Cool London bars

Looking for a cool bar in London? Not sure which of the numerous drinking dens are the hottest bars in the capital right now? There’s a mountain of choice in London, but we’ll make sure you don’t have one dud drink on your night out. We’ve compiled SquareMeal’s handy list of the coolest bars in London, where you can expect stellar cocktails, fresh beers and a fun crowd – each one is a guaranteed party starter. Whatever your budget or taste, take a look at our selection of cool London bars. Just don’t forget your address afterwards, because we can’t help you there…

Updated on 10 May 2018

For more drinking inspiration, see our recommendations for the best bars in London. Each SquareMeal listing features an independent review, as well as reviews from those who have visited, together with unique special offers such as free drinks and discounts.

London Cocktail Club Goodge Street

London Cocktail Club Goodge Street

61 Goodge Street, London, W1T 1TL

‘Loud, extroverted and unashamedly awesome’, that's the London Cocktail Club’s bullish boast. A seemingly unstoppable force that has now conquered the likes of Bethnal Green, Shoreditch, Islington, Oxford Circus and Covent Garden, it was this rock 'n' roll gaff on Goodge Street that really set the ball rolling for the brand's irrepressible owner/serial self-publicist JJ Goodman. Definitely not for shrinking violets, the laddish living-it-large vibe at LCC stays just on the right side of anarchy, and its drinks are a cut above what you'll find at lesser party pits – perfect for a night out with the gang. Whether it’s classy (Corpse Reviver #2), leftfield (Bacon & Egg Martini laced with Jack Daniel’s No.7) or trashy (Willy Wonka, a rum and amaretto sundae billed as ‘cake in a glass’), we like the results. Shots inevitably up the ante, likewise Cheeky Nandos – a smoking whiskey punchbowl.

Bars
Old Bengal Bar at The Old Bengal Warehouse

Old Bengal Bar at The Old Bengal Warehouse

16 New Street, Liverpool Street, London, EC2M 4TR

Elegantly tricked out in shades of cardamom, pepper and pimento, this distinguished Grade II-listed edifice was originally an East India Company spice repository. Open for lunch, for sundowners and for bar food, its cocktails might make more of the warehouse's past – not that we're complaining about well-balanced signature mixes such as Aurora (a Diplomatico white rum, Chambord and rose sour) or A Plume of Smoke (a mezcal, pineapple and bitter chocolate pick-me-up). We also approve of the prices: £24, for example, secures a respectable Gascon rosé, ideal for balmy evenings under parasols in a smart walled courtyard. Not surprisingly, spices make a big contribution when it comes to moreish bar snacks such as lamb croquettes with curry sauce, salt-and-pepper squid with aïoli, vegetable samosas with raita or juicy organic Black Angus burgers with blue cheese and black pudding.

Bars
El Camion

El Camion

25-27 Brewer Street, London, London, W1F 0RR

Punters out late can live la vida loca at this dippy cocktail pit attached to El Camion’s Mexican grill. Choose from more than 300 class-act Tequilas, served with homemade sangrita (salt and lime is for Philistines), plus a savvy selection of mighty mescals. The Pink Chihuahua’s margaritas and daiquiris have plenty of bite – hardly surprising, given that the head honcho here is Dick Bradsell, the man who masterminded London’s ascent to cocktail capital of the world with help from protégés such as Tony Conigliaro. If Tequila isn’t to your taste, try fruity cachaça-based batidas or any off-menu fix you fancy – not forgetting bottles of cerveza served Mexican-style with spices. The low-rent decor is nothing to write home about, but when the DJ cranks up the party after midnight, this kooky kennel is top dog.

£30 - £49
Mexican
Call Me Mr Lucky

Call Me Mr Lucky

11 Southwark Street, London, SE1 1RQ

Rumpus Room at Mondrian London

Rumpus Room at Mondrian London

Mondrian London, 20 Upper Ground , London, SE1 9PD

Bars
The Lucky Pig

The Lucky Pig

5 Clipstone Street, London, W1W 6BB

Happy is the imbiber who waters at this trough, one of London's more plausible speakeasies in a quarter that's not exactly stoked with ‘cred' cocktail joints. Appealingly done out like a seedy Prohibition-era joint, Lucky Pig’s chaises longues and cushion-strewn, curtained-off vaults are perfect for a spot of canoodling, while weekends bring the live sounds of red-hot mamas, be-bop cats, Brylcreem-slick balladeers and rollicking DJ sets. To drink, order retro ‘giggle water’ (Sidecar or French Martini), or modern mixes dreamed up with the Fitzrovia and Marylebone mob in mind: Bullet Proof, Luciano Sour and Fingers Crossed (Zacapa 23 rum, Mozart chocolate liqueur, Pimento Dram rum-based liqueur, Coco Pops milk and Aztec bitters). For solid fuel, pick at pizzas, cheeses or a charcuterie platter – not such a lucky pig after all.

