Not drinking has become the thing to do in recent years. It’s pretty standard practice these days to take a bit of a break from the booze with multiple stopgaps throughout the year that encourage (nay, enable) this choice - Dry January and Sober October we’re looking at you. There’s even Dry July if you’re in desperate need of a third interval mid-year. For some, 30 days of going alcohol-free is the perfect way to start the year, giving your liver some recovery time, improving your sleep, giving your wallet a little relief… the list goes on.
For others, choosing not to drink alcohol is a lifestyle choice and one that doesn’t end on the 31 January. Then there are those who flirt with abstinence, opting for low-alcohol equivalents or only drinking occasionally. Whatever your reason for staying off the sauce, and there are many merits to doing so, not drinking can be a little tricky to navigate when it comes to social situations. Paritcularly if you're planning an evening out.
So, if you’re sick of ordering diet cokes or can’t stomach another lime and soda, the good news is that London’s drinking scene has come on leaps and bounds on the non-alcoholic front. No longer does an establishment’s booze-free bounty seem like an afterthought, with most bars offering a range of non-alcoholic drinks and cocktails that are just as compelling as their traditional counterparts.
Now don’t get us wrong - these places are also fantastic if you are on the wagon, but that’s kind of intentional. Whether you’ve chosen to cut the juice completely, enjoy the odd tipple here or there or downright just love a proper pina colada, we’ve chosen bars that cater sufficiently to everyone. Here’s where to drink in London if you’re not drinking. Or even if you (kind of) are. You do you.
What: This Shoreditch favourite requires customers to locate its anonymous wooden door before entering the speakeasy-style bar, designed to evoke the old-school glamour of the roaring twenties via a schedule of live jazz, golden era cocktails and vintage spirits. It’s great if you're drinking, and just as good if you’re not. The main list is divided into four sections - Pre-Prohibition, Prohibition, Post-War and Nightjar Signatures - but you’ll find a page devoted to low and no alcohol suggestions that are just as punchy as the booze-filled ones. Look out for Cafe Kirsch Elixir made with Three Spirit social elixir, Nightjar grenadine, cold brew coffee and cranberry.
Where: 129 City Road, EC1V 1JB
Book now: Nightjar
Sexy Fish, Mayfair
What: While the ‘regular’ drinks list at Sexy Fish is quite something on its own, the low- and no-alcohol section is pretty impressive too. Catering to the area’s well-heeled crowd, these aren’t your average mocktails. A bright elderflower and raspberry concoction comes in a martini glass with a soft layer of foam across the top, while an unusual mix of alcohol-free beer with lemon, cinnamon and Everleaf Forest creates a robust malty drink. All of the no-alcohol options can be added too, if you’d like just a touch of something stronger via a dash of a liqueur, for instance. Either perch at the bar with its sculptural fish hung overhead and its waterfall backdrop, or book yourself a table to take full advantage of the expansive Japanese menu with its run of luxurious serves.
Where: Berkeley Square, W1J 6BR
Book Now: Sexy Fish
Eve Bar, Covent Garden
What: Putting the same level of intricate creation into his drinks as he does his food, Eve Bar by Adam Handling is showcasing a variety of unique ways of utilising food in its cocktails. Elements of the drinks are frozen, fermented and carbonated, using the 'waste' from the chef's restaurant, Frog by Adam Handling, in these creations. There may only be a couple of alcohol free options, but both are exceptionally well-designed. Try the Seedless - a complex brew that includes nitro-frozen grapes, Wavelength ruby aperitif and London Essence pink grapefruit.
Where: 34 Southampton Street, WC2E 7HF
Book Now: Eve Bar
Rockwell at The Trafalger, St James's
What: There are only a couple of non-alcoholic cocktails on the menu at Rockwell, but the level of culinary skill and artistry that goes into each one boosts their value ten-fold. Each one has its own distinct story behind it. A cocktail named The Bee Project, for example, is designed to support a circular economy in which the funds collected from the cocktail (£1 for every one sold) is donated back to the bees. It sounds rather delicious, too, combining non-alcoholic aperitif Everleaf with honey, lemon juice and chamomile soda. A cocktail with a conscience - we like it.
Where: 2 Spring Gardens, SW1A 2TS
Book now: Rockwell
The Bar Below, Mayfair
What: Aptly named The Bar Below, for this is indeed a basement bar located underneath main restaurant HIDE. Here you'll discover a range of alcohol-forward and lighter tipples to quench your thirst. A decent number of its signature cocktails can be ordered without alcohol and all are based around seasonal ingredients - think light and floral in summer and a little heftier in winter.
Where: 85 Piccadilly, W1J 7NB
Book now: Below at HIDE
Skylon Bar, Southbank
What: Skylon Bar provides a real sense of grandeur as you sit in this elegant yet relaxed atmosphere on the third floor of the Royal Festival Hall. Sit back, relax and take in the sites of the city through floor to ceiling windows. The menu features a pretty substantial alcohol-free cocktail list full of aptly named beverages including the Riverside fizz, made with a gin alternative, apple juice and ginger ale, or the Southbank sunshine tea full of peach puree, elderflower syrup and fusion tea.
