London's best cocktail bars

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In our experience the following London bars serve consistently good cocktails, regardless of what bartenders are on shift and independent of the time of day or the day of the week - factors which can be surprisingly revealing. As well as good cocktails, these bars offer good surroundings, ambiance and service.


London is a big city so to aid your planning visits and tours we have listed these bars by area of London and then alphabetically within each area. Although not in our list, we'd like to give a special mention to Be At One, a chain of cocktail bars with branches across the city. Judging by our experience, you'll find a fun atmosphere and consistently good drinks in all their 18 London bars.

We are continually updating and revising the bars we award a Difford's Guide rating of 4.5/5 or more to and due to the high number of great bars in London it is these bars that make it into our best-of-the-best list below.

If you have had a good, bad or indifferent experience in any of these bars, or know of another bar which you believe should be included then please email simon@diffordsguide.com

MAYFAIR & SAVILLE ROW


Cartizze
Part of the Mews of Mayfair group of restaurants that straddle the narrow pedestrian alley that's grandly named Lancashire Court and runs parallel to New Bond Street, Cartizze is a distinctly upmarket Venetian-influenced Bellini and cocktail bar. 5/5
4 Lancashire Court, Mayfair, London, W1S 1EY

Claridge's Bar
This quaint lounge bar, which acquired its warm Art Deco look in 1999, is small but somehow stately with lined with comfy, red leather bar stools, chairs and banquettes. Claridge's boasts impeccable 5-star service, one of the best ranges of champagne in Britain and beautiful presented well-crafted cocktails. 5/5
Claridges's Hotel, 55 Brook Street (corner Davies St.), Mayfair, W1A 2JQ

The Coburg Bar
The more classic of the Connaught's two bars in both feel and the cocktails. 5+/5
The Connaught Hotel, 16 Carlos Place, W1K 2AL

The Connaught Bar
This iconic bar, which was named World's Best Hotel Bar at Tales of the Cocktail, New Orleans in 2010, continues to impress as one of the capital's finest cocktail emporia. 5+/5
The Connaught Hotel, 16 Carlos Place, W1K 2AL

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The Connaught Bar

The Bar at the Dorchester
Impeccable, traditional service standards ensure this bar remains one of London's best. 4.5/5
The Dorchester Hotel, 53 Park Lane, W1A 2HJ

Luggage Room
A luxurious low-lit, marble, leather and dark wood little jewel box of a bar - the hotel's former left luggage room - with a 1920s soundtrack and well-made classically styled cocktails. 4.5/5
London Marriott Hotel Grosvenor Square, W1K 6JP

Mr Fogg's
The adventures of Phileas Fogg and his trip around the world in 80 days is the theme behind this quirky cocktail parlour in the heart of Mayfair. 4.5/5
15 Bruton Lane, Mayfair, W1J 6JD

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Mr Fogg's

Pollen Street Social
Jason Atherton's first restaurant, where what has become a global formula for success was established. Gareth Evens' cocktail naming and theming influence is not as apparent here as at other bars in this restaurant chain but cocktails remain consistently good 4.5/5
8/10 Pollen Street, Mayfair, W1S 1NQ

Salvatore at the Playboy Club
You no longer have go through the Playboy Club to access Salvatore's superb bar but we're happy to say the Playboy Bunnies remain. Flawless classic cocktails and Salvatore's own contemporary creations are beautifully presented in Salvatore's own branded glassware. 5+/5
14 Old Park Lane (corner Brick St), Mayfair, W1K 1ND

The Whip at The Running Horse
Set above the Mayfair's oldest pub (dating back to 1738) The Whip has the feel of an English gentlemen's drinking den with horsey prints, sketches and photographs adorning the walls. It's a homely spot serving outstanding cocktails and food. Juleps are the house speciality and are perfect to wash down one of the sharing platters.
4.5/5
1st Floor, 50 Davies Street, Mayfair, London, W1K 5JE

COVENT GARDEN, ALDWYCH & HOLBORN


American Bar at Savoy
White-jacketed bartenders mixing 'tribute' cocktails to bartending giants using gold three-piece shakers to the sound of a live pianist. Quite simply, part of bartending lore. 5/5
The Savoy Hotel, Strand, WC2R 0EU

Beaufort Bar at Savoy
The Beaufort bar has been built on the hotel's former cabaret stage.
The black and gold interior is all about extremely polished finishes, plush upholstery, deep carpets and acres of gold leaf. 5+/5
The Savoy Hotel, Strand, WC2R 0EU