Bars
Experimental Cocktail Club

Experimental Cocktail Club

13a Gerrard Street, London, London, W1D 5PS

Like its Shoreditch sibling, Joyeux Bordel, ECC is from the same stable as à la mode Parisian thoroughbreds such as Prescription in St. Germain-des-Prés. Beyond the scruffy door, guarded by a friendly (or otherwise) greeter, you’ll discover a moody boho pile packed with Pinteresting people and arranged over the upper floors of a Chinatown dwelling: opinions of the full EEC experience are invariably divided, although few would dispute that it delivers consistently good drinks knocked out by keen-to-please/snottily superior staff (make up your own mind). Expect to shell out at least £70 for a quartet of contemporary spins on classic recipes: the line-up varies, but those we have loved include the Martini Suissesse (a blend of absinthe, vermouth, mint and orgéat that tastes like pimped-up Pernod) and Old Cuban (a rum, ginger and shampoo coupe). Steer clear of cocktails made with vintage spirits – unless you're feeling really flush and really flash.

 

£30 - £49
Bars
Vertigo 42

Vertigo 42

Tower 42 after Level 42, 25 Old Broad Street, London, EC2N 1HQ

We can’t help thinking that the City’s skyline is starting to look like Dubai, with every new erection crowned by its own sky-high drinking den. Biggies such as The Shard may have stolen the thunder with their stylishly designed bars, but it's worth making a reservation at this oldie for thrilling views and fine French fizz. Occupying the 42nd floor of the former NatWest Tower, Vertigo is just the place some classy bubbles: get giddy on Gallimard (entry-level Brut) or pricier sips from around 20 prestigious marques. If the sky's your limit, a magnum of 1990 Krug will leave you just enough change from a grand to splurge on four classic Champagne cocktails from a list of Bellinis, spritzes and other sparklers. To eat, smoked salmon, tiger prawns and Parma ham/melon skewers feature among the business-class cabin fare as you circle at 600 feet above London.

Bars
Hawksmoor Spitalfields Bar

Hawksmoor Spitalfields Bar

157a Commercial Street, Spitalfields, London, E1 6BJ

Every bar attached to a branch of the bullish Hawksmoor restaurant group passes muster, but the charismatic standalone Spitalfields cellar is something extra special. Once a dodgy strip joint, there's nothing remotely sleazy or cheesy about this handsome hole-up's burnished art-deco bronze and blue-tiled 1900s Steampunk interiors. Anticipate excellent, keenly priced cocktails (a frozen Margarita at £7.50) and the sort of moreish grub that is manna for savvy City drinkers – think magnificently meaty burgers, chilli cheese dogs, lobster rolls, triple-cooked chips and a chicken riff on Canadian poutine (an on-trend mix of fries, gravy and curd cheese). To drink, around £20 with pay for bar legend Harry Craddock’s Marmalade Cocktail (an ‘anti-fogmatic’ spirit-lifter involving Beefeater gin, Campari, lemon and the breakfast preserve), plus a knock-out Shadow Boxer (Chivas 12, blackberry and maple shrub, sherry and Fernet Branca).

Bars
sketch: The Parlour

sketch: The Parlour

9 Conduit Street, London, W1S 2XG

Take your pick of three highly individual, amusingly designed lounges at this Mayfair must-do from Mourad Mazouz (of Momo fame). With its theatrical rococo découpage forest backdrop, The Glade could be a set for South Pacific as choreographed by the Bolshoi Ballet, while The East Bar (a futuristic cocoon) might have been lifted from a Kubrick sci-fi movie. However, we find ourselves repeatedly drawn to The Parlour, a raffishly postmodernist drawing room that wouldn’t look out of place in ex-Sex Pistol John Lydon's LA punk château. Disport and pose while you scrutinise a cast of eccentrics and fashionistas as you knock back dependably good drinks from a constantly evolving list. House wines and sips such as Nolet and the Whale (vodka, Aperol, peach and almond syrup) won't break the bank, although the same can’t be said of the patrician French fizz and pukka comfort food.