Where: Royal Festival Hall, SE1 8XX
Book now: Skylon Bar
Baccarat Bar, Knightsbridge
What: With red velvet seating, hanging chandeliers and a brass detailed bar, Baccarat Bar is everything you'd expect from Harrods, guaranteed to provide an evening of glitz and glam. Believe us when we say that this bar is stepping up the game with these creative cocktails - and mocktails! Each drink comes as part of a pair, that's inspired by a classic flavour combination and a photography effect. For example, the Manhattan Project and the Coque & Smoke are both inspired by lens flare, and take a playful twist on the idea of colour inversion with these takes on a whisky and coke - just without the whisky of course!
Where: 87-135 Brompton Road, SW1X 7XL
Book now: Baccarat Bar
34 Mayfair, Mayfair
What: At one end of 34 Mayfair’s art-deco dining room is a sleek marble bar where you can order a series of artfully-created cocktails, with a lot, a little or zero alcohol. Opt for Something Low if you're drinking mindfully, or go for Lychee Blossom or The 34 Virgin Colada for something fruity and completely free of the hard stuff.
Where: 34 Grosvenor Square, W1K 2HD
Book now: 34 Mayfair
Artesian at The Langham, Marylebone
What: Whatever you’re sipping on is guaranteed to taste fantastic when you’re in the surrounds of one of London’s plushest hotels. Artesian at The Langham has a rep as one of London's most innovative cocktail bars, and the recently reinvented menu puts the focus on ‘ingredients of the future’ - like insects, pandan, tiger nuts and kombu. Rather than creating a separate non-alcoholic drinks menu, many of its signature cocktails are available with booze and without, reworking each one with slight twists to make them non-alcoholic.
Where: 1C Portland Place, W1B 1JA
Book now: Artesian
Lyaness at Sea Containers, Southbank
What: Lyaness’ cocktail menu pays particular attention to its ingredients, which is why you might be surprised to find things like goat's milk, sarsaparilla and even bugs in a cocktail. So playful with ingredients is this waterside bar, that similarly to Artesian (above), it’s reworked many of its signature cocktails as boozeless creations too. Look out for The Goldblum Whiptail made with caramel, burnt pea pods and lime blossom.
Where: 20 Upper Ground, SE1 9PD
Book now: Lyaness
No 197 Chiswick Fire Station, Chiswick
What: There's something supremely calming about the vibes at this neighbourhood restaurant and bar. Scandi-style decor, long wooden tables, cool grey hues, a flood of natural light and a huge island bar in the centre create the feel of a modern kitchen extension. On the menu, discover 'modern soft drinks' such as cold-pressed juices and other Fairtrade and organic options. While non-alcoholic cocktails feature virgin twists-on-classics and refreshing botanical creations.
Where: 197-199 Chiswick High Road, W4 2DR
Book now: Chiswick Fire Station
The Churchill Bar, Marylebone
What: You’ll find this art-deco bar inside Hyatt Regency London. The Churchill is suitably suave and sophisticated in comparison to namesake Winston, and has its own heated alfresco terrace to enjoy a drink outside year-round. Cocktails really are the name of the game here with separate sections of the menu dedicated to various creations. Grab a Yoshino, an Asian inspired drink made with elderflower cordial, white hibiscus tea, lychee essence and topped with tonic water.
Where: 30 Portman Square, W1H 7BH
Book now: The Churchill Bar
The Permit Room at Dishoom, King’s Cross
What: Dishoom’s Permit Room is a nod to the personal permits required by law in Bombay for people to drink on medical grounds. Dishoom has always led the way on excellent alcohol free options (or Teetotal Tipples as you'll see on the menu), which includes four cocktails made with no or very little alcohol. The sober menu also features non-alcoholic wine, beer and a number of refreshing lassis and coolers.
Where: 5 Stable Street, N1C 4AB
Book now: Dishoom King’s Cross
What: On another day, dinner at Italian restaurant Sette is well worth a trip for the likes of ravioli cacio e pepe with charred leeks and brown butter, and short rib and bone marrow agnolotti. If you’re just stopping by for a booze-free tipple, then take a seat at its foliage-adorned circular bar where you can order both no and low-alcohol cocktails depending on your vibe. Black Stone Berry made with seedlip garden, hibiscus and berries tea, passion fruit and lemon juice would be the one we'd pick.
Where: 4 Knightsbridge Green, SW1X 7QA
Book now: Sette
The Little Blue Door, Fulham
What: Don’t be tricked into thinking you’ve got the wrong number when entering this famed restaurant and bar, which is designed in the style of a faux flatshare. Coffee tables and bookshelves aside, it’s an undeniably homely place to grab a drink with mates. There’s also a few mocktail options on the menu featuring the Catch Me If You Can made with apple, pineapple, mint, ginger, smoked rosemary and lime, all mixed together for a fruity fusion that’s served on the rocks.
Where: 871-873 Fulham Road, SW6 5HP
Book now: The Little Blue Door
If you're looking for more places to gather the crew for a drink, alcoholic or otherwise, check out our list of the best pubs all over London.