This year, London’s best new cocktail joints have raised the bar so high, you’ll need a ladder to get your drink.
And narrowing down the very best amongst them wasn’t easy – it was enough to drive us to drink, you could even say. So, that’s precisely what we did. And after gallons of aged negronis, bathtubs of low-intervention wine, and oceans of craft beer, we finally settled on a pretty sublime collection…
42 | Opulent cocktails above a Michelin Star restaurant
Look, to be clear, we’re not saying that the fire that engulfed Gymkhana last year was a good thing. Certainly not. It was tragic, and it’s sheer luck that no-one was hurt. Buuuuut the place has had a fancy refurb, and the Michelin Starred restaurant has acquired a devastatingly glamorous and opulent new cocktail bar above it. We’re just saying. 42 looks like the home of an eccentric Indian billionaire from the last century, who also happened to have an insanely good cocktail crew permanently installed in his living room. The drinks are first-rate, and one of them has weaver ants in it. And as date spots go, they don’t get much more impressive…
Address: 42 Albemarle Street, W1S 4JH
Dram Bar | Pioneering drinks in a surprising space
Mark our words, Dram Bar will be on the World’s 50 Best Bar list within a couple of years. It starts out simple, at the small bar, with its own cocktails on tap. Try the mezcal coconut, it’s wonderful. Then there’s the huge whiskey collection behind it, with bottles from across the world. And the other bar below, with its lengthier, more complex drinks list. And the terrace outside. And the pool room, with its own cocktail vending machine. And the private diner, with its own bar, too. And the experimentation lab, where they hold occasional supper clubs. And there’s yet more still after that. It’s deceptively huge, and the drinks are absolutely delicious. You can come for a sophisticated night, or a cracking game of pool, or both. If this place can’t please you, you can’t be pleased.
Address: 7 Denmark Street, London WC2H 8LZ
Bar Lina | Italian cocktails beneath a Soho deli
It’s only taken eighty years, but the team at Lina Stores have finally opened a cocktail bar. To get in, you’ll still have to enter the deli the old fashioned way, escorting your date/companion past rows of biscotti & olive oil before finding the staircase at the back. It feels like micro-dosing the restaurant entrance from Goodfellas. Head down into the bar itself, and you’ll arrive in a gorgeous, moody, and intimate little hideaway steeped in low-lit crimson & coffee-tones throughout. If you didn’t know any better, you’d be forgiven for assuming that the place actually had been built back in the ’50s and was waiting down there the whole time. The drinks are lovely, the atmosphere is alluringly seductive, and it’s well worth a visit.
Address: 18 Brewer St, W1F 0SG
Atelier Coupette | An experimental Soho cocktail bar
Coupette was one of the best bars to open in 2017. And Atelier Coupette is one of the best bars to open in 2023. (so, by extension, we assume 2029 is when the next one is opening). And the name isn’t just a dart thrown at a French dictionary – it actually is an atelier, a ‘workshop’, in which the mixologists test out new ideas and innovative drinks. It even looks the part, with a stripped back aesthetic leaving room for a blue-glazed lava stone bar hemmed in by coffee-coloured leather barstools. Thus the cocktails are all smaller-sized, smaller-priced, and highly experimental. That means drinks like the Smoked Artichoke Manhattan, or the Summer Truffle Negroni, with ingredients on the menu like ‘fizzy carrot wine’ and ‘barley amazake custard’.
Address: Ground Floor, 9 Moor St, London W1D 5ND
Kwant | An elegant Mayfair bar from an award-winning bartender
Technically, Kwant opened in Mayfair a couple of year ago. There, it rapidly found its way onto the World’s 50 Best Bars list, the rapidly found its coffers running dry as its sister restaurant went belly-up, and forced it to close. So, what was left was a pretty unique combination: a world-class bar that, through no fault of its own, had no home. So now it’s moved into new digs a couple of streets over, and it’s an absolute beauty. The place is an elegant blend of tropical & colonial styles, with impeccably tailored staff, who look like they walked straight out of the ’30s wearing neat white dinner jackets. And the drinks are the world of Erik Lorincz, who headed up The American Bar at The Savoy for eight years (and which he took straight to #1 on the World’s 50 Best Bars list).
