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coral room
Photograph The Coral Room

The best bars in London

Find the very best bars in Time Out’s ultimate guide to drinking in London now bars are back open – from wine and cocktails to craft beer and beyond.

By Laura Richards
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July 2020: Wow, things got weird for a bit there, didn’t they? But now London’s bars are back open, so we can at least pretend that life hasn’t altered beyond recognition. Nothing says normal like a crisp pint shared with pals. Bars will be different for a while – expect staff in PPE, to pre-book a table or give your name and contact details on arrival, and to maybe even have your temperature checked on the door. But if you’re ready to get back out there for a round, then these are the best bars in London that are fully prepared for socially distanced drinking. And we’ll keep you updated as soon as more of our favourites open up again.     

Welcome to the Time Out DRINK List, our handpicked ‘best of’ London’s drinking scene. These are the most buzzing bars in this city right now: the most inventive and most memorable watering holes, all ranked by expert local editors. We scour the city every night of the week in search of amazing drinks, great value and insider info (from disco loos to an unmissable rum-punch happy hour), visiting incognito and footing the bill. That’s how you know that if it’s on this list, it’s awesome.

Quality drinks are essential, that’s a given – from wine to spirits to craft beer. But we’re looking for the fun factor wherever we drink, whether that be a quirky theme, Instagrammable tipples or service that instantly puts a smile on your face. And we’re all about value for money at every price point – from splash-out cocktail bars to down-and-dirty dives. Ultimately, these are the places we would recommend to a friend; the best in class for boozing. Time to order in a round you won’t forget in a hurry.

Drank somewhere on this list and loved it? Share it with the hashtag #TimeOutDrinkList. You can also find out more about how Time Out makes recommendations and reviews bars here.

The best bars in London, ranked

grilled cheese sandwiches london, sager and wilde
grilled cheese sandwiches london, sager and wilde
Rob Greig

1. Sager + Wilde Hackney Road

Bars and pubs Wine bars Hackney Road

What’s the vibe? The wine bar you’ve been waiting for, this Hackney Road haven is a pit stop for professional people who may lack a professional appreciation of wine. All plonks here are served at a reasonable price by the bottle or glass.

When to visit: In the winter months. Small and dark, this is the perfect place to hunker down on a cold and wild evening. Although drinking at tables on the pavement outside suits punters in the current climate very nicely indeed.

What to drink: Though beers are available, it really has to be wine. You won’t regret any choice.

Between the Sheets
Between the Sheets
@ Scott Chasserot

2. Three Sheets

Bars and pubs Cocktail bars Dalston

What’s the vibe? Elegant, modern and minimal Kingsland Road bar filled with friends and pouring light, bright cocktails.

When to visit: For an intimate catch-up over cocktails. Bring your discerning pals along.

What to drink: Pick any of the striking cocktails – from low- and no-alcohol numbers to genius reimagining of the classics – like the French 75 and the Cosmo.

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100 best bars and pubs in london, swift
100 best bars and pubs in london, swift
Addie Chinn

3. Swift

Bars and pubs Cocktail bars Soho

What’s the vibe? A Soho bar with a split personality spread across two floors – aperitivos upstairs, nightcaps and whisky in the moody downstairs lounge – but all drinks are flawless at Swift. No surprise, really: its owners have worked across London’s best bars. In summer, it’s splling out on to Soho’s pedestrianised streets. And it has a spin-off bar launching in Shoreditch

When to visit: A date night where it could go either way.

What to drink: The prosecco-based sgroppino contains lemon sorbet. Dreamy.

4. Trailer Happiness

Bars and pubs Cocktail bars Portobello Road

What’s the vibe? Delve beneath a layer of kitsch to discover a trippy tiki bar that’s casual, sunny and funny – and rammed at weekends.

When to visit: Weekdays are chill-days, but this is Notting Hill and a party is never far away.

What to drink: Dia de Muertos (mezcal, blood orange cordial, pineapple and citrus). Or a rum-filled takeaway cocktail, if you’re not quite ready for drinking in.

