Where To Drink In Shoreditch
The best bars in Shoreditch.
Other than Soho, there isn’t another neighbourhood in London that comes close to Shoreditch for being packed door-to-door with bars. But just because there are loads of bars, it doesn’t mean that they’re all worth visiting. In fact, it’s usually a game of roulette when you’re out on any particular night, given that many of them can be uncomfortably crowded, with mediocre drinks.
So instead of wandering into the nearest spot and praying for the best, just use this guide. There are bars here for every situation when you’re out in Shoreditch, whether you want a fancy cocktail with a couple of mates or you’re on the hunt for a place to accommodate your entire extended friendship circle.
Seed Library is one of those bars that makes you feel sexy. That’s just the power of burnt orange banquette seating and getting buzzed in the basement of a slick hotel, One Hundred Shoreditch. Outside of ‘60s dome lights and records lining the walls, the cocktails are packed full of top-shelf liquor. From world-renowned cocktail pro, Mr. Lyan, the cocktail menu reads like a collaboration between Kew Gardens and your inevitable hangover. We’re talking coriander seed gimlets, red dandelion negronis, and mulberry agave margaritas. It’s undeniably a classy spot, but be warned that the music reaches club decibels at the weekend.
Would it really be so wrong to tell a potential date that this is where we live? We just have a lot of flatmates and a really, really well-stocked bar. A hip hop cocktail bar from the team behind Dirty Bones, Roxanne is the kind of place that makes you seriously contemplate whether your landlord would be that pissed if you went for a distressed wall look. From the ornate fireplace to the coming of age novels stacked on the shelves, it really does feel like drinks at your mate’s place, if your mate’s claims about being a DJ and expert mixologist were actually true. Definitely get involved in the house martini with manzanilla sherry but if that’s not your thing, there are also highballs and pitchers of homemade boozy Vimto. It’s a touch tricky to find but look for the black door on Whitby Street behind Dirty Bones Shoreditch.
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photo credit: Liam Bundy
The Umbrella Workshop
We’ve got 99 problems and one of them is that we’re still not entirely sure whether that yellow shirt should go in the light wash or the dark wash. Another problem: Umbrella Workshop makes the kind of creative cocktails you’ll get attached to before they’re snatched away. A teeny tiny exposed brick bar off Shoreditch High Street, this place has a short weekly-changing menu that acts as a moody, boozy testing ground for its sister venues, The Discount Suit Company and The Sun Tavern. The good news is that whatever drink you’re mourning will be replaced by something just as jazzy and it’s definitely one to hit if spirit spoilers make you feel special.
photo credit: Charlie's
The first thing you should know about Charlie’s is that it’s only open on Thursday nights. The second is that it’s 100% worth cancelling your Thursday night cinema plans to come here instead. A dimly lit bar off Columbia Road, you’ll find it in the basement of a leather goods and furniture restoration shop that also happens to be owned by Charlie. Yes, we’re a big fan of Charlie, and not just because he enthusiastically tops up bowls of ridged crisps while you sip a spicy mezcal margarita. He’s also responsible for the dark-wood panelling and for creating a space so intimate that it feels like everyone is in on a delicious secret.
photo credit: Lateef Okunnu
Table football. Mississippi blues. Britain’s colonial plunder. A lot of Shoreditch bars go for some kind of theme, but Happiness Forgets is a place that just focuses on the fundamentals, and it works every time. The cocktails are always on point, your table service will be friendly, and the ambience is perfect for holing up with friends or a date for a few hours. It’s a gimmick-free spot that’s also popular, so you’ll want to book a table. If you do fancy trying your luck, we’d go earlier in the evening.
Shoreditch must have the highest density of speakeasy-style bars in all of London. Possibly the world. TT Liquor is one of the best we know. This building was once one of Shoreditch’s police stations, but now you access the bar through one of east London’s best, and best looking, booze shops. The cellar bar has been transformed from the old jail cells, and are now furnished with plush leather benches, making them perfect for largeish groups of up to around 10 people. The cocktails are as good as any you’ll find in London, there’s a great selection of wine, and regulars can even create their own liquor collection by taking a deposit box for bottles they’ve purchased upstairs.
