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Photograph: Andy Parsons

The best bars in London

Find London’s most excellent bars with Time Out’s ultimate guide to the best places for drinking wine, cocktails, craft beer and more

Sarah Cohen
Written by
Laura Richards
&
Sarah Cohen
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London’s beloved watering holes need our support now more than ever. Luckily, the best way to do that is to head to one and order a couple of rounds of delicious drinks. We can do that! 

This is the Time Out DRINK List, our curated guide to London’s drinking scene, featuring the buzziest bars in the capital right now. We scour the city in search of amazing drinks, visiting incognito and footing the bill. If it’s on this list, it’s awesome. These are the places we would recommend to a friend: the best in class for boozing.

Did you drink somewhere on this list and love it? Share it with the hashtag #TimeOutDrinkList.

And you can find out how Time Out makes recommendations and reviews bars here.

The best bars in London

  • Bars and pubs
  • Wine bars
  • Tufnell Park
  • price 2 of 4

What's the vibe? Geometric white tiling, pendant lights and a mission to bring the best from French-speaking parts of the world to a corner of north London. 

When to visit: This place is perfect for a weekday drink. And its shop means you can carry on the wine party back at yours. 

What to drink: Their by-the-glass menu highlights a different wine region each month. 

  • Bars and pubs
  • Cocktail bars
  • Soho
  • price 2 of 4

What’s the vibe? It’s always la 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 – indoors or out on the streets.

What to drink: Marsala Martini (gin, sweet marsala, dry vermouth and almond bitters)
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Beaufort Bar at The Savoy
  • Bars and pubs
  • Hotel bars
  • Strand
  • price 4 of 4

What’s the vibe? There’s eye-opening dusky glamour any time of the day at this supremely stylish hideaway – so head there early doors and just pretend it’s past 10pm. The setting is as rich as you’ll find in London, with walls embossed in gold for the mega-dollar effect.

When to visit: To remind yourself that such places exist in your city. Make the most of them.

What to drink:
 A Champagne Cocktail. What more of an excuse do you need?

  • Bars and pubs
  • Cocktail bars
  • Moorgate
  • price 3 of 4

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 house blend ‘whisky rivers’.

When to visit: For serious, considered whisky drinking given a fun edge. Nightcaps never tasted so good.

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

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Blind Pig
  • Bars and pubs
  • Cocktail bars
  • Soho
  • price 2 of 4

What’s the vibe? Yes, it’s another take on the old Prohibition theme, but it’s classy as hell (Jason Atherton’s at the helm). Rich, dark oak furnishings and white marble features (and even a mirrored ceiling) juxtapose playful, decorative drinks. Think ‘Bugsy Malone’ for grown-ups and you’re about there.

When to visit: After an indulgent dinner in Atherton’s Social Eating House downstairs.

What to drink: The bar’s take on Butter Beer from a menu inspired by childhood stories.

  • Bars and pubs
  • Cocktail bars
  • Peckham

What’s the vibe? A rooftop bar to rival nearby Frank's Café. 

When to visit: Clearly, this is a spot made for long summer afternoons and into the evening. 

What to drink: Cocktails run to no more than a tenner, so you can’t go wrong there, really. 

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Cocktail Trading Company
  • Bars and pubs
  • Cocktail bars
  • Shoreditch
  • price 2 of 4

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.

  • Bars and pubs
  • Hotel bars
  • Mayfair
  • price 4 of 4

What’s the vibe? As classy as they come, the Connaught Bar is a must-try for any Londoner. Sip mega-dollar drinks in a mega-dollar Mayfair setting, among a clientele of flashy hotel guests. Hey, you’re worth it.

When to visit: That very special occasion.

What to drink: Order a Martini and they’ll roll a trolley to your table. You may need rolling out after, too.

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Copeland Social
  • Bars and pubs
  • Café bars
  • Peckham
  • price 2 of 4

What’s the vibe? A youthful drinking spot with a banging sound system frequented by dungaree-wearing Peckhamites

When to visit: Given its location at the heart of trendy Copeland Park, this spot will likely be busy every night of the week. 

What to drink: Try the hefty Peckham Punch, a fruity cocktail with four rums in the mix. 

  • Bars and pubs
  • Cocktail bars
  • Bloomsbury
  • price 3 of 4

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.

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Coupette
  • Bars and pubs
  • Cocktail bars
  • Bethnal Green
  • price 2 of 4

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

When to visit: If 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 basically become east London’s most popular drink.