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5. Fam

Bars and pubs Cocktail bars Marylebone

What's the vibe? Central London cocktail hotspot with a surprisingly neighbourhoody feel. 

When to visit: When you’re keen to get away from the Oxford Street masses. Stop by any night of the week and its sure to be filled with the bar’s friends (aka fam) dropping by to say hello. 

What to drink: The Fam Margarita is one of the best Margs going in the capital. 

The 100 best bars and pubs in London - Crate, Hackney Wick
The 100 best bars and pubs in London - Crate, Hackney Wick
Olivia Rutherford

6. Crate Brewery

Bars and pubs Breweries Hackney Wick

What’s the vibe? Great pizza, great beer, great outdoor space; Crate is the ultimate brewery bar and the centre point of Hackney Wick’s social scene. It probably doesn’t hurt that it’s placed right by the canal, either.

When to visit: On a sunny evening, the lure of Crate is hard to resist. Failing that, make it a lingering weekend session after a brisk walk by the canal. Either way, this place is primed for socially distanced beers. 

What to drink: The irresistibly malty and light Crate Best is a treat any day of the week.

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The 100 best bars and pubs in London - Satan's Whiskers, Bethnal Green
The 100 best bars and pubs in London - Satan's Whiskers, Bethnal Green
Kris Piotrowski

7. Satan's Whiskers

Bars and pubs Cocktail bars Bethnal Green

What’s the vibe? Upmarket mixed drinks in a down-to-earth and devilishly cool location, where you’ll find some of the best cocktails on Bethnal Green’s burgeoning booze scene (in among the taxidermy).

When to visit: Thursday night: the weekend starts early here.

What to drink: Satan’s Americano (Campari, sweet vermouth, grapefruit soda).

100 best bars and pubs in london, little nan's bar
100 best bars and pubs in london, little nan's bar
© Rah Petherbridge

8. Little Nan’s Bar

Bars and pubs Cocktail bars Deptford

What’s the vibe? Off the wall. Imagine your nan’s front room and times it by ten. And throw in some Princess Di and Pat Butcher memorabilia. You’re part-way there to the weirdest trip of a bar in south London.

When to visit: Evenings when it cranks up the Abba tunes, or afternoon tea with your ma. Sunny days are best right now, as the indoor space remains closed and outdoors has been turned into a Deptford drinking terrace. 

What to drink: Cocktails named after ‘EastEnders’ characters, of course.

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100 best bars and pubs in london, bar termini
100 best bars and pubs in london, bar termini
Jael Marschner

9. Bar Termini

Bars and pubs Cocktail bars Soho

What’s the vibe? It’s the dolce vita at Bar Termini, with Continental-style service and Italian aperitifs (and espressos). Lively and always busy, but quiet because of its size, the minute setting offers the rare luxury of peace and quiet in central London.

When to visit: Early evenings are perfect for a cocktail before dinner in Soho.

What to drink: Marsala Martini (gin, sweet marsala, dry vermouth and almond bitters)
.

supermax
supermax
John Sturrock

10. Supermax

Bars and pubs Cocktail bars King’s Cross

What’s the vibe? A home for Italo disco and vermouth-laced cocktails in the basement of a King’s Cross pizza joint. It’s brought to you by audiophile haven Spiritland, so expect some slick sounds with your sipping.

When to visit: Happy hour runs from 5.30pm until 7pm, when you’ll get a plate of cicchetti and a cocktail for £6. Then get grooving under the mechanical mirror ball.

What to drink: An Amer Citron is a citrussy two-tone wonder that looks ready for the party.

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100 best bars and pubs in london, black rock
100 best bars and pubs in london, black rock
Addie Chinn

11. Black Rock

Bars and pubs Cocktail bars Moorgate

What’s the vibe? Broodingly dark bar shining a light on whisky, Black Rock takes any fustiness out of the spirit. Sample from bottles in cabinets or from a tree, cut lengthways, running across the room and filled with two ‘whisky river’ house blends.

