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Swift
Photograph: Addie Chinn

The best bars in Soho

Whether you're after a decadent cocktail, a quality craft beer, or a lively watering hole, these great Soho bars are back open for business

By Laura Richards
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Home to some of the best bars in London, Soho is known for its vibrant drinking spots filled with character. A popular nightlife destination, the area is always filled to the brim with bar-hoppers checking out its most imaginative cocktail bars and pulsing late-night hotspots. Many of these barflies can now be spotted outside, with the area’s watering holes adding tables out in the streets of Soho.

Some of the spots back open and listed below may now require you to pre-book a drinking session with them – gone are the days of total Soho spontaneity – but you’ll be rewarded with a cracking cocktail in return. Check with venues directly for all the latest safety measures and then get stuck in on an unforgettable voyage of drink discovery.  

RECOMMENDED: Find more fun in the neighbourhood with our area guide to Soho

The best bars in Soho

Swift
Swift
Photograph: Addie Chinn

Swift

5 out of 5 stars
Bars and pubs Cocktail bars Soho

This smart bar split across two floors is one of the best places to drink in London. That’s thanks to affordable, simple, stand-out aperitivi up top and deliciously dark spirit-based cocktails in a brooding basement down below. There’s something here for everyone – even Irish coffee. If you’re into cocktails, Swift has to be on your London bucket list.

Bar Termini

5 out of 5 stars
Bars and pubs Cocktail bars Soho

When someone calls two people a ‘dream team’, the hype-detector lights up. But with Bar Termini, the DT moniker seems fitting. Bar Termini does two things: coffee and cocktails. Coffee is overseen by Marco Arrigo, head of quality for Illy, who has probably trained more baristas – and trained them rigorously – than anyone else in the UK. Cocktails are supervised by Tony Conigliaro, the alco-alchemist behind 69 Colebrooke Row and Zetter Town House, among others. Italian aperitivos and nightcaps are done very well indeed.

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New_BarAmericain_Rob_Greig.jpg
New_BarAmericain_Rob_Greig.jpg
© Rob Greig

Bar Américain at Brasserie Zédel

4 out of 5 stars
Bars and pubs Cocktail bars Soho

This wonderful bar occupies the hallowed ground that began life as Dick’s Bar, when Brasserie Zédel was the Atlantic Bar & Grill and the late, great Dick Bradsell was the man behind the bar. Zédel has installed a great crew, both behind the bar and front of house, though. And they’ve kept the beautiful art deco decor and the widely spaced tables, which are a major factor in keeping noise levels down. We love the brevity and simplicity of the cocktail list: just 19 drinks and most of them tried and tested classics.

Blind Pig

5 out of 5 stars
Bars and pubs Cocktail bars Soho

Technically an upstairs adjunct to Jason Atherton’s celebrated Social Eating House, The Blind Pig is a worthy destination in its own right. It’s not immediately obvious how to find it at street level; look under the vintage ‘Optician’ sign for the blindfolded hog doorknocker and boom, you’re in. The decor is authentically retro but never schmaltzy and creativity with the names on the cocktail menu is employed with abandon: Dill or No Dill, anyone?

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El Camion

3 out of 5 stars
Restaurants Mexican Soho

The Pink Chihuahua (hidden below El Camion) is Mexican-themed but, unlike the kitsch Baja Californian restaurant above, it’s more a discerning basement drinking den where Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) iconography sits above a series of snugs. It's a temple to tequila and rum, there’s swift and smiling table service, and it’s open late - what's not to like?

Kettner’s Townhouse Champagne Bar

4 out of 5 stars
Bars and pubs Hotel bars Soho

Historic Soho hangout Kettner’s now falls under the wing of the Soho House group, but they’ve been sensitive in their renovations. In the champagne bar in particular you get a real sense of the glamour that once attracted the likes of Oscar Wilde through the door. Surprisingly, you can get a cheap glass of fizz here too, if you time your visit between 5pm and 7pm. A glass of blanc de noirs will cost you £7 – we’ll drink to that.

