As with everything featured within The Nudge hit lists, this small guide to the best London cocktail bars is nothing more than a humble collection of our favourites.
It is, however, a collection of favourites which – by happy coincidence – doubles up as a more definitive and trustworthy list of the best London cocktail bars than you’re likely to find anywhere else.
Price; ambience; location; vibe and staff.
None of these factors were given our direct consideration at any point at all. However they were all there – bubbling uncontrollably beneath the surface – as we diligently, and instantly, reacted to the command,
“The best London cocktail bars – list them”
by producing the following:
Tayer + Elementary | Old Street
Brought to us by two of the world’s finest mixologists, Monica Berg and Alex Kratena (both of whom are regulars on the World’s 50 Best Bars list), Tayer + Elementary is both a Chef’s Table style cocktail lab – serving up impeccably designed, seasonal cocktails, made bespoke should you wish – and more of a casual daytime affair, where you can enjoy equally as delicious but significantly more relaxed tipples on tap, alongside asian fusion small plates courtesy of TĀ TĀ Eatery. READ MORE.
Kwānt | Mayfair
Winning an impressive spot on the World’s 50 Best Bars list within half a year of opening, Kwānt is everything you could want in a great London cocktail bar – a secretive location (behind an old oak door below Mayfair restaurant Momo); seductive, glossy surroundings with the occasional quirky touch; and an award-winning barkeep at the helm (in this case, the lauded Erik Lorincz)… READ MORE
Like this? Try… Milk & Honey, a glimmering 30s-style speakeasy over in Soho
Details: Below Momo, 25 Heddon Street, W1B 4BH | Open daily from 5pm
Coupette | Bethnal Green
There’s a lot packed into this tiny Coupette. Not just another exposed-brick toting bar in East London, it sports a genuinely intimate atmosphere, where low-hanging lighting’s reflected by the coppery sheen of the bar made up of hundreds of 10 Franc coins. That’s no coincidence, because the drinks list here – curated by ex-Beaufort Bar head Chris Moore – has a strong Gallic influence, with cocktails inspired by French cultural “muses” and under-appreciated inebriants like calvados and poiré… READ MORE
Like this? Try… Original Sin, a brick-walled basement with its own pool table
Details: 423 Bethnal Green Road, E2 0AN | Open daily
Nightjar | Old Street
Nightjar is a bona fide speakeasy, complete with candlelight, conspiratorial whisperings, rose-tinted mirrors, leather chairs, nightly live jazz and award-winning cocktails served in everything from hand-hollowed stones to bundles carried by a large model stork. It’s also a bona fide contender for the best bar in London. READ MORE
Like this? Try… their sister bar in Smithfield, Oriole
Details: 129 City Road, EC1V 1JB | Open daily
The Connaught Bar | Mayfair
A shimmering silver-laced vault hidden round the back of the Connaught Hotel, the bar here has just been crowned the top bar in London – and second in the world – by the World’s 50 Best Bars list. The reasons for which will become abundantly clear upon taking a secluded booth, catching the eye of the smartly dressed barkeeps, and watching as the bespoke martini trolley is rolled over to you, with its customisable array of tinctures, garnishes and spirits… READ MORE
Like this? Try… The Library Bar at The Ned, who also have a martini trolley stacked with vintage spirits.
Details: Connaught Hotel, Carlos Place, W1K 2AL | Open daily
The Gibson | Old Street
A Belle Epoque-era cocktail tavern; where drinks arrive enveloped in smoke and served in an array of curious and unusual vessels. The cocktail menu hops through time, filled with excerpts from various historical texts as well as the drinks themselves – including one aged in a parmigiano reggiano barrel. And as the lovechild of two former Nightjar and Connaught barkeeps, it behoves every inch its pedigree. READ MORE
Like this? Try… TT Liquor, a bar in an old police station with a similarly time-travelling menu
Details: 44 Old Street, EC1V 9AQ | Open daily
Scout | Hackney
More lab than cocktail bar, Scout is the brainchild of acclaimed mixologist Matt Whiley, whose low-waste philosophy and focus on innovation has won him plaudits across the globe. Here, you’ll sip drinks made with razor clam and fermented birch sap, paired with seasonal dishes made with foraged ingredients… READ MORE
Like this? Try… Eve, a subterranean cocktail spot in Covent Garden headed up by ex-Scout bartender Sam Orrock
Details: 224 Graham Road, E8 1BP | Open Wed-Sat
–Disrepute | Soho
An achingly glamorous underground warren, cloaked in velvet, brass and mirrors and home to some of the city’s more unusual cocktails. The menu is written entirely in the form of short stories, allowing you to choose a drink based on character rather than ingredients… READ MORE
Like this? Try… The Bletchley, an interactive bar where cocktails are created based on your personality
Details: 4 Kingly Street, W1F 9BW | Open daily
The American Bar | Strand
Quite literally the birthplace of some of the world’s most famous cocktails. Legendary bartender Harry Craddock compiled his creations (Corpse Reviver #2, White Lady, etc.) into the Savoy’s 1930 cocktail book here, alongside a number of other perfected classics – and they make them with just as much panache almost a century later. READ MORE
Like this? Try… Dukes, another classic hotel bar with significant heritage, as the spot where James Bond – and his martini – were born.
