When we first created this list back in 2010 you might have heard the words “there aren’t that many decent cocktail bars in London”. What madness is this? Now following a revival, London bars have definitely come a long way, with top-quality classics sharing a drinks list with the latest cocktail concoctions.
For 2014 we have removed the bars that have closed and added in some award-winning new watering-holes to ensure whether you like them long and strong or short but sweet; you can get a quality cocktail.
So here, in no particular order, are updated 50 fabulous establishments for your capital cocktail supping:
1. The American Bar, The Savoy. Strand / Covent Garden. The bar is named after the slang for cocktails so you know you are in the right place. The Savoy Cocktail book is still regarded as the “Bible for bartenders”; class all the way.
2. Bourne & Hollingsworth, Rathbone Place. A tiny 30s bar hidden away (look for the stairs by the black and white poster). Very handsome bar staff too. Jam jars and tea cups
3. Dirty Martini, The Piazza in Covent Garden. In the week happy hour till 10pm – but get there early at the weekends (open late!!) Get here early for their 2-4-1 deals. Make sure you get the chocolate martini. But if it’s busy and you’re thirsty, go elsewhere.
4. Trader Vics, Park Lane. Come here for the famed Mai Tai. Just had a major revamp – over a tenner for the top cocktails – Aloha
5. Nola, Shoreditch. Having just scooped the 2014 Best New International Cocktail bar at the prestigious “Spirited Award”, this East London tribute to New Orleans is a must-visit. Members-only post-midnight but you can get a signature Sazerac for less than a tenner.
6. Trailer Happiness, Notting Hill. Fun and silly, which is what cocktails should be, don’t you think? Kitsch rum cocktails
7. El Camion, Soho. Simply magical margaritas and late night opening hours, Monday to Saturday, makes this a new Soho superstar.
8. Cubana, Waterloo. Sure it’s a bit of a dive, but the mojitos are wonderful.
9. Gardening Club, Covent Garden. Excellent cocktails if you get here for Happy Hour. Arrive early, and then get out quickly, once this place fills up it’s not nearly as enjoyable.
10. Zetter, Farringdon. Worth the trip East for the fabulous martinis and the Zetter hotel is award winning too.
11. Nightjar, Old Street. An Art Deco slice of heaven, this 1920s themed bar (think pre & post prohibition cocktail drinks on the menu) is open until 3am at the weekend.
13. Shochu, Charlotte Street. Hidden away and serving unique (if expensive) cocktails using the Japanese spirit Shochu.
14. BFI, Southbank. Wonderful Margaritas. Better when it’s quiet though, which is pretty rare.
15. Idlewild, Maida Vale. Gorgeous design and one of the best kept secrets of North West London. – Happy hour 3-8pm
16. Garlic and Shots, Soho. Well it’s great – if you like garlic and you’re not planning on kissing anyone.
17. Charlotte Street Hotel, Fitzrovia. Great in summer, if you’re lucky enough to get a table outside. Don’t move if you do. And go for the Dark ‘n’ Stormy.
18. Match, Margaret Street. Nifty little spot, never too busy. Fabulous cocktails, but go with a group as it now has sharing bowl punches
15. Mele E Pere, Soho. More a restaurant but does amazing martini’s; we recommend the “Dirty” one. Not the cheapest, but quality all the way. They even had Prosecco on tap!
16. Beach Blanket Babylon, Notting Hill. Stunning design and much classier than the East End version.
17. Cellar Door, Covent Garden. This funky underground cocktail bar is worth visiting if only to say you have spent a penny on cocktails in a former loo site. Open until 1am every night so a great central London late night option.
18. Guanabara, Covent Garden. Fabulous cocktails and bargain 2-4-1 deals. Love caprhinas – Brazilian music
19. The Hospital Club, Covent Garden. If you can get in, the martinis are a treat. So are the little shots that waiters pass around the bar.
20. LAB, Soho. So many cocktails from developing bartenders! You’ll need a year (and a strong liver) to go through them all. Try something new.