When to visit: For serious, considered whisky drinking given a fun edge.

What to drink: Whisky, obvs. From the tree or bottle, or served in cocktails and high balls.

100 best bars and pubs in london, howling hops
100 best bars and pubs in london, howling hops
© Kim Lightbody

12. Howling Hops

Bars and pubs Hackney Wick

What’s the vibe? It’s warehouse meets beer-hall in here, with rows of long tables for group drinkers and upturned barrels for smaller parties. What all visitors have in common is an urge to sip beer fresh from the tank – these stand in glistening rows behind the bar.

When to visit: On a weekend afternoon, when you can put some serious time aside to test the brewery’s full output.

What to drink: There are ten from the tank to try, but start with American Pale XX, whose hoppy notes explode when sampled straight from the source.

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diogenes the dog
diogenes the dog
Andy Parsons

13. Diogenes the Dog

Bars and pubs Wine bars Walworth

What’s the vibe? Walworth wine bar named after the Greek philosopher. During lockdown it became a reliable deli for locals. Now, it keeps that guise by day, but flips to a bar by night.

When to visit: Hit up this bar when London makes your lonely – staff give the warmest of welcomes.

What to drink: Let the friendly team guide you. Staff are mostly trained sommeliers and the list is a blinder filled with weird and wonderful wine.

forza wine
forza wine
Photograph: Sam Harris

14. Forza Wine

Bars and pubs Wine bars Peckham

What’s the vibe? A rooftop bar in Peckham to rival Frank’s – Forza Wine has a snug indoor set-up, an expansive drinking terrace and an Italian drinks list. Not to mention the great views.

When to visit: It’s a rooftop bar that works year-round. Come when you’re hungry; the bar snacks are exceptional.

What to drink: Wine is the bar’s strong suit, so choose something low-intervention and robust.

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15. Coupette

Bars and pubs Cocktail bars Bethnal Green

What’s the vibe? Chic Bethnal Green calvados and cocktail bar serving French-tinged tipples to an in-the-know crowd.

When to visit: When a pint after work just isn’t going to cut it, an apple brandy should do the trick instead.

What to drink: The Champagne Piña Colada. Filled with coconut sorbet, it’s the stuff dreams are made of and has fast become east London’s most popular drink.

16. Four Quarters South

Bars and pubs Sports bars Peckham

What’s the vibe? There’s not much to the decor, since Four Quarters says it all with retro arcade games available to play at 25p a pop. Swap pals for Pac-Man with a drink in hand – this is London’s nostalgia craze at its best.

When to visit: When a Scrabble session or a night of karaoke won’t cut it in the entertainment stakes, sign up for one of the regular Mario Kart tournaments.

What to drink: Cocktails and craft beers. But remember to focus your energy on beating your Street Fighter score.

Venue says Reopen for bookings from July 9th, with table service and very limited capacity. Booking strongly advised!

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coral room
coral room
Photograph The Coral Room

17. The Coral Room

Bars and pubs Cocktail bars Bloomsbury

What’s the vibe? Luxe hotel bar that’s so polished in pink, it’s almost as sparkling as what’s in your glass. Perfect for its glossy clientele.

When to visit: This is a destination for a pick-me-up tipple, a catch-up with the gang or a business meeting when you’re out to impress.

What to drink: The bar boasts one of the largest menus of English sparkling wine in town. Order up a glass of something (relatively) local and fizzy.

hackney church brew co
hackney church brew co
Photograph: Hackney Church Brew Co

18. Hackney Church Brew Co

Bars and pubs Breweries Hackney

What’s the vibe? A beer bar owned by the brewery that occupies a neighbouring railway arch in Hackney’s aptly named Bohemia Place.

When to visit: When spring and summer are in the air – a big beer garden is accommodating and the beers can be easily classified as ‘sessionable’.

What to drink: Its own IPA is lightly sweet and fruity.

