Insider Guide: London’s best cocktail bars

The UK capital is one of the best cities in the world for drinking well. Need help sieving the lime from the soda? Here’s our pick of the best cocktail bars in London for any occasion, as selected by leading drinks specialist (and local Londoner) Millie Milliken

Last updated: July 15, 2022
London's best cocktail bars | The Connaught's iconic martini with a lemon twist on a marble table
The Connaught, Mayfair

The home of the espresso martini, the world’s best bar and a multitude of award-winning bartenders – when it comes to finding a spot to drink it can be difficult to navigate your way around the best cocktail bars in London.

While its bar offering works well when paired with an evening in one of London’s best restaurants, they’re also well worth a trip in their own right (and quite a lot of them serve snacks). You’ll also find lots of London’s brilliant hotels are well-equipped with their cocktail offering, so that’s always a good place to start. For a more in-depth guide to London’s booming bar scene, we’ve put together a list of some of our favourite spots across the capital that cover the plethora of styles, prices and vibes, whether you’re seeking stylish interiors, inventive flavours or a banging playlist.

London's best cocktail bars | The bar and stools inside low-lit bar Seed Library inside One Hundred Shoreditch
Seed Library, Shoreditch. Photo by Caitlin Isola

Seed Library, Shoreditch

Vibe: East London regular
Location: One Hundred Shoreditch Hotel, 100 Shoreditch High Street, E1 6HU
When you should go: Catchup with friends
Price: 9-11.50 GBP for cocktails

This new bar from the UK’s most celebrated bartender, Ryan Chetiyawardana (aka Mr Lyan) mixes ’70s cool with stripped back cocktails. Drinks are classics but with the Seed Library’s sustainable spin (the sancho leaf martini is excellent, as is the coriander seed gimlet). A vinyl collection means the music always bangs and the snack menu includes the tongue-in-cheek addition of potato smilies with cheese dipping sauce. Mr Lyan never fails to deliver, and his latest labour of love is bound to become one of London’s best cocktail bars in a flash. Go now before everyone else does – and book a night at One Hundred Shoreditch while you’re at it, so all you need to do is stumble from the bar to your bed.
Photo by Caitlin Isola. onehundredshoreditch.com

London's best cocktail bars | Green leather sofas and chairs inside a pale-pink room with marble flooring at iconic hotel bar The Connaught
Connaught Bar, Mayfair

Connaught Bar, Mayfair

Vibe: Luxury hotel bar
Location: The Connaught Hotel, Carlos Place, W1K 2AL
When you should go: To celebrate 
Price: From 21 GBP for a cocktail 

Ago Perrone and his award-winning team make arguably the most iconic martinis in London, with the Connaught’s trolley and the bartenders’ signature high pour making it onto the Instagram feeds of many a drinker. The team even let you choose your own bitters to personalise it to your tastes. The rest of the menu is definitely worth checking out too, especially the vintage cocktails using spirits from the 1970s. You can also expect beautifully crafted glassware and some of the best hotel bar snacks in town – truffle pizza with my martini? Yes, please.
the-connaught.co.uk

Best cocktail bars London | Greenery and green velvet stools alongside low tables crowned by candles at Trailer Happiness
Modern tiki bar Trailer Happiness

Trailer Happiness, Portobello Road

Vibe: Neighbourhood rum bar
Location: 177 Portobello Road, London W11 2DY
When you should go: Fun night out 
Price: 11-14 GBP for a cocktail. 20-50 GBP for sharing cocktails

Rum legend Sly Augustin is at the helm of Portobello Road’s destination rum bar. Influenced by Asia, Polynesia and the Caribbean, the kitsch and cosy spot (which survived a flood in 2021) is lauded for its classic rum cocktails as well as clever twists on other classics, like the espresso martiki (see what they did there?). The crowd in here is a mix of people who are serious about rum and those who want to let loose. And sometimes both. Either way, this is the spot for a proper party.
trailerh.com

London's best cocktail bars | a pale pink cocktail on a low wooden table with a candle at Soma Soho
Soma Soho

Soma Soho

Vibe: West End speakeasy
Location: 14 Denman Street, London, W1D 7HJ
When you should go: On a date 
Price: 10-14 GBP for a cocktail

Possibly one of the best London cocktail bar openings of 2021, Soma Soho is a modern speakeasy with some of the slickest drinks in town. You’ll be greeted at the unmarked entrance before being shown down to a subterranean den with a communal bar, where you can sit and watch the bartenders work. There are also small intimate spaces with black curtains and low lighting. The drinks are the stars though. Influenced by the subcontinent of India, they take recognisable classics and put their deft spin on them. The Leaf is a winner – a twist on a gimlet with curry leaf, Opihr gin, kaffir leaf and pink peppercorn. Absolute magic.
somasoho.com

London's best cocktail bars | a bartender using a pipette to taste the espresso martini at Funkidory
Funkidory, Peckham