£30 - £49
Afternoon tea
International
Reverend JW Simpson

Reverend JW Simpson

32 Goodge Street, London, W1T 2QJ

The story goes that this quirky cellar (a Bourne & Hollingsworth spin-off) was once home to a man of God whose taste in decor was self-evidently less than heavenly. Hipsters will hail his vacated pad as a vision in "raw deconstructionist chic"; others pray for divine intervention from Kelly Hoppen. Whereas the vicar's drinks cabinet might only have had Emva Cream sherry to offer, today's visitors can seek salvation at a pulpit bar set in the old coal cellar, where fine Old Testament stirs are now served in vintage stemware: Sloe Sherry Cobbler and latter-day revelations such as Brooklyn Cocktail (an Amer Picon-enhanced variant on a Sweet Manhattan), Deviation (a rosemary-fragranced Aviation), and Vieux Carré are all praiseworthy. Meanwhile, keenly attended ‘spirited sermons’ (cocktail masterclasses) aim to convert philistines to the cause of jenever, mezcal and other cult distillations.

Bars
Duck & Waffle (bar)

Duck & Waffle (bar)

Heron Tower, 110 Bishopsgate, London, EC2N 4AY

Its awkward seating arrangements may not be London's most accommodating, but bum deals are rare when it comes to head honcho Richard Woods’ singularly experimental creations at Duck & Waffle. Obscure ingredients boldly go where no mixologist has gone before: charred dandelion-root 'expresso', burnt toast, 'damp gin,' asparagus ends and cut grass are not for the timid. But if you duck the venue’s over-zealous waffle ('urban foraging vs urban decay'), you'll be amply rewarded. The likes of Pine Needle Lemonade, Avocado Aperitivo (Patrón Reposado, chocolate, toasted walnut, avocado skin infusion) and Hay! (Jack Daniel's, maple, salted caramel and hay infusion) just about justify their vertiginous cost at this hotspot’s perch atop Heron Tower. To eat, nibble on BBQ spiced pig’s ears, bacon-wrapped dates or crispy polenta with Parmesan and truffle. Just add some truly astounding City views and you’ll gather this is no lame duck.

Bars
BYOC West End

BYOC West End

28 Bedfordbury, London, WC2N 4BJ

It's a juice bar by day and a cocktail den by night, but don't descend the stairs of this bijou bar without some hooch in hand: BYOC stands for 'bring your own cocktails' and you'll need to contribute a bottle of spirits to this particular party. £25 per person buys two hours' drinking time, and there's something deliciously illicit about taking your own booze. The Prohibition vibe is reinforced by the bare-brick decor in this tiny, candlelit cellar, where a vintage drinks trolley is loaded up with cordials, syrups, bitters and tinctures. Whether you're a Negroni nerd or prefer to keep things fun and fruity, just tell your friendly bartender who will then use his expertise to conjure up as many tailor-made cocktails as you can decently down in two hours. A "fantastic time" is had by all.

Bars
Callooh Callay

Callooh Callay

65 Rivington Street, London, EC2A 3AY

‘Oh frabjous day’ when bar whizz Richard Wynne opened Callooh Callay. Inspired by the Victorian nonsense poems of Lewis Carroll, this Shoreditch scene-stealer's drinks list is always a good read. Take a trip through the looking glass to a louche den whose mind-altering potions push boundaries, but steer clear of the baroque stuff and nonsense of the 'progressive mixology' merchants. Butch, brown and big on flavour, Count of Monkey Cristo (Monkey Shoulder whisky, Innis & Gunn ale reduction, Fernet-Branca and Amer Picon) makes for a typically engaging adventure, while Tall & Oates (El Jimador Blanco Tequila, sherry, bitters, oat horchata and caramel waffle) should make muso fans smile. Bar bites are bussed in from 100 Hoxton Street’s kitchen. And if you can crack the key code, more wondrousness awaits upstairs where guest barmen take over the quasi-clandestine Jubjub lounge on a pop-up basis.

Bars
Radio Rooftop

Radio Rooftop

ME London Hotel, 336-337 The Strand, Covent Garden, London, WC2R 1HA

Impossibly glamorous (and sometimes impossible to get into if you haven't booked) the exclusive rooftop bar at ME London piles on the wow factor with its minimalist monochrome decor and views over the City skyline. On warm days, the prime spots are the white leather sofas by the rooftop edge: perfect for alfresco posing. House cocktails run from the Mexican (a refreshing blend of El Jimador Tequila, cucumber, mint and agave) to South Pacific (Leblon cachaça, kiwi, elderflower and apple juice), while the Champagne list is reassuringly extensive (and expensive), with bottles of Bolly for £100 and jeroboams of Cristal 1999 weighing in at a cool £5,000. Meanwhile, aficionados can pair Cognac or whisky with a Montecristo No.4 from the cigar menu. Daytime eats include risottos, salads and burgers, with dainty tapas on offer when the lights go down.

