Looking for the city’s best cocktail spots? From the world’s finest martinis to a hidden bar with an unparalleled absinthe list, we’ve scoured the capital’s many watering holes to bring you the best cocktail bars in London. The Best Cocktail Bars in London 2020
The Best Date Bars in London / Speakeasy Bars in London
Waeska Bar at The Mandrake
It’s all about surrealism at Waeska Bar, found within the endlessly cool Mandrake Hotel in Fitzrovia. Since opening in 2017 it has become the go-to destination for London’s fashion elite, and it’s easy to see why. Named after a medicinal plant – as are all areas of the hotel – Waeska Bar is a beautifully bizarre mish-mash of patterns, colours and textures. Leather bar stools sit beside tropical-print armchairs and mirror-topped tables, while a flower-bedecked courtyard houses bamboo tables . The most striking aspect of all is the fantastical creature which leaps above the bar: a half-kangaroo, half-gazelle with scales made from harvested beetle wings, designed by renowned artist Enrique Gomez de Molina. Drinks are equally exotic, particularly since the launch of their new cocktail menu, which is rooted in ethnobotany: the study of a region’s plants and their practical uses through traditional knowledge of local cultures. The ‘Sarsaparilla’, for instance, is a twist on the classic Pina Colada, made using the root of the Sarsaparilla plant – which indigenous people in South America have been using to treat joint and skin problems for centuries. Another cocktail on the menu, meanwhile, is mixed with native Indian plant vetiver, said to have anti-anxiety abilities.
20-21 Newman St, Fitzrovia, London W1T 1PG. themandrake.com
GŎNG Bar at The Shard
Cocktails taste better with a view – particularly when the vantage point is from the top of London’s highest hotel bar. Perched on the 52nd floor of London’s Shangri-La Hotel, At The Shard, the ever-glamorous GŎNG offers unparalleled panoramas of the city skyline from all angles. The name derives from ‘dougong’, a traditional Chinese architectural element of interlocking wooden brackets, with Asian-inspired décor seen throughout. This heritage is also reflected in their new cocktail menu, featuring four cocktails made from the liquor Hong Kong Baijiu, all created using ancient Chinese techniques. The Baijiu cocktail is a punchy number, mixed with Roku, green Chartreuse, Campari and Antica Formula, while the Princess of China is more delicate, made with raspberry, kumquat, Veuve Clicquot and Cocchi Americano.
31 St Thomas St, London SE1 9QU. the-shard.com
Infinitely elegant and hidden away in St James’, the bar at
The Dukes Hotel is renowned for serving the best martinis in town – even the world, some would argue. Such an accolade is merited by Alessandro Palazzi, the Dukes Bar manager who uses a combination of the best ingredients from around the world to perfect his cocktails, even importing Amalfi lemons from his native Italy to add an irresistible spritz of bitter zest to the renowned Vesper Martini. As Sir Ian Fleming’s favourite watering hole, and where he apparently coined the phrase “shaken, not stirred”, there is still a big dose of old-school James Bond glamour about the place – from the antique silver drinks trolley where each cocktail is prepared, to the cognac and cigar garden where guests can retire afterwards.
35 St. James’s Place, London SW1A 1NY. dukeshotel.com
Take your date to the tropics without stepping foot on a plane – just venture to Islington, to Laki Kane. Everything from the interior design to the drinks is designed to make the cocktail bar a realistic escape to a tropical island, whilst sitting on Islington’s Upper Street.
144-145 Upper Street, London N1 1QY. lakikane.com
Last autumn was a bittersweet month for Sea Containers London’s Dandelyan. Ryan Chetiyawardana’s famed bar was voted number one in the World’s 50 Best Bars awards, but just a couple of months after announced it was closing its doors. Earlier this year, however, the bar re-opened as Lyaness – still under the ownership of cocktail guru Chetiyawardana, also known as Mr Lyan. Lyaness has a slightly different vibe to Dandelyan, but the aesthetics are equally pretty. Powder blue and grey shades replace millennial pinks, and the green marble bar remains, alongside brass tables and plush velvet sofas. The drinks menu remains every bit as innovative as Dandelyan’s, sectioned around ingredients rather than cocktails. There are seven specialist ingredients, from ‘Infinite Banana’ to ‘Tat-tie Milk Punch’, each of which is used to create a trio of exciting and unique cocktails. Can’t decide? Use the dedicated drinks map, a guide to taste (light vs rich) and suggested drinking times (daytime to late evening) – clever or what?
20 Upper Ground, South Bank, London SE1 9PD. lyaness.com
Priding itself on providing an escape from the outside world,
Oriole is an underground cocktail bar serving intricate drinks and rare spirits in a plush and flamboyant space. A far cry from the other business-like watering holes of Farringdon, Oriole offers creative respite from the mundanities of everyday life in the city – much aided by a fascinating cocktail menu that it’s a pleasure to drink your way through. The cocktails explore the Old World, New World and the Orient, beautifully presented in a series of unique vessels with specially-created garnishes. A real experience.
