As with everything featured within The Nudge’s collections, this small guide to the best London cocktail bars is nothing more than a humble round-up of our favourites.
It is, however, a round-up 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:
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 cocktail bar in London, full stop.
The Connaught Bar | Mayfair
A shimmering silver-laced vault hidden round the back of the Connaught Hotel, the bar here has previously been crowned the best bar 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…
Like this? Try… Dukes, another classic hotel bar with significant heritage (and a drinks trolley), as the spot where James Bond – and his martini – were created.
Details: Connaught Hotel, Carlos Place, W1K 2AL | Walk-in only
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.
Like this? Try… Bar Américain at Brasserie Zédel, with stunning original art deco interiors.
Details: The Savoy, Strand, WC2R 0EZ | Walk-ins only
TT Liquor | Shoreditch
A cocktail bar in an old police station with booths in the old cells, and miniature lock-ups where you can keep your own favourite bottles for the next time you swing by. The place is a temple to booze: on the ground floor you’ll find a bottle shop stocked with over 1,000 different spirits; upstairs is a festoon-lit rooftop bar; and they’ve somehow found space to squeeze in a workshop for cocktail masterclasses and an intimate, 50-seater cinema, too.
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 exceptional cocktails made with creative ingredients. Try the Old Fashioned with caramelised white chocolate, or the crystal clear martini made with avocado leaf cordial.
SOMA | Soho
The cocktails at SOMA aren’t particularly lavishly served, or kookily themed. But they are unlike anything you’re likely to have had before. Run by the folks behind neighbouring Kricket, it’s a moody basement bar where the drinks are all infused with Indian flavours. There’s the Jaggery, an Old Fashioned whose sugar syrup’s been swapped out for sweet jaggery cane and toasted coconut; the Leaf, a gimlet elevated with kaffir and curry leaves; and Chai, a rum sour with clarified chai and ginger. Oh, and the 3am closing time is worth knowing about, too.
Silverleaf | Liverpool Street
Perched on the third floor of the elegant Pan Pacific Hotel, Silverleaf comes to you from Milroy’s founder Martyn “Simo” Simpson, his old colleague Chris Tanner, and Callooh Callay’s Liam Broom. Unsurprisingly, they know how to do cocktails. Here, the innovative menu uses rune-like symbols to define the flavour profile of each drink, so you won’t really know what it’s going to look like, or what ingredients it’ll have, until it arrives at your sleek, martini glass-shaped table…
Dram Bar | Soho
From the outside on Soho’s Denmark Street, Dram Bar just looks like a relatively innocuous six-seater. There isn’t even a sign, just a small red logo with the tulip-shaped silhouette of a dram glass. But push through the door and you’ll notice that its sleek, Blade Runner-esque interior stretches a lot further back than it at first seems, with a cool concrete bar & caged whiskey shelves (housing hundreds of bottles), all softened by warm diffuse lighting. The there’s the terrace. And the basement bar. And the pool room. And the lab. All told, it’s like an Aladdin’s cave of booze…
Like this? Try… Black Rock has both a large whisky collection, and a few hidden surprises too.
Details: 7 Denmark Street, London WC2H 8LZ | Walk-in only
Lost Property Office | Waterloo
There might be a lot of pubs in Waterloo, but there’s never really been a truly great cocktail bar. Until the most recent pub to open in Waterloo decided to secrete away an exceptional speakeasy within its walls, headed up by one of the most inventive mixologists in the city…
Bar Lina | Soho
Quite simply, the date spot to end all date spots. And we’ll tell you for why: 1) It’s hidden beneath the Lina Stores deli in Soho, thus proving that you really do know your onions. 2) The produce from that deli makes its way into bar snacks like ossobuco arancini and melted cheese seadas (piping hot, crispy parcels). And 3), the cocktails are out of this world – or at least out of this country. Every ingredient behind the bar hails from Italy, and goes into quirky concoctions like the Basilico (which is something like a pesto martini)…
42 | Mayfair
You know a bar’s going to be good when it consciously picks a name that’s practically un-Googleable. 42 sits above the double Michelin-starred Gymkhana, and extends the restaurant’s hyper-luxurious elegance with richly patterned walls and carpets, chintzy loveseats, and a pair of china leopards guarding the fireplace. The menu features just eight signature cocktails and eight classics, but every one’s a doozy: particularly the Bagheera, whose star ingredient is weaver ant chutney…
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. Artesian’s 16-strong menu is all about innovation – quirky ingredients like kombu, peas and even dried crickets whipped into cocktails that are scientifically designed to be delicious in their underground cocktail lab. And it looks good too.