  • Bars and pubs
  • Craft beer pubs
  • Tooting
  • price 2 of 4

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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  • Bars and pubs
  • Breweries
  • Hackney Wick
  • price 2 of 4

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 water. 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.

  • Bars and pubs
  • Wine bars
  • Walworth
  • price 2 of 4

What’s the vibe? Walworth wine bar named after the Greek philosopher who lived in a barrel. 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.

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Fam
  • Bars and pubs
  • Cocktail bars
  • Marylebone
  • price 2 of 4

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 it’s sure to be welcoming friends of the bar (aka fam) dropping by to say hello. 

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

  • Bars and pubs
  • Cocktail bars
  • Bloomsbury
  • price 3 of 4

What’s the vibe? Imagine if Rick James and Jay Gatsby got together to throw a bash filled with delicious cocktail confections. 

When to visit: Perfect for an early-evening tipple. 

What to drink: Try the Vesca Negroni, a classic drink lifted with coconut and rosehip. 

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  • Bars and pubs
  • Wine bars
  • Peckham
  • price 2 of 4

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 some 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.

Four Quarters South
  • Bars and pubs
  • Sports bars
  • Peckham
  • price 1 of 4

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 Zoom pub quiz won’t cut it in the entertainment stakes.

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

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  • Bars and pubs
  • Breweries
  • Bermondsey
  • price 2 of 4

What’s the vibe? A big beery playground along the Bermondsey Beer Mile

When to visit: When you tire of crawling along this famous hoppy stretch of London, make this jumbo HQ your one-stop shop.

What to drink: Select from Fourpure’s ever-growing range or branch out on a 20-strong beer list.

  • Bars and pubs
  • Cocktail bars
  • Peckham
  • price 2 of 4

What’s the vibe? London’s most famous rooftop bar, find Frank’s on top of a Peckham multistorey car park and reward yourself with a Campari when you get up there.

When to visit: On rare sunny days in London – it’s only open in the summer months. Just be mindful: the rest of London may have the same idea.

What to drink: Anything red or orange – an Americano or an Aperol Spritz would be our choice.

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  • Bars and pubs
  • Cocktail bars
  • Peckham
  • price 2 of 4

What’s the vibe? Peckham cocktail bar with just as much know-how when it comes to playing the tunes.

When to visit: Hit up the bar after dinner for a groovy nightcap and a chat with fun regulars. Currently, the bar also serves as a shop, selling local produce and vinyl records. 

What to drink: The Kalakuta Sour is a Fela Kuti-honouring cocktail that’s like a New York Sour but made with Nigerian bitter leaf.

  • Bars and pubs
  • Cocktail bars
  • West Hampstead
  • price 2 of 4

What's the vibe?  A surprisingly upmarket party place just opposite West Hampstead station. Upstairs is Heads; the basement is Tails.

When to visit: A cocktail bar to suit all moods, Heads is about low-abv drinking done in style while Tails is a dark, brooding basement dedicated to the darker, harder spirits.

What to drink: Genuinely, the low- and no-alcohol cocktails are some of the bar’s best.

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Hacha
  • Bars and pubs
  • Mezcalerias
  • Dalston
  • price 2 of 4

What’s the vibe? Kingsland Road by way of Oaxaca, this light-filled spot is London’s first agaveria, specialising in tequila, mezcal and more.

When to visit: When you’re in need of a very stiff drink, as well as a bit of booze education.

What to drink: Dive in deep with a flight of mezcal, or prepare to be dazzled by the Mirror Margarita – a totally see-through take on Mexico’s classic cocktail.

  • Bars and pubs
  • Breweries
  • Hackney
  • price 2 of 4

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 an Indian summer is 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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  • Bars and pubs
  • Cocktail bars
  • Hoxton
  • price 2 of 4

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: A Tokyo Collins (gin, yuzu saké, lemon, grapefruit, sugar, soda)

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Homeboy
  • Bars and pubs
  • Cocktail bars
  • Islington
  • price 2 of 4

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

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 the Wogan is just as easy to quaff. 

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  • Bars and pubs
  • Hackney Wick
  • price 2 of 4

What’s the vibe? It’s warehouse meets beer hall in here, with rows of long tables for drinkers. 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.

  • Bars and pubs
  • Cocktail bars
  • Kentish Town
  • price 2 of 4

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: Any of the classics – or order a Quarantini to be delivered to your home.