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the best bars in hackney, original sin
the best bars in hackney, original sin
© Addie Chinn

19. Original Sin

Bars and pubs Cocktail bars Stoke Newington


What’s the vibe? With its impeccably pleasant staff and classy drinks, Original Sin kicked off the Stoke Newington cocktail revolution. The narrow room holds booths for groups (of six!) to nestle into or a pool table for a tipsy match
. Cocktails should always be this fun.

When to visit: Low lights mean this bar is primed for a nightcap.

What to drink: Red Hook (rye, maraschino and Punt e Mes).


20. Homeboy

Bars and pubs Cocktail bars Islington

What’s the vibe? Irish-run Homeboy honours the homeland without any of the shamrocks, fiddles and cliches.

When to visit: It’s lively on the weekends, so go seek out the craic.

What to drink: While Guinness is popular, cocktails are the business. The Irish Coffee is unmissable, but a Wogan is just as easy to quaff. 

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21. Tabac

Bars and pubs Cocktail bars Kentish Town

What’s the vibe? A super-chic cocktail and wine spot in an old tobacconist’s and with more than a touch of the French about it.

When to visit: When you’re in the mood for romance.

What to drink: The Lemon Garden is a fresh and aromatic twist on a Gin Martini. Or go all-out Parisian with a glass of wine from the bar’s own enomatic machine.

Venue says Electric energy, endless wine, unrecognisable cocktails and happy hour every day, 5-6pm. The place to be tonight. Where are you?

quirky bars and pubs in london, ladies & gentlemen
quirky bars and pubs in london, ladies & gentlemen
Kim Lightbody

22. Ladies & Gentlemen

Bars and pubs Cocktail bars Kentish Town

What’s the vibe? If you’re heading for a night on the cocktails you’re probably prepared to spend a penny. Well, this Kentish Town cocktail magnet has something for every taste, and is all set in a disused public loo.

When to visit: When you want to flush away the cares of the day.

What to drink: Rhubarb and Custard (gin, Bird’s custard, rhubarb syrup, lemon).

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23. Cocktail Trading Company

Bars and pubs Cocktail bars Shoreditch

What’s the vibe? Small, secretive and playful but always serious about the cocktails. Look beyond the pink umbrella in your drink for full-on flavour and watch the barmen at work for a masterclass in mixing.

When to visit: When you’re up for a chat with your local barman – they’re a friendly bunch at CTC.

What to drink: The menu changes regularly, but all cocktails have wacky decorations that won’t disappoint.

100 best bars and pubs in london, craft tooting
100 best bars and pubs in london, craft tooting
Andy Parsons

24. Craft Tooting

Bars and pubs Craft beer pubs Tooting

What’s the vibe? In the midst of Tooting Market sits this teensy bottle shop and bar where craft beer rules. It’s rustic for sure, with plywood tables and orange steel barstools, but boardgames and cheerful staff offer comfort.

When to visit: On warmer evenings when you don’t mind the chill of the semi-outdoors.

What to drink: Ask for something weird and see what happens.

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The 100 best bars and pubs in London - Happiness Forgets, Hoxton
The 100 best bars and pubs in London - Happiness Forgets, Hoxton
Rob Greig

25. Happiness Forgets

Bars and pubs Cocktail bars Hoxton

What’s the vibe? Incredible cocktails, and, in our experience, dazzlingly wonderful service. Join laughing locals quaffing classy cocktails
 in a Shoreditch bar that’s stood the test of time. As the website says, ‘great cocktails, no wallies’.

When to visit: On a late East End night out that demands something a bit classy.

What to drink: Tokyo Collins (gin, yuzu saké, lemon, grapefruit, sugar, soda)

.

Discover even more top bars in London

Fitz's bar, the best cocktail bars in London
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The 50 best cocktail bars in London

Bars and pubs

So many cocktails, so little time. So just stick to the best cocktail bars in London by using our ranked list below. You'll find everything from dark and dirty speakeasy joints and secret bars to bold and brash party spots meant for a night out on the tiles. What they all have in common is mixed drinks that will blow your mind – and hopefully not your budget.

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