Dukes Bar | Intimate St James’s Hotel Bar
Dukes Bar is known for making quite possibly the best martinis in London.
And yes, they’re prepared to duke it out.
An old haunt of author Ian Fleming’s, the bar is said to have provided the inspiration for Bond’s old adage, ‘shaken not stirred’. And it’s easy to see why – planted squarely in the territory of the quintessential English gentleman, St James’s, Dukes Bar is an ode to timeless elegance, with old portraits hanging on the walls, emerald velvet armchairs and a wood-panelled bar in the corner.
…Which, of course, you won’t be getting too well acquainted with – because you’ll naturally be ordering one of the bar’s seven signature martinis, made for you table-side by a slick, white-suited barkeep at a bespoke martini trolley, loaded with ice-cold bottles.
Their most ordered one by far is the Vesper Martini – the closest modern approximation to the martini Bond orders in Casino Royale, given that some of the ingredients have since changed recipe and alcohol content in the intervening 65 years. But the other particularly notable concoction is the Fleming 89, put together by head tender Alessandro Palazzi in honour of the ‘Floris 89’ eau de toilette worn by Bond (and, coincidentally, sold from the still existent shop on Jermyn Street. Fleming had a huge imagination but moved in small circles, seemingly). A dessert in a drink, the 89 sees the vodka laced with sugared roses and rose liqueur, chocolate bitters and tonka beans.
And, however tempted you may be to work your way through the entire list, the martinis here are made with such gusto that a two-martini limit is in operation. Which, if you’re going to remember anything about the late night philosophising you’ll be doing out on their cognac and cigar terrace, is probably a good thing.
Then again, you only live twice.
NOTE: Dukes Bar is open daily from 2-11pm (4-10.30pm Sundays). There is a smart-casual dress code, and tables are for walk-ins only – find out more on their website HERE.
Dukes Bar | 35 St James’s Place, SW1A 1NY
Partial to a vodka martini? Read our guide to London’s best vodka bars