Like a lazy orthodontist, we’re going to have to ask you to brace yourself.
What follows is a list of East London’s best bars, many of which risk eliciting never-before-experienced levels of excitement. There’s bars here for every occasion, budget, and drinking partner. There’s hidden speakeasies. Rooftop date spots. And a timeworn sailors’ drinking den tacked onto London’s only remaining bona fide music hall.
Seed Library | Shoreditch
The latest bar from cocktail whizz Ryan Chetiyawardana, a.k.a. Mr Lyan, a.k.a. the man behind the former #1 bar in the world (Dandelyan, before he closed it and reopened it as Lyaness). Serving classic cocktails with a twist on the ingredients, it’s a louche subterranean den beneath the newly opened 100 Shoreditch hotel…
Details: Open Wed-Sun, 5pm-1am | 100 Shoreditch High Street, E1 6JQ | Book here
TT Liquor | Shoreditch
An old Victorian police station, crammed with an unusual bottle-shop, a cocktail workshop, a cinema, a roof terrace and a basement cocktail den with booths inside the former detention cells.
Details: Open Tuesday – Saturday | 17b Kingsland Road, E2 8AA | Book here
Barge East | Hackney Wick
Back in 2017 a trio of childhood friends decided that they wanted to open a bar & restaurant in the new Olympic Park. So they went to Holland, found a 117 year-old barge, sailed it across the North Sea, and anchored it in the canal at Hackney Wick. As you’d expect. They then went ahead and converted it into an absolutely gorgeous floating eatery, whereupon you can get a well-picked wine list, spritzers, plus cocktails like the classic Negroni, and the not-so-classic Sex with the Captain. And plenty of Dutch lagers.
Details: Open Daily | Sweetwater Mooring, River Lee, White Post Lane, E9 5EN | Book here
Discount Suit Company | Brick Lane
A textbook date spot tucked away in a tailor’s old stock room, with Motown records and cocktails mixed by barkeeps fully fluent in the language of good drinks.
Details: Open daily | 29 Wentworth Street, E1 7TB | Book here
The Culpeper | Brick Lane
Home to the greatest rooftop garden in East London, rain or shine. Meanwhile, the ground floor tavern is the perfect spot for a cocktail… or a glass of wine… or a craft cider… or a Sunday roast.
Details: Open daily | 40 Commercial Street, Spitalfields, E1 6LP | Book here
The Zetter Townhouse | Clerkenwell
The most sumptuous and intriguing of all London cocktail bars: packed with curios and oddities, it’s a den of lived in luxury, and easily one of the best bars in East London.
Details: Open daily | St John’s Square, Clerkenwell, EC1V 4JJ | Book here
The Sun Tavern | Bethnal Green
A rickety corner bar that was opened by the team behind Discount Suit Company just a few years ago, but looks like it’s been around much longer thanks to the peeling plasterwork and old-school fittings. Come with a big group, drink poitín, and make memories.
Details: Open daily | 441 Bethnal Green Road, London, E2 0AN | Book here
Mahogany Bar, Wilton’s Music Hall | Whitechapel
Sailors and lovers have been frequenting The Mahogany Bar at Wilton’s since 1725. On Mondays, croon-worthy pianists type catalogues of jazz and soul music all night for free.
Details: Open Monday – Saturday from 5pm | Wilton’s Music Hall, Graces Alley, E1 8JB | Reserve for big tables here
Boundary | Shoreditch
Shoreditch has seen it all: nuns, factory owners, criminals and prostitutes. Now it boasts a roof terrace with 360-degree views across the chimneys of the East End. And hipsters.
Details: Open daily from noon | Boundary Street, Shoreditch, E2 7DD | Book here
Nightjar | Old Street
Nightjar is a bona fide speakeasy, complete with candlelight, conspiratorial whisperings, rose-tinted mirrors, leather chairs, live jazz and award-winning, strikingly presented cocktails. It’s also a bona fide contender for the best bar in London, full stop.
