Best Bars in London
Think of this list as something of a love letter to some of the very best bars, watering holes and hidden cocktail haunts in the city. With amazing new drinking dens opening across London on a weekly basis, we’ve drawn up this shortlist of only the biggest and best places in town. Read on for DesignMyNight’s complete guide to the best bars in London.
Last updated on 14th September 2017
It's one of the most infamous cocktail events in the world, and it just so happens to be returning to London this October. Join London Cocktail Week for the events of the season as not only will their cocktail village be in full swing, they've paired with London's best bars for a roster of £6 cocktails.
It's true - the term 'legend' is banded around way too much, but not in the case of Nightjar. Perfecting an irresistible set-up of innovative and beautiful cocktails tied in with a dazzling programme of live music, this wonderful cocktail bar just shy of Old Street continues to win awards on the world stage. A must feature on any discerning drinker's bucket list.
The Beast of Brixton isn’t just one of the best secret bars in London, but one of the best full stop. Offering a wide range of cocktails, local craft beers, delicious street food and a Sunday roast to die for, there’s so much to enjoy here already. But this hidden gem contains another secret: they love to party! Spread across two floors, this stylishly decked out bar guarantees a playlist to party to.
With views over St Paul's Cathedral, a sun-trap terrace and an extensive Champagne list, Madison is a hot rooftop to spend a summer's evening on. Head to the swanky spot for a casual drink and stay for dinner as they offer up fresh seafood and a delicious mix of cocktails.
Aviary is yet another hit from the ETM group, only this time they've gone sky high. Expect all the deliciousness of their previous venues, with sumptuous cocktails and British seasonal plates, only this time they come with a healthy dose of City views and chilled-out-terrace vibes.
Step behind the velvet curtain and take a trip back into the decadent throws of London's Victorian Bath House. Visits made by appointment only, this is an exclusive place to eat and drink in London where you'll experience the finest mixlogy matched with the most incredible plates all in a luxurious setting in Bishopsgate.
68 & Boston brings a simple, unfussy approach to drinking in Soho. Located just moments from theatreland in one of the most sought after districts in London, the ground floor wine bar brings high quality bottles of wine to the fore; available at a flat £20 per bottle. Upstairs is where the focus shifts to mixology, with classic and original tipples served up from 5pm alongside a tasty menu of bar snack bites.
So bear with us a little here; darts is actually really, really fun. Flight Club have breathed a completely fresh lease of life into this age-old classic of a pub game, welcoming you to their super-stylish oches to play interactive games with live-scoring and lots of impressive technology. You game? Good, bring your squad along to Shoreditch or Bloomsbury for lots of competitive socialising, pizzas and drinks!
Nestled in the heart of Shoreditch, Callooh Callay is a quirky, cocktail favourite, where talented bartenders mix up some of the most imaginative cocktails in London. Filled with plush furnitures, decadent colourways and moody lighting this bar packs a punchy atmosphere with plenty of bar areas to mooch around and even some secrets to discover....shh.
LCC is a powerhouse of quirky cocktails and rowdy nights in Shoreditch. One of the best bars in London if you're looking for unadulterated, cocktail-fuelled mayhem, check out this dive bar for off-kilter cocktail creations and a playlist of nothin' but feel-good, sing-along classics. More suited to lively all-nighters than cosy date nights, don't be surprised to find yourself up on the bartop dancing the night away.
This literally hidden gem is a chic cocktail bar and dim sum parlour in the heart of Chinatown. If you're lucky enough to find the inconspicuous green door and get in then you'll be able to experience three floors of delicious Asian cocktails and food. With a cool, trendy following this bar is sure to impress and make for a big night out with their late night opening hours.
London has no shortage of cool cocktail venues and eccentric mixologists, but perhaps none more so than those at Purl who take experimental cocktails to a whole new level. This quirky, underground hotspot, complete with cosy alcoves and even a piano, transports you back to a time gone by, into a world filled with different tastes and fragrances, to give you a cocktail experience like no other.
Oriole is an oasis of mystery and magic that transports you to a disconnected outside world. Sister site to the multi-award winning Nightjar, this is a truly vibrant bar of exotic influence and global design. Settle in and explore a cocktail menu comprised of exotic ingredients, take in some live jazz tunes and pick at a food menu offering spices and seasonings gathered from far and near.
Mini-motor racing, on-site brewing, immersive team gaming; The Four Thieves really does have it all. A wonderfully buzzing all-rounder that you’ll find in Battersea, start with a drink or two in their year-round gin garden before checking in at their enormous games room; packed out with vintage arcade games, ping-pong tables, pool and an impossibly fun sceletrics-styled game in the corner. One of the most fun places for a night out in London.
