Thanks to chain bars pumping out low-grade drinks, happy hours in London can get a bad rep. However, there are plenty of quality establishments offering decent prices at surprisingly decent locations. After all, we have some of the best drinking establishments on the planet, from cocktail bars to good old traditional pubs serving craft beer.
So we've put together our favourite happy hours in London - from Kings Cross to Battersea, Carnaby Street to Clapham, these lot make it cheap and easy to get merry with your nearest and dearest any day of the week. Cheers!
Need some food to soak up all the booze? Check out the best new restaurants in London.
London's best happy hours
£3 beers, house wines and (at weekends) bloody marys. Mon–Wed, 4–8pm; Sat–Sun, noon–4pm.
From the outside, this huge concrete slab of a pub smack in the middle of a busy Hackney high street doesn’t exactly scream ‘Garden of Eden’. But step inside and it’s all relaxing atmosphere, pretty stained glass windows, a peaceful mix of locals, families and beards, and a holy grail of cheap booze that even Adam and Eve would sin for. The deals bless every day of the week with beer, ale and wine for just £3 until 8pm (noon–4pm weekends, when bloody marys are also on offer). People quietly chat along and it never gets too packed, so it’s the perfect place for a calm, midweek pint. Happy hour heaven.
£7 for two cocktails. Mon–Sun, 6–7pm.
This place is Peckham’s trendy side personified, railway arch and all. If topknots make you wish you were Edward Scissorhands you’d best steer clear, but that will mean missing out on Bar Story’s fine selection of cocktails. Old friends – negronis, caipirinhas, fruit daiquiris – are on offer alongside a few more inventive options such as the ‘Bar Story Bonfire’ (gin, kiwi, mint and elderflower), among which we’ve never found a dud. Staff are efficient but they’re no match for the throng of determined and thirsty punters that quickly gathers. You’ll probably wait up to ten minutes to order so find a patient cocktail buddy who’ll get the next round and make sure they’re in the queue well before the clock strikes sad-to-be-paying-full-price-hour.
Venue says: “Our Tropical Garden is Shoreditch's best-kept secret! Join us on July 27 for a very special open-air party with Bitter Sweet DJs.”
£5.50 cocktails, £3.50 beer, £5 off bottles of wine. Mon, 4pm-midnight; Tue–Sat, 4–8pm; Sun midday-midnight.
Sure, the decor of this Shoreditch bar’s all day-glo, kitschy tropicalia and the drinks menu features bonkers creations including a cocktail that’s served in a porcelain Lucha Libre mask. But kookiness isn’t the order of the day when it comes to the cut-price drinks offerings: it’s just classic booze, served up cheap. There’s one three-pound beer on offer (bottle of Sagres), a fiver off bottles of wine and a five-quid selection of classic cocktails (mojito, caipirinha, margarita). Although adventurous types won’t be totally disappointed – there’s also a twist on a piña colada that involves colouring it with Blue Curacao, plus a crème de pêche/rum creation called (wait for it) ‘Papa Don’t Peach’. Bravo.
£5 cocktails, £2.50 house bottled beers. Mon-Sun, 4–7pm.
For those in search of a happy hour where you don’t need to pitch a tent to get served, this table-football bar on Exmouth Market is the place to go. Even at the late end of a Friday evening happy hour the vibe’s surprisingly relaxed, with most of the punters – hipster-professionals starting their weekend – outside in a cloud of smoke. With an easy-going salsa soundtrack picked by easy-going staff, and Barca and AC Milan scarves hanging amongst the roughspun decor, nobody would blame you for thinking you’re in northern Spain rather than Clerkenwell. The beers are international, the tapas unfussy, and if some cocktails are better than others (the caipirinha ticks all boxes; the Jamaican mule lacked the obligatory punch), you’ll let it go because the overall experience is massive bloody fun. The same deals are also available at Bar Kick on Shoreditch High Street.
Venue says: “A hidden cocktail bar beneath Artist Residence and the streets of the ever changing Pimlico neighbourhood.”
Cocktails £7.50. Daily 5–7pm.
A cute and cosy underground cocktail cellar in the dead zone near Victoria station injects more excitement into proceedings with a two-hour deal on its cocktails. The new drinks menu is themed around some of Hollywood's best-loved movies. So you can have a cut-price Kill Bill or a cheap Slumdog Millionaire any night of the week. Pair this with a soundtrack of gentle Americana from the likes of the Shins and you have yourself a pretty damn civilised happy hour that fits the backstreets of Pimlico perfectly.
