When we first created this list back in 2010 you might have heard the words “there aren’t that many decent cocktail bars in London”. What madness is this? Now following a revival, London bars have definitely come a long way, with top-quality classics sharing a drinks list with the latest cocktail concoctions.
This year, we’ve added in some award-winning new bars to ensure whether you like them long and strong or short but sweet, you can get a quality cocktail. So here, in no particular order, are updated 50 places to pick from:
1. The American Bar at The Savoy, Strand
The bar is named after the slang for cocktails so you know you are in the right place. The Savoy Cocktail book is still regarded as the “Bible for bartenders”. Class all the way.
2. Bourne & Hollingsworth, Rathbone Place
A tiny 30s bar hidden away (look for the stairs by the black and white poster). Very handsome bar staff too. Expect drinks served in jam jars and tea cups.
3. Dirty Martini, The Piazza, Covent Garden
In the week happy hour till 10pm – but get there early at the weekends (open late!!) Get here early for their 2-4-1 deals. Make sure you get the chocolate martini. But if it’s busy and you’re thirsty, go elsewhere.
4. Trader Vics, Park Lane
Come here for the famed Mai Tai. Just had a major revamp – over a tenner for the top cocktails – Aloha
5. Nola, Shoreditch
Having just scooped the 2014 Best New International Cocktail bar at the prestigious “Spirited Award”, this East London tribute to New Orleans is a must-visit. Members-only post-midnight but you can get a signature Sazerac for less than a tenner.
6. Trailer Happiness, Notting Hill
Fun and silly, which is what cocktails should be, don’t you think? Kitsch rum cocktails
7. El Camion, Soho
Simply magical margaritas and late night opening hours, Monday to Saturday, makes this a new Soho superstar.
8. Cubana, Waterloo
Sure it’s a bit of a dive, but the mojitos are wonderful.
9. Freud, Shaftesbury Avenue
Great little bar and gallery, but the cocktail list is enormous. Worth the trip if you can afford to try lots of new things
10. Zetter, Farringdon.
Worth the trip east for the fabulous martinis. The Zetter Townhouse hotel is award winning, too.
11. Nightjar, Old Street
An Art Deco slice of heaven, this 1920s themed bar (think pre & post prohibition cocktail drinks on the menu) is open until 3am at the weekend.
If there is a more opulent hotel bar in London, we’re yet to find it.
13. Shochu, Charlotte Street
Hidden away and serving unique (if expensive) cocktails using the Japanese spirit Shochu.
14. Benugo at the BFI, Southbank
Wonderful Margaritas. Better when it’s quiet though, which is pretty rare.
15. Bar 55, Camden
One for the after work crowd. Great cocktails and super boozy 2-4-1 deals throughout the week.
16. Garlic and Shots, Soho
Well it’s great… if you like garlic and you’re not planning on kissing anyone.
17. Charlotte Street Hotel, Fitzrovia
Great in summer, if you’re lucky enough to get a table outside. Don’t move if you do. And go for the Dark ‘n’ Stormy.
18. Match, Margaret Street
Nifty little spot, and never too busy. Great cocktails, but go with a group as it now has sharing bowl punches
19. Mele E Pere, Soho
More a restaurant but does amazing martini’s; we recommend the “Dirty” one. Not the cheapest, but quality all the way. They even had Prosecco on tap!
20. Beach Blanket Babylon, Notting Hill
Stunning design and a classier feel than the Shoreditch branch.
21. Cellar Door, Aldwych / Covent Garden
A funky underground cocktail bar in a former public toilet. Yep, really. Open until 1am every night so a great central London late night option.
22. Tropicana Beach Club, Covent Garden
Tropical cocktails and bargain 2-4-1 deals between 5pm-8pm, Thursdays to Saturday. Beach themed food, too.
23. The Hospital Club, Covent Garden
If you can get in, the martinis are a treat. So are the little shots that waiters pass around the bar.
24. LAB, Soho
So many cocktails from developing bartenders! You’ll need a year (and a strong liver) to go through them all. Try something new.
