnt also offers the ultimate ‘vintage’ version, using 1950s Beefeater and a 1980s Martini Extra Dry vermouth.

Kwãnt - 52 Stratton Street, Mayfair kwnt-mayfair.square.site Price £17.50

The George

Choice of Spirit: Boatyard Double Gin

The George Monster Gibson

(Image credit: Courtesy of The George)

On face value, The George isn’t the first place you would expect to serve a first-class cocktail. However, this upmarket pub, a stone’s throw from the bustle of the West End, contains a multitude of treasures, including incredible bar snacks and one of London’s best menus focusing on English wine. It’s the martini we’re here for though and if, like me, you’re partial to a Gibson - the more savoury twist on the classic gin-based recipe - then you’re in for a real treat. The George version comes pre-batched with a blend of Irish Boatyard gin and Noilly Prat - very much erring on the drier side and is garnished, not with a traditional silver skin onion, but a pickled onion Monster Munch. The combination on the palate of crisp, tart onion’y bite and cold, botanical brilliance is an eye-opening experience to say the least.

The George - 55 Great Portland St, W1 thegeorge.london Price: £13

Bar Swift

Choice of Spirit: Tanqueray No.10 Gin

Swift Vignette3

(Image credit: Bar Swift)

In the space of a few short years, Soho’s Swift, founded by husband and wife team, Bobby Hiddleston and Mia Johansson, has rapidly become not only one of the drinks industry’s favourite night spots but also a Mecca for those in search of the perfect blend of breezy aperitifs and seriously complex, twisted classics. Split over two floors - the ground floor space is all about spritz cocktails and highballs, with a particular focus on sherry and other fortified wines. Downstairs is where you’ll find an absolutely stellar Martini: made to measure, using whichever gin or vodka you fancy from an extensive selection of spirits. For a more complex twist, opt for their formidable-yet-fragrant Vignette, which brings together Hendrick’s gin, Noilly Prat vermouth, St Germain liqueur, celery and absinthe.

Bar Swift - 12 Old Compton Street, Soho W1D barswift.com Price: Around £13

Tayēr + Elementary

Choice of Spirit: Hepple Gin

Tayer One Sip Martini

(Image credit: Courtesy of Tayēr + Elementary)

East London’s Tayēr + Elementary is perhaps the very definition of true culinary genius in drink form. Founded by the stellar team of Alex Kratena, who previously set up the multi-award-winning Artesian bar, and Monica Berg, one of the leading lights from Oslo’s legendary Himkok bar, the duo are well known for pushing the boundaries of conceptual flavour, using experimental distillates and ingredients beyond the realm of the traditional. Alongside the gloriously fun One-Sip Martini (a perfectly compact glass of joy, with a cheese-stuffed olive,) Tayēr’s signature Sandalwood Martini comprises Hepple gin from Northumberland, Noilly Prat vermouth and a special sandalwood essence, which gives a remarkable earthy, dry and aromatic quality to the aroma of the drink. Even better is that the bar sells 300ml bottles of the cocktail to enjoy in the comfort of your own home.

152 Old Street, London, EC1 tayer-elementary.com Price: £35 (for a 300ml takeaway bottle)


Choice of Spirit: Oxley gin


(Image credit: Silverleaf)

A hidden East London / City gem, Silverleaf has quietly gained the attention of serious cocktail aficionados since it was established back in 2022. Entering through Devonshire House, squirrelled away down a maze of corridors on the 3rd floor of the Pan Pacific hotel, it’s the picture of dark elegance and refinement - and a great destination to sip away on a perfectly chilled Martini. The house recipe uses Oxley gin or Ketel One vodka and Dolin vermouth - or, for a drier, exotic citrus/floral twist, consider the Yuzu Petitgrain Martini, which brings together Bombay Sapphire gin, Cocchi Americano aperitif and a yuzu and petitgrain essence: petitgrain is the essential oil which comes from leaves and twigs of the bitter orange tree.

Silverleaf - 3 Bishopsgate Plaza, EC2 panpacific.com Price: £16

The Connaught Bar

The Connaught Bar interior

(Image credit: Courtesy of The Connaught Bar)

Choice of Spirit: The Connaught’s House Gin

The Connaught Bar is something of a Mayfair institution when it comes to an absolute must-visit, classic Martini destination. Located at the back of the hotel’s grand hallway, bar maestros Agostino Perrone and Giorgio Bargiani have taken the experience into the stratosphere with their beautifully designed, table-service Martini Trolley. On offer is a truly bespoke cocktail, made in front of you with a touch of unmistakable Italian flair thrown in for good measure. First pick your spirit (I’d suggest splashing out a little more on the Connaught’s own small batch distilled gin, which is fabulous), how ‘wet’ you want the cocktail and then - in very novel fashion - which ‘essence’ you prefer, from a range of small dropper bottles, including coriander, cardamon, lavender, tonka or Dr Ago’s secret recipe: just a few drops radically transform the top notes of the drink. Finally, the Martini is poured with precision into your glass from a great height to aerate it, as the spirit is aromatised with lemon peel. Truly extraordinary and worth every penny.

Connaught Hotel, 16 Carlos Pl, London, Mayfair the-connaught.co.uk Price: £25+

Neil Ridley is a London-based, award-winning drinks writer and presenter.  He is the co-author of eight books on spirits and cocktails including Distilled, which is now published in 14 different language editions. For the past eight years he has also served as a drinks expert on TV show Sunday Brunch on Channel 4