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London's Best Hotel Cocktail Bars

27/08/2014 15:17 BST | Updated 26/10/2014 09:59 GMT

'This is the perfect breakfast drink', our otherwise tactiturn barman announces as he puts a Prestige Fizz - Bombay Sapphire gin with vermouth, celery, cucumber and mint topped with champagne - on the 30-foot-long bar.

The idea of a breakfast drink is a good one and the Booking Office Bar at the St Pancras Renaissance Hotel is a good place to have one. I explain to my French colleague how, in the days before air travel, railway hotels such as the one at Kings Cross were the epitome of glamour, so it would make perfect sense to start the day with a champagne cocktail.

We are sitting in the gloriously Gothic vaulted bar where the Victorian theme remains the same although the brand new cocktail bar menu was launched this month. The innovative concept is based on a Victorian apothecary, with drinks such as The Preservation Martini boasting restorative properties. The list also includes a bit of additional theatre, with waiters visiting tables carrying bottles and accessories for visitors to create their very own elixir.

The unusual, potent Victorian punches such as the Charles Dickens' Memorial pineapple infused rum with Hennessy cognac and served in a copper cup punch bowl, are understandably very popular. I soak one up and snack on truffle chips and salt and pepper squid, with a platter of salmon more than enough for three.

When, three years ago the Renaissance breathed much needed new life into a building abandoned for 80 years it took London by storm. It is now many Londoners' favourite hotel, born in the golden age of rail, with all British produce on the menu and a destination bar to boot.

We move on to the buzzing bar at Hoi Polloi in the Ace hotel Shoreditch, East London, which is less than a year old. It's not unlike being in a cool hotel destination bar in downtown New York. Hoi Polloi may be funky but it's friendly - the name is clearly in its oh so Hackney cheek. I meet with hugely capable and approachable general manager Conor Sheehan, imported from Bistrotheque, a stalwart of the area's eating and dining scene.

Hoi Polloi and Ace embrace the characters and characteristics of its East London home. And one of its key characters happens to be my friend, the legendary, Ross Butler. 'Yes, we know Ross, he comes here quite a lot', Conor confides, smiling knowingly.

Ross - a.k.a. Mr Ross Butler is the creator of Butler's Gin made in Hackney, East London. 'Delicate and a little fruity' is how I describe the gin infused with cardamon, lemongrass and juniper - not like its owner. Its story is, as the Butler's website declares, a very British one. It's one that has taken London and the UK by storm, with Butlers Gin now one of the fastest growing spirits companies in the UK.

I settle down to work my way through the cocktail list, which Conor explains is inspired by gay street slang. After a member of the bar staff directs me disinterestedly to the wrong page on the menu, I manage to find my feet. Fantabulosa is probabably the bar's most popular cocktail, Conor informs me, which is named after Mr Butler himself.

It was light, yet packed a punch, with just the right amount of delicate mint and cucumber flavour. My drinking companion plumped for a rather more masculine 'Wet Luppers', which I decide to share. 'Luppers are lips', Conor points out as I lick mine soaked with cachaca/agave/lime. We don't manage to refuse a feisty but very welcome 'Manky Kween' of Absolut vodka, grapefruit and rose, lavender syrup before moving on to a very different venue, 'The Bar' at the 80-year-old Dorchester.

'Lauro, can you open the safe?' Giuliano the head barman at the Dorchester asks his assistant, before continuing his tale of Henry Craddock.

'He was the Escoffier of this profession. He wrote the Savoy cocktail book - full of recipes - of Daisies, Slings, Shrubs, Smashes... it is still the bible for cocktail makers.'

Giuliano wanted to honour Craddock's memory so in June 2014 he revived the historical recipe for 'Old Tom' gin to create a new blend for The Dorchester. He doesn't approve of the 'new' bar renovated eight years ago and I had to agree. Its swirly purple oversized sofas and dripping red glass stalactite creations were like something straight out of Austin Powers.

'How do you explain the concept of 'The Bar' at the Dorchester?' I ask Giuliano.

'We are not stuffy; we are the best. We are not experimental or interested in showmanship',
he answers, simply. One of the most distinctive cocktails is Her Majesty's Cup, served in a teapot made in house, created with classic British ingredients of Earl Grey, berries and gin. Giuliano tells us tales of London when gin was a drug like crack cocaine and pushers in the street would call 'puss, puss, puss' in code, with eager buyers responding with a loud 'MIAOW'.

After more than 30 years working in this iconic hotel bar, Giuliano is clearly still full of love for it and bursting with stories. He introduces us to 'Twinklers' - a list of sparkling cocktails, many of them with champagne and treats us as old friends, even presenting my twin friends with a birthday cake. When I ask him for his favourite cocktail, Giuliano looks me in the eye and says: 'There isn't one in there that I don't like' and I believe him.