London’s Classic Cocktail Bar Experience
The time has come.
You’re nervous. You’re checking your phone every other minute. You nip to the bathroom to check you’re looking you’re finest.
About to give an important presentation at work… or awaiting a hot first date?
London is a city abounding in culture and is a hotspot of fantastic date spots. And what better way to converse with a stranger than over a mojito or three?
We are no strangers to exploring the best cocktail bars in London. Our matchmakers have uncovered the finest socialising spaces in London, (even the best secret cocktail bars in London).
Find out what made my personal list of the best cocktail bars in London.
1) Bar Américain, Soho
This moodily lit basement bar is pretty new on the scene but already has all the makings of a true cocktailing institution. Bar Americain is located in the heart of London and brings with it a bustling sense of Parisian culture. The walls adopt a glorious, historic Art Deco style which is perfectly complemented by The Crazy Coqs – a live music and cabaret venue and ZL Cafe.
Dynamic, fast-paced and infused with live jazz, the place runs like clockwork – a brisk but courteous introduction to the cocktail scene for the unacquainted.
Best Feature – the French and European cuisine is delightful. If you’re looking for something to complement your cosmopolitan, look no further than their A La Carte menu (I recommend the ‘Stone Bass’, Epinards, Sauce Beurre. The menu also caters to vegetarians and vegans.
Best Cocktail? – the Zedel Sour – based on Old Tom Gin, the Zedel sour is a stunning blend of refreshingly sweet flavours with a smokey orange bitters kick, an instant classic.
2) Tea Room at Bun House, Soho
Doesn’t having a hidden door just make a place 100% more interesting? This underground bar, modelled with love on the mid-century drinking dens of Hong Kong, is open till 3 and feels genuinely authentic. Cantonese-inspired bar snacks abound and the cocktail list is authentically Oriental. The Bun House, however unintentional, definitely captures a speak-easy vibe, with it’s glowing neons and burlesque red drapes. The menu adopts a tick box system, making the selection process simple and swift. You can also immerse yourself in the Jazz and blues music that subtly floats through the tea room.
Onto the cocktails…
The tea room cocktails are separated into four six categories: Fruit-Forward, Earthy and Spice, Herbaceous, Floral, Virgin Cocktails and Classics. All are made to an exceptionally high-standard and with little wait time. Bun House is not your average cocktail bar in London, it’s daring and unashamedly simple, something that more cocktail bars should take head of.
Best Feature – the food presentation is authentically Japanese and the food is light enough to enjoy any cocktail afterwards. Bun House is certainly one of a kind in London.
Best Cocktail? – if you’re looking for something out of the norm, go with the Devilwood Flower & Aged Tangerine, one of the best floral cocktails I’ve experienced in London.
3) Swift, Soho
Swift is located on Old Compton Street, which has long been one of Soho’s naughtiest thoroughfares, and brings you two world-class cocktail bars for the price of one. The upstairs is sleek and charming, great for pre-theatre/after-work round of oysters and martinis. Downstairs offers a cosy, speakeasy-style basement.
The cocktails are superb, following a predominantly whisky-based theme. However, there are plenty of other options and I’d encourage you to explore all of them (maybe not all in the same evening). What really stood out for me, is that they even had made cocktails specifically for International Women’s Day, a fantastic touch, the Coral in particular was a stand-out choice.
Best Feature – the variety of cocktails is simply astounding. There’s no slap and dash here, the cocktails are truly a work of art.
Best Cocktail? – the New Amsterdam, Rhitten house rye combined with Martini Ambrato, gentian vermouth and Old Duff genever.
4) Upstairs at Rules, Covent Garden
First opening its doors in 1798, Rules confidently lays claim to being London’s oldest restaurant.
Its décor is suitably ostentatious, with panelled dining rooms filled with well-heeled tourists busying themselves with game pie. Lesser known, though, is, the delightfully old-school bar upstairs, which prides itself on its, well, rules:
‘No homemade infusions.
No assortments of muddled berries.
No ‘cocktail speak’.
Rules dare to be daring, and it’s only polite that you follow suit.
Cocktails are immaculately presented, and mirrored is the decor; elegant and relaxed surroundings matched with plush red decor. The bar team is headed by the legendary Brian Silva, who works to created utterly beautiful and balanced cocktails. If you’re looking for London’s best dry martini, this ranks highly.
Best Feature – the decor in the Winter Garden is exquisite and provides the perfect atmosphere to relax and unwind with some of the best cocktails in London.
Best Cocktail? – the Lucky Lady, something that Edward VII’s mistress Lillie Langtry would have certainly indulged. Gin-based matched with Cremant Champagne Nectar, Maraschino Cointreau and citrus.
5) Connaught Bar, Mayfair
Flaunt your classiness. Walking into the black art deco interior of the Connaught Bar is like entering a shimmering realm that is altogether more elegant, more graceful, than the hubbub of the city outside. The unsurpassed Connaught Martinis are served from a trolley (of course) with bespoke bitters and that quintessential Italian charm.
