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Hot in 2003?
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Our man with his finger on the London pulse, Xavier Padovani tells you what to drink and where to drink it in the big city in 2003...

The start of the new millennium was toasted in with Vodka cocktails in much celebrated venues such as the Purple Bar; the Revolution group of bars such as the one in Soho and the Babushka group – to name but a few, while Bourbon warmed its way onto the menu at the Rockwell Bar in Covent Garden and Grand Central in Old Street. Sake was iced up into modern and inventive cocktails at Oriental themed bars Nobu on Old Park Lane, and Hakkasan and Opium in Soho, forever shedding its image as a bland, warm Oriental after dinner shot. Tequila and Gin have always enjoyed popularity within the cocktail culture thanks to venues such as Lab, Long bar and Zeta and all have these have been enjoyed well into 2002.

Rum, and rum cocktails such as Mojitos and Daiquiris added Latino spice in 2002 with Brazilian sugar cane spirit Cachaca in cocktails such as the Caipirinha (a traditional Brazilian drink similar to a Ciaprioska, but with Cachaca as the base spirit rather than vodka).


Wherever the venue de jour this year, Covent Garden is a strong contender for the location. (Keep an eye on the Hospital Group and an innovative individual named Nick Strageway.) Morton’s member’s club in Berkeley Square is re-opening in March after a refurbishment with Philippe Guidi - formerly from the Mandarin Hyde Park – taking up the mantle at the bar. Rumours also abound that the Breakfast group (who own bars such as Opium, Pop, The Social, Jerusalem, Grand Central, and Saint) are working on opening a new venue somewhere in London this year. After the success of Townhouse in Knightsbridge the team behind Lab are hoping to add to that success in New York – proving that London really is setting the cocktail fashion pace.

Sadly, the refurbishment of the Fifth Floor bar at Harvey Nichols in Knightsbridge has done little to rescue it from its tawdry after dark reputation, despite the many coloured lights. Groups such as Style in the City and Eclipse are expanding and despite fears of recession and war, London based venues are thriving. There is always room on the ever expanding list of newcomers!

In terms of what we’ll be drinking in 2003, Glenfiddich Single Malt Whisky has embraced a sexier, warmer image to bite back at the icy winds of the New Year and looks set to ease us through to a sultry summer this year. Keep an eye out for the Glenfiddich Essential Serves which prove that the Glenfiddich over ice is not the only way to drink it.

As far as brand awareness is concerned, 2002 has seen the rising trend of spirit based companies paying premium prices to stock their products behind bars, and movies and their stars are the new billboards, giving new meaning to the old catchphrase: ‘Tell me what you drink I’ll tell you who you are.’ (Or rather whom you have been watching and enjoy emulating!) Whatever the trends, the brands are there to capitalise on the changing tastes of the general public and 2003 could see a return to the sophisticated classics – with a star strewn twist as memorable as 007’s favourite shaken tipple. The question is: which brand of vodka is the barman reaching for this time around?

So remember this year:
Don’t drink:

  • Alco pops, real cocktails taste better
  • Smirnoff, it’s a good Russian made in England!!

Do drink:

  • Sake – but only accept it flavoured iced cold or in cocktails
  • Premium brands such as Stolichnaya Cristall, Glenfiddich Single Malt Whisky, Juniper Gin, Patron Anejo Tequila, Bisquit Cohiba cognac, Havana Club 7 years old, Dom Perignon Champagne, and Krug
  • Cocktails - but this year sees the return of the classic’s such as the Manhattan, Old Fashioned, Daiquiri, Cosmo and the Martini of course

Places to be seen out in:

  • Sketch, Conduit Street, W1 – visually spectacular
  • Townhouse, Beauchamp place, SW1 – for the cocktails & service
  • Che, St James Street, SW1 - the cocktails & cigars
  • Kemia bar at Momo’s, Heddon place – atmosphere and music
  • Hakkasan, Hanway place, W1 – food, architecture
  • Light Bar at St Martins Lane, WC2 - the people, Schrager’s creativity
  • Two Brydges, WC2 the best kept secret...

Late Night:

  • Purple bar, Sanderson, W1, thank you Mr Starck!
  • The Wellington club, SW1, Knightsbridge exclusive dahhling.
  • Atlantic, Piccadilly, the legend is still alive
  • Opium, For its Opium Martini (Stolichnaya razberi, raspberry Momokawa sake, Crème de Cassis, pineapple)


  • Spoon, Sanderson, W1 - the head chef is a genius
  • Cecconi’s, Mayfair, W1 - ultimate Italian & Stylish
  • Fifteen, N1 - Jamie Oliver’s baby is growing up fast
  • Cinnamon Club, SW1 - Indian food with elegance

Best outdoor venue for Summer

  • Coq d’Argent, Bank - for the view and its selection of malt whisky
  • Sanderson, the Long Bar - the hippest terrace in London for cocktails

Don’t hang out in:

  • Harvey Nichols Fifth Floor, Knightsbridge – when something is so kitsch it loses control

Watch out - opening soon:

  • Hospital on Short Gardens in Covent Garden - style, quality and the next best
  • Morton’s on Berkeley Square – rumoured to have the best cigars in town (from Christies no less)


  • Don’t be rude to the bar staff - you still don’t know what they could add to your drink
  • Do refer to the bartender by name and do tip – if you enjoy the best table and service. Trust me; it’s worth the minor effort to be human, in order to be treated as an immortal.
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