The Best Cocktail Bars in London and Beyond

The Best Cocktail Bars in London and Beyond

Last time we looked, cocktail season runs from around January 4th until December 31st, before a brief hiatus of, say, three days, during which one fools oneself into thinking that the hard road is the good road, and attempts to derail the fun train. Failure ensues. And on to the next cocktail season we go. This time of year is especially conducive to the cocktail. Cold days, colder nights, Christmas around the corner, and the beckoning hum of a vibrant watering hole, is in itself, a heady cocktail one cannot refuse. Moreover, it is also the season to get dressed up, with parties and engagements aplenty. Hence we have compiled our list of fine cocktail establishments in London and beyond, at which you can magnanimously tend to your keen-to-learn palate, with an education of the beautiful art of mixology, sprinkled with a garnish of elegant eveningwear to accompany you.

Gong at the Shard, London Bridge
For high-altitude cocktails, there is nowhere better in the capital than Gong at The Shard. With a city dreamscape for a view, Gong is the highest hotel bar in western Europe, and its cocktails are equally as elevating. With a cocktail bar, champagne bar, and sky pool to park yourself in, Gong’s cocktail menu - called The Miscellany of Inventions - is well worth the trip to the 52nd floor, and is inspired by the greatest inventions of all time. Look out for cocktails made with the Chinese liquor ‘baijiu’ which has a complexity of fruit, citrus, floral and umami flavours. 

Mustard Cord Newport Jacket

Mustard Cord
Newport Jacket

Mustard Cord Dress Trousers

Mustard Cord
Dress Trousers

Indigo Rockwell Linen Pintuck Dress Shirt

Indigo Rockwell Linen
Pintuck Dress Shirt

Swift, Soho 
Nestled at one end of the always chaotic Old Compton Street is Bar Swift, where you’ll find most of London’s mixologists with an off-duty drink in their hand, it’s that good. Small, and with a very buzzy ambience, Swift’s bartenders are legendary and their knowledge of spirits and mixology unparalleled.

The American Bar, The Stafford Hotel
A throw-back to the Art Deco era, American Bar situated in the Stafford Hotel is an absolute charm, especially the private cobbled courtyard. It even has its very own Bar Director and Director of Mixology so you know they take their drinking seriously here. The cocktail list is as exquisite as it is expansive, with a host of Hendrick’s gin creations well worth further inspection. 

Poppy Dress Emerald Green Silk Twill

Poppy Dress Emerald
Green Silk Twill

Josephine Dress Antique Rose Reverse Plain Silk Shantung

Josephine Dress Antique Rose
Reverse Plain Silk Shantung

Josephine Dress Rust Silk Douppion

Josephine Dress Rust
Silk Douppion

Dukes Bar, Dukes Hotel
Once the London watering hole of Bond creator Ian Fleming, Dukes Bar in St. James’s has made a name for itself as the capital’s finest destination for martini lovers. Indeed, the New York Times claims the Dukes martini is one of the best in the world, served at your table from a rosewood trolley, and in many different incarnations. There is a two-martini per person limit as they really blow your socks off.

Manetta’s Bar, Flemings Hotel
Negroni lovers should head to Manetta’s Bar at Flemings Hotel in Mayfair where Bar Manager Pasquale Ferrillo has created seven versions of this Italian classic. The bar itself is stunning, referencing the 1930s version of Flemings, where plenty of clandestine rendez-vous took place among spies, celebrities, and high-flying shady folks. 

The Fumoir at Claridge’s
A black marble horseshoe bar is the centrepiece of the Fumoir at Claridge's and is the perfect place for a nightcap or two. Drenched in 1930s art deco styling, and adorned with William Klein photographs, Lalique mirrors, and moody dark panelling, The Fumoir has sophistication and sex appeal in equal measure.

The Library Bar at The Lanesborough Hotel
Pitched on Hyde Park Corner, the Library Bar at the Connaught is an absolute gem for drinking aficionados, boasting a museum of spirits, some dating back to the French Revolution. Being a library bar, one can expect to flick through many antique literary works that adorn the walls of this plush hotel bar. 

Cream Cord Newport Jacket

Cream Cord
Newport Jacket

Cream Cord Dress Trousers

Cream Cord
Dress Trousers

Light Blue Rockwell Cotton Pleated Pintuck Dress Shirt

Light Blue Rockwell Cotton
Pleated Pintuck Dress Shirt

8 at The Londoner
Head to the eighth floor at The Londoner on Leicester Square and you’ll be greeted by an oasis of Asian charm, including a Japanese restaurant, terrace and Shima garden with a fire pit. Sleek and minimalist, but what about the cocktail menu?! Head Mixologist Pierpaolo Schirru has channelled the Asian ambiance to create a stunning menu of cocktails that lean on Japanese whiskies and sake. The Old Fashioned made with Yamazaki 12 Year Old and Hibiki Harmony is to die for. 

