There are many places in the world which have absolutely no need at all for a thumbs up from me, and the world famous American Bar at the Savoy Hotel, just off the equally famous Strand in London, is certainly one of them.
The hotel itself a beautiful spectacle just for a walk through if you are in the area, sheer luxury and decadence with loos bigger that my entire flat. Tucked away up some stairs and round the corner you will find The American Bar- so named back in the day for offering ‘American Mixed’ drinks. Yes it’s a cocktail bar, steeped in history and glamour which you can read all about by clicking here.
I first visited on a fiercely hot day out in London with my BFF when we found ourselves in town perilously early in relation to our itinerary of planned events. It was too hot and potentially expensive to shop, so sod it let’s go for a cocktail. Now I say potentially expensive, I was well aware that you are to expect a tab at roughly £20 a drink here which is well above my usual bar budget. I don’t earn a lot, I don’t live in London and I don’t consider dropping fifty odd quid on a small round of drinks (plus service) in any way average. But that my friends is the point- it’s not average.
The bar space itself is pretty, strictly art deco with the classic touches of a grand piano, the bar and table staff impeccably suited in white. Your hosts are gracious and just attentive enough to be un-invasive, sliding in a fresh tray of hellishly enjoyable nibbles as you take your chair and consider their extensive cocktail menu. It’s all about the detail here- the bound tome of boozy information offering not just prices and options but little snippets of history and dates of creation for your American Style drink of choice. You can of course take a straight beer or glass of fizzy wine but frankly, why would you? You can get that anywhere!
Our first choice was The Phone Box- a flawless refresher of a cocktail, basically a sexed up pimms with celery bitters and champagne subbing for the lemonade, darling. A perfect choice for the day in hand. Also a dangerous choice because this is where they get you- you’re relaxed and having fun and it’s so nice just to sit in here with the tinkly music and the equally twinkly waiters and actually, after all those salty little nibbles, you probably could go for another one. Remember when I said it was too expensive to go shopping? D’oh.
Next up, a Maid In Cuba for me and a Rolling Stone for her: a cucumbery cousin to the mojito and a bright pink meringuey thing respectively. We both agreed that I won on that round. It’s at this point you understand the horror stories of various expense accounts running into the thousands for a mere night out in a bar, because it’s all so good and so tempting and once you’ve warmed up with a couple of cheeky starters you lose the fear and the cynicism and start to think actually yes I will try this vintage port and cognac combo coming in at the equivalent of a weeks’ mortgage payment, what the hell I’ll treat myself!
The trick here, unless you’re in the lotto win/family butler brigade, is to just accept that it is expensive and you are paying as much for the history and the prestige as you are the drink and the nice man with the shiny tray who brings it to you. Read through the history snippets and cocktail ideas and just enjoy yourself, in fact take comfort in the knowledge that it’s not like you have fallen into the shark infested menu depths of the Original Sazerac- a grandaddy to the Old Fashioned made with century old ingredients touted once as London’s most expensive drink at a jaw dropping £5,000 a glass. Wowzers. Set a budget and a time limit and stick to them. Once you’ve done that, get over the expenditure and enjoy the decadence and the scenery. Check out the superstar photos in the stairway. Eat as many of those nibbles as you can get through then when the bill comes shake your head with the wry, telling smile of someone who can now say that they have been here, and that it was good.