Whether your palate is partial to a well made mojito or margarita - or something a little more molecular - Leeds' cocktail bars are some of the best in the land, so they should have you pretty well covered. There's variety to go with that quality too, so if you're looking for somewhere seriously swanky or somewhere just that little bit down and dirty where creative concoctions flow like wine, you should be able to find whatever you fancy. We've picked some of our favourite spots below, just in case you need a guiding hand or a little inspiration. Cheers.
In a city that boasts an abundance of excellent bars serving cocktails, it’s rather impressive that the hidden-away Mook has become synonymous with mixed beverages and a great night out for those who want to avoid the sweat and standing-room-only vibe of the clubs. The word-on-the-lips for Friday night drinks and sophisticated socialising, the bar has remained unfazed by the recent influx of more experimental cocktail bars in the same area of town. Look out for two-for-one deals, with a double dosage of the extensive menu’s generous classic mixes or clever house tipples available for a fiver.
The cocktails here prove almost as much of a draw as the very impressive views. But at around £10 a go it's not a cheap spot, even if the quality of those creative concoctions is high. Still, this is somewhere pretty much guaranteed to impress, especially if you can grab a good spot on the terrace with one of their very fine champagne cocktails - or a martini - in hand.
As the popularity of cosmos, mojitos and daiquiris endures, a new generation of bars has arisen to cater for the voracious thirst for boundary-pushing mixology and a polished experience that can almost justify spending the best part of a tenner on a drink that could easily be downed in one. In Leeds, there’s Mook, The Alchemist, Skybar and Angelica at the top of Trinity. Angelica's large range of beautifully presented beverages is served with a side order of unbeatable scenery, and as close to the VIP treatment as the average aspirational pleb can get.
Ask any Leeds resident to point out Baby Jupiter on a map and they’ll almost certainly falter. For the city’s bar that most deserves the title of best-kept secret is well-known by name but so elusive in location that only the determined or the plain lucky actually end up descending the stone steps into the psychedelic underground space. The bar runs a tempting cocktail menu of classics that are rattled together with flair and a dizzyingly strong kick of alcohol.
The two-for-one cocktail deals here certainly draw the crowds, but don't go thinking these are just some hastily whacked together drops plonked down on a sticky bar. There's love and care, and it's clear the bar staff know what they're doing. Give one of their sours a go - they're exceptional.
There are plenty of places to drink in Leeds, but very few of them are as adept as Mojo at providing unpretentious, cocktail-fuelled good times. There are no craft or local ales – but this is more than made up for by the huge variety of reasonably priced cocktails and shooters. The mango magarita is a fruity little beast but for those looking for something a little classier, the manhattan is ace.
This buzzing restaurant and club has earned itself a cult following on the Leeds dining and dancing scene. Many of its visitors head down for some seriously impressive cocktails, where classics feature alongside those given an in-house twist or two. Their dirty mojito is a corker.
It may not be Prohibition-era America, but there’s definitely something clandestine about venturing upstairs into a dimly lit bar to the sound of smooth jazz and blues. Come the weekend, some of the best DJs in town arrive to play a body-shaking mix of disco, Motown and soul. The fridges are stocked with a wide selection of ales and lagers, and the impressively informed and genial staff know a thing or two about mixology – even on a busy club night the decidedly pedestrian vodka-and-lemonade is presented with theatrical flair and a cocktail stick of raspberries.
Since it opened in 2002, Sandinista has been a late-night watering hole par excellence. The rum cocktails are a particular speciality (give the zombie a go), with tequila drops not far behind (try the smoke & mirrors), but the bar staff here certainly know their way around an optic, so feel free to ask them to create something just for you. There are cocktail masterclasses, too.
With its exposed brickwork, leather armchairs and bustling central location, Épernay Leeds may as well be in New York or Paris. In the world of Épernay, there’s a different champagne to suit all tastes, occasions and budgets – though supermarket prices certainly shouldn’t be expected. Naturally, the bar’s champagne cocktails are sublime and more than sufficiently decadent to get a party started, however there are plenty of mixes without fizz, including a wicked pornstar martini, a mean mai tai, and a chocolate twist on a white Russian, aptly named ‘the dude’.
No Mexican venue would be complete without tequila, and indeed the devilish spirit plays a major part at Neon Cactus, with a ‘tequila of the month’ and a heavy presence in many of the cocktails. There are at least a hundred different varieties to choose from, with most priced between £3 and £7 for a measure served with complimentary sangrita. Not only is the bar is one of the few in the city to stock mescal, it offers numerous brands for the adventurous to sample.
Maven’s forte is cocktails. A mirror-backed row of spirits holds infinite opportunities for mixological creativity, and expert staff are skilled enough to make you want to discover the classics all over again, while also take requests for more bespoke concoctions in their stride. Mixes are beautifully presented in a range of vessels, including a teapot if you order ‘the English garden’ or a large bowl if you plump for ‘mother’s ruin punch’. Averaging £7.50 for a signature drink and £9 for seasonal specials, Maven isn’t cheap, but is priced in line with the city’s similar high-end cocktail bars, such as Angelica and The Alchemist.
Like The Alchemist upstairs, experimentation with exotic and unusual flavours is the drink menu’s selling point, as top spirits and strong-flavoured plants are harmoniously tumbled together. Some of the mixes sound terrible on paper – such as porcini-infused syrup and tomato juice – yet somehow produce sweet music rattled together with ice in a pretty glass. The drinks range from the simple (watermelon martinis) and the intriguing (think sorrel and orange mojitos), to the wacky, such as the red pepper and porcini Manhattan.