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Finding Bristol's secret cocktail bars

Written by
Luchia Bennett

Bristol's bartenders are creating sinfully good cocktails all over the city, but not in the places you'd expect. They're actually in the places you wouldn't. The city has a handful of camouflaged bars that keen cocktail enthusiasts will need to be eagle-eyed to find. If you fancy taking on this drinking quest, step back in time and visit the city's swankiest secret prohibition joints.

Red Light, 1 Unity street
Bristol is covered in graffiti. Some are works of art (thanks Banksy), others look like a five-year old has been let loose with a paintbrush. Red Light has the latter. I used to walk past its entrance without giving it a second thought until I discovered what was behind it. Inside Red Light glows the word 'sex' and it resembles a retro gentlemen's club, serving everything from the classics to more unusual concoctions. The bar sits hidden on Unity Street, with only a risqué red light and phone box to mark its existence.

Red Light

Hausbar, 52 Belgrave Road
After climbing what feels like Mount Everest (ie Whiteladies Road), you're greeted by a completely missable sign reading Hausbar. This bar's main disguise is its home underneath an Indian restaurant – I'm not sure about you, but a cocktail lounge is the last place I want to hit after a curry. So it's the perfect place for a secret Cabaret-esque bar. What Hausbar lacks in exterior it makes up for in liquor. Water is never an ingredient so beware their zombie cocktail. It got its name for a reason.

Hyde & Co, Upper Byron Place
Bristol might be a city of love, but if you're after a quiet night away from the usual Saturday crowd and 'alright, my luvver' chat-up lines, seek out Hyde & Co. This drinking den lies off the triangle at Upper Byron Place, with just a bowler hat revealing its presence. Instead of getting hit on at the bar you'll be presented with a wealth of bar-tending knowledge. After you've knocked on the door, present them with your most heart-melting smile; you'll only get in if the staff like the look of you. Owners Jason Mead and Nathan Lee also run The Ox, Milk Thistle (see below for both), Pata Negra and have a fifth bar, Bambalan, opening later in the year.

Hyde & Co

The Ox, 43 Corn Street
The cousin of both Hyde & Co and The Milk Thistle, you'll seek out The Ox with weighty expectations and it doesn’t disappoint. Rooted in the old city, below the Commercial Rooms, this hidden gem was one of 2014's best newcomers and has a reputation for serving the best steaks in the city. So not visiting really would be a missed steak. Ahem.

The Milk Thistle, Colston Avenue
A fan of The Great Gatsby? Stepping into The Milk Thistle will make you feel like Daisy Buchanan, only without Leonardo DiCaprio as your love interest. (Heartbreaking, I know.) This bar brings a certain elegance to Bristol’s old city with four floors full of taxidermy deers and 1920s furniture. With an expensive but delicious cocktail menu, it pays to be this classy.

The Milk Thistle

Check out Bristol's best pubs on Time Out Bristol.

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