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  • Bars and pubs
  • Cocktail bars
  • Crouch End
  • price 2 of 4

What's the vibe? Super-friendly service and on-trend cocktails all the way up in Crouch End.

When to visit:  Come here for small group catch-ups over cocktails – large, tall tables help you keep it social at just the right distance.

What to drink:  Served from a bottle like sparkling rosé, the bar’s reimagining of a Pornstar Martini makes the UK’s most popular cocktail seriously cool again. Indeed, any of the bar’s bottled cocktails are ideal for taking home, too. 

  • Bars and pubs
  • Cocktail bars
  • Deptford
  • price 2 of 4

What’s the vibe? Off the wall. Imagine your nan’s front room and times it by ten. And throw in a load of 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 outdoors has been turned into a Deptford drinking terrace.

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

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  • Bars and pubs
  • Cocktail bars
  • South Bank
  • price 3 of 4

What’s the vibe? The ‘World’s Best Bar’ Dandelyan makes way for a new concept from the same award-winning, cocktail-shifting team.

When to visit: When you feel like having your mind expanded. Mr Lyan hasn’t just created new cocktails – he’s created a whole new roster of ingredients to power the drinks list.

What to drink: Try ‘Infinite Banana’ in a Soy Wax Old Fashioned – then never look back.

  • Bars and pubs
  • Craft beer pubs
  • Vauxhall
  • price 3 of 4

What’s the vibe? A bottle shop, taproom and beer heaven housed in a roomy railway arch in Vauxhall.

When to visit: When you want to have all the choice in the world. There are 33 taps and so many beer fridges to work your way through. Thank the beer gods for the staff, who are more than happy to help you decide.

What to drink: Choose something to savour rather than swig.

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  • Bars and pubs
  • Cocktail bars
  • Dalston
  • price 2 of 4

What’s the vibe? Dalston’s tropical party shack where disco tunes rule and refreshing drinks will cool the dancefloor heat.

When to visit: When you want to kid yourself you’re on a Caribbean holiday.

What to drink: The ginger mojito is one of London’s best drinks and it’s yours for just a fiver.

  • Bars and pubs
  • Wine bars
  • Hackney Road
  • price 2 of 4

What’s the vibe? The wine bar you’ve been waiting for, this Hackney Road haven is a pitstop for professional people who may lack a professional appreciation of wine. All the plonk here is 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.

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  • Bars and pubs
  • Cocktail bars
  • Bethnal Green
  • price 2 of 4

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 all the taxidermy).

When to visit: Thursday night: the weekend starts early here – they still know how to start a party, despite recent challenges.

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

  • Bars and pubs
  • Cocktail bars
  • King’s Cross
  • price 2 of 4

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 really looks ready for the party.

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  • Bars and pubs
  • Cocktail bars
  • Soho
  • price 2 of 4

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 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.

Tabac
  • Bars and pubs
  • Cocktail bars
  • Kentish Town
  • price 2 of 4

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

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

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  • Bars and pubs
  • Cocktail bars
  • Old Street
  • price 2 of 4

What’s the vibe? Minimal in style yet maximal in powerhouse cocktails, Tayēr + Elementary is a two-part bar from mixology heroes Alex Kratena and Monica Berg.

When to visit: When you’re looking for the house party, but in a house where they really, really, really know their drinks.

What to drink: Grab a cocktail from a slushy machine in Elementary. Tayēr (at the back) has with drinks made with the bar’s own liqueur with flavours so complex they change from sip to sip.

  • Bars and pubs
  • Cocktail bars
  • Dalston
  • price 2 of 4

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

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

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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Trailer Happiness
  • Bars and pubs
  • Cocktail bars
  • Portobello Road
  • price 2 of 4

What’s the vibe? Delve beneath a layer of kitsch to discover a trippy tiki bar that’s casual, sunny and funny – and now open a little earlier in the afternoon to suit that vibe.

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).

Vermuteria
  • Bars and pubs
  • Café bars
  • King’s Cross
  • price 2 of 4

What’s the vibe? Like a museum to drinking, this Coal Drops Yard bar-restaurant is covered with posters and artwork paying homage to Italian vermouth brands – which are in strong stock behind the bar. 

When to visit: Pick a sunny day and make the most of the sweet terrace just designed for spritz swigging. 

What to drink: Vermouth by the glass (on tap or from the bottle), lengthened in a spritz or made as strong as you like in a negroni. 

Discover even more top 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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