London appreciates a good drink, a sentiment that is evident by the plethora of cocktail bars that dot the city's many neighborhoods. Whether you're looking for a crisp, icy gin martini in a historic hotel bar or an imaginative cocktail unlike anything you've ever tasted in a hipster basement, London has the spot for you. Although the British capital boasts many, many cocktail bars, these are some of the best, thanks to the atmosphere, the service and, most importantly, the quality of the drinks.
Formerly known as Dandelyan, Lyaness is the brainchild of bartender Ryan Chetiyawardana. The chic cocktail bar is located alongside the Thames in the Sea Containers London hotel and welcomes guests to taste test drinks off experimental menus that use natural ingredients in new ways. The bar also offers "Fancy Tea" from Thursday to Sunday and has a list of delicious bar snacks available alongside your cocktails. Booking in advance is recommended, especially on weekends and holidays. If you don't understand the menu, that's OK—the friendly bar team is there to help.
Arguably the best cocktail bar in all of London, Satan's Whiskers is an unassuming spot in Bethnal Green with a penchant for the classics. The small, intimate bar is casual, with hip-hop blaring through the speakers, and it's the sort of place where you feel immediately at home. The menu changes daily, although they'll make whatever you fancy (pro tip: ask for a frozen Gold Rush), and there's also a solid list of food available. While the bar does take reservations, you can walk in at any time.
Kwãnt (unexpectedly pronounced "quaint") is a new cocktail bar from Erik Lorincz, former head bartender of the American Bar. It can be tricky to find in the basement of Mayfair restaurant Momo, but once you're inside the calm atmosphere is a welcome respite from the busy streets of central London. The cocktail list is based on the classics, with eclectic variations that use homemade ingredients and unusual flavors. There are also several mouth-watering non-alcoholic cocktails, which taste just as good as their boozy counterparts.
The American Bar, located inside the famed Savoy Hotel, is the king of the classics. It's been around since 1893 and many well-known drinks, like the Hanky Panky, originate here. Named World’s Best Bar at World’s 50 Best in 2017, the bar is fairly formal, with white-suited bartenders and high-end table service (as well as a live pianist). While the bar features a new menu every year, it's best to stick with what they do best: a gin martini. Go in on a Sunday afternoon to avoid the crowds and take advantage of one of the four bar seats in the entire place.
The Connaught Bar
The Connaught Bar, nestled in the center of Mayfair's Connaught Hotel, has an actual martini trolley. That's right: a bartender will wheel a selection of booze over to your take and shake a perfect martini exactly to your liking. It's a particularly stylish bar, ideal for special occasions or nights out, and the cocktails are some of the best you'll find in London. Those who are alcohol-free will also find an impressive selection of original non-alcoholic cocktails. There are no reservations, so it's best to head in early if you want to score one of the coveted tables.
Three Sheets has become a staple in the hip neighborhood of Dalston, where cocktail bars can be found on almost every corner these days. Opened in 2016 by a pair of brothers, Noel and Max Venning, the bar is tiny, with a personal vibe that means you'll get lots of attention from the staff. The menu, which shifts frequently, is divided into three sections—One Sheet, Two Sheets and Three Sheets—and each denotes how strong your selection will be. If you're not into cocktails, the bar also has a carefully curated list of beers and wines.
Tayēr + Elementary
Opened in 2019 by bartenders Alex Kratena and Monica Berg, Tayēr + Elementary is one of London's hottest new cocktail spots. The bar, located in the center of Shoreditch, is split in two, with Elementary as an all-day bar with coffee, cocktails and food and Tayēr serving an experimental cocktail menu that changes daily. Guests will find dishes from TÁ TÁ Eatery, a buzzy pop-up restaurant that's been making its way through London, making the bar ideal for dinner and drinks.
The Blind Pig
Located above the Michelin-starred restaurant Social Eating House, The Blind Pig has a speakeasy aesthetic and serves creative cocktails often inspired by different themes (they've had several menus based on children's literature). With dark wood paneling and dim lighting, the bar has the feeling of a hideaway, where guests can cuddle up in a dark corner or grab a seat at the bar. Because it opens at 3 p.m. daily, it's also a good option for those looking for an early drink.
Bar Swift has two separate spaces, an upper level that feels like a New York bar and a dimly lit basement bar, where guests can hide away from the wild Soho nightlife outside. Downstairs should be your pick, especially on the weekends when there's live music from 9 p.m. The cocktail menus vary in each bar, but both emphasize innovative drinks that use global ingredients like shiso, kumquat, and jasmine. Reservations are available online and highly recommended as the bar is located in one of London's most popular areas.
This fancy cocktail joint is part of the Rosewood Hotel and it's the sort of place you want to really make an occasion of when you visit. It's named for caricaturist Gerald Scarfe and many of his iconic works decorate the walls, as well as the menu itself. The menu switches up its theme annually, using Scarfe's art as inspiration for the drinks, which often center on famous figures like Winston Churchill and Prince Harry. There's live music most evenings, so check the bar's website for upcoming events.
Discount Suit Company
Discount Suit Company may sound like a clothing store, but this secret cocktail spot, which was once a tailor's stockroom, doesn't sell anything but booze and snacks. The drinks menu is clever, featuring both original creations and classics. The bar is slightly off the beaten path, a short walk from Liverpool Street Station, and it's a solid alternative to the busy nearby spots in Shoreditch and Bethnal Green. Reservations are available, but you'll need one on the weekends.
Callooh Callay is one of Shoreditch's quintessential cocktail spots, known for its Lewis Carroll-themed decor and extensive menu. Open since 2008, the bar has become a mainstay of the vibrant neighborhood and visitors can rely on the bartenders to make personalized drink recommendations (especially if the long menu is daunting). There's also a list of non-alcoholic options, including a kombucha of the week, and a small menu of food and snacks. For frequent guests, Callooh Callay also offers free membership to Jubjub, a small hidden bar upstairs that hosts special events and tastings.
Mint Gun Club
This tiny cocktail bar, just off the main road in Stoke Newington, has a tropical, exotic sensibility. They serve both cocktails and teas, and the drinks aren't your average classics. The majority of the cocktails are aperitifs, spritzes or night caps, all made with unexpected ingredients, although the menu also includes a selection of martinis and gimlets. An innovative take on high tea is also available (the bar opens at 2 p.m. on the weekends).
Drinking isn't permitted on the London Tube, but you can imbibe in an old Underground station at Cahoots, a lively bar in Soho that stays open late. It's got a 1940s theme and the drinks are inspired by the black market liquor of the era. The extensive menu is on point, with cleverly-named cocktails that evoke both the train setting and '40s culture (plus, there are some great sharing drinks for those in a group). If you get peckish, the bar also serves up "rations," like steak and ale pie.
Bermondsey Street is known as one of London's coolest streets, so it makes sense that you'll find intimate neighborhood bar Nine Lives along the thoroughfare. The basement spot is all about sustainably sourced ingredients and great music, and the bar hosts a weekly party every Saturday night. The cocktail selection is small but innovative and each drink showcases a careful combination of flavors. Be sure to check the hours in advance as Nine Lives is shut Sundays and Mondays.