Tayēr + Elementary | Old Street
Brought to you 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 a chef’s table-style cocktail lab. Up front you can drop in for one of their pre-batch cocktails, but round the back is where you can pull up a stool to explore seasonal specials like the Sakura Gimlet and Coconut Whey Sour.
Like this? Try… A Bar With Shapes For A Name, which similarly refines its recipes in pre-batched pours.
Details: 152 Old Street, London, EC1V 9BW | Walk-in only
Bar Termini | Soho
A tiny, intimate room of 1950s furnishings and top-tier cocktails from drinks virtuoso Tony Conigliaro. The menu is short, sweet, and never, ever changes: a purely Italian shortlist of classics like the Garibaldi and the Death In Venice, alongside typically creative Conigliaro originals like the miraculously earthy Terroir (with ‘flint, clay and lichen distillates’). Your first order, however, should be a negroni – he’s perfected four profiles for the time-honoured aperitivo, which are pre-bottled and then poured with jaw-dropping accuracy to the brim of your glass.
Equal Parts | Hackney
A highly atmospheric East London cocktail bar, with a crackling vinyl soundtrack, flattering lighting, and highly sippable original drinks. With a bar stocked with amaro, tequila and lesser-known liqueurs, they very much stray from the beaten path: the negroni’s pretty much the only familiar face you’ll find here. Instead, throw yourself into pastures new with the Flor (olive oil vodka, fino sherry & tomato) and the Hyssop 2.0 (rum, yellow Chartreuse, house vermouth & orgeat) and snack on pebble-sized olives.
Satan’s Whiskers | Bethnal Green
A World’s 50 Best-ranking 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.
Like this? Try… Happiness Forgets: let happiness remember, at this secret underground cocktail bar in Hoxton.
Details: 343 Cambridge Heath Road, E2 9RA | Book on 0207 739 8362
Bar Swift | Soho, Shoreditch, Borough
True to its name, Bar Swift wasted no time in conquering three different neighbourhoods across London – and no wonder. It’s run by a couple of power couples: Nightjar founders Edmund Weil and Rosie Stimpson, and Milk & Honey’s Mia Johansson and Bobby Hiddleston, who have pooled their talents to create possibly London’s perfect cocktail bar. Upstairs is a walk-in bar for martinis, spritzes, and pre-dinner sharpeners, but downstairs is an altogether more beguiling setting. Live jazz, fantastic cocktails, intimate booths and an impressive whisky library will all conspire to keep you here far past your bedtime.
Kwānt | Mayfair
It’s pronounced ‘quaint’. But there’s nothing twee about this bar, which has risen from the ashes after its previous home was shuttered post-pandemic. Now you’ll find it in a much larger spot in Mayfair, occupying what feels a bit like a hotel lounge in 19th century Singapore, with shuttered windows, potted palms, and fans whirring lazily overhead. The cocktails go beyond Singapore Slings, though – founder Eric Lorincz (ex-American Bar) has dreamt up a creative, tropical-styled menu that’s scored the place a ranking on the World’s 50 Best Bars, and which you can sample by way of a seven course food-paired tasting menu.
Like this? Try… The Aubrey’s bar has a similar omakase-style experience, with personalised recommendations.
Details: 52 Stratton Street, W1J 8LN | Walk-in only
Funkidory | Peckham
There are many excellent bars in Peckham: there’s Frank’s, the pop up that appears every summer on the roof of a carpark; Peckham Cellars, specialising in natural wine; and cosy jazz bar CLF Art Lounge. But for cocktails it has to be Funkidory, a pea green retro outfit that nails both the classics and their own signature creations like the Rye Lane and the Frozé Paloma.
Callooh Callay | Shoreditch
A bustling 1970s-meets-Victorian 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.
Now that you’ve got drinks sorted… check out the best restaurant in every London neighbourhood