Not only is London home to a mammoth number of old and historic pubs (there are over 3,500, just FYI), it also boasts some of the best cocktail bars in the world.
The cocktail scene mimics the energy of city itself – fun, exciting, and always on-trend. From high-end elegant bars to hidden speakeasies, we’ve rounded up some of our favourite drinking spots to add to your hit list.
All that’s left to do is sit back and enjoy that vermouth-based cocktail…
Five-Star Hotel Bars
It’s no secret that some of the world’s best bars are located in hotels, and thankfully London has its fair share. Whether you are staying somewhere luxe or just popping in for a nightcap, these are some of the city’s standouts.
The Connaught Bar, The Connaught
The Connaught Bar ranked number one in 2020’s The World’s 50 Best Bars awards, so there is no surprise it places top of our list too. Mirroring the hotel, The Connaught Bar is elegant and timeless. The cocktail menu, created by the bar’s skilled mixologists, is based around the concept of Formae – multi-dimensional cocktails that draw on form and flavour. We recommend ordering the Fleurissimo, a champagne cocktail fit for a princess (and created in honour of one, Princess Grace of Monaco who visited the bar in her day). Alternatively, go all out and add some theatre to your visit by ordering a Martini from their Martini trolley.
The American Bar, The Savoy Hotel
The oldest surviving cocktail bar in Britain, the American Bar is one of London’s most iconic destinations. Nestled in five-star hotel, The Savoy, the bar first opened its doors over a century ago, back in 1893. Since then, it has hosted some of the world’s most iconic celebrities and musicians. Their latest cocktail menu has taken inspiration from the guests who have stepped foot in the bar over the years. Cocktails include the Electric Lover, a drink inspired by Prince’s iconic Purple Rain – fittingly glitter is used as an ingredient. There is also a live album that goes with the cocktail menu which was curated by the American Bar’s resident pianist. Pop on your best cocktail dress (you never know which celeb you might be sitting opposite) and head for The Strand, stat.
The Coral Room, The Bloomsbury Hotel
The clue’s in the name with the theme of this cocktail bar. Situated in The Bloomsbury Hotel, the Coral Room’s décor, designed in collaboration with interior designer Martin Brudnizki, is inspired by the 1920s. Its lengthy marble-top bar, striking coral walls, and oversized glass chandeliers nod to the decadence of the roaring twenties. If bubbles are your thing then you are in for a treat – the Coral Room has one of the country’s largest English sparkling wine lists. Pair your fizz with a portion of truffle and parmesan fries for a match made in heaven.
CF Top Tip: Take a quick pitstop at the Coral Room after a busy day shopping in Soho.
Bars With A Birdseye View Of The City
The skyscrapers and landmarks that build London’s famed skyline provide the ultimate backdrop for cocktail hour. If you manage to coordinate on timings (we know how unpredictable the London weather can be) you may even be lucky enough to enjoy a golden sunset over the city. Check out the bars we recommend booking in for sundowners. Full disclosure: the views may take your breath away.
Seabird, The Hoxton Southwark
Seabird only opened in 2019 but already is up there as one of the hottest restaurants in London. Plotted 14 floors up, the Hoxton Southwark’s rooftop bar gives a bird’s-eye view of the Thames and city sprawl, while bougie interiors to catch your eye will tempt you back inside. Drinks-wise we’d recommend ordering the Toucan Do It, which is served in fun novelty glassware, or pop a bottle or two of their natural Cava. Seabird has some tasty bar snacks on the menu too, including that famous octopus roll.
Sushi Samba, Heron Tower
Enjoy cocktails in the clouds at Sushi Samba. Located on the 38th and 39th floor of Heron Tower, the bar and restaurant is one of London’s tallest and combines three of the globe’s most vibrant cuisines — Brazilian, Peruvian, and Japanese. The bar gives 360 views of London, meaning it’s the perfect spot for sundowners. Like the food menu, Heron Tower’s cocktails are made using ingredients and flavours from South America and Asia. We’d recommend ordering something fruity like the Banana Batida or the Samba Sour; and snack on some plantain chips or samba rolls whilst you sip.
CF Top Tip: Make sure you get a front-row view in their glass elevator on the way up for some A-grade views.
Hidden Basement Gems
It’s not just London’s tube stations that lie beneath the city – some of London’s best bars are hidden sub terra too. Call us cliché but we think there’s something ever so romantic about basement bars – the dimmed lighting and candlelit tables make them the ideal date spot.
Translating to ‘attractively unusual’ in middle English, basement bar Kwant transports you back in time from the streets of Soho to the 1940s Casablanca. Kwant is run by world-class bartender Eric Lorincz, who rose to fame during his time at the Savoy’s American Bar and is known around the world for his cocktail creations. This is the first bar Eric has opened and it’s fair to say the cocktail list doesn’t disappoint. It is also home to some of London’s most expensive cocktails, using only vintage ingredients – you can get a Martini for a whopping £123. Kwant is hidden below Moroccan restaurant Momo, meaning it’s the perfect spot for a post-dinner tipple – coffee Negroni anyone?
Neighbourhood bar Nine Lives ticks all the boxes – incredible cocktails, tasty snacks, and a fun atmosphere. As you wander downstairs into the hidden tropical basement you’ll be greeted with plenty of lush greenery, an upbeat soundtrack, and good vibes. Their cocktail menu mimics the buzzy vibe, with an array of tiki-style drinks on offer. We’d recommend kickstarting the fiesta with some of their Baja fish tacos, washed down with one of their boozy punches.
Housing over 300 different whiskies below ground, we’d class cocktail bar Swift as Soho’s very own Aladdin’s cave. Split into two levels, their basement bar is a cosy den for cocktail lovers with plenty of award-winning cocktails on offer. We suggest you order Swift’s famous Irish Coffee, which they have mastered by using the optimum temperature, best Colombian coffee, stout-finished Irish whisky, and locally sourced cream. Finished with a touch of nutmeg we’d describe it as rich, warming, and perfect for those chilly London evenings. They also have live music every Friday and Saturday night for added atmosphere.