Top 5 Cocktail Tasting Bars in London
From classic cocktails to the most inventive twists on old favourites, London’s cocktail bars are mastering their craft. And now, they’re letting you shake up your very own drinks.
Whether you’re a hen party or a date night with a difference, there are a few places in London that will get you started with your cocktail making skills. Keep reading for a list of our top picks.
Gong is London’s highest bar, perched on level 52 of the Shard – and it’s also one of the most impressive. It resembles a Bond baddie’s penthouse in the sky (complete with separate Champagne bar and dramatic infinity pool), and its views over the city are truly spectacular.
This Asian-themed cocktail bar oozes glamour, with marble bars providing the focal point, and bar stools and lounge chairs upholstered in scarlet fabrics and mood lights shimmering off the smooth surfaces. It’s a fantastic place to impress friends or enjoy a night out, and it’s especially lovely at sunset.
As the highest bar in Western Europe, Gong has some serious views over London. From here you can see the River Thames winding its way through the city, as well as landmarks like Tower Bridge and St Paul’s Cathedral.
It’s not just the view that makes this one of London’s best cocktails bars, though; the menu itself is a work of conceptual heft. It’s titled “A Miscellany of Inventions” and is a liquid tribute to history’s most transformative inventions.
The drinks themselves are a mix of classic and contemporary. For example, the Woody Allen-inspired Storm and Marbles is a trio of bespoke concoctions served in three different ceramic cups. Each one comes with a rum based drink, a chai tea foam and a passion fruit flavoured aperitif wine.
While it’s not cheap, the ambiance is stunning and there are some amazing cocktails to try here. There are also a number of different themes for the drinks, so there’s something for everyone!
The bar also has an eco-friendly initiative in place, with a range of sustainable spirits incorporated into the pop-up menu. One example is Diplomatico Rum, which is sourced from a South American sustainable sugar cane plantation.
In a quiet backstreet next to London Bridge, Nine Lives is a subterranean cocktail bar that’s making a big impact on London’s drinking scene. It’s not a place you’d expect to find in this neighbourhood – a mishmash of bars and restaurants, many of them with sleek glass windows – but if you open the door and put your preconceptions aside, you’ll be amazed at what you discover.
Founded by the team behind specialist drinks agency Sweet&Chilli (they also own it), it’s all about sustainability and zero-waste. The bartenders source their ingredients from local bars and restaurants that would otherwise have gone to waste. They’ve even teamed up with Mexican chef El Tigre, who has parked up his eponymous taco truck in this corner of London for the summer months.
As you would expect from a bar that’s dedicated to sustainability, their menu is all about creating great cocktails using simple, natural ingredients. They’re divided into three sections: the classic, the bar’s take on the drink and a guest bartender’s creation.
On top of that, the drinks are all beautifully presented – a tally-of-nine sign above the bar, woven lampshades and marbled fascias – giving you a great sense of how the cocktail should taste before ordering. It’s a little fussy, but it works well and makes for a really satisfying experience.
They’re a bit of a hidden gem and it’s worth visiting if you’re looking for some serious booze, great vibes & a killer soundtrack. Whether you’re a regular or a newbie, it’s easy to see why this is becoming one of the city’s best cocktail bars. The bartenders are passionate about their work and make every effort to ensure the environment is as sustainable as possible.
A stylish Tower Bridge restaurant with a big outdoor terrace, Tavolino Bar & Kitchen is a short walk from London Bridge and offers incredible views over the River Thames. The spot has two floors of cosy banquette seating and is a good choice for al fresco dining in the summer.
If you’re looking for a casual date night or small birthday dinner, Tavolino is definitely worth checking out. The menu consists of fresh pasta with a modern Italian twist from chef Louis Korovilas. Previously the head chef at Bacone, he has been enlisted to create a modern take on the traditional Italian format and has made it one of London’s newer gastronomic hotspots.
The dishes on offer are all a delight to tuck into, including starters of Sicilian-inspired antipasti such as smooth burrata accompanied by a caponata and pickled celery. There are also larger dishes such as steamed sea bass fillet served with a Sicilian zucchini salad and a grass-fed beef dish with summer truffle and polenta.