What to do with the former home of Reverend JW Simpson of the Parish of Fitzrovia? Turn it into a bar of course! The spot which was occupied into 1986 is a flash back to the past and still features many quirky bits and bobs; on top of all this, their cocktail list is full of seasonal tipples.
Full of quirky character and cosy charm, Machine No.3 brings a relaxed neighbourhood bar concept to Homerton. Based in a former run-down laundrette, the place scrubs up pretty well these days with plenty of exposed brickwork, low-lighting and a gentle buzz from the after work crowd. Come for cocktails, organic wines and locally-sourced craft beers.
The renowned pop-up bar Sager & Wilde has found a permanent site in East London's Hackney. The team behind the name have set up shop in the historic British Lion pub and have curated a menu featuring some of the finest produce of the world's best vineyards. Sweeten the deal further, the kitchen staff serve a variety of bar snacks and tasty toasties for guests to tuck into while they sip on a crisp white or an earthy red.
This is a city cocktail bar with class and style in abundance. Situated beneath The Arbitrager, make yourself at home in these plush, low-lit surroundings and enjoy a few signature cocktails after a long toil in the office. Open weekdays from 5pm til late, ease into a few drinks on a school night before catching the last train home; Demon, Wise & Partners is just a stone’s throw from Bank and Liverpool Street.
The second Bounce site in London brings more of the same playful ping-pong antics to a buzzing location close to Old Street. With 17 tables (including one used for the World Championships Final in Tokyo), there’s no better place to get down to some serious competitive socialising with your mates, with cocktails and delicious Italian food to keep you on top form.
Tucked below Stamford Bridge Football Stadium in Fulham, Under The Bridge is an uber-cool and contemporary basement space that accommodates all manner of entertainment. Super stylish and modish with a touch of industrial inspiration, this lively lair showcases a state-of-the-art sound system and lighting, and so is an ideal hub for late-night clubbing, gigs galore, fashion shoots, comedy nights and much more, so head down for a heady mix of nightlife at its finest.
Futuristic and playful features reign supreme in The Sanderson Hotel Long Bar. Simply overflowing with style and glamour, pull up an eye emblazoned seat and watch the hypnotising craft of the bar experts as they whip up a delectable drink for you to sip on whilst absorbing the electric atmosphere. Alluding to the feel of an 'urban spa' this is one bar to sit back and relax in.
This late night cocktail bar in King's Cross whips up unbeatable cocktails served in mismatched teacups. How quaint! With old-styled decor mixed with a glittery skull head disco ball this place has fun-house vibes aplenty and is the perfect venue for a feel-good fun night out. Expect dessert cocktails, great music, a fun crowd and retro sweets. There is no place like Simmons.
This Spitalfields drinking den is one of the most prized assets on the London basement bar scene. Promising a cocktail experience featuring unusual homemade bitters, shrubs and syrups, bartenders here let their imaginations run wild and a delightful, multi-award winning menu of drinks is the end result. Relax into these lush surroundings and don’t forget there’s a sublime choice of Hawskmoor bar food if you should fancy a bite.
An underground haven that’s good whether you’re in need of cocktails, beers, wines or Vietnamese street food, Ruby’s is one of the hidden treasures of east London. Prop up the bar for seasonal and innovative drinks or go to the Lounge for something a bit more lively; it’s here that the focus is on a wide selection of wines, beers and a carefully curated programme of live music and events.
It's cool, it's cute and it serves damn delicious cocktails; Bourne and Hollingsworth in Fitzrovia is one of our favourite basement bars in London. Head to the central venue to flop in an armchair, soak up chilled-out vibes and work your way through an inventive cocktail list.
Exuding a sort of bookcase-bar chic, 214 Bermondsey is a wonderfully simple bar playing with hints of speakeasy vibes and located beneath an Italian restaurant called Antico. Dim lighting, exposed brick work and a wonderful array of spirits, especially Gin (over 50 types of the spirit to be exact), make this one specialty bar not to miss out on.
Doused in Victorian-inspired style, this decadent cocktail bar on Worship Street has been heaped with praise since it opened back in 2011. Come here for a special occasion and indulge in a world of sumptuous spirits and masterful mixology, with great drinks brought to the table in an intimate, low-lit ambience.
Seek out this hidden gem in the East End and you’ll immediately reap your rewards. Apples & Pears serves up fantastic and innovative cocktails in an energetic setting, evoking an infectious atmosphere that rivals some of London’s top Prohibition plots. The eclectic music programme ensures there’s always something to keep your toes tapping.
