Hattie Lloyd 21/01/23
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:
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. Clarified strawberry milkshake, wild rose vermouth and croissant syrup are whipped into cocktails that are scientifically designed to be delicious in their underground cocktail lab. And it looks good too.
Like this? Try… Lyaness, cocktail genius Ryan Chetiyawardana’s riverside bar with equally quirky ingredients.
Details: Langham Hotel, 1C Portland Place, W1B 1JA | Book here
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 – serving up a core menu of impeccably designed cocktails like the Bergamot Margarita and Rhubarb Root Negroni, accompanied by seasonal specials like the Sakura Gimlet and Coconut Whey Sour.
Like this? Try… Seed Library, a retro, subterranean cocktail bar with scientific mixology at its heart.
Details: 152 Old Street, London, EC1V 9BW | Walk-in only
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
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 Kanpai, London’s one and only sake brewery. 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.
Like this? Try… Shoreditch’s Lounge Bohemia, for similar 70s aesthetics and theatrical drinks.
Details: 42 Peckham Rye, London, SE15 4JR | Book here
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.
Details: 44 Old Street, EC1V 9AQ | Book here
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 paean 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.
Like this? Try… Coupette, an exceptional Bethnal Green cocktail bar bathed in a cosy warm glow.
Details: 17b Kingsland Rd, London E2 8AA | Book here
Discount Suit Company | Spitalfields
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.
Like this? Try… Umbrella Workshop, the team’s intimate development bar & bottleshop, seating just 12
Details: 29 Wentworth Street, E1 7TB | Book here
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, full stop.
Like this? Try… their sister bar in Soho, Nightjar Carnaby
Details: 129 City Road, EC1V 1JB | Book here
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…
Like this? Try… Three Sheets, their Dalston cousin where the menu has only three sections, which in turn have three drinks.
Details: 20 Broadway Parade, N8 9DE | Book here
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.
Like this? Try… any of the signature cocktails at the stellar Indian restaurant Babur
Details: 14 Denman Street, Soho, W1D 7HJ | Book here
City Arts | The City
City Arts, a slick cocktail bar near Bank with serious ‘70s America nostalgia (if you hung out in the decadent Palm Springs lounges of that era), keeps its doors open until 3am. It keeps you there through show-stopping cocktails, a stylish, throwback interior (including a cacti terrace with its own fire pit) and live music from a performance area centred around a piano. It’s grand…
Like this? Try… any of these other London bars with live music
Details: 17-20 Ironmonger Lane, London EC2V 8EP | More info
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…
Like this? Try… Disrepute in Soho, where the cocktail menu is a list of short stories, not ingredients.
Details: 80 Houndsditch, EC3A 7AB | Book here
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.
Like this? Try… The Natural Philosopher, which similarly disguises bars within bars…
Details: 65 Rivington Street, EC2A 3AY | Book here
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.
Like this? Try… Happiness Forgets: let happiness remember, at this secret underground cocktail bar in Shoreditch.
Details: 343 Cambridge Heath Road, E2 9RA | Book on 0207 739 8362
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…
Like this? Try… The Vault at Milroys, one of many hidden bars in London that’s just as fun to discover.
Details: Waterloo Station, Waterloo, SE1 7BH | Walk-in only
69 Colebrooke Row | Islington
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.
Like this? Try… Bar Termini, TC’s other retro bar, serving some of the finest negronis in London
Details: 69 Colebrooke Row, N1 8AA | Book here
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… Velvet Bar, a stunning new hotel bar with cocktails from ‘The Maestro’ formerly at Dukes, Salvatore Calabrese.
Details: The Savoy, Strand, WC2R 0EZ | Walk-ins only
Now that you’ve got drinks sorted… check out the best restaurant in every London neighbourhood
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