Craft cocktail bars in London
October 31, 2019 9:01 AM   Subscribe

Hi! Early 40s couple headed to London for four days in early December, and we are huge cocktail devotees. In fact, that's the key impetus for this trip! So which craft cocktail bars should we visit? (We'll have three nights in town.) Thanks for your suggestions!
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell to Food & Drink (16 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
I'm sure cooler people than I (i.e. pretty much anyone) will wade in soon, but I like:

- Cocktail Trading Company, Shoreditch
- Mr Fogg's House of Botanicals, Fitzrovia (I like this one better than the other Mr Foggs)

And have heard good things about/intend to visit soon
- Calooh Callay, Shoreditch
- Happiness Forgets, Shoreditch
posted by unicorn chaser at 9:12 AM on October 31, 2019

Bit spendy and it might not hit the bill for craft but Sushisamba cocktails with a view is well worth 2 trips to Calooh Callay in my opinion! Our whole party went wild over the cocktails at The long bar as well, though likewise not sure it hits the craft button!
posted by london explorer girl at 9:30 AM on October 31, 2019 [1 favorite]

I think you have to make reservations to get in and the place is tiny, but I thought the cocktails at Bar Termini in Soho were amazing.

I haven't been there, but if cost is no issue and you want a classic, historical cocktail bar, I don't think you could do better than the American Bar at the Savoy Hotel.
posted by shornco at 9:54 AM on October 31, 2019 [1 favorite]

Nightjar, also in Shoreditch, is quite good.
posted by voiceofreason at 10:08 AM on October 31, 2019

We enjoyed ours at the Savoy ($$$$), and also went to Milk and Honey in Soho as non-members and the drinks were amazing. (Reservation required, usually better luck if it's earlier in the week).
posted by castlebravo at 10:38 AM on October 31, 2019

German Gymnasium, some of the best cocktails I've ever had.
posted by Lutoslawski at 11:08 AM on October 31, 2019

Seconding the Savoy and adding Lyaness on the South Bank. Great crafty cocktails and fab views when we visited. Was there a couple years ago but we were able to go without a reservation but might be nice to book ahead.
posted by stillmoving at 11:57 AM on October 31, 2019

Perhaps the other Mr. Fogg's are wildly different, so please don't take this as anything else than a singular experience, but I and a cocktail-loving colleague went to the "Society of Exploration" version in Covent Garden and were massively disappointed. We had 4 different cocktails and I was looking around for the hidden cameras because they looked and tasted like parodies of cocktails.

Here's a shortlist of what we *did* enjoy:

Upstairs at the Rules (Covent Garden): You go here for the old school ambience of being transported back in time *and* to have a great cocktail. Their selection aims for quality not quantity with only a dozen drinks on the menu. If you want to get all dolled up and roleplay, this is the place.

Also in Covent Garden, we really enjoyed upstairs at the Blind Pig, a so-called "speakeasy" that's kind of not because it's fairly easy to find. The drink menu is bonkers, however my recommendation is to order off menu: sit at the bar- not a table, tell the bartender what you like, and let him play.

You've got a good lead: Happiness Forgets is amazing, and style-wise is the opposite of my previous recs, it's totally casual and almost grungy? There's also another casual bar relatively nearby that might even be better called Satan's Whiskers, they play funky music at a respectful level and their namesake cocktail is crazy good.

Last but not least the Black Rock London (9 Christopher Street, Shoreditch) I don't even know how to explain this place. Just go. Actually, if you want a once-in-a-lifetime experience and can trust me, don't do any research and avoid spoilers. Just show up, reservations are not required and there's no dress code. Seriously, trust me.
posted by jeremias at 1:15 PM on October 31, 2019

Seconding Rules, Savoy and Lyaness as good 'standards', and in the same building as Lyaness, 12th Knot for the river view

For more speakeasy vibes, in central, definitely Milk and Honey and Experimental cocktail club, and out east Behind this wall and Coupette
posted by Skaramoosh at 1:47 PM on October 31, 2019

As an American who is used to more Los Angeles style cocktail bars, I found that my wife and I suffered some "uncanny valley" effects in London. Everything was 98% of what we would expect, but that last 2% made things real weird. The Alchemist in Covent Garden was the best example of this.

However, the best place we went to by far was Discount Suit Supply in Shoreditch. It's in the basement of an actual discount suit supply, and there isn't a sign. Drinks are super great, but it's pretty small so I would try to get their early.

Some friends swear by landing at Heathrow and just immediately getting to the bar at the back of one the Thames water taxis. The mixture of being drunk, super jet lagged, and on the water just really works for them.
posted by sideshow at 5:21 PM on October 31, 2019

N-thing all the suggestions in Shoreditch - Happiness Forgets, Nightjar, Calooh Callay. The Ace hotel or The Hoxton are also nice in a trendy hotel sort of way. The others are more moody with nice ambience.

They are all relatively near each other and Shoreditch has a lively culture and nightlife.

I highly recommend looking up a walking tour of the street art to expand your experience of the area. It’ll be a nice start to a night of cocktail hopping.
posted by like_neon at 3:37 AM on November 1, 2019

More centrally I would recommend Hix in Soho. Also second The Experimental Cocktail club but based on the last time I went we had to make reservations so check that. But is right in Chinatown and near a ton of theatres so you can maybe incorporate a show?

And I will probably get slammed for this because it’s super cheesy but I really like the downstairs bar at Brasserie Zedel. I fully expect follow Londoners to shame my recommendation as it will feel like a tourist trap but every time I’ve stumbled in there with friends on a late night I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my cocktails and the atmosphere. Disclaimer though, I haven’t been in there since before I was pregnant so like almost 2 years ago. Not craft cocktails though, but my negronis and martinis were excellent, which is not always possible!

Also nearby that area is the Ham Yard Hotel. I just went last week and the staff were lovely and it’s a beautiful hotel bar and quite lively.
posted by like_neon at 3:46 AM on November 1, 2019

Thirding the American Bar at the Savoy; glorious art deco interior and a pianist that takes requests

I quite like the lobby bar at the One Aldwych Hotel, it's a lovely open space and has some very nice cocktails.

Opposite end of the scale completely; Freud Bar, Shaftsbury Avenue. Minimalist concrete basement, everything comes in pint glasses, great atmosphere. Probably won't tick the craft box though.
posted by Faff at 6:25 AM on November 1, 2019

Response by poster: Everything was 98% of what we would expect, but that last 2% made things real weird. The Alchemist in Covent Garden was the best example of this.

Hah! Can you elaborate on this?
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell at 7:51 AM on November 1, 2019

One Aldwych is good.

My memory is that the Booking Office in St. Pancras station was good, but I haven't been there in a decade now.
posted by rum-soaked space hobo at 8:39 AM on November 1, 2019

Swan's Bar at Maison Assouline on Piccadilly. It's in a bookstore/gallery space with lots of daft rich people nonsense to look at in a gorgeous old building.

Bar Américain at Brasserie Zédel

Sketch is bonkers, totally designed for the 'gram but fun with it.
posted by Gin and Broadband at 4:29 AM on November 2, 2019

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