The home of the espresso martini, the world’s best bar and a multitude of award-winning bartenders – London lays claim to one of the best cocktail scenes in the world.
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). Many of London’s brilliant hotels are well-equipped with an impressive cocktail offering, while dimly lit corners of Hackney and Soho reveal intimate drinking dens with impressive pours. For an 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 a broad range of styles, prices and vibes, whether you’re seeking plush interiors, inventive flavours, rooftop views or a banging playlist.
Common Decency, Covent Garden
Vibe: Dark, vibey, high-end cocktails
Location: 28 Bow Street, London, WC2E 7AW
When you should go: Naughty night out
Price: Cocktails from 18 GBP
Hidden beneath the stunning Nomad hotel in Covent Garden is Common Decency, named in honour of Oscar Wilde who was tried for ‘an affront to common decency’ in the magistrate’s court in which the hotel now lives. The bar takes five seasonal ingredients and creates two complex but approachable serves around it, from Milk Punches to Gibsons and delicate highballs. You can take a seat at the bar or head into the opulent main drinking den where you’ll usually find a DJ bringing the party vibes. Oh, and don’t forget to scan the snack menu – caviar potato rostis are not to be missed.
Upstairs at Rules, Covent Garden
Vibe: Classic London, old school glamour
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.
Connaught Bar, Mayfair
Vibe: A luxury hotel bar at its finest
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.
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.
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…
Trailer Happiness, Portobello Road
Vibe: Neighbourhood rum bar in Notting Hill
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.
The Cadogan Arms, Chelsea
Vibe: A Chelsea pub shaking excellent cocktails
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.
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.
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.
Vibe: A slick hotel bar
Location: 3rd Floor, Devonshire House, 3 Bishopsgate, London, EC2M 4JX
When you should go: For impressing your mates
Price: Cocktails all 15 GBP
Silverleaf hides in plain sight right opposite Liverpool Street station as part of the Pan Pacific Hotel. Cocktails are exemplary – slick, ethereal and damn tasty. Each cocktail draws on two main flavours and uses techniques like lacto-fermentation and clarification, with a lot of the ingredients being made in-house. Firm favourites are the Pineapple Miso (Craighellachie 13yo, brown butter, Eagle Rare 10, pineapple and miso caramel) and the Verbena Olive Oil (Roku gin, olive oil, Axia, lemon verbena cordial and orange bitters). And the best bit? They’re open till 2am.
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 boiler suits, 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.
Little Bat Bar
Vibe: Neighbourhood fun
Location: 54 Islington Park Street, London, N1 1QL
When you should go: Saturday night with mates
Price: Cocktails from 11.50 GBP
Part of the Callooh Callay bar group, Little Bat is a pub-bar hybrid that keeps their local (and further afield) clientele sated all year round. Taking classics as their inspiration, the cocktails here are fun, accessible and served by the bar team with ease. Favourites include the East 8 Hold Up with vodka, aperol, pineapple, lime and passionfruit, while those looking for something bolder will like the Big Smoke Gamble: Maker’s Mark 46, Ardbeg Wee Beastie, lapsang and honey.
Vibe: Low-key warmth
Location: 108 Essex Road, London, N1 8LX
When you should go: For some TLC
Price: Cocktails from 10-12 GBP
The OG of the Homeboy franchise (there’s a bigger space south of the river and a new Bottle Shop closer to home in Islington), this small but perfectly formed bar on Essex Road has been pumping out modern Irish hospitality since opening in 2018. Of course, the Irish Coffee reigns supreme here (with three to choose from), but the rest of the menu sings too with classics turned out effortlessly and, naturally, a properly poured Guinness. The three boilermakers – each one a different combination of a beer and a spirit – are a laugh too.
Vibe: Post-dinner libations, neighbourhood cocktail bar
Location: 47 Newington Green, London, N16 9PX
When you should go: All the time
Price: 11 GBP cocktails
Crossroads has moved to a new location in Newington Green in 2023. At the helm is Bart Miedeksza who works with simple but beautiful flavours to bring to life this bar’s exceptional and memorable cocktails. The Cairo (vodka, cold brew sencha, melon and soda) is dangerously drinkable, while another favourite, Tomato (burnt butter gin, gazpacho, oak and smoked birch), is savoury heaven.
Vibe: Pink mezcal palace
Location: 92 Stoke Newington High Street, London, N16 7NY
When you should go: After dinner drinks
Price: single mezcal from 6 GBP
Doña in Stoke Newington is a female-run specialty mezcal bar serving the best artisanal mezcal from Mexico. The menu is split between mezcal served straight, and creative mezcal-based cocktails. There’s also a good taco selection and other drinks to boot if you fancy something different. The decor is luxuriously pink – from the soft carpets underfoot, to the theatrical curtains curled up along the walls, to the soft banquet sofas and feather boas strung about the place. The team conceives of the bar as an arts space as well as a place to drink, and organise many cultural events throughout the week, including poetry nights, DJ nights, cabaret performances, speed dating, and life drawing. For a neighbourhood bar with a sense of fun and fulfilment, you can’t go wrong.
Vibe: Relaxed glamour
Location: 66 Borough High Street, London, SE1 1XF
When you should go: Aperitivo time
Price: Cocktails 8-13 GBP
Borough just got an exciting new cocktail bar in the form of Swift. Already internationally famous for its Soho and (more recently) Shoreditch homes, this new outpost south of the River is the perfect post-Borough-Market amble stop off. Like its Soho parent, Borough is split into an upstairs aperitivo bar and downstairs drinking den. Fans of the original will also be glad to hear the trademark Sgroppinos and Irish Coffees are on the menu, but we think this outpost has something special – namely that it uses produce from Borough Market for its seasonal drinks.
Vibe: Laid-back adventure, skyline views
Location: 20 Upper Ground, London, SE1 9PD
When you should go: Pre-dinner drinks
Price: Cocktails from 14.50 GBP
Walking along the Southbank, you’d be mistaken for thinking the sprawling, floor-to-ceiling windows of Lyaness, which overlook the Thames, would signify a beautiful but well-behaved bar. Well, you’d be wrong, because world-famous bartender Ryan Chetiyawardana (aka MR Lyan) and his talented team turn out some of the most adventurous menus in town. Its latest menu includes elements called Tree Caramel, Thunder Mushroom and Death Bitters (of which you can get small tasters beforehand) and takes a cookbook approach to the 15 cocktails on its menu. But if you fancy something classic then no fear – the Lyaness team turn those out effortlessly too. You are also close to the brilliant restaurants of London Bridge for a pre or post-cocktail meal.
Vibe: Chilled pre-party
Location: 12 Market Row, London, SW9 8LD
When you should go: To get the party started
Price: Cocktails from 9.95 GBP
The second home of the legendary Mirror Margarita, Hacha Brixton can be found perched overlooking Market Row in the food and drink centre of Brixton. Up a narrow staircase, drinkers can relax in seriously comfy environs as they sip on the tequila or mezcal versions of its signature cocktail, a crystal clear margarita that looks like a glass of water, while also enjoying tacos from the kitchen. The bar specialises in agave spirits, so keep an eye out for cocktails that showcase the team’s love of Mexican ingredients.
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.
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.