The Best Places In London To Get A Cocktail Outside
Because sometimes the pub garden just doesn’t cut it.
As Londoners, we rarely have to ask ourselves where to drink outside because the answer is always, unequivocally, the pub garden. But sometimes you want something more than a picnic bench by the side of the A406. Sometimes you want to sit with the sun on your face, the wind in your hair, and an excellent cocktail in hand. That’s where these bars come in. From a little coffee shop turned excellent Friday night cocktail spot to a huge beach-style rooftop bar in Bethnal Green, these are the places to hit up for an ice-cold cocktail on London’s sunny days.
Just like your parents said that they didn’t have a favourite child, we’d be lying if we said we didn’t have a favourite bar. That bar is Goldfinch. Despite the fact that we don’t live anywhere near its Tooting location, we’d still like to go out on a limb and claim it as our local because this is the kind of bar that everyone wants on the corner of their street. Not only does this place have a cute back garden hidden from the main road and one of the best negronis in London, it also has that proper laidback neighbourhood atmosphere that makes it perfect for a first date or a lowkey birthday.
Bar Crispin is first and foremost a wine bar. But amid all the orange wine and natural stuff, it’s also home to a winning negroni. The cocktail menu is short, sharp, and classic. There’s only a vesper martini and a negroni on offer so if you’re on the hunt for somewhere with an encyclopaedic collection of spirits, move along. But if your priorities lie with enjoying a classic cocktail on a Soho pavement terrace that buzzes with life and stories traded over cigarettes, then Bar Crispin is it. Also, it has blankets. A classy touch.
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Private beach clubs are essential in the summer. Well, they are for people who live in places that have access to beaches that don’t involve confronting a Hyde Park swan. But if you’re after that whole pastel cushions and pass-me-the-towel look, Skylight has got you covered. A huge rooftop bar in Peckham, you’re here for the sunset views and oh-so casually taking a selection of thirst-trap pictures with your spritz. There’s often live music in the bar inside, which yes, will also make for an excellent background cocktail content soundtrack.
The Exhibit is Balham’s answer to a party. There are multiple floors of boozy fun going on with several outdoor options. You’ve got the intimate mezzanine terrace which is perfect for a spritz-fuelled first date. There’s the covered roof terrace, ideal for people who enjoy a nutty mai tai but who are also weather realists. And there’s the big garden out front which is just made for groups of inebriated people who really just want to sit down. The Exhibit also happens to be one of the few outdoor bar spaces in London that has a Happy Hour, so if two-for-one lychee martinis sound like your kind of thing, head on over between 5-7pm.
If you’ve always wondered how it would feel to drink an expertly-made cocktail out of a glass dachshund’s rear end, look no further than The Gibson. OK, but in all seriousness, this bar really does make some of the best cocktails in London and, just for kicks, serves them out of all kinds of intriguing vessels we’d be hesitant to label as something as mediocre as ‘a glass’. We’re talking metal hippos, glass smoking pipes, and a candied pumpkin vodka number out of a giant gold foot. Because why not. There are only a few outdoor tables and be warned that prices can stack up quickly, especially when the drinks are this addictively OTT.
If you’ve read anything on this website regarding drinking, nice spaces, or drinking in really nice spaces, then you’ll know that we’re big fans of The Coral Room inside The Bloomsbury Hotel. What you might not know is that this sophisticated hotel is also home to The Dalloway Terrace. The outdoor space has such an abundance of fake flowers that if you squint really hard you could almost convince yourself you’re at the Chelsea Flower Show. Especially once you’ve had a tom collins or two. Much like its indoor sister bar, the cocktails will set you back around £15 but it’s just the place if you want sophisticated sips over drinking chants.
Over Under Coffee
In the venn diagram of date spots, there are great brunch cafes on one side, London’s best espresso martinis on the other, and smack bang in the middle is Over Under. Every Friday night this Aussie coffee shop near Earl’s Court Station turns into a great little cocktail bar. And we really do mean little, and we really do mean great. Home to one of London’s best espresso martinis, we really can’t recommend the pavement seating enough. The creative takes on classic cocktails are up there with some of those big-name bars in central, the pavement seating is completely covered, and each table has its own little fire heater. Did we mention the excellent espresso martinis?
Two Hundred Rye Lane
London needs more cocktail bars like Two Hundred Rye Lane. Yes, we will be starting a petition. A little bar down Rye Lane in Peckham, this place is always a great shout for a date, catch-ups, or—ding ding ding—a happy hour situation. Not only is there a daily happy hour from 5-8pm, the bar has that rare combination of good-value cocktails and a secluded little garden. See, we said London needs more places like Two Hundred Rye Lane.
Chiringuito is a beach-style rooftop bar overlooking Bethnal Green station, which arguably sounds like the worst vacation ever but in practice is kind of great. So great, in fact, that we once spent several hours here in the middle of a rare London heatwave and drank so many mezcal cocktails that we wound up doing karaoke at a local pub. If the drinks are good enough to have you performing a rousing rendition of The Winner Takes It All by 10pm, you know you’re onto a good thing. But if you’re looking to keep things casual, know that you can also hit this place up for small plates and a round of margaritas in the sunshine on a Sunday afternoon.
You know those Instagram posts you see of some glamorous London rooftop bar that has glorious personal igloos? And you look at it and think ‘one day I will go there.’ Then you forget and casually wander to your nearest Spoons because being organised is hard? Well, that bar is Aviary. Home to those famed igloos we’ve clocked in countless TV shows, we wouldn’t blame you if you thought this place was something of a tourist trap. It isn’t. For starters, the cocktails are actually seriously good, the views of the City are second-to-none, and it’s one of the few alfresco cocktail situations that’s smart enough for a business drink. Although as you might have guessed, this place is très pricey.