Donovan Bar at Brown’s Hotel 
Bar Maestro, Salvatore Calabrese has, in The Donovan Bar at Brown’s Hotel, created one of London’s most sophisticated drinking dens in the heart of Mayfair. Intimate, modern and impossibly chic (with stained glass windows depicting St George), Donovan’s is dressed with photographs of the brilliant 60s snapper Terence Donovan, hence the name. With over 40 years of experience, Calabrese’s cocktails are peerless and elaborate - you’re in for a treat.

Eton coat Dark Green Delamere Silk Velvet

Eton coat Dark Green
Delamere Silk Velvet

Eton coat Amethyst Bouverie Silk Velvet

Eton coat Amethyst
Bouverie Silk Velvet

Eton coat Royal Blue Rossetti Silk Velvet

Eton coat Royal Blue
Rossetti Silk Velvet

Speak in Code, Manchester
Situated between Jackson Row and Lloyd Street, just a stone's throw from Deansgate, Speak in Code was launched in 2018, and despite its young age has already become a favourite among Manchester’s discerning cocktail hounds. With bare-brick walls and an industrial aesthetic reminiscent of many New York bars, Speak in Code’s cocktail menu is exceptional, and one of the more creative on this list, with fantastical libations such as their Hot Buttered Rum Old Fashioned, made with fat-washed golden rum with plant-based butter, winter demerara mix and cocao bitters. Two of those, please.

Schofield’s Bar, Manchester
Run by bartending brothers Joe and Daniel Schofield, their eponymous bar was awarded both UK Bar of the Year and New Bar of the Year in 2022, and it’s not hard to see why. With a vintage interior full of sumptuous wood panelling and marble tables, Schofield’s is ensconced in the corner of Manchester’s iconic Sunlight House, an art deco masterpiece by architect Joseph Sunlight, and underlines its reputation with a brilliantly executed list of classic cocktails.

Racing Green Velvet Cotton Dinner Jacket With Black Grosgrain Silk Lapels

Racing Green Velvet Cotton
Dinner Jacket With Black
Grosgrain Silk Lapels

Navy Velvet Cotton Newport Jacket

Navy Velvet Cotton
Newport Jacket

Cardamom Velvet Cotton Newport Jacket

Cardamom Velvet
Cotton Newport Jacket

Jake’s Bar & Still Room, Leeds
Fun fact: this writer once worked with Jake Burger, owner of Leeds drinking institution of nearly two decades, Jake’s Bar, so he can personally vouch for the brilliance of this British cocktail pioneer. Situated on Call Lane, Jake’s Bar & Still Room is still Leeds’s best destination for expertly made cocktails, and they produce their own spirits in a copper still, too, so you can leave with both a skin full and a bag full of excellent booze.

The Milk Thistle, Bristol
Somerset’s not all cloudy cider and scones. The Milk Thistle (aptly named because you’ll need some the morning after) in Bristol is a prohibition-style cocktail bar with a wonderfully convivial atmosphere and quirky vintage interior that you can very easily get stuck in. Make sure to book a table well in advance for this den is extremely popular with the well-heeled Bristolians.

Bramble Bar & Lounge, Edinburgh
This unpretentious warren of a night dive is tucked away on Edinburgh’s historic streets and is a must visit if you’re ever north of the border. The vibe is bare-brick walls and deep leather sofas which are extremely difficult to climb out of after a good rendition of the excellent cocktail menu. 

Westminster Coat Dark Green Unger Silk Velvet

Westminster Coat Dark
Green Unger Silk Velvet

Westminster Coat Black Hoffman Silk Velvet

Westminster Coat Black
Hoffman Silk Velvet

Westminster Coat Fox Brown Charnwood Silk Velvet

Westminster Coat Fox Brown
Charnwood Silk Velvet

Panda & Sons, Edinburgh
Another entry for Edinburgh is Panda & Sons, but you’ll be hard-pressed to find it. With a street-level barber shop exterior on Queen Street, you need to go in and push through a secret door to reveal the prohibition-style bar. There are six ‘chapters’ (think menus) of cocktails, each one specialising in a particular genre of drinks. If you thought you were going in for a haircut, you’re leaving Panda’s half-cut.

Gungho!, Brighton
You can’t miss Gungho! on Preston Street in Brighton because the exterior is lit up bright neon green. Once inside you’ll find a truly unique cocktail experience, since the team use locally grown produce and foraged ingredients to help compose a brilliant cocktail menu of revised classics and seasonal libations.

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