25. Zensai, Camden
There aren’t many cocktail bars in Camden, but this one is really very good and has great 2-4-1 deals early doors throughout the week.
26. Crazy Bear, Fitzrovia
Fab members- only clubhouse bar. If you have the creds; pop in early to get a table.
27. Soho Hotel, Soho
They do great mojitos at the hotel’s Refuel Bar. Expect to pay well over a tenner though. Ouch.
28. Titos, London Bridge Street
More of a restaurant, but we hear they do the best Pisco sours in town.
29. Good Godfreys, Waldorf Hilton, Strand / Covent Garden
Another hotel bar which is open late; try their decadent signature cocktail, The Perfect Host, for a 1920s twist.
30. Sketch, Mayfair
Worth a trip for the egg-shaped toilets alone. This is a destination cocktail bar in magical surroundings.
31. 69 Colbrooke Row, Angel
This small, classic, award-winning bar whips up a darn good tipple. Book ahead. If you’re feeling inspired try a cocktail masterclass.
32. Be at One, Soho
It’s a pub turned bar chain, so it’s got a very friendly vibe and you’ll know what you’re getting.
33. Bob Bob Ricard, Soho
If you can get into the elegant bar, the cocktails are great (if a tad expensive). Otherwise just sit at the tables pressing the champagne trolley buttons.
34. The Courthouse, The Courthouse Hotel, Soho
Want to drink convict-themed cocktails in a prison cell? Then come here; I rest my case!
35. Milk & Honey, Soho
Looking for a more exclusive drink? Then come to Milk & Honey before 11pm if you’re not a member. It’s best to call or email and reserve.
36. Artesian, The Langham, Marylebone
On several of the world’s best bar lists, this is the height of cocktail bar sophistication. They love pushing the boundaries and have unique and experimental recipes.
37. Shoreditch House, Shoreditch
Very swanky members’ club. Very swanky drinks.
38. Lost Society, Clapham
A lovely little south west London bar, with English classics on both the drinks and food menus.
39. The Hawksmoor, Shoreditch
Not just incredible steak, they can shake a decent tipple as well. Amazing cocktail list.
40. Callooh Callay, Shoreditch
Fitting in rather snugly with its trendy Shoreditch neighbours, this award-winning cocktail menu just has to be tried. Go through to the back room for a more private space.
41. The May Fair bar, May Fair Hotel, Mayfair
An award-winning hotel bar. This is a cracker whether your poison of choice is the Mojito or the Martini. Cocktails start from £13, so this is the place for that special treat.
42. South London Pacific, Kennington
A little way out of town, but worth it if you’re a fan of all things Tiki. Great drink deals before 10pm; Aloho!
43. Freedom, Soho
This is a great little gay/mixed bar. Awesome cocktails (try the Zombie) and a giant disco ball above the dancefloor.
44. Sugar Cane, Clapham
Who wouldn’t want to drink in a Tiki hut? Lots of rum on the shelf here in, err, tropical…Clapham.
45. Covent Garden Cocktail Club, Covent Garden
This members-only club only costs £1 to join via email 24 hours before you go (and you can then sign in 3 pals). Their 2-4-1 deals run nightly and membership means it doesn’t get absolutely heaving.
46. The Rivoli at The Ritz, Piccadilly
Great drinks in amazing Art Deco surroundings. But then it’s the Ritz – you wouldn’t expect anything less, would you?
47. Steam and Rye, Leadenhall Street
Fab cocktails and live music to boot.
48. White Lyan, Hoxton
This dark, quirky new bar eschews ice and has all their drinks pre-mixed. Very original and surprising tasty, a cocktail experience with a difference.
49. House of Wolf, Islington.
One of Upper Street’s finest and a self-confessed “Victorian lair” based in a former music hall, this is a destination cocktail bar. Try an ABBAtini.
50. Hakkasan, right by Tottenham Court Road
Tucked away, you’d think you were in another part of the world.
We would love to hear what your favourite bars are and let us know if we have missed one of yours off.