Pharmacy is a smart, hip bar and restaurant faintly resembling a vintage drug store. Patrons sit on aspirin-shaped stools and order exotic painkillers like the Emergency Ward 2, classic remedies such as the Passionate Caipirinha (the famed Brazilian cocktail updated with the juice of a passion fruit), or by-the-glass vintages from around the world.

Detroit, a basement bar in Covent Garden, is cool - literally - and stylish with curved cavelike walls and relaxing grotto ambience. The 70-plus custom-designed cocktails include the tart and tasty Detrotpolitan, consisting of Absolute Mandarin and Stolnaya Cranberry vodka, cranberry juice, and orange bitters. There's also music and dining, but it's the cocktails that hold center stage.

By far the most civilized stopovers on any London cocktail safari are the upscale hotel bars. One of the best is the Library Bar at The Lanesborough. Presiding is Salvatore Calabrese, an alchemist whose martinis are flawless, not to mention a breathtaking $16 apiece. But it's his liquid history, as he calls it, that "brings tears to your eyes." For example, depending on its age and rarity, a snifter from his collection of 1796 Napoleon Cognacs fetches as much as $1,200.

Calabrese's Italian countryman, Peter Dorelli, has been manager of the American Bar at The Savoy Hotel for 35 years. The silver-haired storyteller can regale you with tales of pouring for the likes of Sinatra, Connery, and Burton. President of the UK Bartenders Guild, Dorelli has memorized more than 700 recipes and wields a cocktail shaker like a baton. "A bar is theatre - a living, breathing thing," says Dorelli. "We are the performers, you are the audience, and we're here to entertain you."