The best cocktail bars in London / Food & Drink
The best cocktail bars in London

With London Cocktail Week approaching, here’s where to sip the night away in the capital…

With London Cocktail Week approaching, here’s where to sip the night away in the capital…

If there’s one thing London isn’t short of, it’s bars. From historic hotel establishments to basement drinking dens championing a molecular approach to mixology, there’s somewhere to suit every mood and occasion. We’ve rounded up the places serving the best libations in town, whatever your poison.



The Connaught Bar, Mayfair

The godfather of all cocktail bars, The Connaught Bar needs no introduction. Topping the World’s 50 Best Bars list for two years in a row, the mixologists led by Agostino Perrone are in a league of their own – as are the Cubist-inspired interiors by David Collins Studio (think textured walls in platinum silver leaf). 

There’s a theatre to proceedings here. The Bloody Mary is given a reviving blast of celery air. The Vintage collection of cocktails is made with aged spirits (try the vintage old fashioned – a measure of 80s Haigh Club here, a dash of 70s Angostura Bitters there). Then there’s the martini trolley, which is rolled in, so you can watch your tipple being mixed, to your taste, tableside. 

What to order: The house martini, naturally, made from Tanqueray No.10 Gin and infused with handmade bitters like cardamom, lavender, bergamot and grapefruit, depending on your preference.



Artesian, Regent Street

Another stalwart of the cocktail shaker, Artesian at The Langham, London manages to maintain an intimate feel despite its elevated surroundings. Contrasts play out in the new cocktail list, too, where 14 libations are paired to represent seven dual elements. 

Each duo of drinks draws on a common element, whether that’s a particular ingredient, style or technique, expressed in two different ways. For a taste of classic meets avant-garde, try Past, an Old Fashioned-esque blend of Mitcher’s whiskey infused with olive leaf bitter and fragrant palo santo wood. Then try Future – fino sherry, lemongrass, gin, mint extract, enoki mushrooms and olive oil, served in a test tube. 

What to order: For something fruitier, make yours a Good – passion fruit pulp, tomato water, white wine and gin – followed by an Evil, comprised of a liqueur made from passionfruit husk poured over ice with oxidised wine and whiskey.



The Painter’s Room, Mayfair

A bar carved out of blush pink onyx, stained glass by artist Annie Morris and skylights casting a peaches-and-cream glow: few bars are as much a feast for the eyes as the palate as Claridge’s The Painter’s Room. 

Staying true to the hotel’s Art Deco heritage, this latest addition to the drinking line-up has been imagined by interior designer Bryan O’Sullivan as an ode to the artistic haunts of 1930s Provence and Italy. The succinct but considered cocktail list is divided into chapters – en plein air, clean, complex and reinterpretation – inspired by the shifting shades of Southern Europe, so you can be transported to sunnier climes as you sip.

What to order: The Melba Bellini, a fresh take on the classic, mixed with peach leaves liqueur, Laurent-Perrier Champagne, vanilla and raspberry.

image_633bf87811ef30_63018763.jpg?ooMediaId=934 image_633bf8a27a2781_13296164.jpg?ooMediaId=935


Bar Termini, Soho

One for the purists, Bar Termini is often namedropped alongside its scene-setting sibling 69 Colebrooke Row as stirring the capital’s cocktail revolution. 

A revolving door of a place – think espressos by day, negronis by night – rather than somewhere to linger. On the small but well-formed side, it takes its cues from the bijoux bars of Rome’s largest train station. There’s a brief cocktail list of reimagined classics to match. Unexpected ingredients bring a twist: the Spritz Termini is spiked with rhubarb cordial while the martini comes infused with Marsala Dolce and almond bitters.

What to order: You can’t leave without trying a negroni. Here, they’re pre-made and aged, and span the Classico to the Superiore, infused with pink peppercorns. Plus, pick up a bottle of your favourite to take home. 



Untitled, Dalston

Another entry from the drinks alchemists behind Bar Termini, Untitled is gallery-like in its minimalism. Cocktails are mixed from a polished concrete slab of a bar set against foil-papered walls reminiscent of Andy Warhol’s infamous Factory. Outside, a Japanese-inspired moon garden by architecture and design practice SoHo+Co is illuminated by a glowing orb. 