Mediterranean
Bars
Afternoon tea
Underdog

Underdog

51-55 Bethnal Green Road, London, E1 6LA

The Scottish wild boys from Brewdog are responsible for this alternative take on a speakeasy. If you can find the ‘artfully’ concealed portal, you’ll enter a low-lit, low-life juke joint that’s closer to the moonshine dens of America’s Prohibition era than more recent fancy-pants, Great Gatsby pastiches. Kansas City blues, swamp rock and Southern funk provide the soundtrack for cheeky twists on classic cocktails: dead pony Negroni, ‘martineds’, ‘daiquirory’, and a hardcore mai tai with three rums, for instance. Also worth a punt is Toussaint’s tipple – a bourbon, coffee and Kahlúa fancy that also snags a couple of Brewdog brews into its brain-blasting mix. Real hombres wouldn’t be seen dead with a cosmopolitan or Aperol spritz – hence, neither is on the list at this E1 classic. As for food – popcorn is the only snack available.

Bars
Trailer Happiness

Trailer Happiness

177 Portobello Road, London, W11 2DY

Cheesier than baked Camembert, camp as Carmen Miranda, louder than a Hawaii Five-O shirt and as kitsch as an Annette Funicello beach bimbo movie, Portobello’s Trailer Happiness is a top tiki dive. If rum is your thing, order Dr Fang (light gold rum, Velvet Falernum, pomegranate, absinthe and bitters), Cool Cat in a Hat (Diplomatico Reserva Exclusiva, sweet vermouth, Galliano, orange tincture and Marasca cherry liqueur) or Don Zombie – a dangerous concoction involving no fewer than nine rums. Fancy a different spirit? Try grappling with Scaramanga – a bittersweet gin fizz comprising Bombay Sapphire, lemon, Campari, orange and homemade grapefruit soda. As for food, you would be crackers not to sample Trailer’s dim sum and spring rolls – just add John Waters’ trash decor and a sleazy foot-tapping soundtrack for a happy ending.

Bars
Lounge Bohemia

Lounge Bohemia

1e Great Eastern Street, London, EC2A 3EJ

Lounge Bohemia might have been lifted from a John le Carré novel set in the days when Anglo-Russian relations were even deeper in the deep freeze: The Spy Who Came in from the Cold of Great Eastern Street, possibly? Once he’s homed in on his elusive target, the novel’s imaginary hero will find a ‘by appointment-only’ bunker with an unmarked door, lost in a dingy parade of shops – a stylish time capsule of Soviet-era Prague. Behind the bar is a deadpan dude, who uses fiendish ingredients along the lines of alcoholic cotton, fake caviar and ‘electric current’ to create highly palatable drinks (and snacks) as outré as anything you'll find at Nightjar, all imaginatively presented in bonkers bowls, beakers and bongs. As an opener, try Earth (peat-aged whisky, mezcal, malt, 'humid soil essence' and 'dirt scent'). Note to the man on a mission: City suits are strictly verboten.

Bars
Evans & Peel

Evans & Peel

310c Earls Court Road, London, SW5 9BA

‘Specialists in blackmail, missing persons and armed personal protection’, fantasy detectives Evans & Peel use this discreet agency front to keep their cocktail bar clandestine. Patrons must make an appointment and present their ‘case’ in the office on arrival, before a sleuth in period costume decides if they’re to be allowed into the atmospheric speakeasy that hides behind the bookshelf. This kind of role play isn’t to everyone’s taste, but we’d challenge anyone to say a bad word about the agency’s inventive take on classic drinks. Our current favourites are the Clover Breakfast Club (Hendrick's gin, English breakfast tea, raspberry jam, lime, cucumber, clarified milk and Teapot bitters) and the Islayllujah, which sees Bulleit bourbon and 16-year-old Lagavulin whisky stirred with bitters, salt and yuzu essence in a twist on the Sazerac theme. There are decent bar snacks too – try the Dr Pepper pulled beef in waffles.

