Our guide to drinking guiltfree cocktails made from fresh fruit and vegetables.
The bad news: January is not a month known for excess. The good news: for those who want to watch their waistlines and still let their hair down, there are plenty of opportunities to do so, as many bars across London offer low-calorie cocktails.
At Drake & Morgan’s The Parlour, located in Canary Wharf, the lengthy cocktail list includes delicious drinks that won’t give you a guilt trip. The Skinny Russian Rose Martini is made from Smirnoff Black vodka, lychee liqueur and ginger syrup, then garnished with a rose petal. It’s just 80 calories, and it tastes as good as it looks. Alternatively, the Skinny Hummingbird Cosmo is a fresh take on the traditional Cosmopolitan cocktail and is made with Little Bird gin, raspberries, elderflower and a squeeze of lime. And, while you are there, make sure you lose yourself in the secret garden-inspired lounge.
With its mismatched furniture, including a wardrobe that doubles as a door, Callooh Callay in Shoreditch is as popular as it is interesting. The drinks menu features vegetable cocktails, which are currently all the rage. One of the most popular is the Fernet Me Not, with Tanqueray gin, lemon, Fernet-Branca, cucumber and Prosecco, and the Pea-ter Rabbit, with carrot shrub and pea and anise vermouth. And, as vegetables have a lower sugar content than fruit, they are a ‘skinny’ alternative to fruit-based cocktails.
At the recently opened B.Y.O.C. Camden − which stands for ‘Bring Your Own Cocktail’ − guests are invited to bring their own sealed bottle of base spirit, and watch as the bar staff create whatever they desire from various garnishes, juices and syrups. This unique venue is decked out in the style of a 1920s speakeasy during the Prohibition era: there are several bars dotted around the venue, some of which are styled like gambling tables (above). The bar staff, who are also dressed in 1920s attire, will shake and stir your drinks to create something completely bespoke. It’s the perfect way to get rid of the January blues.
From fruit-based cocktails to vegetable tipples, Beatrice Yeatman-Biggs rounds up the best places to sip skinny drinks that keep your intake of alcohol and calories low.
TRADITIONAL PUBS Blackfriar, The
This Grade II-listed Art Nouveau pub opened 100 years ago, and offers traditional cask ales. www.nicholsonspubs.co.uk. 174 Queen Victoria St, EC4V 4EG. T: 020-7236 5474. E9. Station: Blackfriars.
Dog And Duck, The
This real-ale pub has regularly changing cask beers plus a British menu of pub food and bar snacks. www.nicholsonspubs.co.uk. 18 Bateman St, W1D 3AJ. T: 020-7494 0697. D7. Station: Tottenham Ct Rd.
This 17th-century pub boasts Byron, Shelley and Keats as past patrons. Allegedly it’s haunted – look out for the uniformed Cavalier! www.theflask highgate.com. 77 Highgate West Hill, N6 6BU. T: 020- 8348 7346. Off map. Station: Highgate.
French House, The
Once a gin parlour where not-so-savoury locals would gather, these days it’s creative, bohemian types who love this traditional Soho pub. There’s no TV or music – quite a novelty. www.french housesoho.com. 49 Dean St, W1D 5BG. T: 020-7437 2477. D7. Station: Tottenham Court Rd.
Magpie & Stump, The
Opposite the Old Bailey, this pub dates back to the 1500s, and once doubled up as a viewing spot for hangings at Newgate Prison. www.magpie andstump.com. 18 Old Bailey, EC4M 7EP. T: 0207248 5085. B8. Station: St. Paul’s.
Spaniards Inn, The
Follow in the footsteps of past regulars, highwayman Dick Turpin and novelist Charles Dickens, at this historic pub, one of London’s oldest. www.thespaniardshampstead.co.uk. Spaniard’s Rd, NW3 7JJ. T: 020- 8731 8406. Off map. Station: Hampstead.
Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese
This landmark pub has wood-panelled walls and vaults that are thought to date back to a 13thcentury Carmelite monastery which once stood here. If only walls could talk! 145 Fleet St, EC4A 2BU. T: 020-7353 6170. D9. Station: Blackfriars.
BARS & CLUBS Après London
This chic bar offers a vast range of cocktails such as the Pink Panther and the Passion Flower. There is a good selection of bar snacks, inc sliders and kebabs. www.apres-london.com. 31 Duke St, W1U 1LG. T: 020-7224 3452. D6. Station: Bond St.
