No night out in east London is complete without a zigzagging wander up and down, round and round, the Kingsland Road towards Stokey, Haggerston, wherever really. Dalston isn’t lacking in pubs or bars. It isn’t lacking in people not knowing where to go and settling for the shop and a cosy bit of pavement instead. But there are plenty of excellent options in amongst the subpar ones, from classy cocktail bars, to natural wine specialists, to straightforward pint-pouring boozers.
If you’re out in Dalston looking to drink but, specifically, looking to drink good cocktails then Three Sheets is where you should be heading. It’s a tiny-pardon-me-type space that does coffee and sometimes sandwiches in the day, before moving onto the serious stuff in the evening. The menu ranges from drinks in the one, two, or three sheets (to the wind) variety and features old favourites with new twists, like the earth martini with beetroot. FYI you’ll want book ahead as not only is it box-sized, but it also gets shoulder-bumpingly busy.
Sadly for all of our geography fans out there, Map Maison has nothing to do with maps, but, importantly, everything to do with artisan cocktails and tasteful little cherry blossom displays. A sophisticated cocktail bar with a speakeasy spirit, the drinks here start around the £10 mark, but they’re entirely worth the spend. No matter how loud that little Campari-loving monster in your head is demanding a negroni, forgo the classics and get involved in their mixologist menu for truly unique, creative tipples. Our personal favourite is the seriously smoky Into The Woods barrel-aged bitters and chai number, but they also have a long list of Japanese whiskeys to get involved in. FYI they’re open until 1am every night of the week, so it’s the perfect place for one last drink when you can’t face another dive bar.
Slurp is a wine bar that, unlike most places around Dalston, has got a massive covered front yard for you to enjoy something sparkling, orange, or whatever else in the great outdoors. It’s right next to 40 FT brewery and the Dusty Knuckle, so if you’re day drinking you can also be day munching. Drinks-wise, the wine list out front regularly changes, but there are about 50-odd different bottles in the cellar at all times in a space that can easily fit over a hundred people.
Newcomer specialises in organic and biodynamic wines from Central Europe, with their growers located in Austria, Hungary and the Czech Republic. It’s a little, unassuming spot on Dalston Lane with a little, unassuming patio out back that’s very much worth knowing about. They often have a collaboration going on when it comes to food - currently they have SSAW Collective in the kitchen - and with glasses starting at around the £6.50 mark, it’s a lovely intimate spot even just for a glass or two.
The Duke, as its fondly referred to by locals old and young, is a proper pub. You’ve got your Gordon’s and your Absolut on the top shelf and some ice in your glass if you’re lucky. Inside pints are pulled, the Premier League is playing, and the pool table is up for grabs if you’ve got a pound to put down. While outside, groups spill out past the tables onto the grassy square opposite. If heaven is a place on earth, it might well look like this.
A breezy, unpretentious bar at the Haggerston end of the Kingsland Road, Hacha is the home of the mirror margarita - an astonishingly delicious feat of alcohol alchemy that’s a godsend for anyone pretending to abstain from alcohol. Two or three of will do the trick, but they go down like water, so you’ll want to slow the pace down with some decent seabass tostaditas, beef tacos, or whatever else is coming out of the kitchen.
Some cocktail bars are all moustached mixologists and funky ingredients. Others are pumping music and too cool for school. But High Water is neither of these. It’s just a straightforward, not too fancy, moodily-lit cocktail bar that wants you to have a good time (and get drunk). This is a pretty-much-everyone bar that’s totally unpretentious. The drinks are decent and under a tenner, the inside perfect for boozy dates and boisterous groups alike, and there’s seating out front on the strip as well.
The Shacklewell Arms is an extremely dangerous pub near off the Kingsland Road, near Hackney Downs. Not dangerous in that you should fear for your life. But dangerous in that you can very easily come here late afternoon for a few pints with friends, and find yourself knocking back shots almost 12 hours later in the same place. The Shacklewell’s late weekend opening hours isn’t the only reason to come here though. It’s an excellent and regular gig venue as well, plus the enormous smoking area is basically another venue in itself.