8 Cocktail Bars You Can't Miss in London
Raising a Glass On World Bartender Day
World Bartender Day, celebrated February 24th of each year, is the day set aside to honor those who work in this humble and admirable profession which involves craftsmanship, skills, art and lots of love. Have a look at the amazing history of bartending and you’ll love it even more.
The bartender’s trade evolved slowly over the centuries. Its origin is essentially the simple act of providing a mug of beverage to a weary traveler at a roadhouse. But from that modest beginning, grand things eventually sprang forth.
Actually, the true bartender’s craft started to take shape in the 1800s in the trendy cities as San Francisco, Chicago, New Orleans and New York. This is when the art of bartending began to bloom into the artful offering we recognize today.
Ancient Greeks B.C.
In taverns clients could enjoy a drink poured by craftsmen.
Roman Empire B.C.
In public drinking houses travelers could enjoy a glass of crafted wine.
Bartending was a respected profession. Innkeepers brewed their own drinks and were recognized as important members of society as they were able to own property from the money they made serving alcohol.
This is the moment in history when bartenders gained status and became chummy with their clients…
Among the first Europeans who came to settle in North America were bartenders of course, who eventually opened taverns and pubs.
A few centuries later, bartending transformed and one of the most important inventions of bartending was born: the sophisticated and elegant cocktail!
During the 18th century Jerry Thomas became known as the creator of American Mixology. He was also the author of How to Mix Drinks, the first drink book in the United States.
Early 20th century
Many bartenders and mixologists were left without jobs since stiff and illicit drinks were easy for those imbibing to pour themselves from the bottle. But some of them opened up speakeasies and began to brew their own spirits, even in a bathtub!
Prohibition began in the United States in 1920. Some bars converted to soda fountains: Goodbye cocktails, welcome milkshakes!
During Prohibition, most bartenders started to use low quality spirits and moonshine, giving rise to the famous named-for-disguise, Long Island Iced Tea.
Late 20th century to present
Bartenders and mixologists are recognized as liquid cuisine artists.
Bartending education and competitions acquire relevance around the world; bartending is considered a very important skill, especially for spirits brands in the industry.
So, from its beginning as a basic duty to refresh clients, bartending has now become a recognized and applauded artistry that indulges and delights thirsty throats.
“Bartending is now considered a serious profession with excellent training, some brilliant business opportunities and access to some wonderful opportunities.”Dré Masso, co-creator and Brand Ambassador of Altos tequila
Influential figures in the history of bartending
- Jerry Thomas
Aside from writing the first official cocktail book in history, How to Mix Drinks (published in 1862), Thomas was also the inventor of some classic cocktails, such as the Tom Collins, The Cobbler, and others. In addition, he was the pioneer of flair bartending, often juggling bottles while mixing and serving. Without his penchant for formal wear, the vested bartender may have never existed.
- Harry Johnson
Johnson also wrote an important book for the bartender industry, Illustrated Bartenders’ Manual, published in 1882 in New York City. This influential book contained the original cocktail recipes for the Margarita and a version of the Martini. Even more importantly, it was the first book to offer bar management instructions.
- Dale DeGroff
This King of Cocktails reinvented the bartending profession, and is “one of the world’s foremost cocktail experts,” according to The New York Times. DeGroff is the author of The Essential Cocktail and The Craft of the Cocktail, and was the first to revive the great 19th century classic cocktails made with simple fresh ingredients.
- Salvatore Calabrese
A living legend, with more than 40 years in the hospitality business, Calabrese is the inventor of the world-famous Breakfast Martini and the Ultimate Dry Martini. He is also leader of the cocktail and food pairing trend around the world. For Calabrese, “You have to learn to be two things if you want to be a great bartender: the art of the mixology and the art of hospitality. You just have to put those two hands together and embrace them.”
- Dick Bradsell
The Expresso Martini and the Bramble are two of Bradsell’s most important creations. He was responsible for introducing the art of balancing cocktails and was a guide and inspiration to many bartenders in our modern-day cocktail renaissance. His Holy Grail cocktail was a good Daiquiri. In fact, this is the cocktail that he suggested be requested when you want to test a bartender.
- Bonus Track
Santiago Policastro, known as “Pichín'' or the Gallant Barman, is possibly one of the most recognized bartenders in Latin America. Of Argentinian origin, he is attributed with coining the Decálogo del Bartender (Bartender Ten Commandments), fostering good customer service and sleek cocktail preparation. His Decálogo begins with, “The barman is an artist and cocktails are an art that is nurtured by spirit, flavor, aroma and color.” Check out this article, published in the Argentinian media, about when Pichín prepared a special cocktail to resume negotiations between Perón and the Soviet Union, during the 1950s:
Current bartending spotlight
The list of historically significant figures in bartending is endless. Even today there are many bartenders who are currently changing the profession. Let’s look at a few contemporary leaders whom we admire and respect, such as Agostino “Ago” Perrone, Ivy Mix, Simone Caporale, Dre Masso, Charles Joly, Alex Katrena, Erik Lorincz, Carina Soto, Ryan Chetiyawardana and Kelsey Ramage, among others.