Bar At Bellamy’s, The
This bar serves cocktails and wines in a chic setting, which is decorated with vintage French ski posters. The barmen are excellent at whipping up delicious drinks off the menu as well as improvising with custom blends − Champagne fans should ask for the Royal Kiss. 18/18a Bruton Place, W1J 6LY. T: 020-7491 2727. www.bellamys restaurant.co.uk. E6. Station: Oxford Circus.
Booking Office Bar
This elegant ground floor of the refurbished St. Pancras Renaissance hotel has largely remained in its grand original form, with cavernous arched ceilings and stone walls dating back to 1873. www.bookingofficebar.com. Euston Rd, NW1 2AR. T: 020-7841 3566. Station: King’s Cross.
Already a hit in New York, this fun music venue at The O2 boasts a 12-lane bowling alley, three bars and a Blue Ribbon restaurant, serving US favourites such as fried chicken, Cajun catfish and pizzas. www.london.brooklynbowl.com. The O2, Peninsula Square, SE10 0DX. T: 020-7412 8778. Off map. Station: North Greenwich.
Jason Atherton offers spectacular food, drink and views of London. Recently awarded a Michelin star for its food. www.citysociallondon. com. Tower 42, 25 Old Broad St, EC2N 1HQ. T: 020-7877 7703. D11. Station: Liverpool St.
C.O.L.D Bar (The City Of London Distillery)
A wonderful well-stocked bar with more than 230 different types of gin from all over the world, plus other select spirits. www.coldbar.co.uk. 22-24 Bride Lane, EC4Y 8DT. T: 020-7936 3446. D9. Station: Blackfriars.
Copa De Cava
Get into the atmosphere of Barcelona in the UK’s first-ever dedicated cava bar. Enter the cosy stone-walled basement for an array of bubbly from Spain, by the glass or the bottle. Pair up with fresh tapas. www.cava.co.uk. 33 Blackfriars Lane, EC4V 6EP. T: 020-7125 0930. E9. Station: Blackfriars.
A rustic bar styled on a traditional Spanish sherry tavern typical of Jerez, with rare sherries that are served straight from the barrel. There are also organic craft beers and Andalucian food. www.drakestabanco.com. 3 Windmill St, W1T 2HY. T: 020-7637 9388. D7. Station: Goodge St.
Experimental Cocktail Club
This opulent bar, spread over three floors of an old Chinatown townhouse, is tucked away but worth the search. Stylish and well-made cocktails. Booking is highly recommended. www.experimentalcocktailclublondon.com. 13a Gerrard St, W1D 5PS. T: 020-7434 3559.
Station: Leicester Sq.
Set over three floors and open all day for breakfast, lunch, dinner and drinks, this is a treasure trove of curiosities, from the fox-head lamps to the vintage typewriter. There’s also a library brimming with leather-bound storybooks. www.thefablebar.co.uk. 52 Holborn Viaduct, EC1A 2FD. T: 0845- 468 0105. D9. Station: Farringdon.
A famous super club that champions dance music. Expect big-name DJs to play for the night. The venue attracts fans of dance, house, electric, dubstep and techno music who are ready to party into the early hours. www.fabriclondon.com. 77a Charterhouse St, EC1M 6HJ. T: 020-7336 8898. D9. Station: Farringdon.
This venue is famed for its live music scene, with Latin jazz and funk bands playing each night. The lively atmosphere brings a touch of Cuban colour to Soho. The cocktail list is adventurous, and there is a restaurant downstairs. www.floriditalondon.com. 100 Wardour St, W1F 0TN. T: 020-7314 4000. D7. Station: Tottenham Ct Rd.
This gay-friendly bar and club attracts a trendy crowd in its stylish cocktail bar or nightclub. The ground floor bar is decked out with crystal chandeliers and leather booths. Downstairs club inc 200 mirror balls, and hosts live performance events inc weekly Cabaret night Kinky Kabaret. www.freedombarsoho.com. 60- 66 Wardour St, W1F 0TA. T: 020-7734 0071. D7. Station: Tottenham Court Rd.
Located on the 52nd floor of The Shard, Gong is the bar of the skyscraper’s new luxury hotel, Shangri-La. Officially the highest Champagne bar in Western Europe, the venue has a variety of areas where you can enjoy your drink, which inc the cocktail bar, Champagne bar and swimming pool. www.shangri-la.com. 31 St. Thomas St, SE1 9QU. T: 020-7234 8000. F10. Station: London Bridge.