Details: The Savoy, Strand, WC2R 0EZ | Open daily
Discount Suit Company | Liverpool Street
An illicit, soul-soundtracked, subterranean drinking den housed in the old stockroom of a suit tailor’s. The drinks here – creatively combining classic methods with new ingredients – change every six months or so, meaning that there’s plenty reason to keep coming back again and again… and again. READ MORE
Like this? Try… The team’s follow-up spot in Bethnal Green, The Sun Tavern – showcasing the Irish spirit poitín.
Details: 29 Wentworth Street, E1 7TB | Open daily
Little Mercies | Crouch End
A neighbourhood bar like this really is one of life’s little mercies. Set up by former Scout bar manager Alan Sherwood (with a little help from the Venning brothers at Three Sheets), it’s a friendly, totally unpretentious, but unequivocally cool spot in Crouch End, serving perfectly balanced cocktails made with painstakingly treated ingredients. Try the Old Fashioned with caramelised white chocolate, or the crystal clear martini made with avocado leaf cordial… READ MORE
Like this? Try… Behind This Wall, a hidden bar with small batch distillates, botanicals, and dancing
Details: 20 Broadway Parade, N8 9DE | Open Wed-Sun
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, quirky booze-slinging, hideaway lounge. READ MORE
Like this? Try… Mr. Fogg’s Tavern, which has a Victorian gin parlour upstairs
Details: 65 Rivington Street, EC2A 3AY | Open daily from 6pm
Artesian | Marylebone
Artesian: In The Nudge’s Best London Cocktail Bars Hitlist. Also, on a side note, crowned as The World’s Best Bar by Drinks International three years running. READ MORE
Like this? Try… The Fumoir at Claridges, another top-shelf, art deco hotel bar with slick cocktails
Details: Langham Hotel, 1C Portland Place, W1B 1JA | Open daily
Satan’s Whiskers | Bethnal Green
A Bethnal Green bar cramped between newsagents, mini-cab offices and strip clubs, with taxidermy on the walls and an illuminated icebox on the bar full of sliced tropical fruits. Order the Champs Elysées with Cognac and green Chartreuse, and soak up the hip hop soundtrack. READ MORE
Like this? Try… Happiness Forgets: let happiness remember, at this secret underground cocktail bar in Shoreditch.
Details: 343 Cambridge Heath Road, E2 9RA | Open daily
69 Colebrooke Row | Angel
A small, intimate room of 1950s Italian furnishings and top tier cocktails from drinks virtuoso Tony Conigliaro. And yes, this bar has no name; perfect for when you don’t know where to go. READ MORE
Like this? Try… Untitled, TC’s other unnamed bar, covered entirely in tinfoil
Details: 69 Colebrooke Row, N1 8AA | Open daily from 5pm-late
Lyaness | Southbank
Lyaness comes to you from the revered Ryan Chetiyawardana, and replaces his bar Dandelyan (which held an unbelievable number of accolades). And it’ll no doubt win itself an equally impressive heft of plaudits, thanks to its glamorous baby blue interiors, floor to ceiling views across the Thames, and the new menu – which is nothing short of cocktail wizardry. READ MORE
Like this? Try… Heads + Tails, a neighbourhood cocktail den with two different personalities
Details: Sea Containers London, 20 Upper Ground, SE1 9PD | Open daily
Three Sheets | Dalston
A soothingly pared back, unpretentious Dalston cocktail bar where the menu has only three sections, which in turn have three drinks. This means that every drink on that menu is pretty much the Platonic ideal of that drink, having had weeks of assiduous experimentation and testing gone into its preparation. Thankfully, they rotate regularly, too – so you’ve the perfect excuse to come back again and again. READ MORE
Like this? Try… Bar Three, their follow-up in the basement of Blixen in Spitalfields Market
Details: 510b Kingsland Road, E8 4AE | Open daily 5pm-12.45am
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, home to Matt Whiley cocktails, taxidermied animals, and a coterie of contented drinkers… READ MORE
Like this? Try… the Clarendon Cocktail Cellar, another cosy gem beneath a boutique hotel
Details: 49-50 St John’s Square, Clerkenwell, EC1V 4JJ | Open daily
Happiness Forgets | Hoxton
A laid-back, effortlessly cool basement bar just off Hoxton Square, serving ‘great cocktails’ with ‘no wallies’ (their words, not ours). It makes for a welcomed escape from the ordinary chaos of Shoreditch; somewhere you can go and hang-out among likeminded folk – many bartenders themselves – who can taste the difference between a great cocktail and an ‘order-me-another-and-charge-me-double’ one. READ MORE.
Like this? Try… Knowhere Special, an equally unpretentious spot in Kentish Town.
Details: 8-9 Hoxton Square, Hackney, London, N1 6NU | Open daily
Last Updated: 16th February 2021 | Main image: The Connaught Bar
Fancy some quirkier options? Check out the Nudge’s Guide to the most unusual London bars.