The £10 Cocktail Guide8 great London bars where a tenner will get you far.
One day you’re in Wetherspoons handing over a fiver for a litre of woo woo and the next you’re dropping £18 for a Pimm’s disguised under the name Apollo’s Elixir. Yes, drinking is an expensive business in London and even at many of the city’s dive bars and casual drinking dens, a cocktail can easily set you back 15 quid. Not on our watch and not at these places. These are the bars that not only serve great cocktails but they won’t charge you a small fortune for the pleasure. Cheers.
This guide puts us in a very difficult position. On the one hand our sacred oath to Tell The People Of London About Good Bars means that that we have to disclose that this moody basement bar on Shaftesbury Avenue has live music, is open until 2am throughout the week, and everything from the paloma to the lupé margarita is £8.50. On the other hand, we love that every time we’ve rocked up, we’ve been able to walk right in and therefore don’t really want anyone else to know about it. Fine, professionalism wins out but trust us, once you’ve spent an evening here, chatting over candlelight and sipping a whisky sour while the saxophone player really lets loose, you won’t want anyone else to know about it either.
Discount Suit Company is a Shoreditch bar that takes liquor very seriously without being bores about it. Ranking high on our list of bars that will impress a date, especially once they try one of the inventive cocktails while some vintage rock ‘n’ roll is playing. The menu reads like our dream liquor cabinet—three-year aged rum, yoghurt soju, manzanilla sherry—but despite the quality booze the prices remain below that sweet £10 mark. Be warned, it’s small and gets very busy, so book ahead.
All of the cocktails at Goldfinch are a tenner. You can also get two cocktails for £12 before 7pm. We don’t know what we ever did to deserve this deeply charming, surprisingly affordable, date-ready little bar in Tooting but you know what, it’s better not to question it and just order the signature negroni. In our humble opinion, it’s the best in London. But don’t worry, if Campari isn’t your thing they also have frozen margaritas, plenty of spritz action, and a winning take on an old fashioned.
Imagine Shania Twain singing ‘let’s go girls’ except it’s a heavy metal remix and you’re drunk enough to sing along. That is the essence of Meatliquor’s cocktail list which can be summarised by the presence of a £9.75 straight up vodka espresso and something involving coconut rum called Surfers On Acid. The cocktails at this loud and proud dive bar just off Oxford Street tend to fall into that apocalyptic bracket, but they are tasty and it’s the perfect setting for getting a little bleary-eyed circa 2am. Get involved and then get a very silly picture with the giant illuminated pickle by the toilets.
Charlie’s is only open on Thursday nights. We’ll forgive them for not providing us with £10 spicy mezcal margaritas every single night of the week because frankly, this basement bar off Columbia Road is too charming to ever be mad at it. From the bowls of ridged crisps on the tables to the fact that the dark wood panelling was carved by the owner himself—who also happens to own the leather goods and furniture restoration shop upstairs—this place has that whole secret speakeasy thing going on without any of the pretentious faff. There are only five cocktails on the short menu, but if you’re into proper frothy espresso martinis then you should know that that’s one of them.
There is a cat that lives at this day-to-night Lower Marsh spot and if you’re very nice to it, it might even share your stool on the little back terrace. Charming, we know. You know what else is charming? A spritz for under a tenner. The drinks here are your classic G&T and Aperol situations but it just works when you’re surrounded by old scooters and mismatched furniture. If you can’t find any seating in the cafe or out on the terrace, know there are more seats downstairs.
Generally speaking, pubs don’t always nail cocktails. Jäger bombs are excluded from this narrative, sorry. But Clerkenwell’s Coin Laundry is one of those laid-back modern pubs where you won’t care if it’s a bar, pub, or international space station once you’ve had a few sips of the raspberry and pepper vermouth-packed CL negroni. The main pub space is perfect for a spot of day drinking or gathering up every member of your WhatsApp group. If you’re after something a little more intimate, head downstairs to the basement area.