Down and dirty or smart and sophisticated, whisky holds no prejudices to where it’s drunk. These London bars, restaurants, and pubs are a case in point.
Soho whisky specialist Milroy’s also has a cellar bar – The Vault – where Scottish whiskies are especially well represented. Those keen to explore other terroirs, like those of Sweden or Australia, are also in good hands.
Mac & Wild
At a Scottish restaurant, where the majority of produce is from Scotland, chances are there’s going to be scotch involved. Mac & Wild’s City restaurant holds whisky tastings every Friday and Saturday with author Blair Bowman, while the bar’s cocktails are also whisky-forward. Try the Foraged Old Fashioned – Monkey Shoulder with pine needle tincture, heather honey, and barrel aged bitters.
The Blues Kitchen
Similarly, The Blues Kitchen hosts live music on the regular. It is, however, a much more casual affair, with deep dirty south vibes where bourbon and rye are the drinks du jour. All three locations – Camden, Brixton and Shoreditch – have a selection of 80+ whiskeys, alongside wings, burgers and the like.
Boisdale Canary Wharf
There’s live jazz and blues every night at Boisdale, though many come here for something else – Boisdale’s whisky collection is among London’s most impressive, with 1,000 bottles on last count.
A French restaurant isn’t the first place the whisky-curious might look to, but Coq d’Argent is far from the usual. The bar stocks 70-odd whiskies, from Jonnie Walker Gold Reserve all the way up to a 30-year-old Auchroisk, of which only 3,000 bottles were made.
Asking for an Old Fashioned in a pub can be a bit hit and miss, but not at the Wargrave. They have a bible of 250 whiskies, each with accompanying tasting notes, which makes things a lot easier if you’re not sure what to choose. The food’s a far cry from standard pub grub, too. They smoke all their own meat on site so you enjoy ribs or a pulled pork bun with your whisky.
The bar without a bar from experienced mixologist Tristan Stephenson, Black Rock’s defining aesthetic is a whisky river running across its middle. The bar’s ethos is to make whisky more accessible, with drams generally available for £6 – £11.
Bull in a China Shop
Among Shoreditch’s coolest hangouts, Bull in a China Shop is half East Asian restaurant, half whisky bar. Given its food influence, and that whiskies from the region are well in attendance, Japanophiles are well looked after here.
East London Liquor Company
Production of whisky within London was, until recently, dormant for over a century. Then along came ELLC, distilling London’s first whisky to be drunk in 114 years. Or did they? The London Distillery Company lays down a similar same claim, but if there’s anything to be learned, it’s that London’s home-grown whisky credentials are up and running again. Keep ELLC’s bar in mind for your next east London cocktail crawl.
Salt Whisky Bar
While the rather sleek Salt bar is more trained on Scottish malts, its menu often travels off to lesser known producing regions such as India, Canada, and Taiwan. Tipples range from the very accessible £5 up to £30, and if you’re visiting during an off-peak time, guided tastings are available.
This is a guest post from freelance food journalist Hugh Thomas. He’s contributed to Foodism, Time Out, Great British Chefs, and is part of British Street Food’s small team of vigilant writers. Find him on twitter @hughwrites.