Funkidory, Peckham

Vibe: Local hero
Location: 42 Peckham Rye, London, SE15 4JR 
When you should go: Casual meetup
Price: Changes regularly with the menu, so check before you go

Cocktails, records and natural wine. What’s not to like at Peckham favourite Funkidory? As the name suggests, this local (and industry) favourite serves excellent cocktails backed by carefully curated funk tracks. Founders Sergio Leanza and Anna Fairhead have built up an impressive collection of local and independent spirits and turn out inventive cocktails in warm and homely surrounds. A record and bottle shop makes a thoughtful addition – and you can even get your hands on some Funkidory merch to take home with you. Despite being a fairly recent arrival, it’s officially already one of the best bars in South London.
funkidory.com

A Bar with Shapes for a Name, Haggerston

Vibe: Relaxed minimalism
Location: 232 Kingsland Road, Whitmore Estate, E2 8AX
When you should go: Late-night drinks
Price: 10 GBP for a cocktail

This Bauhaus-inspired bar is only recognisable by the three shapes above its door. Inside, bartenders wear colourful rompers, and the wood-heavy space screams ‘sleek utility’. There are no bottles on the back bar; a huge fridge holds their beautiful, delicate glassware; and the cocktails are minimalist in look but big on flavour. The bottled rhubarb and raspberry Pastel is an excellent way to kick off proceedings, and the Kasimir come with an ice cube with a light prism inside. Oh, and it’s open till 3am every night. London is known for its lack of a late-night drinking scene, so add this to your mental hit list for the next time you’re hunting for martinis after midnight.
@a_bar_with_shapes_for_a_name_

London's best cocktail bars | wooden bar stools around the tiled central bar at Tayer + Elementary
Tayer + Elementary, Old Street

Tayer + Elementary, Old Street

Vibe: Brutalist hangout
Location: 152 Old Street, London, EC1V 9BW
When you should go: Casual dinner 
Price: Changes regularly with the menu, so check before you go

Run by bartending royalty Monica Berg and Alex Kratena, this painfully cool Old Street destination bar is split into two parts: Tayer, which sits at the back and turns out esoteric cocktails from its central feature bar; and Elementary, an all-day casual affair (where the One Sip Martini is a must). While the drinks are of course the main draw, the food menu at the bar is staggeringly impressive, with a regular menu tempered by guest chef rotations. Take a peek at the takeaway fridge too on your way out to bring a taste of one of London’s best cocktail bars home with you.
Photo by Bernard Zeija. tayer-elementary.com

London's best bars | Two ice-cold cocktails in a coupe and a martini glass on a wooden table with a red backdrop at The Cadogan Arms
The Cadogan Arms, Chelsea

The Cadogan Arms, Chelsea

Vibe: British classic
Location: 298 King’s Road, London; SW3 5UG
When you should go: Celebratory dinner
Price: 6 GBP boilermakers. 11-17 GBP cocktails

From the outside, The Cadogan Arms looks like more of a pub than a bar – and, indeed, once you step inside, too. Yet the cocktails you’ll be served are more than bar-worthy. Drinks come with fun sides like the Rah Rah Martini, served with a spoon of caviar, and the boilermakers (tiny frozen cocktails designed to be served alongside beer) are a standout favourite for the fun and boisterous crowd. Go for the drinks and stay for the elevated pub classic food.
thecadoganarms.london

London's best cocktail bars | The pale yellow melon margarita at Amaro, served with a cube of ice stamped with a capital 'A'
Amaro, Kensington

Amaro, Kensington

Cuisine: Local elegance
Location: 15 Kensington High Street, W8 5NP
When you should go: Date night
Price: Cocktails from 14 GBP

This new bar, which gets its name from an Italian liqueur, has taken the classics and given them a slick, contemporary edge. The Mango Bellini, Mandarin Garibaldi (with obligatory fluffy mandarin and orange juice) and Melon Margarita are all clean but fun takes on some of the cocktail favourites. It looks good, too, with the uplit back bar creating a warm and welcoming atmosphere. Take someone special and they’ll be putty in your hands…
amarobar.co.uk

Upstairs at Rules, Covent Garden

Vibe: Classic London
Location: 34-35 Maiden Lane, WC2E 7LB
When you should go: Quiet drink with a pal
Price: 18-24.50 GBP for a cocktail

Found – you guessed it – upstairs at the iconic, historic Rules restaurant in Covent Garden, this bar – run by bartending icon Brian Silva – is as classic and vintage as it gets. This is where cocktails are made how they used to be and Silva turns out the classics with his own special twist (usually the addition of a rare or interesting ingredient). When you’re not being regaled by Silva at the bar, the surrounds evoke Victorian England, while a covered conservatory makes a beautiful space for quiet conversation. A must for first-time visitors and cocktail buffs.
rules.co.uk

Has all this wet your whistle for more insider information on London? You can find out about the capital’s best museums and galleries, curated by a local arts writer; or tune into London’s bubbling music scene – not to mention find out where to listen to some of the best artists around right now.