During a night out in London, we can guarantee that someone will complain about the cost of a cocktail. So how does a fiver sound? Allow us to introduce you to the genius that is London Cocktail Week, where from today until Sunday and with one £10.50 wristband, you can visit more than 250 participating London bars and enjoy a tipple for only five shiny gold coins.
But where to begin? We’ve scrutinised this year’s selection of drinking venues and come up with our absolute favourites.
The Blind Pig, 58 Poland Street (above)
Why here? There’s a smart, creative cocktail list at this wood-panelled saloon above Jason Atherton’s Social Eating House. The venue’s a looker too, with a butch, copper-topped bar decked out in old-school styling.
£5 cocktail: The Monkey Shoulder Snakebite: Monkey Shoulder whisky, pear liqueur, ale reduction, cider syrup and lemon juice.
Opium Cocktail & Dim Sum Parlour, 15-16 Gerrard Street
Why here? Everyone loves to be in on a London secret, and this 1950s Chinese-themed first-floor hideaway exists behind a jade Gerrard Street door – all very Narnia (minus the talking lion, unless you drink a tremendous amount).
£5 cocktail: Lychee Martini, with Beefeater 24 gin, lychee and rose cordial.
1901 at Andaz, 40 Liverpool Street (above)
Why here? Don’t miss this grand former ballroom, which features a stunning stained-glass dome that sends all eyes skywards. You’ll find it hidden away beyond a staircase in the Andaz hotel, with the cocktail bar at its centre.
£5 cocktail: Moon Light, with gin, pear purée and Prosecco.
(Closed on Sunday)
Hawksmoor Spitalfields Bar, 157b Commercial Street
Why here? This convivial basement bar is a beauty to behold in all its peacock-blue and burnished brass art deco glory. The drinks are alarmingly gorgeous too, as are the staff – we don’t know how Hawksmoor does it.
£5 cocktail: Char-grilled Buck, with Chivas 12-year-old whisky, charred pineapple syrup, lime, cardamom bitters and ginger ale.
Barrio East, 141-143 Shoreditch High Street (above)
Why here? We’re not going to be coy about this: Barrio East is a Square Meal office-party staple. The reason? It’s piles of fun and the jam-jar cocktails are tremendous South American spectacles.
£5 cocktail: Tarte au Citron, with Tequila, lemon-pie syrup, lemon juice, and a tonka bean whipped cream float.
Casita, 5a Ravey Street
Why here? So you can have a bit of a rave on Ravey Street. Terrible jokes aside, this snug, rough-and-ready bar, festooned with fairy lights, pulsates with Hispanic good vibes.
£5 cocktail: The Paloma, with Ocho Tequila, lime juice, agave, Ting (fizzy Jamaican grapefruit juice) and pink grapefruit.
Portobello Star, 171 Portobello Road
Why here? Run by liquor baron Jake Burger, this gin treasure trove is where Portobello Road gin was born: a splendidly rewarding, finely balanced drink that’s worth sipping in its spiritual home.
£5 cocktail: The Tea Cup, with Yorkshire Gold Tea distillate, mint, strawberry and cucumber, topped with Sicilian lemonade.
Trailer Happiness, 177 Portobello Road (above)
Why here? Cheesier than baked Camembert and louder than a Hawaii Five-O shirt, this top tiki dive also has some decent dim sum dumplings to nibble on.
£5 cocktail: Little Red Door, with rum, Velvet Falernum liqueur (made from a sweet, almond and ginger-flavoured syrup), pomegranate molasses, blood orange and lime.
The Shrub & Shutter, 336 Coldharbour Lane
Why here? This newcomer is a local gem already, thanks to theatrical cocktails and some seriously delicious bar snacks.
£5 cocktail: The Shrub and Shutter, with rum, Green Chartreuse liqueur, Maraschino liqueur, fennel syrup, cucumber shrub and lime.
(Closed on Monday)
Sovereign Loss, 467-469 Brixton Road (above)
Why here? You’ll uncover this first-floor film noir gin joint above the Prince of Wales, behind a door marked ‘trade entrance’ next to the pub. Just like Opium in Soho, it’s a secret worth knowing about thanks to a 24-hour licence and an enthusiastic, knowledgeable bar team.
£5 cocktail: Declaration Act, with bourbon, sweet vermouth, homemade Earl Grey syrup, apricot and bergamot bitters.
24 Hour Bar Build
For the first time, London Cocktail Week is challenging some of the world’s best bartenders from London, New York, Paris and Singapore to design, build and open a bar for one night only – all in under 24 hours. The challenge takes place on Saturday 10 October at 3-10 Shoreditch High Street. You can buy tickets (£35, includes five cocktails) and find out more here.
You can order London Cocktail Week wristbands here, which can be collected in the event’s hub at 51 Poland Street, Soho
If you love an alcoholic celebration, don’t forget that Rum Experience Week is on its way, 12-18 October. Find out more and win tickets to its finale, RumFest, here.
This article was published on 5 October 2015