Ah, the magic of a great cocktail bar.
Can you remember what it feels like? Getting dressed up, heading out and stepping inside that dimly-lit, quietly buzzing haven for the first time. Hearing the soft chatter of flirtatious patrons conversing in candlelit corners to a soundtrack of clinking glasses and rattling cocktail shakers. Connecting with someone you care about over an expertly-created concoction inside a clandestine oasis where hours can pass in minutes. It’s a world that feels light years away from the stresses of normal life; a place where you can be irresponsible. And relaxed. And happy.
Yes, even you.
Now as you know, London contains many of the finest cocktail bars on the planet… and as you probably also know, the last year’s been impossible for them all, so each is now in a battle for survival. The next few weeks and months are crucial, and will determine how many of them make it to Christmas – which is why you should pick one that you’d like to visit, choose a restaurant nearby that you’d like to go to before or after your cocktails, and have an amazing night out. You’ll be supporting the best restaurants & bars in London – whom we’d all like to continue existing – while making yourself happy in the process. It’s easy.
But to make it even easier, the team behind London Cocktail Week – which this year is happening throughout the whole month of October – are running the London Cocktail Week Warm Up next week (5th July – 11th July) during which you can score discounted cocktails at some of the city’s finest bars. To access these, you need to get a London Cocktail Week 2021 Wristband (which will be valid both for next week and for the main event in October, when you’ll get access to all the LCW events, masterclasses and £7 cocktails in 250 of the very best bars in London).
LCW’21 Wristbands cost £15 (available here), or, if you’re a Nudge Member £8 (see members’ box above this article for details), and allow you access to special £7 cocktails next week at these amazing bars.
Here are a few of our favourites taking part, including our favourite spots to eat nearby.…
Coupette bears the coveted title of The Nudge’s Favourite Bar in East London, alongside a dozen less important awards such as No. 23 on the World’s Best Bars list; Best New International Cocktail bar at Tales of the Spirited; and Best Cocktail of the Year (two years running) at the CLASS Bar Awards. Basically, it’s good. And their exposed-brick walled Bethnal Green bolthole is everything a good cocktail bar should be – low-lit, intimate and soundtracked by a well-curated playlist of rock’n’roll and live piano singalongs. The thoroughly French accent can be seen in the decor – old tabac shop signs and a bar covered in Libertine coins – as well as the menu, which sings with calvados, the apple brandy made in Normandy. But for the warm-up week, the spotlight is on their Frozen Cosmo-Passion, which whizzes together Grey Goose vodka, cranberry, peach soda and passionfruit sorbet.
Where’s good to eat nearby? Pasta al fresco at Sager + Wilde
Details: 423 Bethnal Green Road, London, E2 0AN | Open daily from 5pm (4pm Fri & Sat)
You’ll find the good-looking Bar Américain right beneath the trampling feet of the crowds of Piccadilly Circus, hidden away as part of Brasserie Zédel. Slip away from the thronging masses and ease into the warm, wood-panelled embrace of its original 1930s interiors, where murmured conversations are held to a backdrop of live jazz and swing emanating from the dining room next door. The place is luxury personified, and this week that luxury costs a little less: they’re offering not one but three cocktails as part of the Warm-Up Week, including a Dry Daiquiri with aged rum and mango purée (£7), a gin Martini with manzanilla sherry (£7) and a non-alcoholic number whipping together Seedlip with fresh watermelon juice (£5).
Where’s good to eat nearby? You’re conveniently right next door to Brasserie Zédel…
Details: 20 Sherwood Street, London, W1F 7ED | Open daily from 5pm (4pm Fri/Sun & 3pm Sat)
Satan’s Whiskers is an East End institution. From the outside… it almost looks closed down. But inside is a buzzy, eclectic mélange of subway tiles, vintage liquor posters and er, stuffed racoons, where a 90s hip-hop soundtrack lends a deceptively laid-back vibe to a bar team that take their drinks seriously. On their regularly-changing menu is a choice line-up of modern classics, from a Grapefruit Americano to a Champagne Paloma. Which means if anyone’s going to do a Tom Collins right, it’s these guys – and you can see for yourself this week when the Champagne-topped gin cooler is going for £7 a pop.
Where’s good to eat nearby? Treat yourself at The Water House Project
Details: 343 Cambridge Heath Road, London, E2 9RA | Open daily 5pm-midnight
Laki Kane is a Polynesian paradise nestled on Upper Street, combining bamboo furnishings, Tiki statues and colourful flowers and foliage to create a bar that’s just really fun. Paying homage to America’s enthusiastic midcentury craze for tiki culture, the cocktails here are lavish concoctions made with artisan rums and garnished with towers of palm leaves, fruit and flowers. The bar’s ideal for bigger groups, and at the weekend they run rum-making workshops, tastings and cocktail masterclasses. And their Warm-Up Week cocktail is a masterclass in itself, combining ‘banana peel oleo saccharum’ (that’s a sustainable sugar oil made with banana peel), rum, and a CBD mixer.
