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.
Two-for-one cocktails. Daily, 5-7pm.
A year-round rooftop bar with a daily 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 close to £10, so that means £5 cocktails with a rooftop view a part of the bargain. See you up there.
£7 for two cocktails. Daily, 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 – white russians, 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 Come down for Happy Hour, 6pm-7pm everyday, stay for the atmosphere and the music.
£5.50 cocktails, £3.50 beer, £5 off bottles of wine. All-day Mon; Tue–Sat, 4–8pm; all-day Sun.
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 are selected £3.50 bottles of beer on offer, there’s 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 daiquiris, rum punches and old fashioneds. £5 beer with a rum shot chaser. Daily, 5-8pm.
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 cocktails really aren’t your bag, check out a deal that gives you a bottle of beer followed by a rum shot as a chaser for a total of five English pounds. Happy days.
£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.
Cocktails £5. Mon-Fri 4–7pm.
A cute and cosy underground cocktail cellar in the dead zone near Victoria station injects more excitement into proceedings with a three-hour deal on aperitivo cocktails. They’re traditional Italian drinks, from a spritz to a vermouth-spiked Pimlicano. All are served with unlimited nibbles for even more happiness during happy hour. 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.
Venue says Join us for Aperitivo Time! Get £5 spritz cocktails and complimentary nibbles, every Monday to Friday, 4-7pm.
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 an offer on bottles of Portobello Pilsner. We can confirm the bite of this happy hour is as good as its bark.
£5 Taptails, £9 pizza and a drink. 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. Here, they’ve got taptails on special offer. ‘What’s a taptail?’, we hear you ask. Well, they’re cocktails on tap (AKA the best thing since sliced bread). There’s three of these innovations on offer, and during the bar’s happy hour, they’ll set you back just a fiver. Choose from a spritz, a bellini or an Amalfi 75, a twist on the classic French 75 that switches out the gin and replaces it with limoncello and Italicus bergamot liqueur. If you’re after something more substanstial but still fancy living the dolce vita during happy hour, grab yourself any drink and pizza for £10.
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 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. 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 every day from 5-7pm.
£3.50 beer, cider, house wine and spirit and mixer. £6/£7 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 quite the crowd. 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 £6 a piece, with drinks themed around the world of gaming. Or indulge in Camden Hells or Camden Pale for just £3.50 – cider, house wine and spirit and mixers cost the same, too. Old-school games, old-school prices.
Venue says Book your Xmas party at Four Quarters East. Special packages and deals available. Every private hire in Dec gets a free DJ or games master!
Two cocktails for £12. All day Mon; Tue-Sat 4.30–7pm.
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 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 trio of Caribbean-themed bar/restaurants ferrying £5 offerings from their all-rum cocktail menu that include tall, creamy numbers 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?
£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’ eleven other locations all offer the same deals.
Two-for-one cocktails. Mon 4-10pm; Tue–Fri 4–8pm; 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-£9 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 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 most of the drinks here (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 drinks from Camden Town Brewery and Lagunitas) 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.
£9.50 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 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 bevs before time is up at 8pm. Check out sister bars Old St Records and Northcote Records for similar deals.
£11 for two cocktails. Daily 4–7pm.
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 that riff on the classics; like a Mezcal Colada or a Spiced Old Fashioned. 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.