With 100s of places to choose from knowing which cocktail bar will suit your evening, style and taste buds can be a challenge in London. No one likes arriving at a bar over or underdressed, shouting over loud music when you wanted a good catch up, or whispering quietly when you’re ready to party. So London Cocktail Week presents the perfect opportunity to explore the city, try all the finest bars and sample tasty cocktails for the price of a £10 wristband and £4 cocktails. Sure, you could use just enjoy plenty of cocktails at your favourite bars without forking out for full priced cocktails, but after last year Lucinda and I realised it had great potential for checking out as many places as we could fit into one evening which may otherwise take a whole year and a lot of money to discover.
This year we decided to dedicate five evenings to finding the best cocktail bars the city had to over. Taking it easy at the beginning of the week, adding more and more as we made our way to the weekend, you can imagine we managed quite a few cocktails! There are still loads we just couldn’t fit in but I thought I’d share our winning finds.
Best for alfresco drinking – The Print Room – The Punch and Judy is probably Covent Garden’s most well known pub as it overlooks the Piazza, but if you want to avoid the tourist crowds this bar is worth checking out. We discovered a nice little balcony overlooking the buzz of the shops, bars and restaurants below. The cocktails were pretty tasty too!
Best for a stunning historic setting – The Gilbert Scott – The St Pancras Renaissance Hotel is one of the most beautiful buildings in London. If like me staying there (and then being whisked off to Paris) is a bit of a dream come true, indulge in your day dreams whilst sipping on a tasty cocktail in The Gilbert Scott. Decadent, delicious and worth the treat.
Best for pretty presentation – Christopher’s Martini Bar – The next best thing to a beautiful bar is a pretty cocktail. Whilst Christopher’s wasn’t overly elaborate, a martini glass with a simple star fruit garnish does look rather sophisticated.
Best for strong spirits – Hawksmoor Spitalfields – I’ve heard a lot of great things about Hawksmoor, both for their impressive meat menu and well-chosen cocktails. We propped ourselves at the bar last Thursday lunchtime and got a real spirited kick from their cocktail. Maybe mostly safely enjoyed at dinnertime.
Best for train station cocktails – GNH Bar – Great cocktails and train stations is probably not a combination you thought could be possible but this newly opened bar at Kings Cross pulls it off nicely. Grand chandeliers and a tasty cocktail menu make travelling out of the station oh so much more appealing (and puts the souless Euston station to shame!).
Best for speakeasy sophistication – Purl – A Marylebone favourite where you can duck below street level and transport yourself into a time gone by whilst enjoying some pretty experimental cocktails. After our last visit I couldn’t resist going back during London Cocktail Week and I’m SO excited about the Balham pop up arriving in November!
Best for Bourbon and burgers – Beard to Tail – A bar/ restaurant I’d been keen to check out for a while, I’m glad to say I wasn’t disappointed with what we found! In fact, pulled pork sliders, chips and a Bourbon-based cocktail is a brilliant combination I can assure you. I’ll definitely be back for more on their menus!
Best for DIY martini making – Reverend JW Simpson – A special treat for London Cocktail Week, Rev JW let us mix our own martinis from the comfort of our table. We had a great time playing with the saffron orange syrup, honey spritz and pretty garnishes. But if you want to know what you can usually expect, I wrote about my visit here.
Best cocktail – Lockhart – As primarily a restaurant this may be a surprising choice, but out of the bars we tried during London Cocktail Week we agreed this was our favourite cocktail. It may be a slightly biased choice as Southern Comfort is one of our favourite spirits (there have been a lot of fun nights and memories fuelled by it and we’ve never enjoyed it in a cocktail before). I failed to take down all the details but it definitely had marmalade and fresh apple juice in the mix.
Best cocktail bar – Nola – You know you’re in a good place when you decide to order another cocktail off the menu. Whilst we went to some great cocktail bars over the week, what I loved about this place was that it was relaxed, had great live music, friendly staff and a tasty cocktail menu. I couldn’t resist ordering this ‘Hurricane’ whilst we enjoyed the music. (It would be a pretty great date place too.)
Sadly when there’s winners, there’s often losers. I did feel disappointed that Freud stopped offering their LCW cocktail after 6pm and the Mayor of Scaredy Cat Town had a strange policy that prioritised diners above drinkers meaning you may or may not get into a bar within an hour. (Have you been to either and would you recommend going at perhaps a less busy period for the cocktail industry?)
Whilst I’m sad to see the end of exploring London’s finest cocktail bars, enjoying drinks that don’t break the bank, we discovered some great places I’ll definitely be going back to and recommending to friends.
If you want to read about last year’s favourite finds, the post is here. Next year’s event is set to take place 6 to 12 October, get the date in the diary!
Did you get involved in London Cocktail Week? Have you found any winning cocktail bars recently?