Bars
GONG by Shangri La at The Shard

GONG by Shangri La at The Shard

31 St Thomas Street, London, SE1 90U

Squeezed in at the sharper end of The Shard, Gong is London’s loftiest bar. It resembles a Bond baddie’s penthouse in the sky – complete with separate Champagne bar and a swimming pool open for punters to lounge by (but not to dip into) from 8pm. From this high altitude, the city below forms a magical tapestry, and with a couple of drinks here costing much the same as the £31 ticket to the touristy viewing platform above, we rate Gong as the more civilised sightseeing option. Blue-sky thinking has gone into the bar’s 2016 ‘Circle of Life’ cocktail list. But while the drinks may be worthwhile, we’re not entirely persuaded by the overblown presentation that veers between kooky and kitsch (drinks served in Kinder Eggs or gilded birdcages, for instance). Such sophisticated mixes as Asian Explorer (Tanqueray 10, mushroom-infused Madeira, nigori saké, coconut and ginseng) have no need of flummery.

Bars
George

George's Bar

St Pancras Renaissance Hotel, Euston Road, London, NW1 2AR

Bars
69 Colebrooke Row

69 Colebrooke Row

69 Colebrooke Row, London, N1 8AA

Tony Conigliaro’s cocktail bar opened up at 69 Colebrooke Row with the moniker ‘the bar with no name’, which might be a case of trying too hard by seemingly not trying at all. Whatever you call the place, Tony C has made it a destination for fans of classic cocktails and those seeking the cutting edge of this most un-dark of arts. You’ll find a classic 1950s vibe going down at this dinky backstreet spot. The Bellini is reinvented here with raspberry and violet purée replacing the standard peach, and the Prairie Oyster gets a kick with the addition of horseradish vodka. If you prefer a classic cocktail undisturbed by contemporary configuration, the bar staff are happy to oblige. There’s food, too, with little snacky options such as ceviche and a beefy pumpernickel sandwich. Masterclasses are up for grabs if you’re looking for a new life skill.

Bars
Discount Suit Company

Discount Suit Company

29A Wentworth Street, London, E1 7TB

Squeezed into a former schmutter merchant's low-beamed storeroom, this is just the place if you want to wet your whistle in style off Petticoat Lane. As sharp as a mohair and silk suit worn by Marvin Gaye, Little Stevie Wonder or any similarly snappy 1960s dude who features on the retro cellar's Megawatt Northern Soul playlist, DSC’s cocktails measure up nicely: bespoke mezcal and poitín Old Fashioneds, elegant Daiquiris and rye Manhattans all represent off-the-peg perfection. Meanwhile, Two Smoking Barrels (Lapsang Souchong-infused brandy, whisky, Chartreuse elixir and bitters) for two to share is the sort of lethal slug that sartorial perfectionists Ronnie and Reggie Kray might have knocked back had this place existed in their heyday. Note that prices are more Cockney barrow boy than Bond Street boutique.

Bars
Mahiki Mayfair

Mahiki Mayfair

1 Dover Street, Mayfair, London, W1S 4LD

It's worth remembering that, before it turns into a full-on party, this doolally 1950s-style Polynesian cabana is a civilised spot for a sundowner. Mayfair legend Mahiki is not the place for an Aperol Spritz, but they'll make one if you really must. The big attraction here is a line-up of rum punches, grogs and slings with names like Bikini Blast, Krakatoa, Bajan Whirlpool and ‘vicious’ absinthe-spiked Baron Samedi's Brew – all served in assorted tiki vessels. Otherwise, Armada Treasure Chest and Queen Ann's Revenge (a magnum of Cîroc, two bottles of Cristal and 20 shots) are the sort of fishbowls that would feature large on Sun, Sex and Suspicious Parents were the grown-ups snooping on their misbehaving progeny in Antigua rather than Ayia Napa. Asian snacks act as damage limitation as the action heats up in the downstairs club.

Bars
Aqua Spirit

Aqua Spirit

Fifth Floor, 240 Regent Street (entrance 30 Argyll Street), Oxford Circus, London, W1B 3BR

Although they’re increasingly common in other parts of town, rooftop bars are as rare as prolonged sunny spells in Soho – which makes Aqua Spirit’s open-air chill-out a poseur's paradise for blue-sky drinkers. Frequently themed according to the season, its terraces and cocktails are as smartly turned out as the venue’s fashion-conscious clientele: in 2016, the autumn highlight was the Hanging Gardens of Kyoto, a cute installation that followed hot on the Louboutin heels of summer's Veuve Clicquot Rosé garden. When the weather inevitably throws a tantrum, shelter indoors at the carousel bar, retreat to one of the kimono silk-lined booths and get stuck into a list of east-west Daiquiris, Saketinis and Shanghai-style classics such as Nippon Negroni, plus some Eurasian street food. Prices are more haute couture than bargain basement in this new incarnation of Dickins & Jones department store.