Details: Open daily | 129 City Road, EC1V 1JB | Book here
Milroy’s | Spitalfields
Opening a mere 55 years after the original, the folks at Milroy’s have had plenty of time to decide what their perfect bar would look like. Turns out, it’s a four storey townhouse with rotating cocktails, hundreds of whiskies, a tasting room for rare drams and a cigar terrace…
Details: Open Monday – Saturday | 76 Commercial Street, E1 6LY | Book here for the basement bar, or just walk-in upstairs
Callooh Callay | Shoreditch
A bustling Victorian-inspired bar, inside which lives the actual, legitimate speakeasy wardrobe to Narnia. And by ‘Narnia’, we mean Callooh Callay’s dimly-lit, tropicalia inspired hideaway lounge.
Details: Main area open daily from 6pm | 65 Rivington Street, EC2A 3AY | Book here
Sager & Wilde | Hackney
Top calibre, predominately Californian wines sold by the glass over a bar of reclaimed cast iron cellar doors. And as far as good aesthetics go… Yes, this is literally as far as good aesthetics go.
Details: Open daily | Hackney Road, Hackney, E2 8JL | Book here
Satan’s Whiskers | Bethnal Green
A suave cocktail bar nestled between newsagents, mini-cab offices and strip clubs with an illuminated icebox on the bar full of sliced tropical fruits.
Details: Open daily | 343 Cambridge Heath Road, Bethnal Green, E2 9RA | Book on 02077398362
The Gibson | Old Street
An intimate, low-lit bar on a corner of Old Street, where the cocktails arrive in clouds of mist, glowing beakers, and giant gold bananas.
Details: Open daily | 44 Old Street, EC1V 9AQ | Book here
Three Sheets | Dalston
Three sections on the menu. Three drinks in a section. Three sheets to the wind by the time you’re finished. The menu changes every week at this laid-back bar, giving you plenty of excuses to return.
Details: Open daily | 510b Kingsland Road, E8 4AE | No bookings
Tayēr + Elementary | Old Street
A bar of two halves, run by two couples. Up front, you can tuck into TĀTĀ’s legendary katsu sandos. Out back, you can savour one-sip martinis and inventive cocktails made with serious care and dedication.
Details: Open Monday – Saturday | 152 Old Street, EC1V 9BW | Book here
Lounge Bohemia | Shoreditch
Probably London’s best subterranean molecular cocktail bar styled after a 1960s lounge bar from the Czech Republic.
Details: Open daily | 1e Great Eastern Street, Hackney, London, EC2A 3EJ | Book via 07720707000
Brilliant Corners | Dalston
You’ll find Brilliant Corners in the middle of Kingsland Road, and it does three things really really well: casual Japanese food, natural wines, and excellent music. It’s the last two that we’re interested in for today’s discussion about great drinkeries, so we’ll focus on them. The moodily dark casual-minimalist space includes a permanently manned, one-of-a-kind DJ setup, and a set of toweringly huge, glowing McIntosh amps to pump out the absurdly good tunes they play. Behind the bar there are simple cocktails, fancy beers, and a whole bunch of super-interesting-yet-reasonably-priced natural wines. Brilliant indeed.
Details: Open Thursday – Saturday | 470 Kingsland Rd, E8 4AE | Book here
Main Image: Nightjar
Finished exploring the best bars in East London? Celebrate by dining at one of the best restaurants in Shoreditch
The Nudge is an independent, searchable and highly-curated guide to the most interesting places to go and things to do in London, giving members unrestricted access to our full compendium of continually-updated restaurants, bars, events, exhibitions, date ideas, itineraries, member perks, weekend guides, monthly agendas and more – all delivered via our website, email newsletters & members’ app.
Join us to see what’s hot in London this week; to explore all of the recommendations & ideas stored within The Nudge’s website and members’ app; and to start making the most of life in London today. Start Free One Week Trial