£5 cocktail specials. Mon-Fri, 5–7pm. Also available from 3-7pm in Shoreditch.
It would be rude not to get down and dirty in the West End. Six days a week, this hot-dog and sticky rib-centric basement bar and restaurant offers 'high fives and good vibes' for those making a mad dash from their desk for delicious cocktails. The six cocktails are canine-themed, with the Top Dog (vodka, prosecco, Chambord, strawberry, lemon) proving popular among those with sweeter palates, while the Deputy Dog (tequila, blood orange, mint, lime, Ting) is a winner for bitter boozing. There’s also a two-for-one offer on a short beer list including Samuel Adams and Brooklyn IPA, which works out at £2.50 a bottle. We can confirm the bite of this happy hour is as good as its bark.
Venue says: “Two-for-one on cocktails, Peroni Rossa, glasses of house wine and prosecco every day from 5-7pm.”
Two-for-one cocktails, two-for-one on house beer bottles and two-for-one on glasses of house wine and prosecco. Daily, 5-7pm.
This is a crowd-pleasing kind of happy hour, set dead in central London and covering all the bases: cocktails, house beers, house wines and even house fizz in the form of prosecco fall under the daily two-for-one deal. Not only that, but you can spread yourself out in the basement bar's 'grand hall' behind a secret door or in the ‘vault’ even further underground. Although the cocktail list is a modern offering, the theme is vaguely Victorian. Time to party like it's 1889.
Two cocktails for £12. All day Mon, Tue-Sat 4.30–7pm.
Popular mixologists London Cocktail Club now boast seven bars across town, all of which ply punters with half-price booze six days a week. We like their dimly lit, tattoo-themed Shaftesbury Avenue dive the most, with its loud ‘90s music and well-mixed booze. Despite the happy hour lasting from opening until closing time on Monday, it’s later in the week that things start to get packed. As the weekend approaches, expect it to get busier (and sweatier), until waiting at the bar feels not unlike squeezing onto a tube train at 8am. Except that this is a much better way to meet strangers.
£5 Aperol spritz (plus other spritzes). Mon–Sun, 4–6pm.
Looking for a cheapo drink at this Russell Norman-owned, Italian-centric small-plate specialist? Give the Shaftesbury Avenue entrance a miss, pop around the side and you’ll find a sneaky little entrance on West Street that avoids the tattooed front desk staff and sends you straight to the bar. During their daily happy hour, all spritzes are a fiver, with the Aperol spritz the pick of the bunch. A blend of Aperol, dry white wine (no prosecco at these prices, chief) and a dash of soda water, it’s a simple, refreshing little number that’ll give you a little buzz in no time at all. Weekends are a much safer bet if you fancy a seat as it gets rammed most days after work. Oh, and be prepared to shout to make yourself heard and if you stay longer than happy hour, don’t be surprised if your request for a negroni turns into a Moretti as the volume hits peak levels later on.
Venue says: “Join us for one of our jerk chicken burgers and wash it down with a £5 cocktail from our happy hour menu every day from 5-7pm! Rum n' Ting!”
£5 cocktails. Mon–Sun, 5–7pm (Carnaby St); 6–8pm (Notting Hill); 6-7pm (Brixton).
Given the venue’s name, no prizes for guessing that its happy hour is a rum do. Waiters whizz past the corrugated metal panelling and carefully distressed driftwood of this pair of Caribbean-themed bar/restaurants ferrying £5 offerings from their all-rum cocktail menu that include tall, creamy offerings like the Rumbustion (Kraken rum, apricot, pineapple, coconut cream, orange bitters) and their citrussy, blue-coloured take on rum and Ting (Wray & Nephew rum, lime, blue dye, Ting). Early in the week the Carnaby St venue’s surprisingly quiet during happy hour; a pleasant surprise given that it’s within the tourist fall-out zone of Oxford Circus. That’s assuming you like your measures hefty, your flavours strong and your prices cheap. But who doesn’t, eh?
Venue says: “Simmons offers you the perfect alternative to a boring afternoon wondering around doing nothing… bottomless booze!”
£2.50 bottles of beer, spirit and mixer and glasses of wine. £10 for two cocktails. £10 bottles of wine (prosecco £16). Sun-Fri, 4–9pm.
