It’s hard to believe that before 2020 bottled cocktails weren’t really a thing in London. We had alcopops, sure. But proper, adult cocktails, delivered to your door? Who on Earth would pay for that? This, of course, was before lockdown came along and forced businesses to pivot, almost overnight, in ways that no one could have ever foreseen.
Now, almost 12 months on, the capital’s streets are full of Deliveroo drivers and bartender-couriers whizzing around on a Friday night delivering Negronis en magnum, whisky highballs by the can, Margaritas in swing-top bottles and Old Fashioneds flat enough to fit through a letterbox. Some bartenders have teamed up with brands to release signature recipes: Alessandro Palazzi of Duke’s Bar in St James’s partnered with No 3 gin to create a superlative Vesper Martini. Others launched bottled cocktail ranges of their own: the Tayer + Elementary brand, for one, is so attractive that it looks as if it could easily come straight from the shelves of Aesop.
Not all bottled cocktails are created equal. Some — particularly those containing fruit juice or fizz — often need to be consumed within 48 hours. Boozier cocktails like Old Fashioneds and Negronis and Martinis can often have a shelf life of several weeks or even months, particularly if you keep them in the fridge. Some require a bit of shaking or stirring with ice to add that all-important touch of dilution, but in most cases the bartender will have already done the heavy lifting for you, so all you have to do is chill the drink and pour over ice or into a frozen glass (just watch out: if it’s the pre-diluted variety it will have a lower ABV, and therefore may freeze solid if you put it in the freezer for an extended period of time). So make sure you read the instructions.
Another thing that will really upgrade your cocktail is beautiful ice: Ice Studio does home deliveries of crystal-clear blocks, cubes and ingots that will make even the simplest drink look really stunning.
At the outset, cocktail deliveries were just a temporary measure for many businesses — a way to make some desperately needed cash, and stoke morale in the team. But more and more, I’m hearing bar owners talking about making cocktails-to-go a permanent feature in the future. So whatever happens in the coming months we can at least be sure of one thing: the world’s number 1 cocktail city will never be short of a drink.
Hacha’s crystal-clear Mirror Margarita was a hit during Lockdown 1, and now this Dalston agaveria has launched a whole range of bottled cocktails that riff on agave spirits. As well as offering several new twists on the Mirror Margarita — including a non-alc version — they’ve created a Martini made with white tea-infused blanco tequila and rosemary-laced dry vermouth, and a variation on a Negroni made with mezcal and “smoked citrus oils”. A three-mezcal tasting flight for two to share, accompanied by tasting notes from Hacha’s all-knowing founder Deano Moncrieffe, is also available.
From £35/500ml bottle (4 serves), www.hachabar.com
The Venning brothers were bottling their cocktails long before Covid hit — they even wrote a guide on how to do it: Batched & Bottled (Quadrille). And their elegant recipes are still some of the best out there. Toast Friday night with their signature French 75 — a sparkling mix of gin, verjus, lemon, wine and orange flower water — or a pale-pink Earth Martini, made with a hint of earthy-sweet beetroot. For Christmas, they’ve also bottled their own mulled wine, a slow-infused blend of Rioja, Sicilian white wine, citrus, spices and frankincense, topped with an eye-catching label.
Mulled wine £16.99. Cocktails from £29/500ml, www.shopcuvee.com/collections/cocktails
The Proofing Room
The sparkling Highball is the star of the bottled cocktail list at The Proofing Room, Milroy’s basement bar in Spitalfields. Highlights from the list of six drinks include the thirst-quenching Aquavita (vodka, aquavit, cucumber, sherry, peach), the Ginza Highball (Japanese whisky, kummel, absinthe, peach, olive) and the spicy Tequila Habanero (tequila, coconut rum, habanero, coconut, orange). No shaking or stirring required — just pop the cap on the jade-green bottle and pour over lots of ice.