Gordon’s Wine Bar
This is the oldest wine bar in London. Uncorking bottles since 1890 in this stone-walled basement, Gordon’s Wine Bar transports you back to Dickensian London. The cellar space is filled with rickety tables and candlelight. There is an award-winning wine list and a selection of Champagnes and fortified wines. The menu is filled with well-priced pub food inc cheese platters and pies, an outside grill in the summer and Sunday roasts. www.gordonswinebar.com. 47 Villiers St, WC2N 6NE. T: 020-7930 1408. E8. Station: Embankment.
Restaurateur Mark Hix’s bar shows his trademark interest in modern art. You can expect to see Tracey Emin and Gary Cox’s work. www.marks bar.co.uk. Mark’s Bar, 16 Great Guildford St, SE1 0HS. T: 020-7921 9508. E9. Station: Southwark.
Nestled deep in the vaults of the London Palladium, the club was originally an 18th-century Freemasons’ centre. www.mason-house.com. 8-9 Argyll St, W1F 7TF. T: 020-7734 5776. D7. Station: Oxford Circus.
Enjoy Prohibition-era cocktails at this basement bar in Shoreditch, where dressing up adds to the fun. Live music most nights from the golden age of jazz. www.barnightjar.com. 129 City Rd, EC1V 1JB. T: 020-7253 4101. C10. Station: Old St.
Old Bengal Bar
This place is converted from a former warehouse located in a quiet back street, with original brick walls and leather sofas. Enjoy classic cocktails. www.oldbengalbar.com. 16 New St, EC2M 4TR. T: 020-3503 0780. D11. Station: Liverpool St.
Opium Cocktail Bar
This stylish upstairs bar tucked away in Chinatown serves innovative Chinese-inspired cocktails. www.opiumchinatown.com. 15 Gerrard St, W1D 6JA. T: 020-7734 7276. E7. Station: Leicester Sq.
Club, bar and restaurant celebrating all things Nordic. Try one of the native draught beers and dance to hip-hop, funk and house. www.oslo hackney.com. 1a Amhurst Rd, E8 1LL. T: 020-3553 4831. Off map. Station: Hackney Central.
Enjoy a range of interesting cocktails at this laidback bar, which offers free live music every night of the week, inc soul, swing and jazz. www.primo bar.co.uk. Park Plaza Westminster Bridge, SE1 7UT. T: 020-7620 7282. F8. Station: Waterloo.
Reverend J.W. Simpson
This cocktail bar is a real slice of ‘shabby chic’ – and is the genuine ex-abode of the good Reverend, proved by the blue plaque outside. Scruffy sofas and a laid-back vibe are its hallmark. www.revjwsimpson.com. 32 Goodge St, W1T 2QJ. T: 020-3174 1155. E7. Station: Goodge St.
Part of the luxury hotel Rosewood London, this elegant bar is named after Gerald Scarfe, the cartoonist famous for his satirical illustrations. He was commissioned to create cartoons of iconic British figures, cast on panels around the room. Enjoy cocktails and Indian-inspired snacks. www.rosewoodhotels.com. 252 High Holborn, WC1V 7EN. T: 020-3747 8611. D8. Station: Holborn.
Searcys Champagne Bar
Europe’s longest Champagne bar, in the upstairs forecourt of the glorious train station, has a huge selection of bubbly, plus seafood platters. www.searcyschampagnebars.co.uk. St. Pancras International, Euston Rd, N1C 4QL. T: 020-7870 9900. C8. Station: King’s Cross St. Pancras.
Tiki-style basement bar and restaurant, which is over 50 years old. Try the trademark Mai Tai cocktail in an exotic setting, which includes artefacts from around the world. www.trader vicslondon.com. London Hilton On Park Lane, 22 Park Ln, W1K 1BE. T: 020-7208 4113. E6. Station: Hyde Park Cnr.
Inspired by the Kentucky Derby horse race, this intimate bar decorated with jockey silks and vintage furniture has a focus on gin-based drinks. Try delicious bar snacks such as scallop ceviche with pickled cucumber citrus dressing. www.the runninghorselondon.co.uk. 50 Davies St, W1K 5JE. T: 020-7493 1275. Station: Bond St.