One of my favorite parts of living in New York for over 6 years that I never expected? Craft cocktails.
Prior to living in New York, I’d resided in Pittsburgh, Indiana and Austin. Although all three cities arguably have great watering holes (especially Austin), I was in college or grad school when living in those cities. Translation: The cheaper the drinks, the better.
It wasn’t until I moved to New York and started working full time that I began to explore nicer bars (and by nicer, I mean goodbye days of 25 cent shot specials).
Visiting London for the second time, on a fall trip two years before I moved to the city, I was delighted to find signs of the cocktail culture I’d grown to love in New York. I even returned the following spring to have a ‘foodie weekend’ in East London. And now that I live here, I’ve got plenty of time to explore the city’s best bars.
London (and the United Kingdom, by nature) may be famous for its pints, but if you’re visiting and need a break from beers and ciders, these places are worth spending time (and money) at.
If you’re not accustomed to craft cocktail culture, you may balk at spending £10-15 on a drink, but look at it as a special treat. Even though I live here, a night out at one of my favorite cocktail bars is something I look forward to, much like dinner at a new restaurant I want to try. And, you’re not paying for a typical drink, no standard rum and cokes here. The staff behind the bar at these spots are mixologists- they understand flavor profiles of spirits and mixers. Let’s just say, there’s a reason why I like trying new cocktails so much 😉
10 Places to Have a Great Cocktail in London
- Nightjar & Oriole: Tucked away behind a (nearly) unmarked door off the Old Street roundabout, this speakeasy-style bar is one of my favorite hangs in London. Divided into historical eras, the menu seems never ending. Bonus: Late night, there’s live jazz. And, Oriole is the sister bar to award-winning Nightjar, serving up cocktails made with ingredients from all parts of the world.
- Happiness Forgets: An unassuming basement bar with great drinks. Located on Hoxton Square in the heart of Shoreditch, there are plenty of awesome restaurants and bars nearby
- The Mayor of Scaredy Cat Town: Hidden behind a fridge door at The Breakfast Club’s Spitalfields location, you’ll find quirky variations on classic cocktails. Brunch, then speakeasy? Sounds like an ideal Saturday afternoon
- Callooh Callay: Against the back wall of the ground floor main room, there’s a wardrobe that leads to a hidden bar. Getting in without a reservation can be tough, but the drinks are worth it- simple deliciousness
- Mr. Fogg’s Tavern: Full of weird artefacts and delicious tipples. Classically British in every way
- Disrepute: Newly opened member’s only bar in Soho, the cocktail list is killer. And, what’s not to love about a bar where the drinks are described via a story vs. ingredient list?
- The American Bar at the Savoy: Recently named the ‘World’s Best Bar’, the bar is over 125 years old and is, in my opinion, one of London’s top places for a fancy drink. Because this place isn’t perfect enough, there’s also usually a live pianist in the evenings
- Duke’s Bar: Famed for popularising the martini, the classic drink is made table-side here via trolley. They’re so strong, and good, the hotel only allows two per guest
- Evans & Peel Detective Agency / Pharmacy: Get ready to state your case or be prepared to tell the doctor what ailment you need taken care of for entry into these bars. The Detective Agency is one of my favorite speakeasies in London- great ambiance, character and wonderful drinks. I haven’t been to the Pharmacy yet, but we’ve got reservations for a night with the ‘doctor’ at the end of November
- Dandelyan: Known as one of the best bar’s in the world, Dandelyan is elegant with stunning serves. Also love how their menu is broken into drinks by time of day/how you’re feeling- e.g., afternoon pick-me-up or super late night cap
- Bonus: Coupette: The first time I walked into this French inspired bar, I felt right like I was in Brooklyn (read: at home). Calvados, cider and cocktails (in particular, a champagne colada) make this place worth a visit
- Little Bat
- Worship Street Whistling Shop
- Joyeux Bordel
- The Blind Pig at The Social Eating House
- Cocktail Trading Co.
- Connaught Bar
- Flight Club
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