London is a haven for casual drinkers and alcohol enthusiasts alike: from drinking dens to high-end hotel bars, the capital has somewhere to booze whatever the occasion.
Here is the list of 7 finest London bars, listed in no particular order and for different reasons: some are included because the cocktails are flawless, like Milk & Honey, some have earned their spot for an iconic serve, like the Duke’s martini, and others are in because they’re simply damned good fun to be in, like The Piano Works.
There’s no such thing as the perfect bar, and what makes a place work one evening might be its downfall the next. Choosing where to go depends on what you’re looking for: if you want to down mojitos and dance all night, it’s probably best avoiding the quiet of five-star hotels, while those seeking mixology at its best aren’t going to find anything for them in an old-school Soho dive.
20 Sherwood St, W1F 7ED, brasseriezedel.com
As the name suggests, this is a classic American bar and done near perfectly. One can become very fond of Bar Américain and very quickly: passing through Piccadilly Circus, it acts as a magnet – a quick negroni becomes a temptation impossible to resist. It’s a very beautiful place, calling to mind grand Parisian hotels of the 20s and 30s, bottles winking from the bar, staff floating through with their finery and litres of charm. You’re here to drink the classics: they have a killer Clover Club and a straight-down-the-line Manhattan. But ask: the bartenders know their stuff and bring their A-game to any challenge – tell them what you like, and they’ll bring you something new. They often have specials on, as well. Top marks for the attentive staff, bringing plenty of water and bowl after bowl of popcorn – both essential after a few here.
Smithfield Markets, E Poultry Ave, EC1A 9LH, oriolebar.com
The team behind Nightjar took their winning formula, gave it a bit of a shake up and created Oriole. They’ve live music throughout the week – from Wednesday to Saturday, there’s a charge per person, so watch out for that – which gives any night here a bit of zip. This is a strictly seated spot, so be sure to book: once inside, it’s a whirlwind tour of the world, with fine details from across the globe, both in the styling and the drinks… and so much cheaper than booking a holiday. Drinks are excellent, whether you’re into New Orleans style classics or something from the depths of Asia: explore the menu (split into Old World, New World and The Orient) and expect something unusual and faintly brilliant, with a touch of the Tiki. Put it this way: Oriole is ideal whether you prefer drinking from a crystal tumbler, a teacup or, er, a silver crocodile.
113-117 Farringdon Road, Farringdon EC1R 3BX, pianoworks.bar
Full credit for this fun Farringdon spot: they’ve worked hard to make the place better and better since opening, which is pretty good going for what was already a decent spot to begin with. The Piano Works sounds like a quiet jazz bar but instead is a hell-raising house of sound, splendidly raucous, where a house band take requests and belt out your favorite songs. The more you get involved, the more fun it is, and the place heats up the later it gets. Wine starts at £16, house cocktails are £8, but they’ve tons of terrific deals during the week – including cocktails for a fiver (!!) Drink lots, dance lots and leave in the early hours with someone you shouldn’t do. That’s what we did.
Sky Pod at the Sky Garden
1 Sky Garden Walk, EC3M 8AF, skygarden.london
The truth of it is, you come for the view, but good God it’s a great view, and 360-degrees at that. Up 35 floors, if you can think of a London icon, you can probably see it. When the weather’s good, get outside for some fresh air. With completely free entry and minimal security fuss, it’s worth making a reservation, though if you’re ok to queue, they’ll have you in. Cocktails aren’t torturously expensive, at around £11.50, and are very enjoyable – the cognac-chocolate-caramel-port mix that is Black and Gold is particularly good– so it doesn’t feel like they’re relying on the sights.
There’s a sense of special occasion, and all the more so with live music on Thursday, Friday and Saturdays. They’re hoping for jazz on Wednesdays, too. If you’re tempted to eat, Fenchurch and the Darwin Brasserie are well worth trying – Fenchurch is particularly good for veggies.
Claridge’s, 49 Brook St, W1K 4HR, claridges.co.uk
The Fumoir will confuse you, as you’ll be torn between shouting about it and keeping it all to yourself. This plush purple and leather spot, deco decadence with a touch of welcome pomp, is hidden away behind a secret door at Claridge’s. Tiny and glitzy enough to feel like a Hollywood dressing room from the Golden Age, it’s little surprise the likes of Christina Hendricks adore it. For such a small place, they squeeze an awful lot in: plenty of wines, classic cocktails are given a stern shake-up, buckets of gin, a lovely choice of Armagnac and a magnificent scotch list, gleaming with rarities.
Call Me Mr. Lucky
11 Southwark St, SE1 1RQ, twitter.com
All the ‘hidden’ bars at the Breakfast Clubs around the capital are popular, with perhaps The Mayor of Scaredy Cat Town being the best known. Call Me Mr. Lucky, on Southwark Street, happens to be our favorite. Once you’ve flirted with the staff – ask to get lucky – you’re taken through the restaurant’s kitchens to a lively bar decorated like some twisted take on a kids party. Have a go on the wheel of fortune, where you’ll really want to get lucky, and win a free shot, and then work your way through the cocktail list. Like any good-time bar worth its salt, this place is big on tequila, and the drinks are light-hearted fun, but – here we go getting lucky again – along with the quirks comes quality. By the of the evening, before you’re poured back onto the street, you’ll swear tequila is your new favorite drink, and you’ll be singing the party hits they play all the way home.
241 Old St, EC1V 9EY, bouncepingpong.com
There are two Bounce bars, one on Old Street and one on Holborn. The Old Street spot is a little more fun, graffiti adorning the walls,the Holborn spot somewhat more upmarket. Still, they both deserve a mention, and for the simple reason they’re damned good fun. Drinks here are good, with a decent spirit selection at both (and a huge number of gins in Farringdon) and a respectable selection of beers. Food is fine, simple. Still, you come to play ping pong. They’ve tables everywhere. There’s little to fault with Bounce: it’s a laugh, and sometimes that’s all somewhere needs to be.