London is filled with fantastic bars and pubs – everything from upmarket wine bars with classy clientele to friendly local pubs, complete with log fires and old men in the corners. But now, as the young, hip clientele tire of the usual beers and spirits, bartenders are being put to the test and encouraged to serve up hundreds of classic and unique speciality cocktails to keep London’s bar-goers satisfied. So why not swap your cider or dry white wine for a Screaming Orgasm or a Mojito? From the exclusive to the easy-going, here are a few of London’s best cocktail bars.
Tower 42, 25 Old Broad St, London, EC2N, Tel: 020 7877 7842
For a truly unforgettable experience, head for Vertigo. Located on Level 42 of the former NatWest Tower, it offers stunning views of the London skyline, 30 varieties of champagne and a selection of light snacks. If you prefer tiger prawn salad with lemon mayonnaise and a Kir Royale to a pint and a bag of crisps, then this is the bar for you. The chic glass and steel interior and the glamorous waitresses compliment the classy cocktails and the unparalleled panoramic view of the City. An ideal place to take someone special.
Milk And Honey
Poland Street, Soho, London, W1. Tel: 07000 655 469
Sister bar of the equally secretive Milk & Honey New York, this reservations-only bar is an intimate alternative to the usual Soho bars. With classy jazz music and strict house rules, it’s not the place for those who like to drink to get drunk, but perfect for small groups of friends who fancy an elegant night out. Dark and cosy booths are the setting for excellent cocktails (and anything else you might want) from a menu designed by cocktail guru Dale DeGroff, with a members only floor providing an even more relaxed environment upstairs. They also do some delicious amuse-bouches and canap?s, including vegetable tempura with a pequillo relish and turkey and cranberry cocktail sausages! Just remember, turning up on the door simply won’t work – book in advance!
12 Old Compton Street, London, W1. Tel: 020 7437 7820
Lab is an award-winning bar inspired by 70’s kitsch while managing to remain thoroughly modern. The portholes and glass floors make it a great place for people watching as you sip house favourites like Soho Iced Tea or take time out and lounge in the basement. The drinks menu is one of the most extensive around and the Sri Thai restaurant next door provides fantastic Thai food light bites and platters to keep the clientele well fed throughout the evening.
45-47 Clerkenwell Road, London, EC1. Tel: 020 7250 4002
Match is still one of the best places to enjoy a Martini east of Soho. A mixed crowd of city folk and cocktail aficionados mingle in a relaxed split-level environment with a sunken bar. Try one of the unique cocktails mixed by Match bartenders – one of the best is the Long Mango – Finlandia mango vodka shaken with triple sec, cranberry and mango juices with a dash of passion syrup – delicious!
35 Earlham Street, Covent Garden WC2. Tel: 020 7240 2662
A stylish subterranean bar with a long spiral staircase taking you deep down to the seating area, which is divided into little linked capsules. It’s eccentric and intimate, with a busy bar filled with a young, trendy crowd. It is quite expensive, which goes with the territory, but the cocktails are excellent, especially their own Detropolitan – citrus vodka, cointreau, cassis and cranberry and lime juices.
The Elbow Room
89-91 Chapel Market, London, N1. Tel: 020 7278 3244
If you prefer a non-pretentious, down-to-earth bar, try The Elbow Room in Islington. With 11 tables, a VIP room, 5 screens and a lot of leather clad booths, it’s a great place for a chilled night out, and even better if you like a game of pool. They also love their music. Expect to hear anything from underground hip-hop acts to electro, breaks to alternative rock. The drinks menu is great, with all the classic cocktails and shooters at decent prices, and American-style bar food, including their famous burgers, fajitas, nachos, char-grilled skewers, and Jamaican jerk chicken.
BRB: Arc Bar
Torrens St, Angel, London, EC1. Tel: 020 7837 9421
Only a minute from Angel tube station is this spacious funky bar with an impressive cocktail menu, friendly bar staff and excellent food – including huge fresh stone-baked pizzas. Try the Screaming Orgasm – vodka, Baileys and Kahlua, a creamy sensation over ice – and don’t forget the 2-for-1 offer on Thursdays. Get there early and head for the comfortable couches as it can get very busy. This bar also boasts weekly music nights from a variety of DJs playing everything from soul, funk, hip-hop and r’n’b to funky, latin and classic house. A great bar for laid-back cocktail lovers.
28 Maple Street, London, W1. Tel: 020 7580 6474
Hidden away just under the BT Tower, Potion is a small but perfectly formed, three-level bar with relaxed staff and slick, modern d?cor. They have a basement bar which has some excellent Djs and private rooms available for hire, as well as outside seating and huge TV screens for when the football is on. The Potion crowd is a mixture of students (the good kind), suits and Londoner’s looking for a quieter, friendlier drinking environment. Their cocktail list combines classics with fresh new innovations and boasts some great food too. Their sweet chicken pizza, with baby spinach, pistachios and dollops of sweet chilli sauce and sour cream is the perfect start to a chilled out night.
So if you’ve ever looked around your local and wondered if there’s more to life than fruit machines, questionable beer and snarling bar staff, get out there and try one of London’s favourite cocktail bars. And remember, they’re not just for girls!