Answers on a postcard if you have any idea how this awesome retro bar hasn’t bankrupted itself with its bargain basement drinks offers. Retro ‘90s party bangers play while bar staff serve a young, trendy crowd wine, beer and spirits with mixer for £2.50 a time. Given that it doesn’t just last 60 minutes, but five whole hours (less ‘happy hour’, more ‘very happy afternoon’), it’s a wonder that the crowd aren’t all shouting abuse at each other while playing incredibly wobbly games of ‘Micro Machines’ on the resident Megadrive or loudly slurring along to ‘Return of the Mack’. But, amazingly, things are actually pretty civilised – particularly if you head down early in the week. Oh, and don’t worry if you don’t fancy the trip to King’s Cross – each of Simmons’ six other locations all offer the same deals.
Two-for-one cocktails. Mon 4-10pm; Tue–Fri 4–8pm; Sun 4–10pm.
Normally the term ‘dive bar’ is an insult, but that’s basically the vibe that this late-opening Islington establishment is going for. The lighting levels are negligible, the jukebox will punch you if you contemplate anything other than classic rock, and in an eyebrow-raising nod to the heyday of the Sunset Strip, the rafters of the ceiling are covered in used bras. This being London, the only thing missing is dive bar prices, but during happy hour you can get two of the same cocktails for the price of one (they’re normally £8-£9 each). It’s a rugged, whisky-centric list: our brace of Lynchburg Lemonades (Tennessee whiskey with Cointreau, lemon juice, lemonade and bitters) were a crisp, refreshing and not too full-on way of rounding off the working day. Earlier on it’s not so busy, but it’s an atmospheric spot to spend an afternoon.
Two-for-one drinks for members. Mon–Fri, 12.30pm–8pm; Sat 6–8pm.
A central London bar that’s not rammed with Stella-swigging suits? It does exist, and it’s an intimate, arty retreat (wood panelling, kooky art and foreign cinema posters) that pulls off retro cool without being pretentious. Chilled though it is, The Social is a small venue and things get a little busier after office hours, so arrive early or book ahead if you want a booth to lounge in. What can you enjoy during happy hour? Whatever you flipping well like, mate, as it’s two-for-one on all drinks (no mix-and-matching) until 8pm for members – and don’t worry, membership is free, you just need to send an email in advance. There’s an impressive beer selection (including offerings from Huddlesfield's Black Rock brewery) and unfussy cocktails: the Cloona Curra – whisky, blackberries, blackberry liqueur, lemon juice, honey – is a sweet treat. We’re loath to let you in on this covert, boozy secret, frankly.
£8.90 for two cocktails. Mon–Sun, 5–8pm.
Down a buzzy pedestrianised street in central Clapham, early evenings see Venn St Records dropping a little of its trendy-trendy offbeat vibe and trying to plug into the generic after-work crowd with an excellent happy hour cocktail offer. From 5pm, a sparse, suited crew gather inside the dark, dingy, underground, neon-tinged room in pursuit of their expertly mixed, nicely varied cocktails (with no mixing and matching during happy hour). It gets much busier from 7pm, as punters scramble to glug as many of these extra-strong bevs before time is up at 8pm. Which isn’t that surprising, given that the usual asking price is a hefty £8.90. Check out sister bars Old St Records and Northcote Records for similar deals.
£11 for two cocktails. Daily 4–7pm.
Shoreditch's scruffy little brother Hoxton will probably always be a little off-the-beaten-track in comparison to its popular, pulsing sibling. When it comes to happy hours that's a good thing – wander past numbers one to 99 and you'll find 100 Hoxton, a beautifully presented, understated bar with plenty of available seating and friendly staff poised to make you a drink. The cocktail menu is all curious combinations and unexpected ingredients, but they know what they're doing; it turns out sage goes with pineapple just as well as with a chunk of value cheddar. Window seats and outdoor tables allow you to watch the world go by as you sip, though admittedly the one thing they're lacking is a view that doesn't involve any bins.
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This private members’ club has been hiding in plain sight behind an ambiguous door on Shaftsbury Avenue since 2001. Cross the threshold and you’ll find a haven from the city’s hustle and bustle (if you’re a member, of course). Century Club's piece de resistance is its roof terrace, which offers all-weather access and views across the London skyline. There’s an array of other spaces to enjoy, too, including a New York-inspired brasserie called the Tap Room, a cocktail lounge and rooms for private hire.
Venue says: “Londons 'best kept secret' - Century is a private members club, with four floors of member spaces including Soho's largest roof terrace.”