Photography by diffordsguide.com
Words by Simon Difford on 28-Jan-2013
Dukes Hotel, 35-36 St James's Place, London, SW1A 1NY, United Kingdom
Tel: +44 20 7491 4840
Website: View bar's website
Hours: Mon-Thu from 2pm; Fri & Sat from noon; Sun from 4pm
Door: Go early
Style: Hotel bar
Recommended for: Cocktails, Food
Price guide: High-end
Food: Bar snacks
Dukes was, for many years, the only place in town to get a decent Martini, and while the wider London cocktail scene has upped its game considerably, Dukes has retained its reputation in this particular area of mixology.
Alessandro Palazzi and his staff go table to table mixing Martinis to your specification from a trolley. Vermouths are dispensed from dasher bottles to ensure the driest of finishes, and vodkas and gins are fetched straight from the freezer. Here, there's no dilution, no stirring down - just the coldest, driest of drinks made simply with frozen spirit, vermouth and a garnish (hence the house maximum of three such drinks per customer).
Also on the menu is a tribute to Ian Fleming, a former customer for whom Bond characters are now captured in the names of cocktails, from Tiger Tanaka to Miss Moneypenny and Baron Samedi. Alessandro also references famous bartenders and their creations, from Trader Vic, to Jerry Thomas and W J Tarling. In truth, most guests drink Martinis which Alessandro can make more adventurous with his homemade infusions, including a truffle-infused vodka.
Purchase of one cigar is obligatory to sit out in the bijou smoking terrace, encased in a white canopy, with heating and comfy chairs.