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 where a terrier keeps eyeing up your pint. 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.
If you’ve always wondered how it would feel to drink an expertly-made cocktail out of a glass dachshund’s arsehole, then look no further than The Gibson. Okay, 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, delicate little tipples out of glass smoking pipes, and a candied pumpkin vodka number out of a giant gold foot. Because, why not. They only have a few outdoor tables and be warned that prices can stack up quickly, especially when the drinks are this sippable.
In the venn diagram of date spots, there are great brunch cafés 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 their 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?
Tayer and Elementary is a real class act. Read as: If you bring a stranger from the internet on a date here they’ll think you’re cool and classy. A bar near Old Street station, you should come here for a couple of expert cocktails - shoutout to the sandalwood martini - and a snack, because the food here is a real winner too. Their front-terrace is walk-in only so it’s an excellent shout if you’re looking for a last-minute drink that’ll still impress whoever you’re with, and any wait will be forgotten as soon as you’re sipping on one of their cedarwood old fashioneds.
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 do they have a daily happy hour from 5 - 8pm, they also have that rare combination of good value cocktails and a secluded little garden. See, we said London needs more bars 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 doing 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 that 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 al fresco 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 crippling hangovers every single weekend. Thanks to their frozen cocktails, big outdoor area, and sweet views across the city, this place is the kind of feelgood bar where two drinks becomes ten, and ten drinks becomes a 3am trip to your local chicken shop with a camera roll full of pictures of your right thumb. 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, 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 will work just as well for after-work drinks with the team as it will for a first date. If you’re looking for something a bit more special, it’s also worth noting that The Standard has also converted their roof terrace into a cocktail lounge 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, their big pavement beer garden has the feeling of a proper street party. You know, the kind you walk past and think, mojito? They also serve something called a ‘lagerita’ involving half a lager with a frozen margarita, which sure, many of us would deem a crime against cocktails, but they make up for it with a 10/10 passionfruit daiquiri.
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, they only have a couple of tables out front but it’s entirely worth booking a seat ahead of time to be able to enjoy their mezcal cocktails come golden hour with one of your favourite people.
Whether you live two doors down from Varanda or consider traveling 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 fucking great time. They have a long list of cocktails that goes far beyond lukewarm G&Ts, with their super fresh Mexican Lynchburg, a top classic margarita, and their El Tequileño, which is basically summer in a glass. Due to the, erm, questionable British weather, we’re also very into the fact that they have big gazebos covering their tables and heaters.
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.
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 canopied courtyard, and plenty of foliage to admire between martinis. Heads up, they also screen all the major sports games in their courtyard.
When you’re looking for a cocktail that makes you feel like you’ve finally made it into one of Don Draper’s wet dreams, you don’t go to Tattershall Castle. No, 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.
photo credit: Forza Wine Serving Us Glorious Sunset Realness
Sure, this place might have wine in its name but they serve five types of negroni, three types of martini, and something deeply intriguing that’s simply called Grapefruit Time. A rooftop wine bar in Peckham, this place is just as serious about its cocktails as it is about its wine. Expect frozen blood orange daiquiris, panoramic views of south London, and tasty Italian small plates in case you get hungry.
If you’re currently scanning this list in search of a sweet, little candlelit table for that date night that starts in two hours time then move along. Costa Del Tottenham is not for you. If however you are on the hunt for London’s answer to Ibiza - weather not included - then you’re in the right place. Another of London’s huge open air drinking venues, we have a particular soft spot for Costa Del Tottenham thanks to its colourful verandas, line-up of great DJs, and high-energy, dangerously boozy Saturday brunches. Basically, it’s loud, it’s proud, and the cocktails come in pint glasses, which sometimes is exactly what you need.
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 their particular brand of feelgood vacation hype for a big group hang. The £6 frosé slushies don’t hurt either.
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 Pimms 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 and catch-ups over caipirinhas, The Prince is probably one to skip if you’re looking for an intimate date night drink but it’s an excellent shout for a West London sesh.
Cahoots is a 1940s inspired bar in Soho, which arguably does sound exactly like the kind of place you’d panic and take your aunt to for her birthday to remind her of the good old days. Oh look! That man has a saxophone! Another Spritz Spirit Charcuterie Board? Yes, it’s a little corny but when it comes to needing an al fresco cocktail in Soho that doesn’t taste like the tears of Pat Butcher, then it’s a useful place to know about. Their outdoor seating behind Carnaby Street isn’t as much of a D-Day extravaganza as their indoor situation, 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, but be aware that cocktails start around the £12 mark so they can add up quick.
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.