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Hattie Lloyd 03/06/24


The Best London Cocktail Bars

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 cocktail bar

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.

Like this? Try… their sister bar in Soho, Nightjar Carnaby
Details: 129 City Road, EC1V 1JB | Book here

The Connaught Bar | Mayfair

The Connaught Bar

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

Scarfes Bar | Holborn

scarfes cocktail bar

When it comes to cocktail bars, Holborn is practically a desert. But it all makes sense when you step into Scarfes, a bar so good that it’d sweep away the competition faster than an Olympic curling team. Styled like the library of an aristocratic country pile, it boasts stuffed bookshelves, comfy Chesterfield sofas & wingback chairs, and a crackling live fire. Add to that a nightly programme of atmospheric live music and a signature cocktail menu shaken up by some of the most talented bartenders in the business, and you’ll find it very hard to keep quiet about.

Like this? Try… The Library Lounge, set in an actual former library in King’s Cross.
Details: Rosewood London, 252 High Holborn, WC1V 7EN Walk-in only

The American Bar | Strand

Savoy American bar best cocktails Covent Garden

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 | Shoreditch

tt liquor bars

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 restaurant; and they’ve somehow found space to squeeze in a workshop for cocktail masterclasses and an intimate, 50-seater cinema, too.

Like this? Try… Discount Suit Company, an exceptional East London cocktail bar set in the basement stockroom of an old tailor’s.
Details: 17b Kingsland Rd, London E2 8AA Book here

Little Mercies | Crouch End

London cocktail bars, Little Mercies

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 only three drinks. They’ve also just opened Three Sheets Soho, with a slightly more extensive menu.
Details: 20 Broadway Parade, N8 9DE | Book here

SOMA | Soho

SOMA

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… Dram Bar, a stone’s throw away, serving unusual cocktails in a cool, concrete-heavy setting.
Details: 
14 Denman Street, Soho, W1D 7HJ | Book here

Silverleaf | Liverpool Street

London cocktail bars, Silverleaf

Perched on the third floor of the elegant Pan Pacific Hotel, Silverleaf is headed up by Callooh Callay’s Liam Broom. Each drink on the innovative new ‘Building Blocks’ menu is made with two core ingredients – try the Corn | Cacao which mingles gin with roasted corn, cocoa butter and vanilla, or the tangy Raspberry | Vetiver with whisky, fermented berries and ruby cacao. Meanwhile, the Alba tasting room is an intimate space for guided masterclasses, or you can hire it for your own personal cocktail party – they’ll even keep your favourite bottles behind the bar for you.

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

Lost Property Office | Waterloo

lost property office amazing cocktail bar

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 Blind Pig, one of many hidden bars in London that’s just as fun to discover.
Details: Waterloo Station, Waterloo, SE1 7BH | Book here

Bar Lina | Soho

bar lina

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)…

Like this? Try… Amaro has a great collection of its bitter Italian namesakes, plus fantastic cocktails from ex-American Bar head ‘tender Elon Soddu.
Details: 
18 Brewer St, W1F 0SG Book here

42 | Mayfair

42

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…

Like this? Try… Velvet Bar, a similarly lavish hotel bar with cocktails from ‘The Maestro’ from Dukes, Salvatore Calabrese.
Details: 42 Albemarle Street, W1S 4JH | Book here

Artesian | Marylebone

london cocktail bars, Artesian

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.

Like this? Try… Lyaness, cocktail genius Ryan Chetiyawardana’s riverside bar with equally unusual ingredients.
Details: Langham Hotel, 1C Portland Place, W1B 1JA Book here

Tayēr + Elementary | Old Street

Tayēr + Elementary

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… Umbrella Workshop, an experimental cocktail shed from the Discount Suit Company team selling pre-batched concoctions.
Details: 152 Old Street, London, EC1V 9BW Walk-in only

Bar Termini | Soho

Bar Termini

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.

Like this? Try… 69 Colebrooke Row, TC’s other retro bar, with regular live piano nights.
Details:
7 Old Compton Street, London W1D 5JE | Book here

Equal Parts | Hackney

equal parts cocktail bar

A buzzily 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.

Like this? Try… Behind This Wall, a Hackney cocktail den with a similar passion for vinyl.
Details:
245 Hackney Road, London E2 8NA | Book here

Satan’s Whiskers | Bethnal Green

Satan's Whiskers 

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

swift cocktail bar

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.

Like this? Try… Milroy’s, just round the corner, is a whisky shop with a hidden bar below. It’s currently closed for refurb, though, so watch this space.
Details: 12 Old Compton St, W1D 4TQ Book here

Coupette | Bethnal Green

Coupette London cocktail bars

Coupette is full of libertines – the old French coin is literally stuck to the top of the bar. But the crowd here is pretty lively, too, thanks to a lubricating menu of inventive concoctions like the Cornbread (avocado whisky, beurre noisette and rose vermouth infused with smoked grits) and the Crème Brûlée Old Fashioned (which tastes exactly how it sounds). The familiar service and occasional spot of live music help, too.

Like this? Try… Atelier Coupette, their development bar in Soho where you can try off-menu creations at a snip of the price.
Details: 423 Bethnal Green Road, London, E2 oAN Book here

Kwānt | Mayfair

kwant cocktail bar

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

London cocktail bars, Funkidory bar

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.

Like this? Try… Shoreditch’s Lounge Bohemia, for similar 70s aesthetics and theatrical drinks.
Details:
42 Peckham Rye, London, SE15 4JR Book here

Callooh Callay | Shoreditch

callooh callay cocktail bar

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… Murder Inc, a gangster noir dive bar in Fitzrovia with exceptionally fun and inventive cocktails.
Details: 65 Rivington Street, EC2A 3AY Book here

 


Now that you’ve got drinks sorted… check out the best restaurant in every London neighbourhood