The History of London’s Most Classic Cocktails


London is a great city for fans of cocktails, but what about the stories which inspired them? We’ve compiled this brief history of some of London’s most classic cocktails, guiding you through a few of the famous mixology tales in the city’s history…

Vesper Martini

One of the most famous cocktails originating in London, the Vesper Martini was created by Gilberto Preti, who worked in a London bar during the 1950s. The drink was created for one customer in particular, who happened to be James Bond author Ian Fleming. The cocktail impressed him so much that he incorporated it into his book Casino Royale (the first in the Bond series). The cocktail was later named after secret agent Vesper Lynd, who features prominently in the novel – and whom Bond falls in love with. This helps make it a great option for guests enjoying romantic hotel deals in London.

The drink is made by combining 75ml of gin with 12.5ml Lillet Blanc and 25ml of vodka. The mixture is shaken over ice, and served with lemon in a Martini glass.

Breakfast Martini

This classic cocktail was created in the late 1990s by cocktail legend Salvatore Calabrese. One of the biggest names in modern cocktail making (and with a huge presence in the US), Calabrese has worked at some of the city’s most significant cocktail destinations. The Breakfast Martini has become legendary in the intervening decades, and was designed while Calabrese was leading a bar in London. Following his usual routine, Calabrese usually had an espresso for breakfast before beginning his day. One morning, his wife suggested he have marmalade on toast as well – and this served as the inspiration behind the cocktail.

Making a Breakfast Martini combines 50ml of gin and 12ml of triple sec, before adding 12ml of lemon juice combined with a spoonful of marmalade, which is shaken together with ice. The end result is served in a Martini glass, and can be enjoyed at various locations while staying at the hotel San Domenico London.

Espresso Martini

Created by London cocktail legend Dick Bradsell, this 1980s Martini reflects the times it was created in, combining both coffee and a kick. Bradsell has subsequently stated he designed the drink for an American model, and it was later debuted at a Damien Hirst-led restaurant. To make, the Espresso Martini requires 50ml of vodka and a single espresso shot, together with 15ml sugar syrup, and a dash of Tia Maria and kahlua. Shaken well, the drink is served in a Martini glass, and provides the perfect punchy pick-me-up for guests at the hotel San Domenico London.

The Collins

Nobody knows the exact journey of this London cocktail, though it is thought to originate in the 19th century. John Collins was a well-known bartender at the time, and the drink was first mentioned in the 1892 book Drinks of the World, presented in poem form. To make, mix 50ml of gin with 25ml lemon juice, 10ml sugar syrup and soda water.