The drinks are similarly intriguing. Acidify orange, clay, gunpowder tea and heather flower are all put to use in the experimental line-up. Resident plant-based restaurant Plates London is on hand to provide seasonal food via a menu that keeps you guessing. It includes barbecued kalibos cabbage, confit lions mane mushroom and teriyaki lentil tempeh with sweet and sour plum and red wine sauce. 

What to order: The Snow, distilled with clay, chalk and enoki vodka, blended to taste like the sensation of snow. Has to be tried to be believed.



KOL Mezcaleria, Marylebone 

Mexico by way of Marylebone: agave and antojitos (that’s Mexican street snacks) await at this moody basement bar. Sitting beneath Santiago Lastra’s restaurant of the same name – the first Mexican restaurant in the UK to achieve a Michelin star –it’s modelled on the mezcalerias of Oaxaca and Guadalajara, meaning rattan aplenty. 

There’s a wine list-style menu that celebrates mezcal in all its small-batch glory, with attention to terroir, while creative cocktails pair Mexican flavours with seasonal British ingredients. Martinis are mixed with Volcan blanco tequila, pine distillate and cucumber while Corte Vetusto mezcal is infused with sloes and combined with Campari and nettle to make negronis. 

What to order: Technically not a cocktail but work your way through the 70-strong spirits collection, featuring small scale and independent distillers hailing from the Yucatan to Jalisco and everywhere in between. Alongside the agave-based spirits of mezcal and tequila there’s a handful of lesser known sips.

© Charlie McKay


Punch Room, Fitzrovia

Nightcaps don’t come more inviting than those on offer at Punch Room at the London EDITION hotel. A modern reincarnation of the capital’s 19th-century private clubs, the bar dips into the history books for inspiration for its 30 speciality punches, each with a modern twist. 

The space looks the part: tufted banquettes in teal velvet and mint green leather tub chairs, set to a soundtrack of soul. The current menu is inspired by tastemakers who have transformed the evolution of punch through the ages, from 17th-century German explorer Johan Albrecht de Mandelslo to modern-day drinks historian, master distiller and co-founder of Sipsmith Gin, Jared Brown.

What to order: The Big Smoke Punch, a collision of Slane Irish Whiskey, Laphroaig, oolong tea and tropical bitter – an hommage to Charles Dickens and his tea punch parties – served in a vintage punch bowl.

© Lateef Okunnu
© Lateef Okunnu


Seed Library, Shoreditch

Molecular mixology not really your thing? Seed Library at One Hundred Shoreditch hotel takes a more lo-fi, analogue approach to the business of mixing drinks, with a retro setting to match. All red and caramel accents and sink-into furniture, the place recalls the louche atmosphere of a ‘70s jazz club. Not that Seed Library relies on gimmicks for its appeal. 

Taking inspiration from the classics, the stripped back cocktail list celebrates imperfections and individuality over the precision-made. The ever-changing menu means there’s always something new to try, like the daiquiri, which comes laced with chive, coconut milk and lime, or the gimlet with coriander seed cordial. 

What to order: The spicy metropolitan is a vodka cocktail that packs a punch: Grey Goose, salted raspberry, scotch bonnet and orange liqueur.



Scarfes Bar, Covent Garden

There’s a batten-down-the-hatches feel to Scarfes Bar thanks to the roaring fire, bookcases lined with antique tomes and caricatures of famous faces covering the walls, daubed by the bar’s namesake cartoonist and illustrator Gerald Scarfe. 

Live jazz six nights a week adds to the heady conviviality, as do the drinks. The playful, pun-filled menu incorporates everything from bee pollen and acorn to espelette pepper and clarified almond into the mix. The bar snacks verge on more familiar territory: think wild boar and black pudding scotch egg with sage and bloody Mary ketchup.

What to order: A riff on the G&T, the TNT is a reviving mix of Hendrick’s, evaporated tomato, raspberry eau de vie and kalamata olive tonic.



Stay: Read.