After a day spent exploring the bright lights and busy streets of London, you can work up quite a thirst. Scattered across the capital are all manner of bars, lounges, boîtes and ratskellars, offering locals and tourists alike the opportunity to kick back and enjoy a few drinks. Check out our guide to the 10 best cocktail bars in London, perfect spots in which to start the evening or stay and while away the night.
Nestled in the hallowed halls of the Langham Hotel, the Artesian Bar has been hailed the ‘world’s best bar’ by Drinks International. Head Bartender, Alex Kratena, is a multi-award winning asset to the establishment, bringing influences and flavours from the many cultures he’s experienced to his unique mixology style. The delicious drinks available at the Artesian are subdivided into ‘classics’, ‘unfolding and exploring’ and ‘innovative’ categories. The ‘unfolding and exploring’ menu allows guests to sample the cutting edge creations Artesian has on offer. Try the Time, Space & Honey cocktail, comprising of Grey Goose vodka mixed with parsnips, honey and champagne. The ‘innovation’ menu pushes the cocktail frontier. Try the treacle cocktail that’s been designed to specifically complement the bar’s signature barbequed pork ribs.
Part of the upmarket Connaught Hotel in Mayfair, The Connaught Bar has been described as looking ‘like an ice cube’, a nod, perhaps, to its décor, inspired by Cubism and 1920s art.There is nothing frosty however, about the enthusiastic staff and bartenders who ensure your evening of cocktails is perfectly facilitated. The cocktail menu is locally renowned and strives to fuse traditional drinks and flavourings with fresh and pioneering new approaches to mixology, featuring exclusive vintages and limited edition champagnes, spirits and liqueurs. The Connaught Bar operates a no reservation policy, so stop by early to ensure you get the best seat in the house.
Quench your thirst in Soho’s hip El Camion bar. The interior is both sultry and jazzy, with vibrant artworks hanging on the walls and bewitching patterns adorning the various surfaces and furnishings. The bar holds nightly events that focus on a particular drink or form of entertainment: DJ’s frequent the bar on Fridays and Saturdays, catering to a fun loving crowd of weekend partygoers. The menu offers a multitude of Mexican beers and cocktails; try the Cadillac Margarita, made from Olmeca Altos Reposado Tequila, lemon juice, triple sec and a grand marnier float. El Camion also boasts an impressive collection of tequilas, with over 300 different varieties.
Located on the grand streets of Mayfair, Mr Fogg’s bar, inspired by the intrepid exploits of fictional explorer Phileas Fogg, invites guests to take a stroll into a fantastical rendering of Victorian London. The venue is full of all manner of anthropological artefacts, from enormous palm trees to hunting trophies. On Saturday afternoons, Mr Fogg’s holds its famous Tipsy Tea event, where weekend revellers are invited to try myriad alcoholic gin teas served with delectable sandwiches, cakes, pastries and petit-fours, rounded off with a champagne cocktail. The bar is a favourite of Mayfair merrymakers, so be sure to book a table in advance to avoid disappointment.
Enter Shoreditch’s award winning Nightjar bar, where enjoying flavoursome cocktails and partaking of delicate food are the only requirements. Nightjar’s broad range of drinks have been inspired by different periods and events in drinking culture, including pre-prohibition, prohibition and post-war cocktails. Enjoy the delectable Brown Derby: Bulleit bourbon, freshly squeezed pomelo, grenadine, bee pollen syrup and the sweet tartness of pickled berries. The interior is decked out in low, ambient lighting and the furnishings a distinguished collection of dark wood and red pieces, lending the establishment a brooding elegance. Bookings for large groups of partygoers can be made via email and the venue can be hired privately for more intimate gatherings.
In the Union Street Bar in Borough, quality and downtown elegance prevail. Relax in one of the bar’s cosy corners where intimate conversation can be enjoyed alongside excellent cocktails, evoking flavours of the Mediterranean in the heart of London. The exposed walls of the bar and sensitive, low lighting provide the venue with an easy sophistication. Choose the Southwark Angel, made with Tanqueray Gin, green Chartreuse, cucumber and a squeeze of lemon juice or go for the quintessentially British Harlequin Tea Set, with Beefeater gin, crème de cassis, earl grey syrup and Regan’s orange bitters. Enjoy this eclectic selection of drinks alongside the bar’s list of upmarket snacks, from balsamic beef meatballs to green sweet fried peppers.
Escape into Shoreditch’s Worship Street Whistling Shop, a bar ‘set to redefine cocktails in the capital’. The virtuosity of the mixologists is evident in the complexity of the recipes and the care taken in the construction of each cocktail; rotary evaporators, sous vide, vacuum technology and a variety of enzymes, acids, proteins and hydrocolloids are utilised to ensure the drinks are of the very highest quality and taste. Or perhaps, for a unique customer experience, try the Dram Shop; a cocktail room selling pre-bottled unique one off cocktails. Each bottle uses a different molecular technique from rotary evaporation to Japanese cold brew infusion. Here you’ll be shown how to make one and then be left to make the rest.
Part of the Zetter Townhouse Hotel, the Zetter Townhouse cocktail lounge is located on St. John’s Square just off of the Clerkenwell Road. Renowned cocktail connoisseur, Tony Congliaro, has devised a series of recipes that were inspired by the area’s historical connection with the distilling industry. The interior is a work of art in itself: rich furnishings and embellishments cover the floor, surface and walls, inviting guests to secret themselves away with a cocktail and a companion for an evening of convivial conversation. Enjoy the unusual flavours of the Pheasant Island Sour cocktail, made with Martell cognac, Poire Williams, Lepanto PX brandy, lemon juice and sugar.
With a name derived from Lewis Carroll’s Jabberwocky, Shoreditch’s Callooh Callay is a hidden sanctuary of quiet cosiness where excellent cocktails are available in abundance. The Victorian themed venue is divided into the main bar, the lounge (where tables can be booked for up to eight people) and the upstairs bar, where autumn and winter cocktails are concocted. The drinks menu boasts some tempting beverages; opt for the Quince of the Stone Sage cocktail, constructed from roasted apricots mixed with sage and combined with Ketel One vodka, Briottet quince liqueur, lime juice and bitters. For ravenous cocktail consumers, there is also a hearty food menu where a selection of nibbles and bar snacks can be purchased.
The Ritz Hotel, that famous hallmark of London luxury, offers up something truly special with their Rivoli Bar. Take a seat in one of the comfortable, plush chairs and peruse the comprehensive drinks menu. Try the eponymous Rivoli 10, a drink devised to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the bar, constructed from Dalmore 15, Domain Canton ginger liquor, sweet vermouth maceration, piquant red cherries and orange bitters. The menu also boasts an array of decadent bar snacks, from an extensive range of caviar to the famous Rivoli club sandwiches. The bar’s décor is decidedly Art Deco, lending a sense of old school glamour to proceedings. Sit amongst the glowing Lalique glass panels nestled in the refined camphor wood walls whilst gazing up at the beautifully gilded ceiling domes.