You could probably go to slick underground bar Black Rock if you’re not a whisky snob, but we’re not entirely sure why you’d bother. Sure, they have a few bottled beers on offer, and a small selection of cocktails, but they really excel at whisky and stock hundreds of bottles, all available by the dram. This is a place to come with a full wallet, an idea of what you already like—balanced, fragrant, spicy, sweet, that kind of thing—and an open mind. Don’t come with a big group though, since this laid-back, museum-like space won’t really suit it. Instead, come with a friend, try something you’ve never drunk before, and order a round of haggis balls.
Callooh Callay is an Alice in Wonderland-themed bar, which sounds absolutely horrific, but it’s executed in a way that’s not at all terrible. There are two main bars: a packed Victorian-style bar up front with comfortable lounge seats and exposed brick, and a second bar ‘hidden’ behind a wardrobe door that’ll make you feel like you walked into a ‘70s shag pad. The drinks are spot-on, and while we wouldn’t recommend hitting it at the weekend, it’s a good call for a date during the week when the crowd’s less rowdy. Know that it closes later than most bars, so it’s also a nice place for a nightcap.
Well & Bucket
Your friend Tony’s dragged your group up and down Rivington in search of a secret bar that he heard about from his barber. Cut your losses and take everyone to The Well & Bucket instead. It’s a retro pub on Bethnal Green Road that combines the best things about a pub and a bumping Shoreditch bar under one roof. The beer selection is outstanding, there’s a garden at the back, and you’ll find space for a crew. As a bonus, the excellent 5CC bar is just downstairs.
After you’ve had a couple of drinks at Well & Bucket upstairs, walk down into the basement for cocktails at 5CC. It’s a cosy vault bar with low ceilings and alcoves that are ideal for a second or third date, or a small group hang. That said, it’s popular so definitely book if you’re going there with a crew at the weekend. If you’re not immediately feeling anything from the drinks menu, the bartenders will come up with something for you if you let them know what kind of cocktail you’re after.
As far as big-ticket nights go, they don’t come much bigger than Nightjar. It’s a legendary underground ‘speakeasy’ that has an upmarket feel, incredible cocktails, and a swing band that gets the room moving after 9pm. In short, it’s the kind of experience that you imagined when you moved to London from your hometown. While an experience here can be a class act, be warned that you’ll pay for it—along with cover, service, and expensive drinks, the cost of a night here easily mounts up. Be sure to book well ahead.
The Grocery Wine Vault And Bar
Quiet drinks aren’t particularly easy to come by in Shoreditch. And if you want a glass of wine but don’t want it as part of a meal, chances are you’re going to have to settle for a giant glass of Blossom Hill at a crowded and uncomfortable pub. The Grocery Wine Bar couldn’t be more different. It’s a bright and friendly spot attached to an organic supermarket on Kingsland Road. The wines are good, natural, and the staff are always happy to suggest something you might never have tried before. Plus, you can drink anything from the wine section of the supermarket (with a small additional corkage). It’s a great spot for catching up with an old friend, or for a date with someone you’ve never met before, when you don’t want to have to jostle past a start-up crew to get another round.
photo credit: John Carey
Private members’ clubs make you feel special. They make you feel like you’ve arrived. They let you eat and drink away from the crowds, in the exclusive company of the select few who’ve paid and joined. The only problem is, you have to pay and join. Passionevino is a wine shop and bar on Leonard Street that feels like a private members’ club. From the outside it looks like it’s just a shop. But to those in the know, it’s not only one of the best wine shops in London, it’s also somewhere where you can push open a door hidden behind a mirrored wall, climb a rickety staircase, take a seat in the maximally decorated upstairs room, and drink some of the best Italian wines you’ll find anywhere outside of Italy.
Shoreditch at the weekend can get messy, but you can ditch the drunken circus by getting a drink in the basement bar of the Nobu Hotel. Though the bar is next to the restaurant, it feels completely separate. Admittedly, it’s pretty much as far from the typical Shoreditch dive bar as you can get, but the cocktails are good, prices are surprisingly reasonable, and the space is so massive that it never gets too crowded. Hit it with a couple of friends or on a date for a civilised alternative to some of the rowdier places in the area.