We all have our escapes from the maddening pandemonium of London. My get-away of choice is a small cluster of farms an hour south of Edinburgh where the hills tumble into each other and the horizon is made up of every shade of emerald, jade and lime known to the eye. It was last weekend, thwacking through the heather, that I noticed the distinct murmurings of autumn. Dotted amongst the green was hues of orange, brown and red and the fire place crackled into life for the first time since June.
All it takes is a weekend, two days of slightly blustery weather and we forget the warmth ever shone down, bequeathing sunburnt necks and spontaneous paddling pool parties. London snaps back into coats and boots and collectively releases that happy sigh which says life as we knew it has been restored. Even the central line feels, dare I say, comfortably heated.
And yet... And yet - the sunshine hasn’t lost all its warmth and we’re not ready to exist in the darkness below the stairs just yet. In autumn we want to bask in those last moments of the daylight, drinking big buttery whites, reds of all description and punchy rum and cognac cocktails. And we know just where to order them.
DUCK & WAFFLE
If there are any lingering last warm rays you're sure to catch them here, no matter the time they decide to shine through. Apart from that stunning view over an autumnal city - watch the rain clouds descend and the bronzed leaves cover the pavements - Duck & Waffle is also known for consistently pushing out innovative drinks. We've done with the simplicity of summer tipples, from basic spritzes to frosé and rosé and brosé and are ready for some of Rich Wood's imaginative cocktails. Make ours a Woodland Negroni with gin, woodland Campari, moss vermouth and Formica Rufa Bitters.
SOCIAL WINE & TAPAS
Wine that makes you sink back into your chair with sublime, deeply contented pleasure and small plates which you greedily hog, declaring no one else on the table will like them - that's every experience at Social Wine & Tapas. Sit around the counter and strike up conversations with the chefs, blindly allow the sommelier to guide your taste buds toward the delightful, the extreme and the unusual and revel in the flavour sensations. Perfect autumn dining, and if winter comes too soon there's always downstairs to retreat into its cave-like warmth.
A small wine bar on Portobello Road, you'll fall for the carefully selected Italian wines here, particularly from Tuscany’s Avignonesi winery. Nibbles come in heaped piles of Parmigiano cheese and the daylight streams in from the windows with seats to watch the passing west London crowd. Wrap yourself in a shawl, take a good book, and give back to yourself just a few hours of utter peace. And cheese. Did we mention the cheese?
This ‘by the glass’ list will most certainly see you popping in for a quick drink and leaving a few hours later in a taxi. Put together as Dan tells us “to showcase undervalued gems that deliver great flavour” many are also served at 75ml measures giving you the opportunity to work your way through even more of their expertly chosen tipples before you fall off your bar stool. Start the evening with the Sparkling Vouvray and you know you’re in business.
GALLERY BAR AT ACE HOTEL
In an achingly cool space, where creatives come to sip coffee before their Negronis, tapping away on laptops in stripped shirts, the Ace Hotel could have created something very different. And my goodness we're so glad they didn't. This is one of London's best drinking spots and, even better, the whole city isn't trying to get in the door. A favourite Shoreditch drinking den, made more delightful as an escape from the bleak colour palate of the on-coming winter, Gallery Bar is a delightful melting spot of Londoners and travellers, all meeting up in pursuit of some damn fine booze - curtesy of bar manager Dan Berger.
There are wine bars and then there is Terroirs, a homage to small and artesian winemakers from around the world. Here you will find the most aromatic, succulent and sumptuous wines and dishes for incredibly reasonable prices. Food here is French-inspired with a rustic earthiness to it, indeed reviewer after reviewer has waxed lyrical about the duck skin scratchings, the rillettes, even the coarse toast with parsley-ballasted garlic butter. Which all fit perfectly with some buttery, oaky whites and a slight chill in the outside air.
AMERICAN BAR AT SAVOY
If DrinkUp was honest, we'd admit we end up at The Savoy's other cocktail bar, The Beaufort Bar, more than we're to be found sipping in its most iconic mixed drinks mecca. However, there are some moments when only the American Bar will do, and a sunny autumn day is just such an occasion. The menu drinks are always splendid, and the classics are perfect. Peer out of the bay window and you may even catch a leaf, vibrantly red, drifting unhurriedly toward the ground.
