I hate to be the one to break it to you, but the Square Mile isn’t a great place for cocktails. Sure, you can now get them in most bars (and even some pubs), but most aren’t worth the lemon they’re garnished with.
I think it’s a supply and demand thing. Perhaps understandably, the City is more interested in speed over quality. It’s also rich enough to dispense with the superfluities and extravagances of Greater London – it doesn’t need to attract people from outside to survive.
There are some hidden gems though. Perhaps the jewel in the crown is Merchant House (not to be confused with Merchants Tavern in Shoreditch, which is also first rate), hidden around the back of Bow Lane. The reason Merchant House is so good is because it’s owned and run by Lewis Hayes and Nate Brown (AKA the London Bar Consultant). Before opening Merchant House, Lewis and Nate ran the City of London Distillery (CoLD), which is just off Fleet Street. Between them, Merchant House and CoLD have enough gin to reignite a new gin craze.
And now the City now has another cocktail bar to add to the list. Alongside the newly refurbished Sauterelle restaurant, the upper floor of the Royal Exchange has a new haunt: Threadneedle Bar.
The Royal Exchange is one of the most inspiring of London’s great landmarks. Founded by the merchant Thomas Gresham in the 16th century, it was among London’s first unashamedly commercial buildings, becoming the world’s first commodities market. It was later used by the Lloyd’s insurance market for around 150 years.
Threadneedle Bar is an oasis – ironically, given the mayhem of trading and outcry when it opened – from the hustle and bustle of Bank’s busy intersection. The cocktail menu is inspired by Jerry Thomas’ 1862 Bartenders’ Guide, and includes the punchy John Haig’s Crusta (a mix of Haig Club with Mandarine Imperial and orange blossom essence), as well as the Mexican Couperee (a twist on the West India Couperee, made with vanilla liqueur foam, Patron Citronge and homemade falernum.
I always like to welcome a new cocktail bar into my life with its signature drink, though. And that’s the Sauterelle Martini, which is a twist on the Martinez, using Sipsmith gin, vanilla infused port and orange peel, homemade cherry liqueur and orange blossom essence. It’s served in a brass teapot, but don’t hold that against it.
Add Threadneedle Bar, Merchant Tavern and CoLD to your list of Citymapper’s saved places, include them in your custom Google Map for London. Or, if you have more affinity with the early days of Royal Exchange, scribble the name in your address book.