The cocktails at this Brixton bar may very well be the best in the area. Or at least the geekiest, and that’s what counts. The cocktails, which are mainly named after films, include the Legoland of geranium gin, rhubarb, gooseberry and “drunken Lego man”, and the holy grail of geeky cocktails: The Empire Strikes Back, a Star Wars-themed concoction of jam jar gin, raspberry, lychee, and lavender.
2. 68 & Boston
Is it a wine bar? Is it a cocktail bar? Actually, this new addition to Greek Street is both. Down below it’s all Italian antipasti and £20-a-bottle wine (no seriously, every bottle is only £20 and it’s all bloody good vino too). Up top it’s a cosy little cocktail bar. All the drinks are lovely but it’s the punches that have a special place in my heart (punch is long overdue a comeback).
3. Artesian Bar
OK, so technically the Artesian bar has been around for a while now. But it’s also THE WORLD’S BEST BAR, so if you haven’t been here you NEED to go this year. It’s pricey, but honestly, the cocktails will blow your mind. Go with friends, order one each, and share so you can try as many as possible.
This little gem of a bar revamped itself into Three Six Six (formerly Bar 366) up in Battersea last year. Battersea is a ball-ache to get to if you’re not local, but this place is well worth the trek because 1. It’s still pretty peaceful on weeknights (MAJOR plus for me as I am an actual recluse) and 2. Their cocktail menu is seriously innovative. The Fantasy & Fetish menu features drinks garnished with ball gags and “golden showers” that all taste ~amazing~. Be sure to take an easily shocked friend for giggles.
This ultra cool distillery has been going for the last two years, so you might be familiar with their gin, vodka, or rum. The bar in the distillery however, has remained fairly under-the-radar, and this is the year you should discover it. Not only is it beautiful, with soft lighting, distressed wood, and two stunning copper stills as a backdrop, it also has a cracking cocktail menu, a bottle shop outside, and some of the cheapest high-quality gin around (£18 a bottle).
6. Peony Bar
This is a hidden bar within a hidden bar. It’s peak hidden bar. Bar-ception if you will. Peony opened last year in a little room inside Opium bar on Chinatown’s Gerrard Street. Come here for dim sum until 3am and Orient-themed cocktails in a bar that’s decorated in proper theatrical flair.
A Victorian lavatory now transformed into an underground cocktail bar. There are a few of the original tiles still exposed, but luckily you won’t find any toilet humour here, only retro music and strong cocktails – some made with spirits that come direct from a copper still behind a bar.
In 2015 the Zetter Townhouse opened its second cocktail bar, Seymour’s Parlour. Tony Conigliaro (of 69 Colebrook) is the mixology wizard behind the drinks, so you know you’re in safe hands, and the plush setting is everything you’d expect from the Zetter Group. If the original Zetter is your eccentric great aunt who gives you free range of her country house, Seymour’s is the slightly more wicked uncle. Defs worth a visit.
9. Black Dice
This terribly sexy private members bar is inspired by the hedonistic rock ‘n’ roll stars of the 1960s – meaning a bar kitted out like a rock star’s living room. Don’t worry though, the ambience is less party hard, more low key and (blissfully) quiet. Non-members should book a table pre-10:30 if you want to sneak in.
LORD but the cocktails are good here. They’re thrillingly unusual (tequila sunrises in suncream bottles and rosebud and cardamom cocktails in snowglobes) but also still taste wonderful. Check out their newest location in Farringdon and keep an eye out for another one coming soon to Brick Lane.
11. Original Sin
Happiness Forgets is an amazing bar. This is the newest bar from the guys behind it. So, go figure, it’s pretty amazing too. It’s underneath Burger Bear, so you can get some pre-cocktail burgers (always a good idea) and it’s just the definition of dark and seductive. Make sure you’re thoroughly seduced by it this year.
This is the new bar from Nightjar, and I’ve heard rumbles that it may actually surpass the original. The space is incredible for one, like entering another world, and the cocktails are inspired by far-flung adventures. If you can’t have a far-flung adventure this year, Oriole is pretty much the next best thing.
If you’re missing Mad Men, you need to make Old Tom your regular haunt. If Don Draper designed his own personal bar, it would look like this. They opened last year in Soho and serve a gorgeously rich, smoked Old Fashioned that will complete satisfy any Mad Men cravings.
14. Sovereign Loss
Newly opened on top of Brixton’s Prince of Wales, this little bar comes with a big 24hr licence, for when you want to find a spot to drink, and keep on drinking. Find the “Trade Entrance” sign round the side of the pub and buzz to get in.
15. The Gibson Bar
We all know the martini. But what about the Gibson? The Gibson is a cocktail made with gin and vermouth (strong start) garnished with a pickled onion (try not to lose your mind, it’s SO GOOD). It’s time for the Gibson to get a bit of love. So now there’s a bar dedicated to this classic cocktail, and it’s about blimmin’ time. Go now, and discover why martinis need to start looking to their laurels for best gin-based cocktail.
16. Milroy’s Bar
The beloved Milroy’s whisky shop has opened up a bar downstairs, so now you can buy a bottle of the good stuff and chase it with a solid whisky cocktail. Oh, and if you’re a picky whisky drinker, not to worry – they have over 250 varieties behind the bar.
A bar in a Spanish tapas joint, this place is perfect if you want to cut back and chill with a few glasses of excellently priced sangria. The mojitos are cracking too, and you’ll find four different kinds of G&T on the menu. Make this your new Friday night spot.
Lit with golden lighting, just sitting in this bar makes you feel expensive. It’s underneath The Arbitrager, and is the perfect counterpart to its proper British pub vibe. They only do 100 of each cocktail recipe before they move on to a new invention, so get down there ASAP. The cocktail of your dreams could be drying up while you twiddle your thumbs!
19. Mr Fogg’s Tavern
Do you know Mr Fogg*? He’s a famed adventurer don’t you know. He also has a fantastically popular gin parlour. And tragically, his beloved aunt, famed actress Getrude Fogg*, recently passed away, leaving him the sole beneficiary to her delightful estate. There was only one thing to do: Turn it into a “jovial tavern” for her thespian friends to hang out in. Go be one of Aunt Fogg’s thespian friends. It’s worth it.
*may or may not be a fictional character.