El Nivel
El Nivel is a Latin themed agavaria, offering tequila, mezcal, bacanora, sotol and raicilla connoisseurs a wonderful selection of rare agave spirits and agave based cocktails, paired with antojitos (small tasting plates). Established by Tomas Estes, this comparatively quiet retreat sits above his bustling La Perla cantina. 4.5/5
28 Maiden Lane (nr Bedford St), Covent Garden, WC2E 7JS

Rules Cocktail Bar
Rules was established by Thomas Rule in 1798 making it the oldest restaurant in London. The bar is a wonderfully old-school lounge for the discerning. 5/5
35 Maiden Lane, Covent Garden, WC2E 7LB

FITZROVIA & MARYLEBONE


Berners Tavern
This glamorous, buzzy, urbane and sophisticated bar and dining room, definitely hits the mark in terms of conviviality. 4.5/5
London Edition Hotel, 10 Berners Street, W1T 3NP

London Cocktail Club
Descending down to the Goodge Street London Cocktail club is akin to entering a gothic, slightly decaying, Sherlock Holmes novel. 4.5/5
61 Goodge Street, Fitzrovia, W1T 1TL

Ladder Shed at Chiltern Firehouse
The Chiltern Firehouse is one of London's A-lister hang outs so securing a reservation at the restaurant or terrace can be challenging. Succeed and you'll gain access to the Aperitif Bar. However, accompany an A-lister or book a room in the hotel and you'll be able to experience the delights that await in the Ladder Shed bar. Get a room! 5+/5
1 Chiltern Street (near Blandford St), Marylebone, London W1U 7PA

Oscar's Bar at Dabbous
Forget the fortnight ahead booking for dinner and head to the basement bar for cocktails and bar snacks. 4.5/5
39 Whitfield Street, Fitzrovia, W1T 2SF

Punch Room
Secreted at the rear of the lobby of Ian Schrager's gorgeous London Edition Hotel, the Punch Room is a lounge bar that specialises in, yes, punch. 5/5
London Edition Hotel, 10 Berners Street, W1T 3NP

SOHO, CHINA TOWN & LEICESTER SQUARE


Blind Pig at Social Eating House
On the first floor of Jason Atherton's two-floored Soho site is Blind Pig bar, an eclectically clubby area with a copper-topped bar: wood-pannelling meets New York loft. 5/5
58 Poland Streeet, Soho, W1F 7NR

Cocktail Trading Company
A mere fifty people can squeeze in to this intimate, fun and atmospheric little space in the underbelly of Central & Co. The brainchild of bartenders Andy Mil, Elliot Ball and Olly Brading you'll find at least two of this trio of top flight bartenders behind the stick. Their cocktails are not just good, they are fun. As is their little den.4.5/5
22 Great Marlborough Street (nr Oxford Circus), W1F 7HU

ECC China Town
Epitomising the modern speakeasy, Experimental Cocktail Club Chinatown, is reached through an unmarked doorway that sits between two brightly-lit Chinese restaurants. 4.5/5
13a Gerrard Street (nr Macclesfield St), Chinatown, W1D 5PS

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ECC Chinatown

Mark's Bar at Hix
Celebrity Chef, Mark Hix's eponymously named Brewer Street venue is the darling of the food critics, but the basement bar receives pundits praise in its own right. 4.5/5
Basement Hix Restaurant, 66-70 Brewer Street, Soho, W1F 9UP

Milk & Honey
The comfortably moody surroundings, secretive address and calm atmosphere, coupled with some of the best classic cocktails in London, make this a special place for seriously discerning drinkers. 5/5
61 Poland Street, Soho, W1F 7NU

Bar Termini
This tiny espresso and cocktail bar is is owned by two men with huge reputations: Tony Conigliaro of 69 Colebrooke Row; and Marco Arrigo, barista trainer extraordinaire. It goes without saying that the coffee and cocktails served here are extraordinary good. If you intend to visit after 5pm be sure to pre-book on bar's website. 4.5/5
7 Old Compton Street, Soho, W1D 5JE

ST JAMES'S


Dukes Bar
Dukes was, for many years, the only place in town to get a decent Martini, and while the wider London cocktail scene has upped its game considerably, Dukes has retained its reputation in this particular area of mixology. 5/5
Dukes Hotel, 35-36 St James's Place, SW1A 1NY

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Dukes Bar

KNIGHTSBRIDGE, BELGRAVIA & SOUTH KENSINGTON


The Blue Bar
Although it is tiny, with only 50 seats, no one could accuse this David Collins-designed bar of being understated. 5/5
The Berkeley Hotel, Wilton Place, Knightsbridge, SW1X 7RL

