This article is part of a guide to London from FT Globetrotter
Come rain, shine or unseasonal snow, bars across London will reopen this week for al fresco imbibing. And there’s one drink that every bar, regardless of whether it’s a glitzy hotel roof terrace or a makeshift roadside set-up, will be championing: the spritz.
Upbeat, effervescent and almost infinitely tweakable, this crowd-pleasing aperitivo has been reinvented by bartenders in all sorts of exciting ways for spring 2021. From recipes featuring coconut-washed Campari and jasmine, to twists made with nashi pear and Norwegian aquavit, there’s something for every taste. Here are a few top picks — and some uplifting places to drink them.
Hoppers’ vibrant take on the cuisines of Sri Lanka and south India has won it legions of fans — and that tropical flavour extends to the drink too. Pull up a stool among the palms and banana plants on the canal-facing, covered terrace and sip a Serendip Spritz made with coconut-washed Campari, pineapple vermouth and soda, or sample a punch made with white port, jasmine and arrack, a Sri Lankan spirit distilled from the sap of coconut flowers. When hunger bites, get a house-brewed beer and a dosa or a sizzling beef poriyal. The curry-leaf peanuts are also essential snacking. (Website; Directions)
Fashionistas and foodies will be fighting it out to bag a banquette at Browns boutique’s new restaurant, which opens its lush, 40-seater courtyard this month ahead of the full launch in May. Under the spreading branches of a large cherry tree (and a few well-placed awnings), “wild food” specialists Native will offer a menu of seasonal and foraged dishes including crab rarebit and hay ice cream, alongside cocktails informed by whatever ingredients are au courant. Launch drinks include a Rhubarb Spritz and a homemade vermouth flavoured with 48 foraged botanicals. Bespoke blankets by Cornwall’s Atlantic Blankets are also laid on for when the nights turn cold. (Website; Directions)
From April 12, Soho will be turned into one giant terrace as 17 streets are closed to traffic in order to make way for outdoor dining. Cult Taiwanese-street-food specialists Bao will be taking part, offering diners outside their Lexington Street restaurant a grazing menu of bao buns and small bites alongside a short list of refreshments with an east Asian flavour. Cocktails include a Moonlight Spritz made with lychee liquor and prosecco, an Umeshu Negroni and a gin and tonic infused with oolong, pineapple and lime. Alcohol-free options are no less fun: try the playful Yakult Float made with pineapple soda and a Yakult foam, the grape soda with aloe vera or one of the excellent Taiwanese teas. (Website; Directions)
Lift the spirits with a spritz at this flamboyant Sicilian trattoria, where the emphasis is very much on fun. By day, the feel of the 60-seater terrace is the southern Italian seaside with its colourful parasols; at night, it comes alive with festoon lights and flickering lanterns. Cocktails for spring include the Rossini Spritz, a blend of gin, prosecco, berries and vanilla bitter, and a gin fizz laced with fennel, pineapple foam and lime soda. The sustenance is unapologetically hedonistic: top-notch antipasti, freshly made pizzas and a wicked tiramisu. (Website; Directions)
Fortnum & Mason’s elegant brasserie returns with a covered terrace on the well-heeled backstreets of Piccadilly. Sparkly cocktails are a speciality — the restaurant occupies the site of one of London’s first soda fountains — and the drinks list boasts all sorts of spritzes, champagne cocktails and ice-cream sodas. Toast the arrival of spring with a plate of asparagus and a Ruby Beau, a rosé aperitivo made from a sparkling blend of Black Cow vodka, Campari, vermouth, basil and Au Bon Climat Pinot Noir that is poured from a champagne bottle over a sphere of hand-carved ice. Or sample one of four fizzy Rickies: No 16 is a blend of blackcurrant, lemon thyme and soda, with an optional measure of organic Ramsbury vodka. The 28-seater terrace is open for walk-ins but booking ahead advised. (Website; Directions)
Chef Daniel Humm’s fine dining restaurant at Claridge’s is back with a terrace on Davies Street. Set back from the road behind smart black railings, the 10-table terrace marries white-tablecloth service with an equally starry cocktail list. Highlights include a Nashi Pear Spritz made with nashi pear, amber vermouth, vetiver and Billecart-Salmon rosé, and the Jasmine, made with Tanqueray gin, dry vermouth, kummel and jasmine leaf. The bar snacks are junk food of the 24-carat variety: hot dogs with black truffle mayo, lobster rolls and the notorious Claridge’s Fried Chicken. (Website; Directions)
Those who have missed people-watching in the West End will love Hide’s new street-level terrace, which looks across bustling Piccadilly to the open spaces of Green Park beyond. Covered, heated and lit by candles at night, this upscale terrace is open for breakfast through to dinner, serving exquisite modern European fare by chef Ollie Dabbous and cocktails by the talented Oskar Kinberg. The signature Aha Spritz is a cooling blend of Norwegian Nuet aquavit, pear and prosecco, garnished with a sprig of mint. Hide is an offshoot of Mayfair’s oenophile hotspot Hedonism, so the wine list is also naturally first-rate. (Website; Directions)
This Italianate cocktail spot is another gem that’s joining the April 12 Soho takeover, setting up eight tables at the east end of Old Compton Street. Classic Italian aperitivi are its signature offering and the Spritz Termini, made with gin, Aperol, rhubarb and prosecco, is the drink regulars come for time and again. Other bittersweet and spritzy delights include Bellinis, five types of Negroni and the Death in Venice (grapefruit bitters, Campari and prosecco), plus some very smart bottled cocktails to take away. As one might expect, they also take coffee very seriously. It’s old-style bartending done to a tee. (Website; Directions)
The Wigmore describes itself as a pub, but the outdoor space at the five-star Langham hotel on Portland Place ain’t your average pub garden, that’s for sure. The sunny, 75-seater courtyard has been filled with climbing plants, hanging baskets, planters and pergolas and dotted with white parasols and wooden benches. Under huge plane trees and ropes of festoon lights, guests can enjoy a menu designed for maximum refreshment: the house spritz is made with ruby-red Regal Rogue vermouth and jasmine and white-peach soda. There’s also ice-cold beer, slushy-style frosés and jeroboams of chilled rosé. Posh pub snacks include a masala-spiced scotch egg and smoked chicken croquetas. (Website; Directions)
Perched on the 14th floor of The Hoxton hotel in Southwark, this handsome tiled terrace boasts spectacular views across the Thames to the city beyond. Settle back in a wicker armchair among the potted palms and sink an Ibis Spritz made with Aperol, Berto bitters and cava, a frozen caipirinha or a classic Manhattan. Seafood is a speciality: the bar has the longest oyster list in London and a sparkling wine list to match, including a particularly good edit of grower champagnes. Newly added heaters and awnings ensure that even the most inclement weather won’t make the night a washout. (Website; Directions)
Renowned flavoursmiths Monica Berg and Alex Kratena have eked out a little space on the sidewalk for drive-by spritz drinking, with all options available by the carafe. The Negroni Sbagliato — aka the “bungled Negroni” made from Campari, vermouth and prosecco — is a fixture, along with an ever-changing selection of spritzes. Recipes on the cards include a Jasmine Spritz, made with Muyu Jasmine Verte, fino, and white grape and apricot soda, and an Aperol Spritz scented with nectarine and cedarwood. Come for world-class mixology and friendly service, rather than luxurious comfort. Their excellent bottled cocktails are also available for takeaway. (Website; Directions)
What’s your favourite place for al fresco apertivo in London? Tell us in the comments
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