Night Tales is a terrace bar and club in Hackney that is a lot of fun and also, importantly, responsible for countless horrific hangovers every single weekend. Thanks to the frozen cocktails, big outdoor area, and sweet views across the city, this place is the kind of feel-good bar where two drinks becomes 10, and 10 drinks becomes a 3am trip to your local chicken shop. And you know what, we love it. If you’re not looking to get absolutely mortal whilst checking out the DJ, know that you can also hit this place up earlier in the evening for a casual hangout over a couple of margaritas.
Admission time: the food at Double Standard is bang average. Luckily, you’re not here for nibbles are you? No, you’re here for cocktails and that’s something this place does really, really well. On the ground floor of modern acid-dream hotel The Standard, London, this bar and terrace is all about classic cocktails and not-so-classic slushy Aperol spritzes. Hello hangover. It’s a bright and colourful 70s-inspired space that’s just as perfect for after-work drinks with the team as for a first date. If you’re looking for something a bit more special, it’s also worth noting that there’s a cocktail lounge on the hotel’s roof terrace, with spectacular views across London and spicy margaritas.
If you’re looking to have a good time in Battersea, you go to Northcote Records. This live music venue and energetic bar is all about strong cocktails, loud music, and lapping up those sacred moments of London sunshine. Packed with picnic benches and parasols, the big pavement beer garden has the feeling of a proper street party. You know, the kind you walk past and think, mojito? It also serves lageritas, involving half a lager with a frozen margarita, and 10/10 passionfruit daiquiris.
Do you believe in magic? We don’t—sorry Derren Brown—except in regards to Hacha’s mirror margarita. A completely transparent, dangerously delicious feat of cocktail alchemy, this beverage should rank at the very top of your list of London cocktails you need to try. On Kingsland Road in Dalston, the spot only has a couple of tables out front but it’s entirely worth booking a seat ahead of time to be able to enjoy mezcal cocktails come golden hour with one of your favourite people.
Whether you live two doors down from Varanda or consider travelling to Crystal Palace to be the equivalent of a casual trip to Mars, this place should be on your radar. Another of London’s big, group-hang spots, this place manages to avoid any of that secret garden silliness and is simply committed to ensuring you have a bloody great time. It has a long list of cocktails that goes far beyond lukewarm G&Ts, with the super-fresh Mexican Lynchburg, a top classic margarita, and the El Tequileño which is basically summer in a glass. Due to the, erm, questionable British weather, we’re also very into the fact that there are big gazebos covering the tables and heaters.
If you’re into that whole urban paradise thing, you’ll love Peckham Riviera. If you’re a massive geography nerd, you’ll probably hate it because we can assure you this place isn’t actually on the coastline. Plot twist, it’s in Peckham. That being said, after a couple of amaretto sours you really do feel like you’re on holiday. Unlike many of London’s other big outdoor cocktail spaces, this place isn’t pretentious or showy in the slightest. There’s no music blasting over your conversation—just fun takes on classic cocktails, a toasty covered courtyard, and plenty of foliage to admire between martinis. Heads up, it also screens all the major sports games in the courtyard.
You go to Tattershall Castle when you want to drink a bang average spritz on a boat whilst tipsily commenting on how you “Just forget how pretty London really is, don’t you? Is that a duck? Fuck it, anyone for another round”? A buzzing docked pub on the Thames, the food here is a hard pass but it’s just the place when you’re with an out-of-towner who wants to feel like they’re in the London they’ve seen in the movies or you just really need all your followers to know you’re living your best life, drinking cocktails on a boat.
Sure, this place might have wine in its name but it serves five types of negroni, bicicletas, and something deeply intriguing called Grapefruit Time. A rooftop bar in Peckham, this spot is just as serious about its cocktails as it is about its wine. Expect frozen mojitos, panoramic views of south London, and tasty Italian small plates in case you get hungry.
Pergola Paddington Central
Are you even a Londoner if you’ve never been to a friend’s cousin’s birthday party at Pergola? Yes, undoubtedly you’ve probably been to this huge outdoor booze palace at some point to celebrate someone, drink something, and stare in the bathroom mirror wondering quite how you managed to get this pissed by 4pm. The cynics amongst us might dismiss this sprawling foliage-packed bar as a little basic, but realistically you can’t beat its particular brand of feel-good vacation hype for a big group hang. The £6 frosé slushies don’t hurt either.
photo credit: Jack Pasco
The Prince is Pergola’s little brother. A huge converted pub-cum-giant drinking hall, this place is perfect for important business like drinking jugs of Pimm’s on a weeknight and contemplating whether this is where The Famous Five would have gone for their 18th birthday. A no-brainer for affordable celebrations, catch-ups over caipirinhas, or a West London sesh, The Prince is probably one to skip if you’re looking for an intimate date night drink.
Cahoots is a 1940s inspired bar in Soho and it’s very committed to the theme. Yes, it’s a little corny but when it comes to needing an alfresco cocktail in Soho that doesn’t taste like the tears of Pat Butcher, it’s a useful place to know about. The outdoor seating behind Carnaby Street isn’t as much of a D-Day extravaganza as indoors, so what you’re left with is nice vintage chairs, top liquor-heavy cocktails, and an upbeat atmosphere. Our personal favourite is the smoky Off The Rails number.
Ah, old faithful. As the age-old saying by young Londoners goes, when in doubt, go to Pop Brixton. A buzzing complex of shipping containers, packed with food vendors and bars, you can always find something delicious to drink and somewhere nice to perch here. A true ally to last-minute planners everywhere. Bottoms up.