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 pulled together a list of our favourite happy hours in London – from King’s 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. Let these London happy hours brighten up your winter months and loosen up your wallet.
London's best happy hours
£6 for a cocktail and a plate of cicchetti. Wed-Sat, 5.30pm-7pm.
This basement bar is so dripping in disco, paying it a visit should instantly have you buzzing – but Supermax’s happy hour makes a trip here all the more groovy. For two and a half hours, a list of five banging vermouth-based cocktails will set you back £6 a pop – including a deliciously citrussy, two-tone Amer Citron – and each one comes with a plate of Italian meats and cheeses on the side. Enjoy them all under the retro glow of a glitter ball and to an unbeatable soundtrack. This has got to be the capital’s coolest happy hour.
£7 for selected cocktails. Daily, until 7pm.
You’ll feel like you’re breaking the law by drinking this cheaply in central London. At gangster-themed bar Murder Inc, there’s a list of ‘freeloader’ cocktails available until 7pm every day – a menu that includes classic Negronis, Daiquiris and Espresso Martinis, as well as a Frozen Banana Ramos – and all are served with a side of fun. The theme is a bit of a weird one, but when the drinks are this good and this affordable, we’ll take it – guilty as charged.
£5 cocktails. Wed-Sun, 5pm-8pm.
Every day this friendly neighbourhood bar helps locals feel even more welcome with an ‘aperitivo hour’ that in truth runs for three whole hours and sees cocktails at a cut price of £5 a pop. Original numbers on the menu are filled with ingredients local to Peckham and include a Fela Kuti-honouring drink that’s like a New York Sour but with Nigerian bitter leaf. The tunes that fill the air will get you feeling pretty buzzed, too – the playlist is as funky as the bar’s name suggests.
Two-for-one cocktails. Sun-Wed, 4pm-6pm.
A year-round rooftop bar with a mid-week drinking deal; if those words don’t make you happy, you’re quite possibly dead inside. Bar Elba is a couple of stories up from the frazzled commuters at Waterloo Station. Waiting out the rush hour from this sanctuary in the sky is quite frankly a no-brainer, especially when you throw the bar’s daily happy hour into the mix: Elba offers two cocktails for the price of one across its whole menu. That means cut-price Spritzes, Frosés and Porn Star Martinis. Most drinks ordinarily hover around to £10 mark, so that means £5 cocktails with a rooftop view a part of the bargain. See you up there.
£8, £9 or £10 for two cocktails. Daily, 6–7pm.
This place is Peckham’s trendy side personified, railway arch and all. There you’ll find old friends – Espresso Martinis, Mojitos and Sours – 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 Come down for Happy Hour, 6pm-7pm everyday, stay for the atmosphere and the music.
£3.80 for beer, cider, house wine and spirit and mixer. £7 for selected cocktails. Mon-Fri, 5-7pm.
Four Quarters East is a retro arcade-gaming bar set by the canal in Hackney Wick and its collection of vintage machines – from beat ’em ups to first-person shooters – draws in curious gamers. Here’s another reason to get over to the Wick: a happy hour as invigorating as one of Mario’s mushrooms. Drink selected cocktails at £7 a piece (£2 off the usual price), with drinks themed around the world of gaming. Or indulge house beers – including Camden Hells – for just £3.80. Old-school games, old-school prices.
Venue says Situated on the canalside at Hackney Wick, enjoy classic arcade & console gaming, for a sunny afternoon refresher or a late night drink.
£3.50 beers and house wines, £5 double spirit and mixer. Mon–Wed, 4–8pm. £4 single Bloody Mary, £5.50 double bloody mary. 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 most days of the week with beer, ale and wine for just £3.50 until 8pm (noon–4pm weekends, are when Bloody Marys are 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.
£6 for cocktails, £5 for sake of the day. Friday 5pm-7pm
As far as happy hours go, this one is a pretty sophisticated one. Head to the UK’s first craft sake brewery, Kanpai, at clocking off time on a Friday to enjoy the delights in its taproom at a knockdown rate. That includes the premium sake of the day for a fiver. You can also try cocktails made from the Japanese rice wine and filled with flavours from the country to get those tastebuds dancing at the start of the weekend.