Address: 52 Stratton St, W1J 8LN
Lowcountry | A sleek subterranean whiskey cocktail bar in Shoreditch
Lowcountry has plenty of whiskey. Most of that whiskey is American whiskey, and most of that American whiskey is from the very Lowcountry that the bar is named for. If you’ve never been, it’s a stretch of coastal South Carolina predominately filled with tranquil marshes, lazy rivers, and fantastic distilleries. It’s also where the head mixologist, Ryan Sheehan, basically grew up.
Here, he’s almost literally pouring his heritage into a rather wonderful cocktail list, which stretches from cutting-edge infusions and concoctions, all the way through to time-hallowed numbers pulled from the depths of cocktail history. And the ingredients that don’t come out of a bottle tend to come from the excess in the restaurant upstairs, the wonderful Counter 71, helping to keep the creativity at maximum, and keep the waste to a minimum.
Address: 71 Nile Street, N1 7RD
The Devonshire | Possibly the best pub menu, ever
Go to The Devonshire at 3pm on a Tuesday afternoon, and it’ll be packed. Go on a Saturday night, and it’ll be packed. Go whenever you like, and you’ll see dozens of pints of Guinness floating around the place, inside and out, with the giddy chatter of drinkers and the hum of a charged atmosphere. And that’s just the pub. Go upstairs and you’ll find the work of Ashley Palmer Watts, who is responsible for keeping The Fat Duck’s three Michelin Stars. And he has created one of the best pub menus in the history of pubs…
Address: 17 Denman St, London W1D 7HW
Spey | A regal whiskey bar in an old magistrates court
Spey Bar isn’t exactly hidden.
But it’s one of those unless-you-know-about-it places that you would never just stumble across, with a collection of whiskies so vast and cocktails so delicious that you do run the very real risk of stumbling on your way out. The space oozes with the grandeur of the old magistrates court that it’s housed inside of, and the whiskey collection (curated by the folks a Scotland’s legendary Craigellachie Hotel) is absolutely amazing. The cocktails they’re pouring it all into are lovely, but if you’re not a huge whisky fan or don’t know what to get, just ask for the off-menu Apple Dog for which they’ll juice an entire Granny Smith and mix it with a Speyside blended malt – it’s dangerously easy-going.
Address: 82-84 St. Martins Lane, WC2N 4AG
Equal Parts | An East London gem from the team behind Sager + Wilde
There’s something pretty special – these days, particularly – about entering a venue that’s clearly a labour of love.
You know, the type of bar that hasn’t been opened purely to prove its own concept before rolling out replicas across the city. The sort of place that’s been created by people who love what they do, and very simply wanted to open somewhere special that they’d like to visit. And Equal Parts is that bar. It’s the child of one Michael Sager (of Sager + Wilde fame) who’s been planning/dreaming about Equal Parts for a decade now. And what he’s crated is an absolute gem, filled with quirky design touches (the lights above the bar are a sight), to a melange of vinyl, to beautifully crafted cocktails. For sheer atmosphere, it can’t be beaten.
Address: 245 Hackney Road, E2 8NA
Little Cellars | A first-class Peckham wine bar
Okay, full disclosure, Little Cellars serves food. They’re only small plates, but its enough to blur the lines between bar and restaurant. But in the spirit of picking a lane, we’ve decided to slide this one into the wine bar category, because that’s what it does best. The vino menu is a tightly curated collection geared towards low-intervention & natural numbers – and they’re all available by the glass too (from £6+), including red, white, rosé, sparkling, and even a trio of orange vintages. On top of all that, you’ll find vermouths, beers, and a couple of cocktails (literally just two: an old fashioned and a negroni). And there’s food, too. Which isn’t bad at all.
Address: 75 Camberwell Church Street, Camberwell, SE5 8TU
Fancy something to eat with that? Check out the best restaurants of 2023…