9 Cool Cocktail Bars in Holborn-Clerkenwell

Delicious cocktails on offer | © Marc Thiele/Flickr
Delicious cocktails on offer | © Marc Thiele/Flickr

Outside of Soho, it’s hard to know where to get a good cocktail in zone 1. But fear not: just down the road is Holborn and Clerkenwell, boasting award-winning, unusual and seriously inventive cocktail bars.

Bounce Ping Pong

Cocktail Bar, Restaurant, Bar, Fast Food, $$$
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Dine at Bounce
Dine at Bounce | ©Taylor Herring / Flickr

Ah, the heady mix of ping pong and cocktails — why on earth did no one think of this before? This is a perfect combination: perhaps it’s because you don’t mind running after the ball every two seconds once you’ve had a drink. You’ll need to book a table at Bounce but it’s a fun night out if there’s lots of you. On top of the games, there are the cocktails — there’s a pretty lengthy list and non-drinkers are catered for, over and above the typical OJ or Coke offering.

Scarfes Bar

Cocktail Bar, European, Indian, $$$
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Find Scarfes Bar in the Rosewood Holborn
Find Scarfes Bar in the Rosewood Holborn | © PRORyan Buterbaugh / Flickr

If you’re looking to impress then a date at Scarfes Bar won’t hurt your chances. It’s tucked away in the Rosewood Holborn hotel, but this is no ordinary hotel bar. The bar has become the personal art gallery of renowned cartoonist Gerald Scarfe. It’s stocked full of antique books and there’s a proper fire in the winter. Add to that their live jazz and inventive cocktails and you’ve got a romantic evening out.

The London Cocktail Club

Cocktail Bar, Bar, Fast Food, $$$
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London Cocktail Club, Shaftesbury Avenue
London Cocktail Club, Shaftesbury Avenue | © Ewan Munro / Flickr
The London Cocktail Club has planted itself all over London; we reckon you’re probably never more than a mile away from one in Zone 1. Which is lucky because their Happy Hour offers and drinks deals are legendary. Always up for a good time, the staff can knock out cocktails at a rate of knots and while it might not be as fancy as some other cocktail bars, it’s always party time at London Cocktail Club.


Cafe, Cocktail Bar, Bar, European, Vegan, $$$
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Freud Bar, London
Freud Bar, London | Courtesy of Freud Bar
This basement cocktail bar and café has been quietly producing great nights since 1986. Inspired by the traditional coffee-houses of Vienna, Freud was the fist café-bar in the UK and offers a relaxed wine and extensive cocktail list alongside great coffees, teas and almost anything else you could wish for. It’s low-key and central.

1920 Bar

Cocktail Bar, North American, $$$
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Play pool at 1920
Play pool at 1920 | © Paulo Guedes / Flickr
1920 has been at the heart of Clerkenwell cocktail life for the last 15 years and regularly wins awards for its cocktail list and sultry, anything-goes kind of vibe. There are two floors, pool tables and the possibility of a late license — everything you need really from a central bar. The cocktail list happily sits on the right side of uniqueness without being too pretentious.


Cafe, Cocktail Bar, Italian, Vegetarian, $$$
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Soak up the booze with pizza
Soak up the booze with pizza | © Fabio Hofnik / Flickr

Former bar of the year, Barsmith serves up Italian food and luscious cocktails in equal measure. The bar makes its own spirit infusions, mixing the booze with botanicals, herbs and spices to create something unique — the cocktail list here is unlike any other in the city. If you know your cocktails and want to try something new, it’s definitely worth propping up the bar here.

Clerkenwell & Social

Cocktail Bar, Pub, Pub Grub, Vegetarian, $$$
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Discover this quiet spot
Discover this quiet spot | © Peter Gasston / Flickr

This two-story pub is a great spot in the summer, sat on a cobbled square in the heart of Clerkenwell. House-infused cocktails can be balanced out with homemade pizzas — basically Clerkenwell & Social is the kind of pub you could come for lunch and end up staggering out at midnight quite happily. The cocktails are quirky (hello Breaking Good and Moby Kick) and inspired — a step up from your normal pub attempts.

The Zetter Townhouse

Cocktail Bar, European, $$$
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Discover the bar behind this facade
Discover the bar behind this facade | © Ewan Munro / Flickr

Inside the area’s coolest hotel sits one of its coolest bars. You never know who you might spot in the cocktail bar of The Zetter Townhouse: it’s a favourite of the media and music folk who work round here. It’s not hard to see why: the quirky Victoriana of the décor (inspired by a fictional Great Aunt Wilhelmina) and the award-winning cocktails make it a place you can easily lose a few hours.

Be At One

Cocktail Bar, European, $$$
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Order up a Negroni
Order up a Negroni | © Jeremy Brooks / Flickr

If you’re after quick off the mark cocktails that don’t take all night to make, Be At One is slick and stylish. Rather than try and mess with tried and tested, much loved recipes, Be At One has a lengthy list of traditional favourites and some less well known Prohibition style cocktails. It also offers masterclasses where you get to shake and strain your own.