In the 19th century the term American Bar came to be used in London to indicate the sale of American style cocktails. One of the most famous of these bars, and still serving cocktails to this day, is of course the American Bar at the Savoy Hotel. Opening in 1889, the Savoy was one of the first establishments to offer these cocktails to Europeans, which we graciously lapped up.
Over the years the bar has had many world class barmen to serve their famous patrons, Harry Craddock shock the shaker from 1925 to 1939, and authored The Savoy Cocktail Book. This was truly a golden age of cocktails and set the standards for decades to come.
The longest running barman was the cocktail legend Joe Gilmore, who served from 1954 to 1975. Among his many creations was the "Moonwalk" to honour Neil Armstrong, as well the “Churchill” for Winston himself.
Moving forward to the present day the American Bar has won 2nd best bar in the world in 2016, a lofty title for sure, but is it deserved?
The bar itself is decorated in Art Deco style, with the walls adorned with the photos of famous guests, harking back to its glory days in the 20’s and 30’s. The bar has a buzzing and pleasant atmosphere, and the staff are smart, pleasant and knowledgeable in their craft. The menu itself has some interesting unique creations, but you can order off menu and ask for the classics, which often can be the best way to go if in doubt.
When it comes to the cocktails themselves they are well made, with loving attention to detail. This love though comes with a price - the drinks are very expensive, ranging from £18 to hundreds of pounds.
Whilst they are good, you could find happy hour cocktails for half the price (or less) within a mile of the Savoy that are arguably just as good. At the end of the day you are paying for the atmosphere and heritage of the bar, and if I was rubbing shoulders with Winston Churchill, Marilyn Monroe and the West End actors of its heyday that would be fine, but in reality you are sitting with late afternoon shoppers and the guests at the hotel.
For those of you who have an interest in cocktail history and want to absorb the atmosphere of a highly classy and elegant establishment then I would recommend a visit to the American Bar, but don’t expect to be blown away by the 2nd best bar in the world title, and of course remember to bring your credit card!