London's best cocktail bars

Words by Simon Difford

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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.

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. Please also let us know if you find any f our information is out-of-date.

MAYFAIR & SAVILLE ROW

Claridge's Bar
Claridges's Hotel, 55 Brook Street (corner Davies St.), Mayfair, W1A 2JQ
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. 4.5/5

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

The Connaught Bar
The Connaught Hotel, 16 Carlos Place, Mayfair, W1K 2AL
Formerly known as the American Bar, the Connaught was named World's Best Hotel Bar at Tales of the Cocktail, New Orleans in 2010 and again in 2016. Head bartender Ago Perrone was also named International Bartender of the Year in 2010. It continues to impress as one of the capital's finest cocktail emporia. 5+/5

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The Connaught Bar

Luggage Room
London Marriott Hotel Grosvenor Square, W1K 6JP
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

Mr Fogg's
15 Bruton Lane, Mayfair, W1J 6JD
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

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Mr Fogg's

The Whip at The Running Horse
1st Floor, 50 Davies Street, Mayfair, London, W1K 5JE
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

COVENT GARDEN, ALDWYCH & HOLBORN

American Bar at Savoy
The Savoy Hotel, Strand, WC2R 0EU
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

Beaufort Bar at Savoy
The Savoy Hotel, Strand, WC2R 0EU
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

Eve Bar
Frog, 34 Southampton Street, Covent Garden, WC2E 7HF
Chef Adam Handling's first stand-alone bar, Eve is an atmospheric basement cocktail bar which nestles below his Covent Garden flagship restaurant. Obviously, the bar snacks here are a cut above average and thanks to Bar Manager, Sam Orrock, so are the cocktails. 5/5

Also in the area
Lockes
Rules Cocktail Bar

FITZROVIA & MARYLEBONE

Punch Room
London Edition Hotel, 10 Berners Street, W1T 3NP
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. 4.5/5

SOHO, CHINA TOWN & LEICESTER SQUARE

Blind Pig at Social Eating House
58 Poland Streeet, Soho, W1F 7NR
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

Milk & Honey
61 Poland Street, Soho, W1F 7NU
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

Bar Termini
7 Old Compton Street, Soho, W1D 5JE
This tiny espresso and cocktail bar is widly regarded as one of the world's best bars and rightly so - the service, coffee, cocktails and bar snacks here are all extraordinary good. If you intend to visit after 5pm be sure to pre-book on the bar's website. 5+/5

Also in the area
ECC China Town

ST JAMES'S

Dukes Bar
Dukes Hotel, 35-36 St James's Place, SW1A 1NY
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

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Dukes Bar

KNIGHTSBRIDGE, BELGRAVIA & SOUTH KENSINGTON

The Blue Bar
The Berkeley Hotel, Wilton Place, Knightsbridge, SW1X 7RL
Although it is tiny, no one could accuse this David Collins-designed bar of being understated. 4.5/5

THE CITY

Merchant House
13 Well Court (off Bow Lane), City of London, EC4M 9DN
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

Demon, Wise & Partners
27a Throgmorton Street (below The Arbitrager), EC2N 2AN
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

Discount Suit Company
29a Wentworth Street, Petticoat Lane Market, E1 7TB
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

Hawksmoor Spitalfields
157 Commercial Street, Spitalfields, E1 6BJ
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


The Proofing Room at Milroy's of Spitalfields

SHOREDITCH

Callooh Callay
65 Rivington Street, Shoreditch, EC2A 3AY
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

Happiness Forgets
Basement, 8-9 Hoxton Square, N1 6NU
Happiness Forgets is not only a firm favourite with the eastern locals but has very much become the bartender's bar in London. "High end cocktails in a low rent basement." 5+/5

BETHNAL GREEN & HACKNEY

Peg + Patriot
Town Hall Hotel, Patriot Square, E2 9NF
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. 5/5

Satan's Whiskers
343 Cambridge Heath Road, Bethnal Green, E2 9RA
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

Sager + Wilde Wine Bar
Arch 250 Paradise Row, Bethnal Green, E2 9LE
Proof that a railway arch can be made homely by the clever application of dark-stained wood panelling. Perhaps better known for its food and wine, Sager + Wilde is also one of our favourite Bethnal Green cocktail spots. 5+/5

The Sun Tavern
441 Bethnal Green Road, Bethnal Green, E2 0AN
An out-and-out East End boozer given a new lease of life, complete with a brilliant cocktail offering. However, as befits a proper pub The Sun retains its beer pumps with an ever changing selection of mostly local brews. 4.5/5

DALSTON & STOKE NEWINGTON

Original Sin
129 Stoke Newington High Street, Stoke Newington, N16 0PH
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. 4.5/5

Three Sheets
510b Kingsland Road, Dalston, E8 4AB
It's tiny and sits out in Dalston amidst an unremarkable parade of shops on the busy corridor into the city that is Kingsland Road. However, owned and run by brothers Max and Noel Venning, Three Sheets is one of London's most important bars. Why, the cocktails and service are consistently brilliant, and the small place is simply a nice place to hang out.

Also in the area
Hacha

CLERKENWELL, BARBICAN & SMITHFIELD

Fare Bar + Canteen
11 Old Street, London, EC1V 9HL
The downstairs cocktail bar at Fare, the latest venue from Marcis Dzelzainis and Michael Sager of Sager + Wild fame offers "experimental and accessible cocktails to match the Mediterranean inspired menu."

The Gibson
44 Old Street (corner Timber St), Clerkenwell, EC1V 9AQ
Despite its no man's land location, this tiny bar is one of London's most famous. Some of the drinks, and particularly the garnishes, are over-the-top but each is a work of art worthy of Instaspam. However, put your phone away and lose yourself to a simply brilliant signature Gibson. Be sure to ask for extra onions as they are as delicious as the cocktail. 5/5

Zetter Townhouse
This homely cocktail lounge sprawls across the ground floor of a fabulous 13 room hotel formed by knocking two Georgian townhouses together. 5+/5
49-50 St. John's Square, Clerkenwell, EC1V 4JJ

SOUTHBANK, BOROUGH & BERMONDSEY

Dandelyan
Sea Containers Hotel, 20 Upper Ground, South Bank, SE1 9PD
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

Gong at Shangri-La Hotel
The Shard, 31 Saint Thomas Street, Borough, SE1 9QU
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 Hide Bar
39-45 Bermondsey Street, Bermondsey, SE1 3XF
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. Be sure to try the Espresso Martini on tap.4.5/5

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Hutong in the Shard

ISLINGTON, HIGHBURY & KINGS CROSS

69 Colebrooke Row
69 Colebrooke Row, Islington, N1 8AA
Owned by Tony Conigliaro, this tiny and sparsely decorated bar is run by a very talented crew who make consistently great drinks, delivered with equally attentive service. 5/5

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

Homeboy Bar
108 Essex Road, Islington, N1 8LX
Aaron Wall's and Ciarán Smith's cosy bar proudly offers "modern Irish hospitality" and this includes probably the best pint of Guinness outside Dublin and a superb Irish whiskey-led cocktail offering. 5/5

NOTTING HILL, LADBROKE GROVE, MAIDA VALE & PADDINGTON

Trailer Happiness
177 Portobello Road, Notting Hill, W11 2DY
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

BLOOMSBURY & HOLBORN

Scarfes Bar
Rosewood London Hotel, 252 High Holborn, WC1V 7EN
Scarfes Bar stands out as by far the best cocktail bar in the area offering great live music as well as cocktails. A favourite during the winter months in front of that lovely fire. 5+/5

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Scarfes Bar















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