East Poultry Avenue, Smithfield Markets, London EC1A 9LH. oriolebar.com
American Bar at The Savoy
Once bagging the title of ‘Best Bar in the World’, the Savoy’s American Bar has long been a go-to for London’s most refined drinkers. The 1930s-inspired bar combines flawless service with an energetic atmosphere and whispers of a bygone era thanks to the two resident pianists who entertain guests with classic jazz. Take a perch at the bar to watch some of the world’s top bartenders expertly craft cocktails from the infamous Savoy Cocktail Book – unless, of course, you prefer something rather more bespoke, in which case they are always delighted to create something that perfectly matches your tastes.
The Savoy, Strand, London WC2R 0EU. fairmont.com
Bar 190 at The Gore
It may not seem like it from the row of stuccoed white South Kensington townhouses which
The Gore finds itself among, but hotel’s bar is one of the most rock ‘n’ roll spots in town. Bar 190 was the location for The Rolling Stones’ Beggars Banquet album launch and photoshoot – and the bar has rolled with this theme ever since. All original wooden panelling, lavish upholstery, deep velvets and aged leather armchairs, there’s a real sense of occasion that comes with your Negroni, even more so if you bag the plush ‘Cinderella’s Carriage’ hideaway at the back of the bar.
190 Queen’s Gate, Kensington, London SW7 5EX. starhotelscollezione.com
Clarendon Cocktail Cellar
Dubbed Pimlico’s hidden boozer, the building that Clarendon Cocktail Cellar calls home has been the destination of choice for a stiff drink since 1852. Now, as well as drawing those who are after delicious tipples, film buffs are queuing up to sample cocktails named after some of the best films in cinematic history. Choose from titles such as Driving Miss Daisy, Airplane and Slumdog Millionaire, each a sensory experience of its namesake in a drink. The moody lighting and eclectic art – from the Lawrence Alkin gallery in Soho, which changes every month – adds to the rustic, cosy ambiance. Nibble on rosemary fries, padron peppers and crispy squid while enjoying an aperitif, before heading upstairs to Cambridge Street Kitchen for a good burger or melt-in-mouth steak.
52 Cambridge Street, London SW1V 4QQ. clarendoncocktailcellar.co.uk
All the way in Dalston (but well worth the detour),
Untitled is a wonderfully minimalist restaurant and bar with an innovative drinks list created by none other than Tony Conigliaro. When the Japanese food and cocktails are this good, you really don’t need much else – hence the pared-down aesthetic. A concise cocktail list contains such mysteries as ‘Violin’ and ‘Concrete’ which with ingredients such as soft chalk, white clay, enoki vodka and benzoin don’t give much away. Our advice? Best to just go with it – this is a group of mixologists that really know what they’re doing.
538 Kingsland Road, London E8 4AH. untitled-bar.com
With modern interiors by Paris-based Tino Zervudachi and original William Morris wallpaper, Mark’s Club seamlessly combines old and new world. The club’s new director (ex-Chiltern Firehouse) has beautifully refreshed the classic bar, bringing with him a younger wave of members, innovative cocktails and a penchant for
cigars, which unite to define the new generation of Mark’s Club members – while of course maintaining the elegant and traditional aspects which have long made it such a success. If you manage to get a much-coveted membership, the intimate bar is the perfect base for exploring the ever-changing and enticing cocktail menu.
46 Charles St, Mayfair, London W1J 5EJ. marksclub.co.uk
Scarfes Bar at Rosewood London
Rosewood London’s bar is named after one of Britain’s great cartoon satirists, Gerald Scarfe, and his influence can be felt throughout – from his framed cartoons which cover the walls, to the new cocktail menu which he personally illustrated. Cocktails range from the classic to the creative, sometimes verging on wacky, but always maintaining the element of sophistication which so defines the venue. The kind of place where you can while away a worrying amount of time as you sink into the leather armchairs.
Rosewood London, 252 High Holborn, London WC1V 7EN. scarfesbar.com
Cocktails and live jazz combined have to be one of life’s greatest pleasures – and
Nightjar excels at both. The small, speakeasy-style cocktail bar oozes 1920s glamour (yet is somehow still cosy), but is brought into the modern day with its innovative cocktail garnishes and often unusual ingredients that are the perfect refreshment in what is considered one of the best jazz bars in London.
129 City Rd, Hoxton, London EC1V 1JB. barnightjar.com
Bar Américain at Brasserie Zédel
It’s an absolute delight to sip classic American cocktails in the Art Deco surroundings of Bar Américain, located downstairs at London landmark
Brasserie Zédel. The perfect place for an apéritif before indulging on the restaurant’s French classics, but equally as fabulous after hours for post-dinner drinks with friends before making your way into the sparkly Soho night.
20 Sherwood St, Soho, London W1F 7ED. brasseriezedel.com
The Last Tuesday Society
Dubbed ‘the World’s Most Curious Cocktail Bar’, this is a London drinking spot like no other. Hidden within the
Viktor Wynd Museum of Curiosities, the bar is filled with an eclectic mix of bizarre objects, artefacts and frankly unclassifiable treasures as well as a clientele as interesting as you’d expect from such a place. Nothing about this bar is normal, and this extends to the cocktails which feature rare and prohibited alcohols from around the world. There is, naturally, a weekly celebration of absinthe, the spirit ‘so notoriously favoured by the rebellious minds of art and literature’. There’s no telling where the so-called ‘Green Goddess’ (as named by Aleister Crowley, no less) will take you…
11 Mare Street, London E8 4RP. thelasttuesdaysociety.org start the slideshow