DSD is one of the most cutesy and unique venues to check out in London. Found just out of harm's way from the main hubbub of King's Cross, this place is charming in everything it does. Head along for cake and cocktails during the day or throw yourself into activities like Lego Robots and Beyonce-themed dance classes. After you've got your 'Do' fix, make for a mighty party in the ex-porn shop basement club.
With a smattering of classic Americana and a hefty douse of gentleman's parlour physique, Cartizze Bar is a Mayfair staple for creative mixology and some fine supping. Bringing a dash of the luxurious to your cocktail chasing, take a seat at the opulent bar framed by a collection of crystal glassware and smelling of rich liquors and spirits.
Tumble down the rabbit hole to this magically purple setting of couture-esque physique. The Purple Bar is as luxurious as it is cool parading a polished atmosphere of Alice in Wonderland characteristics. An intimate space of velvet textures and plush seating with a collection of vintage classics gracing the cocktail menu. More of a chilled out pre-drinks vibe more than anything but still worthy of a bevvy or two.
Hidden away beneath the Botanist Broadgate, The Soda Room is a sleek City bar promising artsy interiors, sleek seating, taxidermy and a party-starting atmosphere. Enjoy their bookable booths, or shake it some on their dancefloor; this place stays open late Monday-Saturday.
Boasting a super cute interior, plenty of punchy of concoctions, and a kick-ass happy hour, Simmons Soho is easily one of the best bars in the capital for cutesy vibes and affordable cocktails. Step inside to discover a super-kitsch space that's decorated with an assortment of eccentric trimmings. Sip on a long island iced tea from the finest crockery as you spend the night mingling with a crowd of friendly folk.
Famed for bringing a South American party spirit to the streets of London, Barrio is a party bar in Shoreditch where the good times roll. Amigo Hour serves up £5 cocktails between 4 and 8pm, there’s a menu of tacos and nachos if you need a bite to eat and a bustling dancefloor to throw shapes on ‘til the early hours.
Black Rock is one of the best bars in London by combining a love of whisky with a cool, minimalist and contemporary drinking space. They offer over 250 bottles of whisky, making it an ideal place for any connoisseurs out there, and their centrepiece of an 18ft, 185-year-old oak tree trunk used as an interactive cocktail ageing system is a something to behold.
One of the top cocktail bars in London with a split level offering two different experiences for a night out. The ground floor oozes hotel champagne bar with elegant lighting and seating and is a really impressive place for a drink in Soho. Venture down the stairs to find a subterranean drinking den with plenty of seating, a warm and modern interior, singing bar tenders and DJs playing till late.
After live music, food and cocktails in Shoreditch? Old Street Records throws its hat into the ring with a cutting-edge approach to live music across its two floors. Take in EP launches, new bands and established acts alike in a record-store setting, or make for the intimate basement below where jazz nights and DJ sessions are usually held.
An eclectic literary theme provides an unusual backdrop for cocktails at this popular Clerkenwell watering hole. Hand-crafted pizzas are on call if you’re peckish, if not go straight to the cocktail section where a handbook of unique drinks awaits. Bartenders throw house-infused spirits, liqueurs, syrups and bitters together to create masterful cocktails well worth checking out.
Uncover a world of master mixology under the city as Found promises some of the most unique cocktails in London. Heralded not only for their romantic plot underneath Casita, Found have a list of libations like no other.
Set in the railway arches near Waterloo Station, there’s plenty of character to Topolski. A gallery, bar, cafe, private hire and club all rolled into one, relax with a brew and a snack during the day or come back post 5pm, when classic and creative cocktails are served. Entry is free at the weekends as resident and guest DJs get behind the decks.
Killer gin-inspired cocktails in a Modern, concrete trimmed art-deco space gives Graphic its appeal. Apart from the quirky, cool cocktail servings from disused paint tins, of course. That, and their DIY food menu where you can literally build your own meal from their scrumptious sliders menu. We think this calls for a new definition of graphic design, don't you?
The Piano Works is a warehouse space of jazz inspired jubilance where the piano takes centre stage and the entertainment comes from requests made by yours truly. Set in a Victorian listed building, this place is a fusion of industrial underground and classic music. Sit down, stand up, sing, dance and drink at this place.
There’s simply nowhere else like Heddon Street’s famous Ice Bar. The UK’s only permanently frozen bar serves suitably chilled cocktails in a setting carved out of pristine ice from the waterways of Northern Sweden. A unique day out indeed, return to a normal return temperature in the restaurant downstairs, where modern British fare is the staple.