Cocktails in London

A good indication that you are having a glamorous night out on the town is when you start perusing the cocktail menu. London deservedly has a reputation as one of the best cities in the world for nightlife, and in recent years we have seen an explosion in really great cocktail bars. In this article we take a look at some of the best cocktail options in London and also suggest some of our favourite drinks that you might like to try while you are there.

69 Colebrooke Row

Officially this tiny little bar is called “The Bar With No Name” but for ease of reference everyone knows it as 69 Colebrooke Row (which is its address). Colebrooke Row is a little backstreet in Islington, so this can be a little tricky to find if you don’t know the area but it is definitely worth tracking down. There is a very sexy, film noir feel to this place, but it is the cocktails that are the undeniable star. The magic touch comes from Tony Conigliaro – a talented guy who studied fine art and art history, worked in the fashion industry, and then made the move into creating cocktails. The expert bartenders here will always be able to mix you up any of the classics, but you should definitely focus on their seasonal menu of bespoke cocktails. My favourite at the moment is Rhubarb Gimlet – gin and rhubarb, a fantastic combination.

The Zetter Townhouse

Clerkenwell is a very cool neighbourhood on the edge of the City of London, and it doesn’t get any cooler than The Zetter Townhouse. Cocktail genius Tony Conigliaro has had a hand in this one too – overseeing the cocktail menu that has been created for this bespoke little hotel that has the feel of staying with friends – wealthy, stylish friends with incredibly good taste. Spend some time reading through the cocktail menu – there are some really exciting options there that will make it hard to choose. At the moment I’m loving The Second Husband – Earl Grey tea infused whisky mixed with bitter almond poison. Surprisingly good.

Experimental Cocktail Club

Gerrard Street is the heard of London’s Chinatown, and about half way down the street, there is a small, unmarked black door. This is where you will find the Experimental Cocktail Club (or ECC as it is generally known). This is not easy to find – you really have to know what you are looking for. Sometimes there is a guy in a black suit standing near the door – he’s the bouncer. It can be hard to get in here – they are usually booked up and even if they do have space available they can be a bit contrary. Is it worth the effort? Absolutely – these are quality cocktails. My favourite is the Havana which uses cigar-infused bourbon as its base and then builds from there.

An exciting, surprising, and always entertaining city, London has a long history of leading the world when it comes to the volume of alcohol that its residents can drink and the quality of the drinks that its barman can create. That tradition is well and truly thriving.

Photo Credit: fklv (Obsolete hipster) under Creative Commons license

7 Ways to Feel Free While Travelling

1. Have unscheduled days.

Waking up to an alarm and/or having to be somewhere at a certain time is so unrelaxing. My favorite thing is when my Google calendar alerts land in my inbox and say “you have no events scheduled today.” Bliss!

2. Embrace last minute plans.

Sites like Priceline allow you to find great deals on hotels and flights at the very last minute, including the day of travel in many cases. There is often no need to book ahead to get a good deal. You may even get a better deal by waiting.

3. Buy flexible tickets.

For example, Southwest Airlines allow you to date change tickets at no additional cost (unless there is a fare difference). By buying flexible tickets or making flexible bookings you may or may not pay a little extra but you build in flexibility.

Flights are the hardest tickets to get on a flexible basis without paying a lot more but hotel and rental car reservations are usually similarly priced regardless of whether you prepay or book option you can cancel. For rental car reservations, you often don’t even need to provide a credit card to make a reservation, so that’s an easy thing to keep flexible.

4. Budget high enough for your destination.

It’s a lot easier to feel free if you’re not sticking to a super tight daily budget. I’ve never really budgeted for travel since I’m naturally frugal. I know my minimum comfort level and stick to that with a few good value splurges from time to time. Have some money in your budget for spontaneous splurges, like the odd late night cab, nice sit down meal, or expensive theatre ticket.

Sometimes people travelling long term can grind to halt and find themselves doing nothing and not leaving their room all day. This can happen when people become stressed about their budget or are sick of sticking to only free and cheap activities.

5. Mix and match your travel style.

The more you mix and match your travel style, the more you’ll learn to be comfortable in any travel environment from hostels to 4 and 5 star hotels. Freedom is feeling like you can strike up a conversation with people from all sorts of walks of life and feeling like you can be yourself in a variety of different environments.

6. Give yourself the gift of permission to change plans.

Sometimes people fall into the trap of making plans and then feeling like a failure if they don’t stick to them. It’s hard to predict exactly what places you’re going to fall in love with and what you might be disappointed with. Therefore you need to cut yourself some slack and allow yourself to change plans. If you find somewhere you love, don’t leave because you think you “should” or “have to.” In my experience, there aren’t that many places in the world that feel energetically “just right” for each particular person. Therefore when you find somewhere that seems like the perfect match for you, linger as long as feels good. You never know when your next chance to do that will be.

Photo: Central Park, New York City.

Ways to keep your mind sharp while travelling

Travel that is just about relaxation is all very well and good but after a few months you might start feeling a sense of brain rot. You need some mental stimulation. Here are some ways to get it.

1. Take on a personal project during a long trip.

For example, you might choose to do a project of writing a novel in 30 days. Extended travel is a great time to do a project like this. Some people do an extended sabbatical so they can work on launching a business. This is another option but it’s hard to actively travel when doing this. For this option, you’re better off finding a base where you feel inspired and holing it.

If you want to learn a skill while travelling, you could always learn programming, or surfing, or guitar, or anything you want.

2. Go to local events.

For example, you could go to a local hackathon. These aren’t just for programmers. Artists can contribute, as can people with sales and marketing or other business skills.

Big cities often have lots of inspiring talks you can go to.

3. Consume “brain food” entertainment.

If you’re not in a city, you might need to get your brain food from the internet rather than in person events. There are loads of places to watch inspiring and educational talks online. Youtube has lots of talks by authors, like the Authors@Google series, which is when authors go and speak at one of the Google campuses. TED talks are great, and Itunes U allows you to take full college courses for free from the privacy of your own laptop.

4. Language classes.

Language classes are of course an obvious option for giving your brain a great workout while travelling. You can do formal classes, use apps
( Duolingo is great and it’s free 🙂 ), or do language exchange. Of course getting out and challenging yourself to talk to people and attempt conversation is better than anything else you could do!

5. Keep up your professional development.

If you have a career that requires ongoing professional development, then why not continue doing that on the road rather than letting the requirements build up to the point you have a daunting prospect ahead of you when you get home. You might choose to branch out and explore an area of interest that you haven’t had time to deep dive into while you’ve been working your 9 to 5.

Google Scholar is excellent for keeping up with journal articles in your field and most articles seem to now be available as pdfs these days, without having to pay the typical very high fees for subscribing to a journal. Google Scholar will help you find the free pdf links. I could spend hours getting lost down the rabbit hole of Google Scholar!

6. Attend conferences.

Attending conferences is a great way to stay connected to your career. Especially when planning visits to big cities, check around for any big conferences in your field and see if any are going to serendipitously collide with your travel plans.

7. Get ripped.

Yes, of course getting physically fitter will help you keep your mind sharp too!

Photo Credit: Anne Adrian under Creative Commons license