Raising the bar: Erik Lorincz on London's nightlife, mixing new flavours and his edgy Mayfair bar, Kwānt

Award-winning bartender and TWISPER ambassador Erik Lorincz reveals how he worked his way up the ladder until he could buy his own bar, as well as where we should all be heading out to in London.

Published 5 Nov 2020, 15:27 GMT, Updated 1 Dec 2020, 15:41 GMT
Erik originally planned to come to London for six months, and 16 years later he's still here.

Erik originally planned to come to London for six months, and 16 years later he's still here. 

Photograph by Getty Images

Erik now calls London home, adding ‘bar owner’ to his credentials with the 2019 opening of Kwant in Mayfair.

Photograph by Stefano Agostino

When Erik Lorincz told his parents he was leaving home at the age of 21 to attend a bar academy in the Czech Republic, his mum was dismayed. “What’s going to happen, then?” she asked. “There are no cocktail bars here in Slovakia,” she’d said. It turns out Erik had much bigger plans. After following his dream from Nitra to Prague to Bratislava to London, award-winning bartender Erik now calls the latter home, adding ‘bar owner’ to his credentials with the 2019 opening of Kwānt in Mayfair.

The first thing I did when I arrived in London in 2004 was buy a bar guide and start crossing them off the list as I visited them. I’d come to learn English and my first job here was in a nightclub collecting glasses and cleaning ashtrays. 

It took me until 2010 to open my own bar: Kwānt. The bar is like a sophisticated speakeasy with a tropical atmosphere. It was important to me to create a place where you can go for a good time and five-star service without the fuss and formality. The drinks are also very creative because I’ve built a laboratory inside the bar.

Cocktail trends in London at the moment are definitely steering towards more minimalistic. We had a period of very sophisticated garnish and complex vessels — boxes with smoke coming out, tiki skulls, drinks served in shoes — and now that’s being replaced by seemingly very simple serves. You’ll look at the drink and go, “Is this it?” and then the bartender will tell you how it’s made and all off a sudden you realise this drink took two days to make. The process is much like the dishes chefs serve at Michelin-starred restaurants — they’re complex and require attention.

Erik is drawn to things that aren't obvious as cocktail ingredients at first. The Heads and Tails features Vida Mezcal, Beermouth, Agave Nectar, Genmaicha soda and crispy cavolo nero. 

Photograph by Stefano Agostino

I love bars that work with the seasons. My friend Alex Kretana has a bar on Old Street called Tayer + Elementary. Its focus is on seasonal ingredients and working with top chefs, which means an ever-changing menu. There’s also Scout in Hackney, part bar, part sustainability lab, with a focus on local ingredients  — think foliage foraged from Hackney Marshes.

I also think there’s a lot to be said for a simple, relaxed atmosphere. Bar Termini in Soho, for example, has excellent negronis and a good vibe, day or night. Right now, my ideal night out in London would be spent catching up with friends, probably starting in the Artesian bar in The Langham hotel, and then strolling down to this cool little place called Chucs, a real hidden gem in Mayfair, for some amazing Italian cuisine. Down the road, The Arts Club has a sophisticated club atmosphere and an amazing cigar room upstairs — I’ve had many great nights there. 

The Sunflower Martini is made with Hendricks Gin, Cocchi Americano, Noilly Prat and Jerusalem artichoke. 

My favourite recent discovery is Louie in Covent Garden. It has amazing oysters and do a brilliant dry martini (not to mention a fabulous Seven Tails old fashioned). Right next to Kwānt is Sabor, a Michelin-starred Spanish restaurant from Nieves Barragán Mohacho and José Etura. It’s spread over three areas, each dedicated to different Spanish flavours and tastes, and the food is amazing. I’m always looking to what I eat for interesting flavours that can be translated for use in a cocktail. When I run out of inspiration, TWISPER is an ideal tool to discover new places around London because all of the recommendations are genuine and trustworthy. 

I’m currently working with a lot of umami flavours. Black miso-based distillate, salted maple syrup, dried mushrooms infused in Campari or sweet vermouth... I’m drawn to things that aren't obvious as cocktail ingredients at first. I've never had spirulina in a drink, for example, but I have it for breakfast, so why not.

I came to London for six months and, 16 years later, I’m still here. When I arrived, the city felt so cosmopolitan, energetic and vibrant — you could find inspiration anywhere. Today, that hasn't changed.

Essentials

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