A smooth rendition of "My Way" by Sinatra emanates from the piano keys as you make your way past Niel Armstrong's letter to the Savoy thanking them for his first cocktail back from the moon. The American Bar at The Savoy is truly special in the cocktail world, not only for its historical contribution to the cocktail scene but the continued pursuit of excellence by both the staff and top tier bartenders behind the bar.
As we dive deep into what makes the American Bar at the Savoy so special, we will also highlight the history and historic figures that make it so unique. Old school luminaries like Frank Sinatra and Ava Gardner as well as modern celebrities like Daniel Craig still enjoy a classic cocktail at this iconic establishment. The American Bar is firmly planted in cocktail history and has been serving classics for over a hundred years.
History of the American Bar at The Savoy
First, a bit about the Savoy Hotel. The Savoy hotel was founded in 1889 as the first purpose-built luxury hotel in London.. The Savoy was renowned for its use of cutting edge technologies at the time. For example, it was one of the first hotels to be outfitted with electricity. Wealthy Americans who traveled abroad liked the Savoy's combination of American luxuries with an English twist. The Savoy was designed to be on par with the Ritz, after all the Ritz was the hotelier behind the Savoy.
How Did the American Bar get its Name?
To continue serving their American guests to the highest possible service, the Savoy started making what they called "American-style" drinks at the bar. American style drinks were in direct contrast with traditional English alcoholic beverages. English beverages were generally a two ingredients combination, think Gin and Tonic. As the Savoy continued to make American style drinks, the bar was referred to as and became named The American Bar.
Ada Coleman, the Original Bartender
During the early years at the Savoy, most of the bartenders and bar-staff were women. This wasn't uncommon at the time because traditionally women in English Inns or hotels were expected to feed the guests. Ada Coleman made a permanent stamp on the cocktail world with her world renowned classic cocktails, such as the Hanky Panky.
The Savoy Cocktail Book
Following the departure of legendary, Ada Coleman, another perhaps more esteemed barman took over. Harry Craddock, author of the Savoy Cocktail Book, with his special skills behind the bar permanently cemented the American Bar at the Savoy as one of the most iconic cocktail bars around the world.
What truly made the American Bar and by extension the Savoy famous, was the Savoy Cocktail Book. The Savoy Cocktail Book chronicled all of the best cocktails that Harry Craddock created for the guests. The Savoy Cocktail book blew up in popularity and bartenders from around the world were replicating the drinks made at American Bar.
What Cocktails did The Savoy Invent?
To be one of the truly iconic cocktail bars and longest surviving cocktail bar then you'd better have some signature cocktails that you created along the way. The goods news is...the American Bar has new and vintage creations from that we're pleased to share.
The Hanky Panky
The Hanky Panky, created by Ada Coleman, is a twist on the Negroni. The Hanky Panky essentially adds Fernet Blanca to the traditional Negroni recipes. It is served up in a martini glass. We found the Fernet Blanca to add a bit of an edge to the cocktail. The Hanky Panky is a must order for a first time visitor.
The White Lady
When you're at an iconic bar serving mixed cocktails like American Bar, you can't miss the White Lady. A delightful blend of lemon juice, Cointreau, and dry gin. This cocktail is both light while packing a punch.
The Corpse Reviver
A hint of absinthe makes this particular cocktail quite enjoyable. The Corpse Reviver gets its name from the idea that if you drink four of them in a row...you will live again. We imagine after a long night of drinking...of course.
What Cocktails should You Order?
There are countless recipes to choose from at American Bar. What we like to do...once you have ordered all the original cocktails, is to tell the bartender what you like and have them craft something special. That may sound like a cop out, but the truth is, it's not often you go to a bar that has the caliber of the American Bar and you need to take full advantage of the American Bar team. It's the oldest surviving cocktail bar for a reason after all.
Is there a Dress Code at the American Bar Savoy?
There is a light dress code at the American Bar. No sportswear is allowed. Many of the visitors are dressed up quite nicely but a jacket is not required...But you're in London after all and people tend to dress a bit nicer on average.
Do you Need a Reservation at the Savoy?
While technically the American Bar at the Savoy doesn't take reservations. You can in fact make a booking if you know the right people or are charming to the host. In short...give it a try and explain what it means to you to be there.
Located in the Savoy Hotel. The Savoy, Strand, London WC2R 0EZ, UK. Now go and sample some cocktail history.