Home to the famed “Cocktail Week,” London is bursting with incredible bars. Whether you’re a local, or a tourist, you can easily be overwhelmed with choice. While I couldn’t possibly make a dent in trying them all, I did discover several spots worth sharing. Many ‘Best’ lists for cocktail bars already exist, so here are some hidden cocktail gems of London. These are either speakeasy-style spots you might have to hunt for or hidden in plain site among too many others to choose from.
Pronounced “quaint” – Kwānt should be at the top of any serious cocktail lovers list. Nestled under a Moroccan restaurant, the bar was just awarded the number 47 slot on the World’s 50 Best Bar list. The award was made even more impressive because the bar only opened six weeks before nominations were due. It’s like stepping into another place in time, vintage cocktails and all.
The drinks were interesting and delicious. On the left is the “Hacienda” which is a blend of Patron Silver tequila shaken with Cocchi Rosa, lacto fermented purple carrot, Tio Pepe Fino sherry, Vida mezcal, agave, and lime juice. The cocktail on the right is the “Green Pony” made with Copperhead gin with Fallen Pony, lemon, spirulina, and London essence tonic water. Both were truly amazing.
Part workshop, part laboratory, tayēr + elementary are two separate bars in one location. The ice carving and drink station in tayēr was a flurry of activity. All the bartenders stepped out of the frame so I could grab this shot of tayēr. Another good sign that this bar is a gem were the four bartenders from Happiness Forgets (see below) sitting next to us ordering drinks.
The menu at tāyer lists drinks by their primary flavor, instead of naming it something. I had the Vetiver (after my experience at Tippling Club in Singapore, I had to try another). In addition to Muyu Vetiver Gris, the drink also featured Noilly Prat Dry vermouth, Campari, and Del Maguey Vida mezcal. The flavor was unique but the ice ball was my favorite part.
Housed in a disused underground station, Cahoots needs to be on your list. While the drinks were a bit too sweet for me, the atmosphere, live music, and theme were on point. As you descend the stairs, you pass back to Spring 1946. The hostess greets parties with, “It’s 1946. The war has ended. It’s time to celebrate.”
The glassware, staff costumes, and ingredients all harken back to 1946. The house spirit, Cahooch, is a blend of rum, bourbon, Cointreau, and vermouth. It’s prepared in four different drinks. I had the Cahooch Sour, which included Cahooch, lemon, chamomile & cardamom syrup, and egg white.
The space features a vintage subway car (left) that you can sit in and the menu is printed as a newspaper. In addition to the Underground, there are two other bar options within Cahoots–the Ticket Hall that serves tea during the day and drinks at night and the Control Room.
Billed as a bar featuring high-end cocktails in a low-rent basement, Happiness Forgets is tiny and charming. The bar takes reservations but leaves half of the tables open for walk-ins. It was packed but we were seated at a table within five minutes of arriving. They were also recently named to the 2019 World’s 50 Best Bars list, coming in at number 40.
I ordered the Clean Sweep which is a mixture of gin, sloe gin, LBV port, Cynar, cacao, Yellow Chartreuse, and a whole egg. The flavor profile is piney and bitter–and was quite delicious. The copper still in the corner was eye catching as well.
From a fancy prosciutto slicer to gourmet coffees and cocktails, Bar Termini was a treat. The Italian bartenders created a light and fun atmosphere within an incredibly small location. Serving coffee and small plates earlier in the day, the bar transitions to a lively nightspot.
The bartenders wanted to deconstruct what wine might taste like without the grapes. They call it “Terroir” and it’s flavor is described as flint, clay, and lichen distillates. It was very unique and was a great drink to sip slowly.
A Few More to Try
Unfortunately, my trip came to an end before I got to all the places I wanted to go. I try to get recommendations from other bartenders in an out of London that I cross-reference with my own list. Here are a few that made it to my map but I haven’t tried yet:
- Swift (right across the street from Bar Termini) – 12 Old Compton Street – recently named #41 on the 2019 World’s 50 Best Bar list
- Three Sheets – 510b Kingsland Road – recently named #16 on the 2019 World’s 50 Best Bar list
- The Vault – found through a bookcase at 3 Greek Street
- The Coral Room – 16-22 Great Russell Street – serving tea and cocktails
And there you have it, a few hidden cocktail gems of London. Cheers!