 

Bars
SkyLounge at DoubleTree by Hilton Leeds

SkyLounge at DoubleTree by Hilton Leeds

Granary Wharf, 2 Wharf Approach, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 4BR

Leeds isn’t blessed with many high-level drinking spots, so the SkyLounge on the 13th floor of the DoubleTree by Hilton gives a new perspective on the city. A central bar serves drinks and light snacks in a rather corporate hotel setting, but you’ve come here for the cityscapes. Floor-to-ceiling windows look excitingly over the station and city centre to the University and Leeds Town Hall. For another aspect, move across and take a seat on the outdoor terrace, which offers a bird's-eye view across to the Italianate towers of Holbeck Urban Village and also Bridgewater Place – Leeds’ tallest building, which is lit up at night in green and violet. Not surprisingly it’s a great panorama any time, and regularly draws a yuppie crowd who are undeterred by the pricey drinks.

Bars
Aqua Shard (bar)

Aqua Shard (bar)

Level 31, The Shard, St. Thomas Street, Southwark, London, SE1 9RY

At the risk of upsetting the neighbours, if you only do one bar at The Shard, make it Aqua. For panoramic views, this high-level atrium lounge – three storeys high – beats the bar at Oblix. It’s slicker and sexier than Gong and is a hotter date than Hutong, above. The interior is decked out like a Manhattan-style loft; if you can discern the menu in the gloaming, try one of the gin- or tea-inspired cocktails. Start pleasantly with Devonshire Cream Cup (gin, Aperol, crème de fraise, lemon curd, tarragon balsamic vinegar and lemon juice, topped with Earl Grey ‘air’) before descending into wickedness with the Four Stages of Cruelty (Tanqueray 10 gin, Sauvignon Blanc, elderflower and Curious Brew beer). The bar is open throughout the day, so you can choose how to take your vista: with bright sunshine or with a myriad twinkling night-time lights.

Bars
Bar Américain at Brasserie Zédel

Bar Américain at Brasserie Zédel

20 Sherwood Street, Piccadilly Circus, London, W1F 7ED

As Dick's Bar at The Atlantic, this Soho hangout was Cool Britannia's default cocktail lounge. The achingly hip crowd may have migrated out east, but this polished birch-panelled bar at Corbin & King's original Beaux Arts brasserie is always a joy to visit – not least for its dreamy art-deco interior, divine bar and gorgeous Martinis. Discover your inner Fred Astaire (ol' twinkle-toes once drank here) as your taste buds tango with retro tipples such as Aviation and Millionaire – sips that date back to the days when aviation was strictly for millionaires. If you want to get squiffy, we also suggest asking the barman to rustle up classics such as Hanky Panky and Hotsy Totsy (a vodka, raspberry and ginger job). Be sure to check out the Crazy Coqs cabaret and bar next door, another life-affirming space worthy of a 1930s Busby Berkeley extravaganza.

 

Bars
Milk & Honey

Milk & Honey

61 Poland Street, London, W1F 7NU

Milk & Honey remains as relevant today as it was in 2002, when this private members' club for grown-ups first got Soho excited. Unlike some venues, you can actually make it past reception, even if you haven't paid your £400 annual dues. How come?  If you’re a non-member with a prior reservation, you simply have to accept the house rules and you’ll be welcome in the ground-floor bar until 11pm. If you want to linger longer (you will), best get pally with a member rather than face the Cinderella walk of shame long before the clock strikes midnight. Champagne starts at £55 (BYO glass slipper) and wines by the glass are easy money, but you'd be mad to miss out on Milk & Honey’s old school sips such as Boulevardier, Floradora and Prescription Julep – top picks from a tempting range of spot-on shakes, stirs and pick-me-ups.

 

Bars
Coq d

Coq d'Argent (bar)

1 Poultry, City of London, London, EC2R 8EJ

Manicured lawns, topiary, wisteria-clad cloisters and an alfresco bar make this memorable rooftop garden a shoo-in for summer drinking. Covered and heated against autumn’s chills – with a further bar indoors – D&D London's fine-plumed silver Coq has plenty to crow about whatever the weather. Cool down with first-rate fizzes, rum iced tea, a dozen different G&Ts, Italian spritzes, virgin Coladas and classy wines from under £25 a bottle; alternatively, dip into a line-up of vodka sours involving lavender, pisco and plum, apricot and Earl Grey, or sip a variant made with bourbon and saffron. By contrast, winter warmers include first-class flights of three whiskies (from £17.50) from a creditable collection of malts – all served in the après-ski chalet setting of the seasonal Lodge d’Argent. Snacks cover everything from oysters and escargots to grilled vegetable brochettes, prawn tempura, garlic-baked Camembert, hot wings and charcuterie boards.