21. Zensai, Camden. There aren’t many cocktail bars in Camden, but this one is really very good and has great 2-4-1 deals early doors throughout the week.
22. Crazy Bear, Fitzrovia. Fab members- only clubhouse bar. If you have the creds; pop in early to get a table.
23. Soho Hotel, Soho. Expect fabulous mojitos at the hotel’s Refuel Bar. Expect to pay well over a tenner though. Ouch.
24. Titos, London Bridge Street. More of a restaurant, but we hear they do the best Pisco sours in town.
26. Sketch, Mayfair. Worth a trip for the egg-shaped toilets alone. This is a destination cocktail bar with magical surroundings.
28. Be at One, Soho. It’s a pub turned bar chain, so it’s got a very friendly vibe and you will know what you are getting.
29. Bob Bob Ricard, Soho. If you can get into the elegant bar, the cocktails are great (if a tad expensive). Otherwise just sit at the tables pressing the champagne trolley buttons.
31. Milk & Honey, Soho. Looking for a more exclusive drink? Then come to Mlik & Honey, but before 11 if you’re not a member and its best to call or email and reserve.
32. Artesian, The Langham, Marylebone. On several of the world’s best bar lists, this is the height of cocktail bar sophistication. They love pushing the boundaries and have unique and experimental recipes.
33. Shoreditch House, Shoreditch. Very swanky members’ club. Very swanky drinks.
34. Lost Society, Clapham. A wonderful little south west London bar, with English classics on both the drinks and food menus.
35. The Hawksmoor, Shoreditch. Not just for incredible steak, they can shake a decent tipple as well. Amazing cocktail list.
36. Callooh Callay, Shoreditch. Fitting in rather snugly with its trendy Shoreditch neighbours, this award-winning cocktail menu just has to be tried.
37. The May Fair bar, May Fair Hotel, Mayfair Another award-winning hotel bar, this is a cracker whether your poison of choice is the Mojito or the Martini. Cocktails start from £13 so this is the place for that special treat.
38. South London Pacific, Kennington. Quite far out of town, but worth it if you’re a fan of all things Tiki. Great drink deals before 10pm; Aloho!
39. Freedom, Soho. This is a great little gay/mixed bar. Awesome cocktails (try the Zombie) and a giant disco ball above the dancefloor.
40. Sugar Cane, Clapham. Who wouldn’t want to drink in a Tiki hut? In tropical Clapham!
41. Anam, Angel. Great cocktails, stunning decor.
42. Covent Garden Cocktail Club, Covent Garden. This members-only club only costs £1 to join via email 24 hours before you go (and you can then sign in 3 pals). Their 2-4-1 deals run nightly and membership means it doesn’t get absolutely heaving.
43. The Rivoli at The Ritz, Piccadilly. Fabulous drinks, but then you wouldn’t expect anything less, would you? Amazing Art Deco surroundings.
44. Volupte, Holborn. Fab cocktails and a burlesque show to boot.
45. White Lyan, Hoxton. This quirky new bar eschews ice and has all their drinks pre-mixed. Very original and surprising tasty, this is the place to go for a cocktail experience with a difference.
46. Tart, Charterhouse Street. Great little bar, which can be hired out, so double check. Check out the stained glass ceiling and of course the famous Tartinis!
47. House of Wolf, Islington. One of Upper Street’s finest and a self-confessed “Victorian lair” based in a former music hall, this is a destination cocktail bar. Try an ABBAtini.
48. Hakkasan, right by Tottenham Court Road, yet so wonderfully tucked away, you’d think you were in another part of the world.
49. Bar 55, Camden. Not the most classy of joints, but great cocktails and super 2-4-1 deals throughout the week.
50. Freud, Shaftesbury Avenue. Great little bar and gallery, but the cocktail list is enormous! Worth the trip if you can afford to try lots of new things
We would love to hear what your favourite bars are and let us know if we have missed one of yours off.