I’ve had a few people ask me recently for suggestions of where my favourite places to drink are. I am far too fickle to have an individual favourite (as depending on which bar I am talking about it’s often my favourite!), but I thought I’d give it a go. Without further ado and in no particular order, here are my favourite cocktail bars.
I’ve squeed about this one rather a lot on this blog, so I thought I’d get it out of the way. It’s a very film noir bar with slight Italian influences. The drinks are great and the attention to detail on absolutely everything is incredible. This is also the bar that originally got me into good cocktails. Has a lot to answer for.
What to drink: Depends on where in the night you are. My favourites are the Death in Venice – a campari+champagne type do-dah and Manhattan Steal Corp. which is a Manhattan they’ve redistilled in a rotary evaporator so it’s clear.
Hey! Another drinks factory related bar? Surely not. This time themed like an Italian station bar circa 1950. You can walk in, have an espresso at the bar and leave again. You can hang around longer for a more relaxing coffee or you can have an aperativo. The star of the show drinks wise are the collection of four aged negroni’s which they serve neat, but straight from the freezer in iced glasses.
What to drink: A Negroni – All four of them are delicious. My favourites are the Rubusto (extra aged) and Superiore (with peppercorns).
I’m not sure I’ve actually mentioned Happiness Forgets on here before, but it is awesome. It has the tag line ‘Great Drinks, No Wallies’, which despite its Hoxton Square location, it manages to deliver on! (No, I have no idea how they manage to do the no wallies bit – obviously they let me in so it can’t be that effective). It’s a slightly industrial basement right on the square, which serves really good drinks and has the music low enough that you can talk. What more do you need?
What to drink: I’ve not been recently enough to know their current menu (must fix this!), but I’ve never had a bad drink there!
Of the bars in my favourites – this is the one that doesn’t get lauded globally as much. It’s in the basement of Spitalfields tourist trap The Breakfast Club. To get in you have to ask to speak to the Mayor and you get taken through a fridge door. But sometimes gimmicky is fun, and the drinks here are pretty good too.
What to drink: My favourite has always been a Rosie and Gin. Gin, Pineapple Juice, Lime Juice and Rosemary (plus a TV of my childhood reference).
Realistically it should be Nightjar, a bar which I accidentally went to two days after it’d opened and have loved ever since. Amazing theatrical drinks which taste as good as they look, paired with speakeasy basement decor and live jazz. It’s possibly the most me bar on the list… except also its little sister Oriole, which also does all of that. I’ve only actually been once, but I loved the around the world vibes and the insane collection of ~stuff~ they have. Tough call. Both are amazing though.
That’s my favourites. They aren’t all of the best bars in London, but they are my favourites. The places I go back to and the places I take people to when they’re not local or not cocktail people (and when I was single occasionally on dates). There are others two and I’m sure they’ll appear around if they’ve not already. I also get asked about where I don’t like. I am going to avoid the not very good, but there are a couple of bars that have occupied the ‘best bar in the world’ top spot on several lists that I’ve really not enjoyed.
Callooh Callay is my first example. An Owl and the Pussycat(ish) themed bar that wins awards for its drinks should be sometime I LOVE. It isn’t. It was gimmicky in the wrong way, and I’m pretty sure it’s where all the wallies who aren’t in Happiness Forgets go. The drinks were hit and miss with a lot of them being way off balance. I will accept I’ve not been for several years and it’s apparently under new management and may be worth another try. Watch this space.
The other one that really springs to mind is Artesian at the Langham. It’s a stunning room. Beautiful modern Rococo ballroom. The drinks are pretty good, very modern and are well presented (although possibly a little steep at £20 a pop). For some reason they play very dancy dance music. Each element on it’s own worked and was good at what it did. The three just do not mix well together at it just didn’t work for me.