LDNGuide

The Best Bars In London

From classy cocktails to good-time dive bars.
The Best Bars In London image

photo credit: Aleksandra Boruch

If you’re reading this, you probably fancy a drink. Not just any kind of drink, though. A proper drink. For all of London’s pub culture and great wine bars, there are a lot of serious bars to drink cocktails in as well. But the bars on this list aren’t just a place to get a so-so negroni. They're the kind of places you go when you want to celebrate something, or nothing, with an excellently made beverage. Classic martinis, new takes on negronis, lethal sazeracs, inventive non-alcoholic options, and more.

If you're looking for London's best pubs, we've got you covered too.

THE SPOTS

photo credit: Gothic Bar

Bar

Kings Cross

$$$$Perfect For:Feeling HotPeople WatchingSee And Be SeenSpecial OccasionsDrinking Good CocktailsDrinks & A Light Bite

Gothic Bar is made for the evening, when the heavy, red curtains are pulled to and the dim, yellow light from lamps throw shadows against the walls. Drinking at the King’s Cross bar, inside the St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel, will make you feel your most bewitching, monied self. It’s part Venetian mansion, with ornate columns and tapestry-like carpets, and part smoking room of the world’s richest person. Also, the cocktails are inventive—infused with chipotle, sage leaf, and hawthorn—and excellent, particularly their crisp, clean signature martini.

Satan’s Whiskers is where dates go to lean close to each other under the guise of talking over loud hip hop. At this fun, busy Bethnal Green bar, people order multiple rounds of potent Old Fashioneds. Soft, sexy lighting makes everyone (and the high volume of taxidermy) look great even after a long week, and the bartenders take their cocktails seriously without any pretension. While most nice east London bars have ‘foraged this’ and ‘infused that’ in their drinks, the menu here sticks to the classics—all executed perfectly.

photo credit: Aleksandra Boruch

$$$$Perfect For:Classic Establishment

Trisha’s is a faintly dingy public members’ club that looks like the kind of place the Soprano crew would meet, and come weekends there’s a sticky atmosphere in this Soho institution that attracts characters and voyeurs alike. A line forms from the blue door outside, the bouncer decides your fate, and from there, thirsty sardines pack the room to slosh gin and tonics and trade tales true and false. The basement bar on Greek Street is infamous, not just for being a favourite haunt of the late, great Anthony Bourdain, but for its guarantee of a memorable night. 

Lovers of modernism and admirers of obsessively chilled martinis will appreciate A Bar With Shapes For A Name. The Bauhaus-themed bar in Dalston is somewhere between a novelty experience and a rejected Zoolander idea, but it still manages to be a fine place to go for a good drink—especially if you’re looking for somewhere after 2am. Ignore the pre-bottled cocktails and opt for something fresh from the shaker and, if possible, sit upstairs near the bar or downstairs on the big shared table. This is where you’ll find the shapes of people having a good time.

photo credit: Felix Speller

A sultry basement bar in Soho is never not a good thing, but Soma always exceeds expectations. It has an inauspicious exterior—an unmarked door and a bouncer—that descends into a cool metallic bunker of 007 nature. The impressive oval bar acts as a giant sharing table for guests to choose from Soma’s short but excellent list of remixed, and sometimes even improved, takes on classic cocktails. It’s open until the early hours from Monday to Saturday and, if you’re in a group, there are a couple of very elite-feeling rooms that look out onto the bar too.

photo credit: Three Sheets

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Three Sheets’ intimate (see: a squeeze) space is one of east London’s best spots for a cocktail. The Dalston bar is a must-book location given its size—unless, like us, you have a penchant for 5pm cocktails—but it’s very much worth the little bit of pre-planning. The changing seasonal drinks, like a foraged nettle-infused martini, all guarantee a delicious twist. But off-menu classics are done excellently too—and include one of our favourite martinis in London. There are a whole load of non-alcoholic drinks available if you ask as well. Three Sheets' Soho location is just as excellent.

Walk five minutes away from purgatory—or Old Street roundabout, as it’s more commonly known—and you’ll find Tayēr + Elementary, a sceney cocktail bar. The front bar is walk-in only and has the look of an izakaya built from Apollo 11’s scrap parts, including a pretty nifty negroni tap and sound system playing European hip hop to bop. It’s perfect for spontaneous midweek things, especially if you like people-watching out the glassy windows. The back bar, open from Thursday to Saturday, is a moodily lit date den with its own separate cocktail list and vaguely illicit, Blade Runner vibe. It’s a very easy place to hole up in until 1am.

photo credit: Bar Americain

$$$$Perfect For:Drinking Good Cocktails

Bar Américain is not the kind of bar you stumble into and demand something that sounds like it could be a Formula One sponsor. No. Shame on you. This is a bar that doesn’t even let you take pictures with the flash on, such is their commitment to providing an old-school cocktail experience. A leather-packed basement situation in the same glamorous Soho building that houses Brasserie Zédel, the cocktails here are faultless. You’re in safe hands for any of the classics but in this setting an Old Fashioned just makes sense.

The Coral Room’s sole purpose is for looking fabulous while drinking fabulous things with fabulous people in a truly fabulous setting. Also, importantly, in case you were wondering whether this bar’s success simply hinges on 200 litres of coral paint, it doesn’t. They are experts with the classics. The bartenders at this spot inside The Bloomsbury Hotel on Great Russell Street will make you absolutely anything you ask for with confidence and finesse. Although it’ll set you back at least £16 per cocktail, it’s entirely worth it for a drink that feels less like a beverage and more like a totally unforgettable experience.

The cocktail menu at Bar Termini is short, sharp, sweet, and sometimes pleasantly bitter. Home to one of London’s best negronis, this undeniably classy espresso and cocktail bar knows how to do the classics with an Italian swagger. In case you’re currently picturing a bellini in a Ferrari, let us just confirm that by ‘Italian swagger’ we mean the classics done with confidence. Eye-watering bloody marys, your quintessential summer spritz with a hearty dose of prosecco, all served in a simple, charming bar on Old Compton Street.

photo credit: Lateef Photography

$$$$Perfect For:Drinking Good Cocktails

Happiness Forgets is an intimate basement bar in Hoxton Square where cocktails take priority. This shouldn’t come as a surprise considering their slogan is ‘great cocktails, no wallies’ but it never ceases to surprise us just how great a simple sazerac here can be. Simple, high-quality drinks mixed with low lighting is a definite recipe for success. Outside of winning gimlets and a world-class Old Fashioned, this place gets bonus points for being open every single night of the week. Just be sure to book ahead. 

photo credit: Fitz's

$$$$Perfect For:Drinking Good Cocktails
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Inside the sophisticated Grade II-listed Kimpton Fitzroy London hotel in Russell Square, Fitz’s has an inventive menu of twists on everyone’s favourites. But their cocktail maestros in waistcoats will also be happy to make you straight-up classics. The best part—outside of the enormous glittering disco ball—is that they stock a truly admirable quantity of spirits so you can have your gin of choice in your dry martini. Just know that the bar is set across two spaces—you’ll need a booking for The Mirrorball Room but they accept walk-ins in The Mural Room.

We’ve really put the time in at Goldfinch. No need to thank us, we’re just professionals who know that to truly judge a negroni you must drink four in quick succession while gossiping about Kourtney Kardashian’s love life. It is through this thorough research that we can confirm that Goldfinch is home to the best negroni in London. But that’s not where their cocktail wizardry ends because this confident little Tooting bar is able to make any of the classics to perfection. If the sun has decided to make an appearance, you can’t beat a paloma in their intimate back garden.

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