Bars
Mark

Mark's Bar at Hix

66-70 Brewer Street, Piccadilly Circus, London, W1F 9UP

Like an upscale, arty members club that’s open to allcomers, the quintessentially cool basement bar at Hix Soho is as sharp as a Paul Smith Paisley shirt, as comfy as John Lobb ankle boots, as classic as a camel Crombie and as relaxed as your best, lived-in denims – the sort of wardrobe that understated core Hixters cleave to. Hix’s similarly stylish cocktails are a mix of familiar friends (Hanky Panky, Zombie, Gin Punch à la Terrington) and future ‘bezzies’ such as Dorset Donkey (a Black Cow vodka, cherry and sage mule). True to his West Country roots, the chef/ patron's list also includes cider-based swallows such as Temperley Sour. Prices are Soho average for above-average ‘snax’ of whipped squash with ricotta and toasted walnuts, steak tartare, chips with curry sauce, rock samphire pakoras or Essex cockle popcorn – a steal at three for a tenner.

 

£30 - £49
Bars
The Chelsea Prayer Room

The Chelsea Prayer Room

333 Fulham Road, London, SW10 9QL

£30 - £49
Bars
Bermondsey Arts Club

Bermondsey Arts Club

102a Tower Bridge Road, London, SE1 4TP

A former public convenience near Tower Bridge has been converted into a subterranean drinking den with an art-deco look of chequered floor tiles and marquetry panelling that pays homage to the golden era of cocktail making. With most sips pegged at £9.50, you’d expect a decent drink and you won’t be disappointed: Sage of Consent, for example, packs enough punch for a rumble in the jungle with its blend of butter-washed rum, sage, citrusy bergamot, lemon juice and dark cane sugar. Alternatively, if you’re looking for something lighter, there are some cheaper aperitifs and spritzers – try the aptly named South of the River (sloe gin, lemon, sugar and Prosecco) or the more serious Chrysanthemum with its mix of absinthe, Bénédictine and Lillet Blanc. BAC is open until 2am, which sounds like a good excuse to use to use the night tube – even though the nearest station is a 15-mInute walk away.

Bars
Sushisamba (bar)

Sushisamba (bar)

Heron Tower, 110 Bishopsgate (38th floor), London, EC2N 4AY

From the moment the glass-box express lift whisks you 38 floors up the face of Heron Tower, this cocky Japanese/Latino fusion pile screams ‘Las Vegas’ – a vision of slick selfie-stick perfection and pizzazz aimed at the big-money crowd. The later the hour, the louder the DJs and the livelier the scene as booze-fuelled high rollers ramp up the party vibe. To drink, investigate Asian-inspired takes on the classics: a Gimlet doctored with coconut and kaffir leaf, a Martini involving Grey Goose La Poire Nashi or a Negroni manqué made with Hibiki Japanese whisky and plum liqueur. If the latter doesn't warm you up, the fire pits and snuggly blankets on the breezy sky terrace should do the trick. With its centrepiece alfresco bar under the flame and metallic leaf canopy of a giant tree sculpture, this is a soothing sanctuary away from the mayhem.

Bars
Happiness Forgets

Happiness Forgets

8-9 Hoxton Square, London, London, N1 6NU

Regularly acclaimed by critics the world over, this wee dive bar has won more awards than we care to count: in 2016, it even scooped 'Best International Cocktail Bar' at America's prestigious Tales of the Cocktail bash. No bad for a prosaic, no-frills, "low-rent basement" (owner Andy Bird's description). This is no achingly cool 'concept', no big-budget design team's take on a Prohibition speakeasy, 1970s disco or any other corny theme you care to mention; there’s no pretentious molecular malarkey either: what Happiness has in spades, is heart and soul. It also has a team of chipper, capable staff who are keen to craft old-school favourites and gratifying new stirs to order: try Dirty Sanchez (a tropical cobbler involving Havana Selección rum, crème de banane, port, Manzanilla sherry and pineapple juice). Like the Burt Bacharach song by Dionne Warwick that inspired the bar’s handle, this seemingly effortless number oozes class and sophistication.