Where’s good to eat nearby? Affordable indulgence at 12:51
Details: 144-145 Upper Street, London, N1 1QY | Open daily from 5pm (Friday from 4pm, and weekends from 1.30pm)
Happiness may forget, but make sure you remember this place. Plum-coloured walls, candlelit booths and a polished wood bar provide the pleasing backdrop that’s both cosy and illicit, where award-winning cocktails are shaken up in a Hoxton basement. On the menu for wristband-bearers this week is a fine duet: the Diamond Gimlet, whose crisp edges comes from celery cordial and cumin eau de vie, and the Penicillin, a non-alcoholic take on the classic whose combination of smoked lapsang tea, ginger syrup and honey sounds like it could cure all ills…
Where’s good to eat nearby? Enjoy tapas at Brindisa, or go all out at The Clove Club
Details: 8-9 Hoxton Square, London, N1 6NU | Open daily 5-11pm
Covent Garden Social Club
This opulent West End lounge is the home of the Good Time. Perched above the tiny Arts Theatre in Leicester Square, it’s a raucous den with nightly live acts including musicians, singers and cabaret stars, and some fine cocktails to boot. You’ll need to sign up for club membership in advance – it’s free, and will net you discounts to shows at the theatre too. Once you’re in, you’ll be loaded up with theatrical drinks, from the Old Fashioned with muscovado and raisin syrup, to the Mimosa Soufflé (a smooth, foamy take on the classic). On the menu this week? The Social Club Outlaw, blending bourbon with hibiscus and dry vermouth, and a bounty of £7 on its head.
Where’s good to eat nearby? Modern Iranian delights at Nutshell
Details: 6-7 Great Newport Street, London, WC2H 7JB | Open Mon-Sat, 4.30pm-late
Demon, Wise & Partners
When in the City, follow the suits to The Arbitrager… then slip downstairs into this basement cocktail oasis. Offering seated service only, this retro lounge is the antidote to the street-level bars jostling with after work drinkers. The menu comprises well-made classics, signature serves and a duo – the Demon and the Wise – that are each made precisely 100 times before the recipe changes all over again. And both of which, incidentally, would make a good chaser to The Tropical Pal (coconut fat-washed bourbon, jasmine and Campari), the Kentucky Coffee Forest (exactly what it sounds like) and the booze-free Strawberry Peach Forever, their Warm-Up Week specials.
Where’s good to eat nearby? Hawksmoor Guildhall never fails to impress.
Details: 27 Throgmorton Street, London, EC2N 2AN | Open Wed-Fri, 5pm-late
Presenting the ultimate speakeasy: Opium is hidden behind an unmarked, jade green door down a set of steps leading from Gerrard Street, Chinatown. Find it, and you’re only halfway there. For what awaits you inside is a warren of bars-within-bars hidden in attics and behind little red curtains, each taking inspiration from 1920s Shanghai. The cocktails – assembled from apothecary bottles, house concoctions and high-end spirits – are absolute showstoppers, arriving in billowing clouds of smoke or elaborate vessels. And this week, you can cap off your night with a little Cherry Blossom Fizz, made with Japanese vodka, sake and homemade cherry wine.
Where’s good to eat nearby? Check out Soho’s new retro Korean pub, Hongdae Pocha.
Details: 15-16 Gerrard Street, London, W1D 6JE | Open daily from 5pm till the wee hours
The Blind Pig
A suave, prohibition-era drinking den perched above Jason Atherton’s critically lauded Social Eating House. To find it, look for the optician’s sign hanging, somewhat incongruously, at the end of Poland Street in Soho. Push open the door with the blindfolded pig’s head for a knocker, head upstairs, and sink into butter-soft leather booths as the world beyond melts away. The cocktail menu here changes regularly according to tongue-in-cheek themes – currently you can sip concoctions with ingredients hauled from far-off fantasy realms, from Springfield’s Nuclear Daiquiri to Saffron City’s Bulba-sour. And, of course, your discounted Pirate Pop, mingling bamboo milk with apricot brandy and, naturally, rum.
Where’s good to eat nearby? You can always head downstairs… or nip into Bao
Details: 58 Poland Street, London, W1F 7NR | Open Tues-Sat from noon till late
All this is genuinely only scratching the surface of the incredible line-up on offer. Joining this merry band of bars are other esteemed establishments including Crouch End’s vaunted Little Mercies; the multiple award-winning Callooh Callay (and their brand-new spot, the Duchess of Dalston); clandestine Soho drinking den Disrepute; and a whole lot more.
It’s the excuse you’ve been looking for to put on real shoes again; to rediscover this beautiful city; and to support all of the bar & restaurant owners and amazing hospitality staff who make London such a vibrant and fun place to live.
Also, to drink.
NOTE: London Cocktail Week’s Warm-Up Week runs 5th-11th July 2021 in bars across London. To take advantage of the offers, everyone in your party will need a wristband. They cost £15 (or £8 for Nudge members, see members’ box above this article) and can be purchased on the LCW website HERE – you’ll then receive a ticket from Design My Night, which you can exchange for your wristband at any of the participating bars.
Like great bars? Check out our all-time favourite London cocktail bars.