Dre Masso’s Top Five
Dré Masso, co-creator and Brand Ambassador of Altos tequila, has been fortunate enough to work with some incredibly talented and inspiring bartenders. It’s hard for him to name just one so he’d like to mention a few that have encouraged him along the way and helped to shape today’s cocktail scene.
1. DOUGLAS ANKRAH. Owner and founder of Lab Bar, Soho. Author of Shaken, not Stirred, and creator of the infamous Pornstar Martini. Douglas always has been and continues to be a visionary and trailblazer.
2. HENRY BESANT. “When I came back from San Francisco, I got into contact with Henry asking if I could work with him at the Lonsdale Bar. We soon realized we had many similar interests and visions for the bar industry and very quickly set up a bar consultancy agency called Worldwide Cocktail Club.” Together they co-authored a book called Margarita Rocks; opened their first venue, Green & Red; and helped with the creation of Altos tequila.
3. DICK BRADSELL. Godfather of the London Cocktail scene, Dick almost single-handedly put London cocktails on the global map. He is the creator of more modern-day classics than any other bartender. We now see many of his wonderful creations on menus all over the world.
4. JULIO BERMEJO. “Responsible for me and countless others falling head over heels in love with 100% agave tequila. He is also the creator of my favorite cocktail, the Tommy’s Margarita and is the master of hospitality.”
5. DON JAVIER DELGADO CORONA. Owner of La Capilla in the town of Tequila, Mexico, and creator of the cocktail Batanga. Sadly, he passed away last year at the age of 95 but could still be found behind the bar making his signature drink just five years ago. He started bartending in 1945 and had 70 years behind the stick.
“A gentle man with a beautiful smile and always something positive to say.”
A toast with Tato Giovannoti on this very special day
In the context of World Bartender Day, we asked Tato Giovannoni, winner of the Altos Bartenders’ Bartender Award 2020 in The World’s 50 Best Bars, about how he will celebrate this day, and what he most enjoys about his profession.
This has been a very unique year, and the profession has been seriously impacted; And yet, our community stands firm, continuously generating the new ideas and inspiration which so characterize it.
“For this reason, we celebrate this World Bartender Day with [even] more strength— because we remain united and are closer than ever,” says Tato.
It’s true. The community that we have created and the global bartender network is tighter than ever—we communicate, we see each other and we send each other strength and energy.
In the majority of cases, bartenders celebrate their day working, which is the best way to honor the profession.
This year, at Florería Atlántico, we raise our glasses of Altos tequila in a grand toast right in the middle of the work shift, to celebrate World Bartenders Day.
“We invite the entire Tahona Society community to toast together. Let’s unite at the same moment in the day to raise a glass to those who are not near and send them our best energy and good wishes,” Tato celebrates.
Tato Giovannoni’s five reasons to love the bartending profession
- Having the opportunity to create. Like a chef, a bartender can express their creativity and be thoughtful about their products. We have a unique creative space where we can play with flavors, colors, aromas and techniques. This is a key step in the evolution of our profession.
- Be in contact with others. The greatest plus of being a bartender is the contact that we can have with people— the understanding that we acquire by getting to know our clients, and the empathy that is generated. We give of ourselves to transform their day and send them off happier than when they arrived.
- Satisfaction from seeing the happiness of others. This is what makes me feel the proudest of my work. Being capable of giving happiness and at the same time being happy at the happiness of others is what I most enjoy about being a bartender.
- A desire to listen and learn. From the moment I am going to create something, there is a stirring within, and then I submerge myself in the topic through research and learning. Through contact with people I gain information and knowing. Similarly, being able to listen to and read people is very appealing to me, it is an intrinsic ability that I have. I have never considered bartenders to be bar therapists, but we do have a capacity for understanding.
“Our task (and skill) is to make each guest feel as if we are dedicating important time to them, even if it happens in a microsecond.”
- The culture in general. The mere act of waking up and reading the headlines of what is going on in the world helps keep us informed. You can have a guest at the bar who wants to talk about the economy next to another who wants to talk about films, and you need to be prepared. Learning about history, geography, art and other cultures, along with other useful topics, can be a fascinating part of the bartending profession.
“We are the face of bars, which means we have the obligation to educate ourselves, be curious and be thirsty for information.”
Finally, we want to take this moment to congratulate all of the winners of the Altos Bartenders’ Bartender Award, in the context of The World’s 50 Best Bars. Cheers to Shingo Gokan, Jay Khan, Vijay Mudalair, Joe Schofield, Monica Berg and Ian Griffiths!
“One celebration that’s close to my heart and that I’m happy to be a part of is World Bartender Day. This year I’ll be toasting my bartending friends all over the globe with a tequila Old Fashioned, playing homage to one of the earliest recognized cocktails but using a Mexican spirit instead of American whisky, of course.”Dré Masso, co-creator and Brand Ambassador of Altos tequila