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The Savoy, The Strand, London, UK
AT 125 YEARS OLD the American Bar at the Savoy was serving drinks in the same year the Eiffel Tower was still being completed, before there were buses in London, and ahead of the first telephone call between the British and French that would have allowed for conversation about towers and busses.
Over those years the American Bar has been home to the inventor of the Hanky Panky Ada Coleman, author of The Savoy Cocktail Book Harry Craddock, and modern legend Peter Dorelli. It is arguably the most historically important bar open today.
Current head bartender Erik Lorincz feels that heavy hand of responsibility on his shoulder every day, but the Savoy’s 11th head bartender has especially wide lapels and a slick-back that would make Andy Garcia feel untidy. As one of the most decorated classical bartenders of his era, his name is just as comfortable among the alumni as the patrons are made to feel at his bar.
The American Bar is a wash of cream, so the bar team’s suits make for excellent camouflage as they glide across the quality carpet serving their trays of liquid history. It is the longest-surviving of London’s American bars - a style that proliferated with American travel in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Since it opened in 1889, the American Bar has been a watering spot for the well-travelled and well-to-do.
Unlike many modern venues where the bar is the altar, at the American Bar it plays a backing role to the expanse of lounge and grand piano. Those curious to see World Class winner Lorincz, or Bacardi Legacy champ Tom Walker in action must meander to the back of the space - though customers may find the four bar stools are busier than the best seats at the neighbouring theatre they just paid a high price for.
The bar reopened in October 2010 and by 2011 had made its debut in the World’s 50 Best Bars list. It hasn’t left this poll since and this year jumped from spot 20 back to the top 10.
Next year could be even better, with Lorincz’s 125-year anniversary menu just launched. It sees cocktails inspired by historical events and categorised in eras of 25 years. First up are the events coinciding with the launch of the bar, mentioned above.
In a place where historical correctness is so important, it’s great to see innovation and antiquity so neatly entwined.