The Connaught expertly manages to create an inviting atmosphere from day to night, welcoming casual after work drinks socials as well as romantic date nights. The cocktails, known as ‘masterpieces’ on the menu, do live up to their title. The bar serves six masterpiece cocktails, from classic martini-inspired cocktails (the Connaught Martini) to more exotic infusions (the Mulata Daisy).
Best Feature – the ambience created at the Connaught is sophisticated but caters to both casual diners and date night experiences.
Best Cocktail? – the Mulata Daisy is a fantastically exotic concoction, based on Bacardi Heritage rum (44%) this award-winning cocktail certainly lives up to its title.
6) The American Bar, The Strand
The American Bar in London’s iconic Savoy hotel has been consistently rated one of the finest of its kind in the world. Often considered London’s first cocktail bar, it was founded in 1889 and for generations has been a melting pot of actors, debutantes, composers, playwrights and even royalty. Show your date you mean business.
Their award-winning bar staff are responsible for creating the world-renowned ‘Savoy Songbook’, a collection of twenty bespoke cocktails created with the bar’s most iconic songs in mind. Each cocktail has an intriguing description what songs inspired their creation and how the ingredients match the lyrics and tone of the music.
Best Feature – the creativity of the cocktail menu is utter genius, I’ve not seen a cocktail bar infuse this much effort into designing a menu, let alone the cocktails themselves.
Best Cocktail? – depends on your music choice! Sun Sun Sun offers a fantastic blend of gin, Creme de Menthe and orange blossom – taking inspiration from George Harrison’s ‘Here Comes the Sun’.
7) Every Cloud, Shoreditch
Every Cloud is a bar for bartenders. The inventiveness of the menu is in the same league as The American Bar. The menu is the real deal, and the lighting is low. This is not one for the faint of heart. And as for their iconic Nuclear Banana Jungle Bird, a collision of two Tiki classics… well, you’ve really just got to be there to understand it. If you’re looking for a fun cocktail bar in London, this is it.
Their cocktail menu is separated between Boozy, Refreshing, Complex, Fruit and Veg, Low and No, Creamy and Rotating. Their eclectic menu means there’s something here for everyone, you might even find it hard to choose a category, let alone a cocktail…
Best Feature – the setting caters for both casual after work drinks and boutique dining experiences.
Best Cocktail? – there are too many to choose from, I’d personally recommend the Little Hook, especially if you’ve had a hard day at work. Infused with Rittenhouse 100 and Cynar and Amaro Molino, this is a serious little motif and feels very satisfying when held in your hand.
8) The Zetter Townhouse Cocktail Lounge, Clerkenwell
If you’ve ever wanted to go on a date in an eccentric grandmother’s drawing room, this is the place for you. Although the furniture may look late Victorian, there’s nothing dusty about the drinks. Tinctures, bitters and herbal infusions surround you, all packed with ingenious trickery for your taste buds.
The Zetter Townhouse is unashamed of its dated decor and house-like layout. There’s something quite charming about Zetter, and definitely invites intrigue. A wildcard for those looking to stray from the beaten track.
Best Feature – it has to be the aged 1920s setting, it truly feels as though you’re sitting in an eccentric Grandmother’s residence.
Best Cocktail? – it’d be rude to not dabble in an old fashioned at The Zetter Townhouse; the Carob Old Fashioned perfectly compliments this charming, authentic setting.
9) Seven, Brixton
Brixton Market has rejuvenated its reputation as being London’s number one food destination in recent times, and now its drinking spots are catching up. Seven is loud, brash and totally barmy, with Spanish-style tapas and a wide array of sherries. This is an energetic space, ideal for after work cocktails.
Best Feature – it’s the perfect place for a catch-up with friends or even a lively first date (if you’re daring enough).
Best Cocktail? – their mojito is surprisingly tasty. Simple but too often do cocktail bars try to reinvent the wheel, Seven know how to keep it classy and to the point.
10) Happiness Forgets, Shoreditch
The name is as enigmatic as the place, a posh establishment masquerading as a dive bar, masquerading as a… well, it’s hard to say. But with a slogan like ‘Great cocktails, no wallies’ and flexible bartenders (metaphorically speaking) who can be called upon to base a drink upon your favourite spirit or flavor, your cocktail will be the best of its kind, every time. Happiness Forgets is a very cool, speakeasy establishment that offers some pretty fancy cocktails and impeccable waiting service.
Best Feature – drinks in London don’t come cooler than in this speakeasy bar, and the staff offer fantastic service, you’ll have a great time here.
Best Cocktail? – there’s no cocktail menu online, and I’d encourage you to dive in and explore the menu first-hand.
Take a Date to One (or more) of these Cocktail bars in Central London
Whether you’re on a first date or you’re several dates in, you will never be short of drinking destinations in London. Here at Maclynn (formerly Vida), not only do we help people find love but also help them get the ball rolling with our unrivalled knowledge on nice bars in London and the city’s finest date spots. And really, how better to get to know your new potential love interest than over a Nuclear Banana Jungle Bird?
Get in touch with Maclynn (formerly Vida) today to learn more about how we can help you find that special someone to share these experiences with.