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City Social Bar

THE CITY


City Social Bar
The fact that the view from the 24th floor of Tower 42 is merely an added bonus should tell you just how sublime the drinks and service at City Social are. And it's quite a spectacular view. 5/5
Tower 42, 25 Old Broad Street, EC2N 1HQ

Merchant House
Hidden away on a cobbled passageway lying off Bow Lane, this excellent subterranean lounge bar is inspired by the British Empire and celebrates gin and rum with an impressive range of both spirits. Fittingly, these also dominate the cocktail menu with the bar's latest libations aptly named Empire references. 4.5/5
13 Well Court (off Bow Lane), City of London, London, EC4M 9DN

Demon, Wise & Partners
Brought to us by the folks at the excellent Hide Bar in Bermondsey, this basement cocktail bar has a name that sounds more fitting for a firm of City lawyers, but refers to the bar's twin signature cocktails: the Demon, a suitably spirituous drink and the Wise, a lighter sour in style.
4.5/5
27a Throgmorton Street (below The Arbitrager), London, EC2N 2AN

SHOREDITCH & BETHNAL GREEN


Callooh Callay
Cocktails here are made by a highly experienced team so expect great things. A characterful little bar which is filled with characters. 4.5/5
65 Rivington Street, Shoreditch, EC2A 3AY

Danger of Death
Entering into this subterranean speakeasy and you'll find yourself in a Milk & Honey-level of darkness, with a similar Prohibition jazz soundtrack. A decorative tin ceiling completes the look. 4.5/5
202-204 Brick Lane, E1 6SA

Discount Suit Company
Originally a storeroom for the old suit company above, this speakeasy-like bar is named after the old sign emblazoned high above on the front of the building. 4.5/5
29a Wentworth Street, Petticoat Lane Market, E1 7TB

Happiness Forgets
Celebrating it's third birthday this year, 2014, Happiness Forgets is not only a firm favourite with the eastern locals but has very much become the bartender's bar in London. 5+/5
Basement, 8-9 Hoxton Square, N1 6NU

Hawksmoor Spitalfields
Relaxed, confident and super-friendly staff create complex, balanced and beautiful drinks, most delightfully simple, demonstrating a profound and respectful understanding of flavour. 5/5
157 Commercial Street, Spitalfields, E1 6BJ

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Hawksmoor Spitalfields

The Mayor of Scaredy Cat Town
A 'secret' hidden basement speakeasy reached via a Smeg fridge from The Breakfast Club restaurant, just don't exit via the fridge - that would give the game away. 4.5/5
12-16 Artillery Lane, Bishopsgate, E1 7LS

Nightjar
Secreted between two cheap fast food joints just a few steps away from the otherwise insalubrious environs of Old Street roundabout, this bar boasts all the requisite elements of an upscale lounge with live music and elaborately garnished cocktails. 5/5
129-131 City Road, Shoreditch, EC1V 1JB

NOLA
Perched on top of Bedroom Bar this is the latest cocktail spot to emerge in bustling Shoreditch, paying homage to drinking in New Orleans. 4.5/5
66-68 Rivington St, Shoreditch, EC2A 3AY

Satan's Whiskers
This venue is a perfect mix of eccentric taxidermy, candle-lit seating and grungy east end watering hole. Great classic drinks grace a daily-changing menu. 5+/5
343 Cambridge Heath Road, E2 9RA

White Lyan
White Lyan, the bar with no ice (click here to read in more detail about it) is a thought-provoking bar where there are no drinks made to order, where everything has been pre-batched and bottled. 4.5/5
153-155 Hoxton Street, (near Crondall St), Hoxton, N1 6PJ

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White Lyan

Worship Street Whistling shop
The name Worship Street Whistling Shop references an old term for a drinking establishment and located behind the large wooden doors on Worship Street is just that, a delightful subterranean drinking den. 4.5/5
63 Worship Street, Shoreditch, EC2A 2DU

Peg + Patriot
Located in the Town Hall Hotel, Peg + Patriot is a delightful oasis of expert mixology in sharp contrast to the urban bustle of Cambridge Heath Road. 4.5/5
Town Hall Hotel, Patriot Square, E2 9NF

DALSTON & STOKE NEWINGTON


High Water
Owned by an A-Team of bartenders, High Water was the first bar of its kind in this area, drawing London's high-end bar scene even further north. Expertly made cocktails are served in a homely environment. 4.5/5
23 Stoke Newington Road, Dalston, N16 8BJ

