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American Bar

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The Savoy, The Strand, London, UK

By Hamish Smith 

So close to the apex of The World’s 50 Best Bars, the Savoy’s American Bar can almost lay a white-gloved finger on the Dead Rabbit flag that flutters in the thin air. Though beaten to the summit, from this lofty footing the American Bar has reached the peak of its continent – it is Europe’s Best Bar 2016.

Since its first appearance in The World’s 50 Best Bars in 2011, four of the American Bar’s five rankings have been in the top eight. Second therefore marks a new high in its recent history – the chapter began under head bartender Erik Lorincz when the bar reopened in late 2010, following a three-year refurbishment.

Of course, this passage lies deep in the history book. There are 125 years of stories to call on at this venerable venue. It was home to inventor of the Hanky-Panky Ada Coleman, author of The Savoy Cocktail Book Harry Craddock, and modern legend Peter Dorelli to name but a few.

While other seminal venues coast, living off the fat of past glories, the American Bar has resisted. Just as its past leaders have shaped the global bar industry, the current wardens are just as forward thinking. Not to be so, says bar manager Declan McGurk, would be to become a cocktail museum – the American Bar’s favourite worst nightmare.

With history comes heft, so past menus have tended to err on nods to the bar’s past, although there has been an evolution. Last year’s voyage through the bar’s timeline saw innovation and antiquity entwined. This time out the American Bar has gone full-concept. Its 24-strong cocktail book is an ode to London, with cocktails divided into the capital’s boroughs and named after their famous and infamous landmarks. Abbey Road has become the bestseller, while Pickering Place – the last known site of a London gun duel – its most daring. It comes as two drinks – one by McGurk and one by Lorincz – with the narrative told by the pair via an Ipad silent movie.

The American Bar, though kept in line by guests expectations, is furrowing its own path - and making history along the way.

William Reed