The Best Cocktail Bars In London guide image


The Best Cocktail Bars In London

10 classy joints that make magnificent martinis, necessary negronis, and fantastic old fashioneds.

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, 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.


Soma Soho

A sultry basement bar in Soho is never not a good thing, but Soma always exceeds expectations. It’s 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 Tuesday 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.

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. There are a whole load of non-alcoholic drinks available if you ask as well.

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 making some of London’s finest drinks. 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 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.

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. 

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. 

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 of them in quick succession while gossiping about the current state of Kourtney Kardashian’s love life. It is through this strenuous and 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.

It’s hard to match a bar like Swift. Smack bang in the middle of buzzing Soho with an art deco bar on street level and a broody basement downstairs, they’ve got two different settings that will match your classic cocktail of choice. Upstairs is for sipping on those favourite bubbly numbers while checking yourself out in one of the many reflective surfaces. Yes, you do look fantastic. Downstairs is for diving into their expansive whisky list—a casual 300 to choose from—with a winning whisky sour or a boulevardier, ideally next to the piano.

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photo credit: Aleksandra Boruch

The Best Cocktail Bars In London guide image