As well as the delicious food, the venue also offers a selection of refreshing cocktails. The ITALICUS spritz combines a blend of Colonel Fox gin, chamomile and lemon, while the Bella Vita utilises hibiscus syrup.
During the summer, the bar is also opening up its terrace, allowing guests to enjoy the calming atmosphere while sipping on expertly curated ITALICUS cocktails. Taking inspiration from the island of Capri, the Dolce Nuvola encapsulates its renowned lemons with its intense citrus flavour, while the Alba Chiara is a light and floral blend of ITALICUS, peach and chamomile cordial and Fever Tree tonic that’s perfect for cooling off on warm days.
The American Bar
Located in London’s prestigious Savoy Hotel, The American Bar has been serving the best cocktails in the world since 1893. It’s the oldest surviving cocktail bar in London, and also one of the most renowned in the world.
As well as its impressive history, The American Bar is known for its impeccable service and beautiful art-deco surroundings. It’s a classy place to impress a client or a date, and also offers a more relaxed vibe for casual drinks.
The menu here features classic and signature serves that are available from PS18 upwards, as well as some more inventive cocktails. They’ve also recently launched a new menu that pays homage to some of the legendary musicians and songwriters who have entertained guests in the bar throughout its long history.
Some of the drinks on offer are quite a mouth-watering mix of alcohol and special ingredients that you’ll never find anywhere else. Amongst them are The Dreamer, a drink inspired by George Harrison; The Sun Sun Sun, made with gin and grapefruit; and the Corpse Reviver 1915, which has rye whiskey, bourbon, lime juice, orange bitters and absinthe.
In addition to a range of classic drinks, The American Bar has an extensive selection of spirits from around the world. They’re known for their use of premium ingredients, and are always on the lookout for new gins to add to the menu.
While it’s not the cheapest cocktail spot in London, it does offer a good value for money experience with excellent drinks. Those who love a good gin and tonic should try the ‘Pluvia’, made with Highclere Castle gin, Grand Marnier, gooseberry and rhubarb sparkling wine for 20 pounds ($29). Other highlights include The Suffragette, which is made with Suntory Roku gin, Choya Umeshu, Lillet Rose, Peychaud’s bitters and absinthe for 22 pounds ($29), and the Moonraker, which has Powers Gold Label Irish whiskey, Grand Marnier, chamomile, lemon and Laurent-Perrier La Cuvee Champagne for 25 pounds ($33).
Located in Peckham Rye and fast becoming a cocktail lovers destination, Funkidory started out with a loyal local following, maintaining the relaxed feel of a neighbourhood bar. The drinks list draws you in with creative twists on familiar favourites, each serve considered and well executed.
The cosy, modish bar feels like it could be found in the 70s, with avocado-hued walls and subtle whiff of incense. A playlist of banging tunes keeps things groovy and the shelves are stacked with bottles of spirits, ready to be measured into stellar signature cocktails.
This cool, chilled out spot on Peckham Rye is a record and bottle shop by day, and a bad-ass cocktail bar by night. They’ve paired a menu of boozy and non-alcoholic cocktails with an extensive selection of natural wines, craft beers and more.
They also love a good vinyl and have curated a playlist that’s guaranteed to get you in the mood for a funky night out. It’s no wonder this is one of the best spots to sip a drink and listen to some seriously good music.
Ahead of London Cocktail Week, which takes place from 11th – 16th October, Peckham’s Funkidory have set up residency at their old ateliers workshop on Boundary Street to show off their clean and considered style of drinks. The team’ll be showing off their skills in a special one-off menu, using Santa Teresa 1796 Rum at its root.
This summer, the Cocktails in the City – London Summer Series is coming to Bedford Square Gardens, featuring over 20 bars reimagined in pop-up form for an immersive and unique drinking experience. There will be blending sessions, tutored tastings and new signature cocktails created exclusively for the event by some of London’s most creative bartenders.