Meet Hercules, Soho's first Cocktail Pub

5 November 2018

There are a lot of whispers going round about the old pillars of Hercules. Founded roughly around the 1700s, although the existing building dates can only be traced back to 1910; this SOHO landmark was so close to finally shutting down back in February. Thanks to a last minute save by, Matt Fleming, the Pillars of Hercules gets a fresh lick of paint and a 2018 refresh —  reopening as simply, Hercules. 
The Pillars of Hercules has often claimed to have been name-dropped in Charle’s Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities; a claim that’s frequently mentioned but not exactly proven. And while some intellectual literary namedropping never hurt anybody, a little bit of digging reveals that the reference actually comes from one of Dickens’ characters, Dr. Manette, whose name is coined after the street which runs directly through the pub. (Yes - we said through)  Looking at this gravity-defying feat of Tudor architecture, the name Pillars of Hercules makes total sense. Like the Greek demigod himself, the pillars of this old rustic pub hold the weight of all the suspended floors above — literally hovering over Manette Street. We don’t really know what building regulations were like in the 1700s — but the fact alone that the pub has both literally and figuratively withstood the test of time (and gravity) is an achievement in and of itself.
This ode to awe-inspiring Herculean feats is something that the new owners kept when transforming the space. While the Tudor style exterior was kept intact; inside a new Hercules has been placed on the mantle. And if you are picturing a classical romanesque sculpture, you’re completely off the mark. What we get, is a gigantic portrait of Arnold Schwarzenegger hanging proudly over the mantle. After all, the governor of California did get his first acting gig playing the Greek demigod himself  in the film Hercules in New York, back in 1970.
Inside, various elements of the old pub have been lovingly retained but given a handsome new makeover. Sexy mood lighting, dark wash walls, wooden fittings, an aged copper bar top, and stained glass windows, give the Hercules an over-the-top machismo just like good ol Arnie himself (post Terminator, pre-Junior of course) Coined as Soho’s first cocktail-pub hybrid, Hercules has built their very own cocktail lab in the basement, centrifuges and all. Here - they play with innovative cocktail recipes, even going so far as bottling pressurised cocktails. This may raise some eyebrows in the drinks business; but also dramatically reduces the quintessential 20 minute waiting time for a decent cocktail in Soho. Heck, at this speed, an all night bender could be reduced to a couple of hours at the Hercules. One thing is for sure though, we can almost certainly guarantee that, ‘you’ll be back’.
Words by Hannah Tan-Gillies

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