The Best Bars In London For A Classic Cocktail
8 classy joints that make magnificent martinis, necessary negronis, and fantastic old fashioneds.
Please sit down for what we are about to say is shocking. There was a time, not that long ago, where ‘a cocktail’ simply implied that some nice booze had been mixed with another nice booze. It was a time of innocence, a time where simplicity reigned supreme, a time where you never had to utter the words ‘erm, could I get the…Merman’s Orgasm, on the rocks please.” You see, we’re all for creative mixology and drinking a lethal concoction of absinthe and champagne out of a skull head but sometimes you just crave the classics. From dry martinis to the perfect negroni, these are the London bars that will make you a winning cocktail, no funny business involved.
The Coral Room
For the perfect: Champagne Cocktail / Manhattan / Espresso Martini
Look, we just want to reach the point in our lives where we can use the word fabulous without a drop of sarcasm and maybe have someone refer to us as their lover. Is that a crime, dear reader? Is it? At The Coral Room inside The Bloomsbury Hotel it definitely isn’t. This bar’s sole purpose is looking fabulous whilst 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. They’ll make you absolutely anything you ask for with confidence and finesse, and although it’ll set you back at least £15 per cocktail it’s entirely worth it for a drink that feels less like a beverage and more like a totally unforgettable experience.
For the perfect: Negroni / Espresso Martini / Bloody Mary
The cocktail menu at Bar Termini is short, sharp, sweet, and sometimes perfectly 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.
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For the perfect: Cosmopolitan / Dirty Martini / Manhattan
Disco balls are an important part of the drinking process. They are shiny and fun and scientific studies have shown that their presence improves the taste of your martini by 98%. For full disclosure, we were the sole participants of this study but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t factually correct. Inside the sophisticated Grade II listed Kimpton Fitzroy London Hotel, they have 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 that big disco ball—is that they stock an epic quantity of spirits so you can have your gin of choice in your dry martini. Just know that you’ll need a booking for The Mirror Room but they accept walk-ins in The Mural Room.
For the perfect: Negroni / Mojito / Margarita / Paloma
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 whilst 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.
For the perfect: Old fashioned / French 75 / Cosmopolitan / Vesper
A Jägerbomb, the bartender cries, his face a mutinous red. Alas, our Beluga Gold shall never touch the tarty lips of a carbonated energy drink.
Anyway, that’s enough The Gilded Age fan-fiction from us. In case you couldn’t tell, we are incredibly subtly trying to tell you that 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 a bar that doesn’t even let you take pictures with the flash on, such is their commitment to providing an authentic 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.
For the perfect: Old fashioned / Gimlet / Gin Martini / Sazerac
Our favourite sentence in the English language is ‘this Zoom meeting has been cancelled’ but a close second is ‘classic cocktails are always available’. Happiness Forgets is an intimate basement bar in Hoxton Square where classic cocktails are not only available, but they 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.
For the perfect: Daiquiri / Old Fashioned / Champagne Cocktail
Here’s your foolproof guide to a night at Disrepute. NB: it isn’t technically foolproof because this place makes the kind of cocktails where one daiquiri turns into four manhattans, so foolish behaviour may unfortunately occur. First up, you’re going to tell the bouncer about your booking, because yes, you need one. Then descend the staircase to a room that will give all Jay Gatsby fans the flutters and let your heart do the ordering. Sit, sip, feel exceptionally sexy, and repeat. Anything that feels peak bougie and glamorous is their speciality, so a champagne cocktail to start is a no-brainer.
For the perfect: Spritz / Bloody Mary / Whisky Sour / Boulevardier
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 moody broody basement downstairs, they’ve got two different settings that will match your classic cocktail of choice. Upstairs is all above sipping on those favourite bubble numbers whilst checking yourself out in one of the many reflective surfaces. Yes, you do look fantastic. Downstairs is for utilising their expansive whisky list—a casual 300 to choose from—with a winning whisky sour or a boulevardier, ideally next to the piano.