The American Bar at the Savoy hotel – current holder of the best bar in the world title

“I have to think hard to name an interesting man who does not drink.”

Richard Burton, Forbes

At the last World’s 50 Best Bar awards, London did excellently, and the American Bar at the Savoy hotel did best of all – winning the top spot.

So naturally enough, supported by a fellow investigator, I had to go along and investigate for Saucy Dressings.

From the off it was clear that the American bar suffers from its own success. It was packed and we were siphoned off into a waiting area and told that we could be there for some time. We’d just got settled – even in the waiting area seats were limited – when we were told there was a space and we could proceed into the holy of holies….

Here again there was a feeling of overuse – tables are packed closely together and furniture and serveware (for want of a better word, the sort of tray-platter things they serve cocktails and nibbles on) are looking a tad tired.

But this bar is undeniably still elegant, a bit Chanel, a bit Art Deco, with its live jazz pianist (tickling the ivories of a very baby grand just feet away) and its black and white photographs of starry celebrity customers of yesteryear.

It also wins on two other important counts: the cocktail list, and the bar staff.

Our waiter was exemplary – friendly without overkill.

We soon got stuck into the cocktail list which took some reading, and we found the advice, explanations and suggestions of our waiter to be very helpful. Of course, there are all the classic cocktails (as detailed in the barman’s bible, the Savoy Cocktail Book, written by Harry Craddock and first published in 1930) in their own section. Although proud of having served the last legal cocktail in the US before Prohibition, Craddock was born in Gloucestershire. Prohibition wasn’t good news for barmen, and Craddock returned to Blighty to take over the bar at the Savoy. This Classic section includes many of his inventions including the White Lady.

But there is another section, that which is refreshed on a regular basis, and allows the creative talent in the bar to demonstrate creativity. We were looking at the Art Deco cocktails. A past menu, Coast to Coast, featured a sort of back in time journey around the British isles with one cocktail inspired by a now extinct volcano near Edinburgh. The latest menu, Every Moment Tells a Story, has been inspired by the fabulous black and white celebrity photographs by Terry O’Neill which adorn the walls, including the likes of Ava Gardner, Elizabeth Taylor, David Bowie, Judy Garland, Peter Sellers and Dudley Moore.

review of the american bar at the Savoy hotel
The American Bar – a bit Chanel, a bit Art Deco…

Gilbert Rumbold cocktail

My fellow investigator decided on the Gilbert Rumbold cocktail. Gilbert Rumbold was the illustrator of Savoy Cocktail Book, giving it its Art Deco feel. This was composed of Grey Goose vodka, Italicus Rosolio (an Italian aperitif based on bergamot), lime juice, cucumber juice, eucalyptus and peppermint syrup, and champagne. How, exactly, all of this related to Rumbold and his Art Deco illustrations we never discovered – perhaps it was the colours?

review of the american bar at the savoy hotel
The Gilbert Rumbold – perhaps the deep orange and lime green colours are reminiscent of the Art Deco palette?

Sapphire Jubilee Fizz cocktail

I plumped for a Sapphire Jubilee Fizz (see featured image, above). The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee was marked at the Savoy by the installation in the main foyer of a crystal, Art Deco style, fountain. Head Bartender, Erik Lorincz, invented this drink to mark the occasion. It comprises Star of Bombay gin, violet liqueur, Oleo Saccharum¹, Pineau des Charentes and Champagne.

The verdict? Both of us ordered seconds.

¹Oleo Saccharum is a sugar-syrup made by putting pieces of lemon and blood orange peel into a bed of sugar and leaving it overnight. By the following morning a little syrup will have formed on the top of the sugar.

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