World-famous hotel bars, chic cocktail bars and quirky pop-ups: London boasts every type of bar imaginable. Naturally then, knowing where to start can be tricky. So we’ve narrowed tens of thousands down to must-visit venues. They have history, they have stories. They’re the best of the best.
THE AMERICAN BAR, THE SAVOY
The American Bar at the Savoy is not only the most famous hotel bar in London, it’s the one of the most famous hotel bars in the world. From late-night shenanigans with Richard Burton and Oliver Reed to morning gin with the Queen Mother (she came every day, apparently) this London institution is teeming with interesting history. Even the name has a great story as it was opened by an American cocktail waiter escaping Prohibition in his homeland.
69 COLEBROOKE ROW, ISLINGTON
‘The bar with no name’, it styles itself – try telling that to a taxi driver. In reality, everyone knows this place by its address, hidden away from the Upper Street hordes on an Islington backstreet. It’s the tiny flagship of bar supremo Tony Conigliaro, noted worldwide for his dedication to the art of the mixed drink: as such, it’s not easy to get a seat here without booking. Punters come for the cocktails, all of which are outstanding.
BLIND PIG, SOHO
The Blind Pig takes its name from the US codename used for bars during the Prohibition era, and a blindfolded little piggie doubles as a doorknocker at this otherwise nondescript entrance on Poland Street. The interior is charmingly antiquey, with dark wood, ageing brown leather and a mirrored ceiling. But the drinks are anything but low key, with punheavy names on the menu and a specials list of drinks based on childhood tales – from Winnie the Pooh to Harry Potter. A million miles from illegal hooch.
Inspired by Jules Verne’s eccentric “Around the World in 80 Days’” protagonist Phileas J Fogg, this bar is packed with interesting artifacts, thick rugs, clocks of all shapes and sizes and beautiful oak furniture. Like the décor, the cocktail list is quirky too. There’s even an audiobook of Around the World in 80 Days playing in the bathroom.
THE CONNAUGHT BAR, THE CONNAUGHT
You couldn’t make a list of London’s best cocktails and leave off the Connaught. Make your first drink a martini: a trolley is wheeled out and the drinks are made right at your table. If you’re not staying at the Connaught then you still get to walk through the impressive hotel lobby equipped with a huge formal staircase and old-world front desk.
PUNCH ROOM, THE LONDON EDITION
It could be the décor which perfectly captures private member’s clubs of the
19th century, or it could be the fact that you need a reservation to get in, but one word encapsulates the Punch Room at the Edition perfectly: exclusive. As you may well have guessed, the drinks-focus is punch: there are 10 bowls on the menu coming in different sizes for one or more people. A curated soundtrack of vintage soul, blues, ragtime, and doo-wop is complemented by impromptu live performances too. If you’ve watched hit US drama Mad Men, you’ll have longed to visit bars just like this.