In late July the global bar industry held their annual awards in New Orleans, with all the glamour and celebration of a night at the Oscars, except with far more booze – because even Hollywood can’t party like a bartender – and without any chance of purposeful ‘wardrobe malfunctions.’
You may have heard that London absolutely swept the floor at the Spirited Awards, collecting accolade after accolade. Here’s one you may have missed though: Swift on Old Compton Street won Best New International Bar.
Yep, one of our own is the best new bar in the world.
Haven’t been? Here’s why you should change that right now.
Swift is a bar with two personalities. Upstairs is the pub millennials dream of – it’s a casual, no-expectations space to drop in for fast, approachable drinks. But it’s bright, sparse and there’s not even a hint of sticky carpet. You pop in for a Martini as you could a pint. Swift by name, swift by nature.
Lurking downstairs is Swift’s more serious side. It’s sultry, dark and stashes a serious whisky collection with bottles you won’t find anywhere else in the country. You don’t just pop in for one with the Swift that waits below, you come for the evening and you settle in.
Two personalities, two different nights out. So we went straight to the source and asked head bartender Nathan Shearer how to make the best out of each.
“Swift is all about everyone enjoying what’s in their glass – no pretence, this isn’t an ostentatious bar. Upstairs you can’t go wrong with a glass of bubbles or a Martini and some delicious fresh oysters. The menu here is very accessible, plenty of lighter spirits and easy aperitif-style drinks,” he told us.
And he’s not wrong. We’re still hung up on the refreshing Tidal Wave made with blended Scotch, fresh coconut and matcha tea.
“Once you head downstairs though you want to be trying some more serious brown spirits,” says Nathan. “We’re very lucky to work with some amazing suppliers and our shelves down here are full of amazing bottles - Japanese whiskies you can only get in their native country, rare Scotch gems such as Longrow 13 Malbec finish (currently impossible to get a hold of) and even the famous Pappy Van Winkle bourbon for very reasonable prices. We try to keep our whisky affordable, after all we want to sell it, not hoard it.”
Not so keen on neat drams? Swift makes the UK’s greatest Irish Coffee and it’s not just us who thinks so. Grab one for the road and see where the night takes you.
“It’s a pretty big validation of all the hard work we’ve put in since opening but it’s also a huge push for London as a whole,” says Nathan. “This is the world’s most interesting city for cocktails and we just keep getting better.”
Insider Information: It’s not all central. Another London bar was in the top four for this award and is also worth a visit – Three Sheets in Dalston.