Where: The Savoy
Vibe: Old School
USP: the longest surviving cocktail bar in London
Price: cocktails typically £20.
In the world of cocktails, some things go a long way. I have a bottle of Angostura Bitters at home that I bought many years back, has been used extensively and will likely carry on many years hence. A Whiskey Sour for example requires no more than a few dashes, yet those few dashes make all the difference. It would be foolhardy however to add more thinking it will improve the drink, it will not.
The American Bar at The Savoy would do well to remember this. As the 'longest surviving cocktail bar in London,' it has had many a famous person pass through its door and that shimmer of fame has always made the bar feel special. But in its most recent format, they are (almost literally) shoving their historical famous associations down your throat. The new cocktail menu is described thus:
"Every Moment Tells A Story’ draws inspiration from twenty iconic black and white portraits by British photographer Terry O'Neill that have adorned the American Bar walls since the 1980s.
O'Neill's style of photography resulted in candid and often unconventional depictions of the stars of the 60s and 70s. Featuring the likes of Ava Gardner, Elizabeth Taylor, David Bowie, Judy Garland, Peter Sellers and Dudley Moore, each portrait displayed in the bar reveals a hidden story. The bar team have used the idea of every moment telling a story for the basis of an innovative, yet timeless menu, creating a cocktail around each image, and the story behind it."
In taking the photographs off the walls and making them central to the menu, they've made The American Bar the cocktail equivalent of Planet Hollywood, aimed squarely at the tourist who is invited to gush over celebrities who drank here 50 years ago. The impression given off now by The American Bar is that of a (just about) living museum and that's boring. And for a grand bar, it also feels somewhat desperate.
And I can't imagine what anyone under the age of 35 makes of it. Half the celebrities featured on the cocktail menu are dead, the rest are pensioners. Former Prime Minister David Cameron, who is decades younger than anyone featured on the menu, joked at his final PMQ that, 'I was the future once.' So was Bob Hope, in 1920.