Are you dismayed when a work colleague suggests after-office cocktails, and then drags you to the local Wetherspoons or All Bar One? There’s nothing worse than a run-of-the-mill drinking den, so next time you can’t get an Old Fashioned out of your head, sate your cocktail needs in a more salubrious setting. Here are five of the capital’s best.
Bull in a China Shop, 196 Shoreditch High St
Nestled just beside a railway arch near Liverpool Street, you could almost miss this brilliant cocktail bar as its black-clad frontage and lack of signage mean many will just walk on past.
However, that would be a huge mistake. Not only would you be missing out on the most moreish of Asian food (ask for the mac’n’cheese scotch eggs, even if they’re not on the menu), but it’s safe to say you can’t put a foot wrong in this intimate setting. With a cocktail list that covers many classics, the draw here is its incredible range of whiskies that range from the rarest of Highland malts to award-winning Japanese drams via a Bourbon chaser or two.
The Punch Room,10 Berners St
In the London Edition hotel lies this most urbane and sophisticated of cocktail lounges. With plush banquettes, oversized tureens and dumb waiters, it’s gloriously anachronistic in such a modern setting. Reservations are strictly required to drink here however, but it’s certainly somewhere to bring a date and treat her some of its finest cocktail creations all served out of the finest china tea services this side of Apsley House.
Black Rock, 9 Christopher St
Another mainstay for whisky fans, but increasingly cocktail connoisseurs alike, this curious bolthole attracts in-the-know City drinkers and curious customer from the Sherry bar above.
In this dark, subterranean enclave, pull up a chair at one of the metal tables or round the hollowed out-half of a tree that commands the room and serves as a table and whisky barrel. Containing 17 litres of whisky and lined with American and European oak, two separate taps pour forth the Cherry River, or a house blend of whisky, which is maturing all the time.
Or you could settle for one of 250 whiskies in its glass cabinets, or even its whisky cocktails centred around six core flavours of balance, fragrance, fruit, spice, sweet and smoke.
East London Liquor Company, 221 Grove Rd
Located in an old glue factory in Bow, ELLC started off as a gin distillery and soon branched out into producing its own vodka and a London Rye, which will be available next year. Handily for spirits fans, it also imports a huge range of liquors and bottles.
You can also expect a cocktail menu that uses the gins and vodkas from its awesome, gleaming stills, which you can behold from the bar. Said cocktails are also executed in a brilliant fashion and come served inventively and immaculately. For evidence, see Something Hoppy This Way Comes which fuses demerara rum and dry amaretto, with lemon juice, egg white and hoppy pale ale. A palpable hit.
The Nightjar, 129 City Rd
With a online booking-only policy, this Speakeasy-style bar is still going strong after seven years. And in this part of Shoreditch, where fly-by-night cocktail bars are two a penny, it’s easy to see why. Ensuring the atmosphere of the 1920s persists is its modus operandi. This is heightened by the inclusion of live music, alternating between jazz, swing and blues.
It’s cocktail is immensely varied however. Divided into 5 sections, pre-prohibition, prohibition, post-war, Nightjar signatures and sharing, you could peruse over its numerous creations each with a multiplicity of ingredients all night. Or you could pick one of five Vintage spirits, say, an Old Mr Boston Sloe Gin from the 1940s or the Antiquary Scotch from the 1880s. All with price tags to match of course.
Check out our guide to the best craft beer bars in London here