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Fans of a perfectly executed classic dry gin martini and old-world elegance will appreciate the bar at Rules Restaurant in Covent Garden. A civilised place to linger for an evening, a Sunday afternoon or for a pre/post theatre drink, this is the cocktail connoisseur’s hidden gem in London – and less clichéd than a hotel bar for assignations of a flirtatious nature. Open daily.
35 Maiden Lane, WC2E 7LB; 020 7836 5314
Cocktail maestro Luca Missaglia is part of a fresh team who have given Quo Vadis a new lease of life. By all means ask Luca to whip up a crisp Plymouth gin martini with a smidgeon of Noilly Prat if you’re a purist, but make sure you also try one of his creative twists: a gin martini made with Seville orange bitters. The post-prandial ne plus ultra. Open Monday-Saturday.
26-29 Dean Street, W1D 3LL; 020 7437 9585
Hawksmoor Spitalfields Bar
All the Hawksmoor restaurants have superb bars but the original Spitalfields site has the edge over its sisters with a separate entrance from the steakhouse. There’s an ample selection of spirits, and the staff know how to create a finely calibrated dry gin martini. A place for vintage glassware geeks and those who appreciate a bar snacks menu (think Ox Cheek French Dips and Seoul Ribs) as serious as the cocktail list. Open daily.
157b Commercial Street, E1 6BJ; 020 7426 4856
69 Colebrooke Row
Since opening in 2009, this Islington establishment has built a loyal following among cocktail lovers. With drinks expert Tony Conigliaro at the helm and a Prohibition-era speakeasy vibe, the self-proclaimed “bar with no name” gets packed at the end of the week, so booking is advisable. And if like Hawkeye Pierce in M*A*S*H you’re after a martini so dry it’s dying of thirst, try Tony’s version with grapeseed essence for extra astringency. Cocktail masterclasses are also available. Open Monday-Saturday.
69 Colebrooke Row, London N1 8AA; 07540 528593
Although frequented by Ian Fleming and reputedly the inspiration behind his “shaken not stirred” line in the Bond series, Duke’s eschews ice in its martini and any vigorous shaking or stirring in favour of chilling the alcohol and the glassware so there is no dilution of flavour when the drink is served. Duke’s bartender Alessandro Palazzi’s skill and charm have earned him a status as the godfather of the dry gin martini. This is the place to come if you love the ritual and theatre of classic cocktails. Open daily.
35-36 St James’s Place, SW1A 1NY; 020 7491 4840
Signe Johansen is author of ‘Scandilicious Baking’ (Saltyard Books)