£5 and £6 cocktails. Daily, 5pm–7pm (Carnaby St); midday-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 duo of Caribbean-themed bar/restaurants ferrying £5 and £6 offerings from their all-rum cocktail menu that include a citrussy, blue-coloured take on rum and Ting (Wray & Nephew rum, lime, blue curacao, Ting), a tall, fruity punch, a Jamaican Mule and a Mojito. We’re assuming you like your measures hefty, your flavours strong and your prices cheap. But who doesn’t, eh?
£10 for two cocktails. Daily, 4-7pm.
Make happy hour aperitivo time at The Drunken Oyster, a flashy Italian-American-themed watering hole above Jason Atherton pizza joint Hai Cenato. There are six cocktails on offer during the bar’s happy hour, when they’ll set you back just a fiver. While you can order a couple of souped-up G&Ts, it’s the Italian-leaning drinks you should explore – from a Bicycle to an Americano. Bellisima.
£12 for two cocktails. £12 for four beers. £14 for a bottle of house wine. £18 for a shared punch bowl. Mon-Fri, 5-8pm; Sat 6-9pm.
Get on your Cuban heels for a night in the depths of Marylebone. This basement rum den is dressed up like something out of Colonial Cuba, with tropical palms shooting out from dark corners and Latino rhythms filling the air. To help get into the groove, happy hour kicks off at clocking-off time and includes classic cocktails with a healthy kick of – you guessed it – rum. If rum really isn’t your thing, other drink deals on beer and wine encourage some serious sharing, so bring a gang and get happy.
£3.50 for selected pints of beer. £3.50 for house spirit and mixer. For members (but membership is free). Daily, until 8.30pm.
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? Currently, the deal includes pints of Camden Pale and house spirits with mixers until 8.30pm for members – and don’t worry, membership is free, you just need to send an email in advance. We’re loath to let you in on this covert, boozy secret, frankly.
Two cocktails for £12. All day Mon across all venues; Tue-Sat, 4.30pm–7pm (Shaftesbury Av, Goodge St, Oxford Circus, Covent Garden); Tue-Sat, 5pm-8pm (Shoreditch); Tue-Sat, 4pm-7pm (Old St, Monument, Liverpool St); Tue all day, Wed-Sun, 5pm-8pm (Bethnal Green); Tue-Sun, 5pm-8pm (Clapham).
Popular mixologists London Cocktail Club now boast nine 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 for cocktails. £2.50 for house bottled beers. £3 for a glass of house wine. Daily, 4pm–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.
£19 for two pizzas and two drinks, from selected beer, wine, cocktails and spirit and mixers, Sun-Wed 5-8pm. Two-for-one cocktails. Tue-Sun, 5pm–8pm.
Down a buzzy pedestrianised street in central Clapham, early evenings see Venn St Records dropping a little of its 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. It’s all part of the bar’s ‘cheap date’ menu, and includes pizza as part of the deal. Check out sister bars Old St Records and Northcote Records for similar bargains.
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 crowd-pleasers, with the Top Dog (vodka, prosecco, Chambord, strawberry, lemon) proving popular among those with sweeter palates, while the Mutt’s Nuts (bourbon, maple syrup, apple, lemon, bitters) is a winner for whiskey fans. There’s also an offer on bottles of Portobello Pilsner. We can confirm the bite of this happy hour is as good as its bark.
Two-for-one cocktails. Beer £3.60. Mon 4-10pm; Tue-Fri 5-8pm; Sun 6–10pm.
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 £8.50-£9.50 each). It’s a rugged, whisky-centric list: try a Lynchburg Lemonade (Tennessee whiskey with Cointreau, lemon juice, lemonade and bitters) for something crisp and refreshing, and a not too full-on way of rounding off the working day.
Two-for-one cocktails, house beer bottles, glasses of house wine and prosecco. Sun-Fri, 5-7pm.
This is a crowd-pleasing kind of happy hour, set bang in the middle of 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. Pretty decent when ordinarily, the average price of a single cocktail is £10.50. 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.
Venue says Two-for-one on cocktails, Peroni Rossa, glasses of house wine and prosecco Sunday - Friday 5-7pm.
£2.50 bottles of beer, spirit and mixer. £3 glasses of wine. £10 for two cocktails. £12 bottles of wine (prosecco £18). Sun-Fri, 4–9pm.
Answers on a postcard if you have any idea how this retro bar hasn’t bankrupted itself with its bargain basement drinks offers. Retro ‘90s party bangers play while bar staff serve a young 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’ 13 other locations all offer the same deals.