Not drinking has become the thing to do over recent years. In fact, never has it been easier to say no to the sauce. There are now multiple stopgaps throughout the year that encourage (nay, enable) people to take a month-long break from booze - 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 does what it needs to do – gives your liver some recovery time, restores energy levels, improves sleep, allows 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. Specifically, going 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 Night Wings made with Three Spirit Nightcap, Nightjar hops tincture 0%, pecan and a roasted coffee bean maple syrup.
Where: 129 City Road, London, EC1V 1JB
Book now: Nightjar
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, London, SW1A 2TS
Book now: Rockwell
Heads + Tails, West Hampstead
What: This award-winning bar has something of a split personality. Upstairs, you’ll find a naturally bright, millennial sort of place glimmering with gold finishes and hanging pot plants. This is Heads, where lighter spritzes and fruity cocktails are the order of the day. Downstairs – aka Tails – is the flip side of the coin, ensconced in low-lighting, wooden surfaces and dark tones to provide an apt backdrop to a menu of heady concoctions and shorter serves. Both types are available on the non-alcoholic list: choose Cadet for a citrusy blend of Crossip ‘Fresh’, lemon and orgeat, or Crodino created with the infusion of spices, woods, roots and herbs.
Where: 175 West End Lane, London, NW6 2LH
Book now: Heads + Tails
La Bodega Negra, Soho
What: Your first time visiting La Bodega Negra on Soho’s Old Compton Street is sure to be unforgettable, not least because the only signs outside are neon, pink and read the words ‘Peep Show’ and ‘Adult Video’. We encourage you to stick to your guns though, because while its masquerading exterior might say seedy sex shop, downstairs you’ll discover a concrete-enveloped cave serving a string of tequila cocktails and tacos. This place is trippy enough without the booze, so make a beeline for its mocktail menu where you’ll find a Nocolada (pineapple juice, coconut cream, lime) and a Raspado (lychee juice, vanilla syrup, lime juice, fresh raspberry).
Where: 9 Old Compton Street, London, W1D 5JF
Book now: La Bodega Negra
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 deep-toned and punchy in winter.
Where: 85 Piccadilly, London, W1J 7NB
Book now: Below at Hide
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, London, W1K 2HD
Book now: 34 Mayfair
Holy Bar, Knightsbridge
What: Holy Bar is an extension of 100% vegan restaurant Holy Carrot in Knightsbridge, and believe us when we say that its non-alcoholic cocktail list is just as intriguing (if not more so) as its boozy alternative. Each cocktail is inspired by a tarot card reading. For example, The Empress combines homemade matcha soda, ceremonial matcha, oat and agave and is designed to provide you with 'mother earth energy, reminding you to take time for yourself'. We'll drink to that.
Where: Urban Retreat, 2-4 Hans Crescent, London, SW1X 0LH
Book now: Holy Bar
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. What’s more is that Artesian at The Langham has reinvented its cocktail menu, Connections, since lockdown to create a series of drinks inspired by unity and shared experience. What we love about the list is that 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: The Langham, 1C Portland Place, London, 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 beeswax, szechuan pepper, fermented rose and green peppercorn 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 Brackish Rickey made with Aecorn Aromatic, oyster honey, smoked passionfruit and ocean soda.
Where: 20 Upper Ground, London, 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, London, 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, which 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 Guiltless Negroni made with Aecorn Bitter, a Lucky Saint alcohol free beer or a kombucha-based Oriental Dream (yes, we know we sound crazy).
Where: 30 Portman Square, London, W1H 7BH
Book now: The Churchill Bar
The Little Yellow Door, Notting Hill
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 a whole mocktail menu created in collaboration with Sprigster (a non-alcoholic G&T alternative) featuring the likes of a Gooseberry Daiquiri (Sprigster, gooseberry jam, lime, elderflower, mint) and Apricot Drop (Sprigster, apricot, fennel, bay cordial).
Where: 6-8 All Saints Road, London, W11 1HH
Book now: The Little Yellow Door
Library Bar at The Lanesborough, Belgravia
What: The Library Bar at The Lanesborough is one of those places that makes you forget you’re on the corner of one of the busiest roundabouts in London. Vintage décor and a luxuriously plush aesthetic will cart you back to an era far more fabulous, while its attention to drinks is unparalleled. There’s a list dedicated to low and no-alcohol cocktails, perfect for if you’re kind of drinking or not drinking at all, which are concocted as if they’re works of art. Look out for Belgravia Bloom, a floral drink featuring elderflower cordial, home-made grapefruit sherbet, raspberries and coconut water, then finished with edible flowers and a fine layer of aloe vera foam.
Where: Hyde Park Corner, London, SW1X 7TA
Book now: Library 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. Try one of its Teetotal Tipples, which includes four cocktails made with no or very little alcohol. Its sober menu also features non-alcoholic wine, beer and a number of refreshing kombuchas and sodas.
Where: 5 Stable Street, London, 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, London, SW1X 7QA
Book now: Sette
Staying in tonight? These are the best non-alcoholic and low alcohol drinks for 2022