On a normal night, the sherry and vermouth would be flowing at Sabor, Nieves Barragan’s much-loved Spanish restaurant in St James’s. So the chef has bottled them up in two crowd-pleasing aperitifs to accompany her at-home food boxes: a Fino Negroni, which features dry sherry in place of gin, and a dangerously easy-drinking Sangria. No funny business here, just drinks that hit the spot, in some very pretty bottles. Serve over ice with some of Barragan’s oozing ham croquetas.
From £22.50/litre of Sangria, https://saborencasashop.com/collections/cocktails
Lyaness at Sea Containers
Ring the changes with one of five mind-expanding cocktails from Lyaness, the South Bank bar belonging to multi-award-winning bartender Ryan Chetiyawardana. Sip a Rock Pool Sazerac made with cognac, Onyx, green apple and “limestone absinthe” or a Beetle Boulevardier made with tequila, Martini bitter, purple pineapple and white and pink radicchio. Out of your comfort zone? Then the Strawberry Aperitivo made with Aperol, tequila and strawberry sherbet is also a big crowd-pleaser — just add bubbles. Bar snacks also available.
If Soho is out of bounds right now, let the West End come to you courtesy of this glamorous little cocktail joint on Old Compton Street. Drinks available for delivery include the Deadwood, a Manhattan-style blend of Eagle Rare bourbon, walnut liqueur and bitters, and the Fourth Gentleman, a slow-sipping mix of Scotch, pear and umeshu plum. For something a little lighter, try the Swift Taverna, a house mix of sherry, vermouth and bittersweet quiquina ready for serving with tonic. Or warm your cockles with the Swift Irish Coffee kit, which comes complete with Swift’s own coffee blend, several drams of Irish whiskey, nutmeg and glasses.
From £15 for 220ml (two generous servings), www.speakeasyathome.co.uk/swift
Happiness Forgets / Ever After
Trade favourite Happiness Forgets had only just launched its new upstairs bar Ever After when lockdown descended — and now the two Hoxton cocktail dens have joined forces to do drinks-to-go. The classically inspired list includes Negronis and Martinis, as well as original recipes such as the White Orchard (gin, Cocchi Americano, pear liqueur, white chocolate) and the Santo Pamona (vodka, aquavit, santo palo, lemon, cardamom, sparking wine). Owner Ali Burgess also does an outrageously good Espresso Martini — and there are three types to choose from.
From £17.50/250ml (two-three serves), www.happinessforgets.com/products
Tayer + Elementary
Launched in 2019 by two of the innovative names in bartending — Monica Berg and Alex Kratena — this Old Street bar does bottled cocktails with real class. The best-selling Palo Santo Gimlet is spiked with aromatic palo santo wood from Peru and a splash of fino sherry, while a Margarita comes scented with bergamot. Other cocktails, including the Jasmine Mai Tai, Sandalwood Old Martini and Vetiver Negroni, draw inspiration from key notes in perfumery. For Christmas they’ve created a limited edition set featuring a Pine Martini, Mince Pie Negroni and a Gingerbread Old Fashioned. And they look as good as they taste — one for the home bar, and also the Christmas stocking.
Hawksmoor’s DIY dinner kits have sustained many a foodie in lockdown — and now the famous steak restaurant is delivering cocktails too. Fortify yourself with a Fuller-Fat Old Fashioned, bolstered with tonka bean and brown butter, or the Hepple Gimlet, sweetened with their own blackcurrant leaf cordial. Alongside these more high-octane classics — which all come in apothecary-style glass bottles — they’ve also whipped up a range of more playful canned drinks — try the Back Burner (tequila, mezcal, jalapeño and pineapple soda) or the 20/20 Cosmo (gin, orange wine, raspberry and bitter orange).
From £12 for 200ml (two serves), thehawksmoor.com/product-category/hawksmoorathome/
Have you tried any of London’s best bottled cocktails or have one to suggest? Share your tips in the comments