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. With so much choice, it's easy to get overwhelmed but fear not, we're on hand with a guide to some of the very finest bars in Soho to make your night out a little smoother.
Make a beeline for Mark’s Bar – the Soho cocktail institution is set to close its doors for good on Sunday December 22. We’re raising a Martini in its honour right now.
RECOMMENDED: Find more fun in the neighbourhood with our area guide to Soho
The best bars in 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.
A sharply turned out cocktail lounge on the edge of Chinatown filled with pastel pink and baby blue. It’s part of The Blue Posts, a revamped pub from the The Palomar and The Barbary restaurant team, and it’s a gorgeous spot for cosseted drinking. The drinks list is seriously on trend: choose from a sherry list, a vermouth list, an alcohol-free section, rum served by the carafe and delicious cocktails galore.
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.
This, the urban myth has it, has long been one the best bars for cocktails in London. It might well be, but it’s hard to tell unless you have night vision like an owl – the lighting is turned down so low you’ll need to borrow a candle to read the drink list, let alone see your drink, and you may not even recognise your drinking companions across the table. And then there’s the difficulty of getting in. But still, it's one for the London bucket list.
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 even when the place is full. We love the brevity and simplicity of the cocktail list: just 19 drinks and most of them tried and tested classics.
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?
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 The Vault serves up unpretentious, original and unforgettable cocktails in a welcoming basement bar hidden under the streets of Soho.
When you think of Ziggy Stardust, chances are you don’t think of a snug cocktail bar in a glitzy central London hotel. But that’s what you get at Ziggy’s at the Hotel Café Royal, a bar that launched in honour of David Bowie and references the glam rocker’s lyrics in the names of its cocktails. It’s not totally tenuous, though, since Bowie held a retirement party for his alter ego in this very building. The drinks cost £15 a pop and didn't blow our minds, but his songs play on the stereo and photographs hang on the walls, so there are some positives – especially for the mega fans.
Book a table here for date night and things are sure to smoulder (request a space in one of the plush pink booths for extra blushes). The basement bar has a slightly convoluted cocktail menu, but stick with classic martinis to feel classy-as-hell in what is mostly a pretty glam setting.
This Greek Street wine and cocktail bar is a three-way project between experienced bar professionals, two from the cocktail side of things and one from the wine side. The ground floor is a wine bar, with a globetrotting list available by the glass, carafe or bottle. Unusual cocktails happen on the first floor, in a lovely warren of darkly lit rooms offering an assortment of seating options.
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 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.
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.