Original Sin
A discrete and rather unpromising doorway alongside Burger Bear leads down a dingy staircase to what is a sizeable and rather swanky cocktail lounge. Run by the folk behind the excellent Happiness Forgets in Hoxton Square, Original Sin quietly opened in November 2014 with an official opening planned in January 2015. 4.5/5
129 Stoke Newington High Street, Stoke Newington, N16 0PH

CLERKENWELL, BARBICAN & SMITHFIELD


Zetter Townhouse
Best to book a table here as it's cosy and busy, while service is friendly and the atmosphere relaxed and buzzy. 5/5
49-50 St. John's Square, Clerkenwell, EC1V 4JJ

SOUTHBANK, BOROUGH & BERMONDSEY


Dandelyan
Lying in the belly of a vast landmark hotel on London's Southbank, Dandelyan boasts a stunning location overlooking the River Thames. Here Ryan Chetiyawardana, A.K.A Mr Lyan, and his team offer one of the most creative and best executed cocktail menus in the world. 5+/5
Mondrian London at Sea Containers, 20 Upper Ground, South Bank, SE1 9PD

Gong at Shangri-La Hotel
The highest bar in not only England but Europe, Gŏng sits on the 52nd floor of the Shard, handily smack next door to the infinity pool - also the highest in Europe. Unlike other lofty bars with stunning views, at Gŏng they serve tasty cocktails. You'll also encounter the kind of 5-star service you'd expect of a Shangri-La hotel. 5/5
The Shard, 31 Saint Thomas Street, London SE1 9QU

The Hide Bar
The Hide Bar's location below the Wine and Spirit Education Trust, rightly suggests that this is a place where folk take good drinks seriously. 5/5
39-45 Bermondsey Street, Bermondsey, SE1 3XF

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Hutong in the Shard

Union Street Café
The understated exterior of the Union Street Café, practically hidden on this back street in Southwark, belies this fabulous basement bar which is part of fiery celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay's empire. 4.5/5
47-51 Great Suffolk Street, Borough, SE1 0BS

ISLINGTON, HIGHBURY & KINGS CROSS


69 Colebrooke Row
This bar is notable due to it being owned and run by Tony Conigliaro. It's rare to find Tony behind the stick these days, but the very talented bar crew make consistently great drinks, delivered with equally attentive service. 5/5
69 Colebrooke Row, Islington, N1 8AA

The Four Sisters
This bar has one of the best cocktail menus we've ever seen brought to life by a couple of very talented bartenders. 4.5/5
25 Canonbury Lane, Islington, N1 2AS

Gilbert Scott Bar
George Gilbert Scott was the architect responsible for St. Pancras, and the bar attached to Marcus Wareing's new restaurant in the hotel is a fitting tribute to his most lasting legacy. 4.5/5
St. Pancras Renaissance, Euston Road, NW1 2AR

NOTTING HILL, LADBROKE GROVE, MAIDA VALE & PADDINGTON


65 & King
65&King aims to recall 'the heady glamour of American Deco' and indeed, on entering this cocktail bar you do feel as though you've crossed the pond from London to Manhattan. 4.5/5
65 Westbourne Grove, W2 4UJ

Trailer Happiness
To quote from a press release, Trailer H has the "e-z-boy feel of a low rent, mid-60s California valley bachelor pad... a retro-sexual haven of cosmopolitan kitsch and faded trailer park glamour - cork tiles and shag pile, love songs and vol-au-vents." 5/5
177 Portobello Road, Notting Hill, W11 2DY

CLAPHAM, BATTERSEA & WANDSWORTH


King of Ladies Man
Past the sliding door, you're in a disco-themed room with gold curtains, Haiwaiian-shirted bar staff and a handlebar-moustachioed logo. 4.5/5
5-9 Battersea Rise, SW11 1HG

BLOOMSBURY & HOLBORN


Scarfes Bar
Scarfes Bar is a charming edition to the growing Holborn scene and we suspect will become a favourite during the winter months in front of that lovely fire. 4.5/5
Rosewood London Hotel, 252 High Holborn, WC1V 7EN

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Scarfes Bar.

CHELSEA, FULHAM & PARSON'S GREEN


Galante
Slicker and sporting a glossier Chelsea set than next door Barts, this sparkling symphony in shiny silver, crystal and black takes its heart from the glamorous Art Deco cocktail bars of Buenos Aires in the 1920s and 30s. 4.5/5
87 Sloane Avenue (next door to Barts), SW3 3DX

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