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Cahoots
Cahoots
Rob Greig

Cahoots

4 out of 5 stars
Bars and pubs Cocktail bars Soho

A quirky tube-themed cocktail bar that’s hot with tourists. It’s a little confused about what era it’s portraying but you’re not really looking for historical accuracy – Cahoots sure isn’t taking itself seriously. You’re allotted two hours of drinking time so book in advance. Our advice: ask for a seat in the carriage, the best spot in house, and save a trip for when friends visit from out of town. The bar has recently extended to incorporate a ‘ticket hall’ too, so your chances of getting a table – sorry, carriage! – have increased. 

Basement Sate

3 out of 5 stars
Bars and pubs Cocktail bars Soho

This Soho nightspot offers a compact list of cocktails, the promise of desserts, and a rota of DJs throughout the week. Half the menu lists ambitious desserts; the other half is a roster of hit and miss cocktails. Some are truly exceptional, others less so. Try the Cosa Nostra, an aperol-based cocktail that swaps out the usual prosecco for a champagne syrup.

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Brewdog

4 out of 5 stars
Bars and pubs Breweries Soho

There are no great surprises in the styling of this Brewdog, it has the same prison-yard chainlink-and-concrete thing as the other bars. No surprises in the craft beer selection, either – it’s typically great. There’s something for the hesitant lager fan as well as the dedicated explorer of craft beer’s outer reaches. What is surprising at Brewdog Soho, however, is the food. It cements this bar’s position as more than just another post-work beerathon.

Experimental Cocktail Club

4 out of 5 stars
Bars and pubs Cocktail bars Chinatown

While the 2010s saw wave after wave of bars launch under the ‘Brooklyn Prohibition’ template, Experimental Cocktail Club was one of the OGs. It’s hard to find, sure, perhaps more so than any other ‘speakeasy’ in London, but inside remains opulent and elegantly aloof to trends. Although no longer as zeitgeisty as it once was, it’s arranged over three floors of an old Chinatown townhouse, flatteringly lit and expensively decorated.

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Opium

4 out of 5 stars
Bars and pubs Cocktail bars Chinatown

Someone's gone to a lot of trouble to make this Chinatown cocktail bar and 'dim sum parlour' look shabby. The design is Eastern smoking den meets Western hipster hangout, with Chinese vases and burning incense mixed with deep funky beats and retro armchairs straight from granny’s sitting room. Be sure to visit the loo: there are motion-activated lights and the speakers will blast you with terrifyingly loud Mandarin announcements.

Venue says Grab a ticket for our upcoming Cocktail Clubs all about American Whiskeys and European Rums. Visit our website to book.

The Vault of Soho

3 out of 5 stars
Bars and pubs Cocktail bars Soho

There is a rather splendid touch in the entrance to this basement bar under Milroy’s whiskey specialist – you enter via a ‘hidden’ door in a fake bookcase. The main cocktail list is heavy on experimentation, and the bartenders’ evident expertise might make it worthwhile dipping in there. Soho’s not short of cocktail bars, but Milroy’s has a bright spark in its underground cavern.

Venue says We'll be back in September. Until then, visit our Outdoor Terrace,  where we serve bottled cocktails, beer and whisky Thursday-Saturday.

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Rum Kitchen

3 out of 5 stars
Bars and pubs Cocktail bars Soho

It’s Caribbean for the loafers-and-gilet set, for sure. With carefully distressed driftwood, the don’t-worry-be-happy slogans on the walls, the fancied-up versions of Caribbean classics on the food menu and the all-rum cocktails. If you’re planning on weighing anchor here for a spot of grog, however, take heed: this Rum Kitchen is more ‘kitchen’ than ‘rum’ – the drinking area is small, seating only a few at the bar.

Soho Grind

4 out of 5 stars
Restaurants Coffeeshops Soho

Soho Grind serves coffee by day and caffeine fuelled-cocktails in the basement bar by night. This (trend overload alert) speakeasy-style bar also serves a range of fruity cocktails, straight prosecco, wine and beer – if coffee in your booze isn't quite your thing. Either way you’re definitely leaving with a buzz.

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Aqua Spirit

3 out of 5 stars
Bars and pubs Cocktail bars Soho

It’s quality cocktails in a lacklustre sky-high setting at Aqua Spirit. But it's a rooftop bar in Soho, so it's worth knowing about. The roof terraces are set awkwardly at the opposite end of the room to the lift entrance and can only be accessed by sashaying through the slick Japanese restaurant. It’s a shame the terrace doesn’t have the same chic international style as the dark, sexy interior bar, circular in shape and ideal for perching and people watching.

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