Scarfes is a big high-ceilinged chamber of comfort and cocktails, decorated with marble, thick fabrics, grandfather armchairs, chandeliers and a beautiful fireplace. It was made for drinking in, and nothing says a change of the seasons like a roaring fire and those plush chairs. Cocktails are perfectly prepared, from whisky-heavy big boy drinks to lighter tipples but this autumn we're feeling stirred down Armagnac. As it's a hotel bar you'll hear that familliar American drawl ordering a Dirty Martini, which somehow adds even more charm to the whole experience.
NEWLY-LAUNCHED BOURNE & HOLLINGSWORTH
After nine glorious years of cocktails in teacups, peeled wallpaper, late night partying and dancing on rickety tables, Bourne & Hollingsworth Group have decided that the time has come to give the original Bourne & Hollingsworth Bar in Fitzrovia a makeover. Say goodbye to the Blitz parties and hello to an eclectic mix of beautiful materials and period pieces sourced from as far afield as Asia and South America whie keeping that British vibe so key to all their venues. Open again in October we're keen to get back to a long-term favourite and swoon over its new look.
NEWLY-LAUNCHED WHITE LYAN
We hate secrets we're not in on... and love those we are! White Lyan falls into the first category but this team make up the most creative and wonderful bartenders in London so we're not too offended. Suffice to say when they announced the bar was closing for a few days to ready itself for the most ambitious 12 months the bar has seen so far, we got excited. Luckily the bar is relaunching September 23rd so we don't have to wait long. Get down there and see what all the fuss is about. As ever with the Mr Lyan gang, it'll be totally worth it.
Sherry straight out of the barrel, sweet wines, rich Spanish reds and dry whites, all topped off with more jamón ibérico than you could feast upon for a month. This is such a perfect addition to the London scene and one which we don't visit enough. Take a date to get close to on the intimate bar spots or book in for dinner and really dive into this mouthwatering cuisine - lighter than winter stodge but all the more enjoyable for the warming accompaning booze.
THE SUN TAVERN
Everything about this smashing pub on Bethnal Green Road cries out for the weather to be a few degrees colder outside. The textures, style and even booze here all scream autumn comfort. However, if you happen to visit on a golden sunny day then the door is flung open and the space comes to life, just be sure to grab a seat where you can feel those last precious rays. Sip on local brews, perk up with well-made coffee and start thinking about investing in a new winter coat.
Perfectly capturing the essence of Mediterranean foodie culture, Apero may be tucked downstairs but the natural light floods through, giving the space a delightfully warm atmosphere. Enjoy drinks with the more unusual Italian bitters, vermouths and Spanish sherries with food that is bright and refreshing, a sort of Ottolenghi-inspired spin on Italian classics, a dusting of sour sumac here, a golden raisin there.
COCKTAIL TRADING CO. BRICK LANE
Autumn is the perfect time to sit in the back of CTC and order boozy sours while cracking open peanuts and making an absolute mess of the shells and yourself. On the ground floor you'll still be able to see some of London's natural light but be far enough away to hunker down and tuck in to delicious drinks. With such fantastic decor as this, conversation never runs dry - not that the team here would ever allow that.
A delightfully converted bank, Rotorino is a local Italian restaurant with an open-plan bar area serving great wines and aperitif-style cocktails. With industrial chic decor that still manages to feel homely and small plates of delectable cheeses, cured meats and sharply executed veggies, you can spend an entire evening at Rotorino quite happily grazing and imbibing.
THE CLOVE CLUB
For most people this will be a venue they'll visit once or twice just to say they've been and tried the food. Don't be that person. If you can't be splashing out on the tasting menu once a week - come for the bar snacks, cocktails and heavy hitting autumnal wines. Enjoy with a side of their outrageously good breaded chicken and you'll know the happy peace of being fed well at Clove Club.