Bars
Satan

Satan's Whiskers

343 Cambridge Heath Road, London, E2 9RA

Satan's Whiskers is a neighbourhood cocktail bar – although few neighbourhoods can boast a drinking den that also does duty as an unofficial taxidermy museum. If you’re happy to keep company with jokey stuffed exhibits and fun skeletal sculptures, settle in and order from a regular retinue of reasonably priced rogues such as East 8 Hold Up (vodka, Aperol, lime and pineapple, served short). There’s also a daily changing entourage of twisted classics and contemporary signatures: our most recent favourite is 34th Brigade, a Calvados and apricot brandy fizz. Another notable hit is the bar's rendition of Tuxedo #2, (a take on 19th-century favourite Turf Club), as promulgated by tuxedo-wearing Harry Craddock in his 1930s bible for the bibulous, The Savoy Cocktail Book. Nibbles are grouped under ‘two fingers’ (mini Scotch eggs or merguez sausages) and ‘four fingers’ (pulled brisket rolls or baby back ribs).

Bars
Nightjar

Nightjar

129 City Road, London, EC1V 1JB

Book in advance for Edmund Weil and Rosie Stimpson's highly rated and regularly rammed jazz-age hootenanny, which is home to nightly blues, swing and ragtime jams. Golden eras of the cocktail are revisited in a considered list of well-built drinks whose recipes often involve abstruse ingredients: named after 1930s jelly-legs jiggler, Josephine Baker, Nightjar's signature crusta adds Afro mbongo spice, tonka bean liqueur and passion fruit curd to its Ysabel Regina brandy base. And you’d be forgiven for wanting to purloin its chic tiki-tastic drinking vessels: porcelain wishing wells, conch shells, glass bongs, Pygmy hunting horns and ancient copper bells. Nightjar's insistence on over-elaborate presentation can sometimes leave you struggling not to tip the sip down your front.

Bars
Trader Vic

Trader Vic's London

22 Park Lane, London, London, W1K 1BE

Mahiki, Trailer Happiness and Kanaloa are testament to London’s appetite for all things tiki, but will they outlast the daddy of them all, Trader Vic's – a hula hideaway still going strong 50 years after it launched? The Beatles were yet to break America when this crazy Californian import first wowed London. Five decades on, Trader Vic’s Polynesian beachcomber kitsch, old-skool presentation and attentive staff dressed like extras from South Pacific make for a pleasingly retro experience. A mainstream US/Asian menu boasts tender, meaty spare ribs lathered with BBQ sauce made to the ‘original 1972 recipe’ alongside crab and grapefruit salad, spicy tuna tartare and moreish ‘maui waui’ (sweet and spicy coconut shrimps with slaw), while mains include lobster with black bean sauce, crispy duck pancakes, and a piquant curry of tender braised lamb. A wine list plays firm second fiddle to Vic's reasonably priced rum cocktails, served in fabulously tacky tiki mugs. Coffee liqueur digestifs are a must; dancing to samba disco hits, performed by wedding reception-style combos, is optional.

£50 - £79
Fusion
Madison

Madison

One New Change, London, London, EC4M 9AF

Spectacular views of St Paul’s and the lure of alfresco drinks high above the City ensure that queues for the lift to Madison build early on summer afternoons. Crowning Parisian architect Jean Nouvel’s One New Change development, this complex comprises a modest tapas and cocktail bar (beware the oppressive crush in fine weather) and – across the way – an altogether more spacious restaurant with flashy Murano glass, lots of shiny leather and a second terrace, complete with low couches. Sip wine or fizz by the glass, slurp a pornstar martini with vanilla vodka and passion fruit or explore the secret garden (Hendrick’s gin, cucumber and rosemary). The menu runs from small bites and charcuterie boards to salt-marsh lamb with roasted tomato and salsa verde – although quibbles over prices and service can dull Madison’s charms.

£50 - £79
Modern European
Kanaloa

Kanaloa

18 Wine Office Court, Hill House, Shoe Lane, London, EC4A 3BQ

Throw a lei garland round your neck, slurp a cocktail out of a pineapple and turn a bad day at the office into a night on the town. There’s nowhere quite like Kanaloa (apart from A-list sibling Mahiki in Mayfair, of course). This City take on the tiki bar unashamedly touts the cheesiest of ‘guilty pleasures’ including limbo competitions, happy hours and party anthems, while delivering on its promise of a grass-skirted, bamboo-lined Polynesian paradise complete with carved totem poles. Meanwhile, revellers get into the spirit over ‘exotics’ and ‘sharers’ with ominous names such as Missionary’s Downfall, Krakatoa! or Dead Man’s Chest. There are snacks for sharing too (think seared beef sashimi, spicy nachos, baby back ribs and crispy duck platters), while a hard-to-resist burger does the job after a Kanaloa Kula or two. “Heavily themed, but good fun” is the verdict.

Bars