While grabbing a pint at a traditional British pub is a must for most visitors to London, England, those whom prefer a craft cocktail over a pint of beer can now revel in London’s thriving craft cocktail scene! With a nod to the 1920’s American prohibition era, most of the speakeasy-style cocktail bars can be found in unassuming buildings around central London. While majority of the bars can be hard to find, the hunt is worth the tasty libations awaiting you! Here are my tips to navigating London’s craft cocktail scene!
While there are dozens of craft cocktail bars throughout London, doing a little research (whether you want a dimly lit, quiet bar or a vibrant atmosphere) before venturing to one will help you enjoy your tasty libation even more!
Finding the perfect craft cocktail bar/speakeasy in London:
- Research online. I like small, locally owned/operated bars with fewer crowds so I can converse easily with those whom I share a drink. I typically search for a quieter vibe when looking for a cocktail bar.
- Once you decide on a bar, call the speakeasy for reservations or make reservations online (if available). The craft cocktail scene has become so popular in London, that most require a reservation. But I also found, if you are polite and smile, the doorman and host/hostess usually will accommodate you!
- Make sure to get directions, an address and the password (if needed) for the door man. Most bars can be found on Google Maps, but a few were tricky to find even with a map!
- Arrive 5-10 minutes earlier than your reservation. Some bars require an early arrival or they will give your reservations to someone else if you arrive late!
Now that you have settled into your seat, the toughest decision of the night will be what to drink! I would suggest perusing the cocktail menu (typically drink menus group cocktails into types of alcohol; gin, whiskey, vodka, etc.), ask the bartender what is his/her favorite drink to make and ask your server what is his/her favorite cocktail. A knowledgeable bartender should be able to create a drink specially for you, if you tell them what you like in a drink (fruity, smoky, etc.), which can be quite an educational experience! Take a moment to appreciate your artisanal concoction and enjoy your tasty libation!
You might be wondering why to choose a craft cocktail bar over a traditional British Pub. I love having a pint at a London pub, but I tend to enjoy the experience of a well-made craft cocktail a little more. The two main reasons I choose a cocktail bar over a traditional pub are:
~Speakeasy vibe. From vintage accents and décor to soft lighting, old-school music (from jazz, classic or soft rock to “Big Band” sounds like Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin) and the secretive American prohibition era atmosphere…I guess I’m just an old soul who loves all things vintage! 😉
~Exquisitely hand-crafted drinks. A talented bartender can create a tasty libation that you might think only exists in your wildest dreams! While I enjoy the creativity of the bartenders, some drinks were almost too beautiful to drink…well almost! 😉 From cocktails served in a conch shell, a tea cup or in a smoke box (yes, with smoke billowing out from underneath the drink!) to cocktails in vintage champagne and highball glasses, the presentation of the drinks I consumed were entertaining and innovative! Drinks garnished with sweet candies, lavender and herbs, drinks with macaroni straws atop a warm mug or cocktails sprinkled with edible gold flakes, London’s craft cocktails are delightful creations!
A few of my favorite craft cocktail bars in London are:
~Mr. Fogg’s Residence in Mayfair (two other locations in Covent Garden, Mr. Fogg’s Tavern and Mr. Fogg’s Gin Parlour), is a trendy English-style speakeasy with décor reminiscent of Jules Verne’s Around the World in Eighty Days. Enjoy the vintage vibe and a delightfully crafted cocktail in this old-world bar.
~Night Jar, in the trendy Shoreditch neighborhood of London, is the perfect cozy spot to enjoy live music and a lovingly crafted, incredibly imaginative cocktail.
My gorgeous friend, Lisa (who lives in London), enjoying a cocktail from a conch shell!
~Milk & Honey, located in London’s fashionable Soho district, has an old-school speakeasy vibe perfect for conversation and to enjoy a tasty cocktail creation.
~Opium, in London’s Chinatown, is a lovely mix of Asian-inspired craft cocktails with a modern twist. If your cocktails make you hungry, sample some of their delicious Dim Sum!
Although London’s craft cocktails are pretty to admire and tasty to drink, the concoctions are not budget friendly. Most hand-crafted drinks start at 15GBP, but if you savor the uniqueness and appreciate the deliciousness of hand-crafted cocktails, you really should experience at least one craft cocktail in London! Even if you don’t drink alcohol, ask for a mocktail, the fresh ingredients will still be tasty without the alcohol! Cheers to London’s fabulous craft cocktail scene!