I never used to drink alcohol that much. The first time I ever got drunk I was 19 years old, and the time after that, I was 21. I just wasn’t bothered about drinking, especially drinking horrible shots of apple sourz, jaeger bombs and cheap rosé. But when I moved to London, my appreciation of good quality alcohol developed, and with that, my adoration of cocktails. Since i’ve been living here, I’ve had the chance to try out some amazing cocktail bars, with friends, on dates, for birthdays or just because it’s 5 O Clock somewhere! – here is a review of some of my favourites so far.
Covent Garden Cocktail Club, Great Newport Street
This is one of my favourite places in London, let alone one of my favourite bars. I don’t know if it’s the cocktails or the customer service that makes this bar awesome. It’s probably both. As soon as you walk down the stairs of this private members club and through the doors of the bar you are acknowledged by one if not all of the barmen, and when you approach the bar, they make sure to serve you as soon as they can, or they at least hand you a menu to allow you to contemplate your tipple while you wait. This place gets pretty busy on a Friday and Saturday night , but it is possible to book a table on an area if you’re wanting to visit with a large group. It’s always a fun night on a Thursday as the piano is put into action by their scheduled pianist who plays a mixture of comtemporary mash-ups and bar classics, and when the piano isn’t in use, the boys play a mix of the best bar songs to get everyone keen to party – they have no objection to dancing (this includes on the bar, as I found out one embarrassing evening back in May) But of course it is really the cocktails which have kept me coming back to this basement speak-easy. I’m proud/ashamed to say I have tried the majority of the 5 page menu in this bar, and have my favourites. The Solero cocktail is served with an ice lolly stick and a lemon as garnish, and tastes exactly like the juice of a solero iced-lolly as it melts in the sun, while the Brixton Riot cocktail comes to you with a garnish of flames and tastes delicious and sweet. A classic favourite of mine has to be the Porn Star Martini – ask your barman the recommended traditional way to consume this cheeky drink. And for those looking for a wild night, why not try the Flaming Zombie, which comes served in a glass skull. Dangerously good. Be sure to take lots of photos because you won’t remember it the next morning… All cocktails are priced between £7.50 and £9.50, and if for some bizarre reason you don’t fancy a cocktail, they also have a selection of bottled beers and wines. Happy hour is between 5pm and 7pm every night and all night Monday, and they’re open 6 days a week – but as this is a members club, you will need to become a member if you want to drink in this awesome bar. Registration is available on their website www.coventgardencocktailclub.co.uk
Seven at Brixton, no 7. Market row
I went to this tapas and cocktail bar back in the summer with someone who was trying to prove to me that Brixton isn’t such an awful place. We sat at the bar and contemplated their menu which consisted of a few classics (Pina Coladas), some with a twist (Strawberry and Balsamic Daiquiri) as well as their own creations (Ginger Beer Basil Mojito) All cocktails were priced at £5, and for the quality of these cocktails I thought this was a bargain. I opted for the Strawberry and Balsamic Daiquiri which was delicious – very refreshing, and the balsamic gave it a tasty kick which I really enjoyed. The atmosphere in there was great. The front of the bar was completely open, missing the forth wall, which gave it a really casual ‘everyone is welcome’ kind of vibe which was really lovely. It was busy, being a Saturday night, but we didn’t struggle to get a seat at the bar which meant we could order easily for the rest of the night. They stopped serving drinks reasonably early which was unfortunate (I was able to get the tube home) as I was keen to try a few more of their interesting cocktails, but i’d be happy to return there. I would be interested on what the atmosphere would be like there in the winter months as there was a carefree summer feel to this place when I visited, and while I didn’t try the food, the tapas plate sat next to me did look very tasty so maybe this would be a great place for dinner and drinks with friends. This bar certainly helped sway my opinion of what Brixton has to offer.
Sky Lounge at The Doubletree Hilton, Tower Hill
This place isn’t best know for it’s cocktails. It’s more about the view. Its a bar at the top of the DoubleTree Hilton in Tower Hill, and boasts panoramic views of the entire city – from Tower bridge, the The Shard, the the Gherkin and a few other high buildings we couldn’t quite name. It’s always filled to the brim with city boys and gals getting their after work drinks, or hotel guests having a pre dinner tipple, or a small number of west-enders who have ventured into the city for a little bit of sophistication. It also has a great outdoor seating area which is lovely in the summer, and when it gets a little chilly, the patio heaters are turned on allowing you to enjoy the beautiful sunset over the city without shivering into your drink. This bar probably sells more bottles of wine or beer than it does cocktails, but the small list they do have is pretty tasty, albeit quite expensive. Served in tall glasses, I suppose you do feel like you’re getting some value for your £10 per drink. The Gordon’s Garden is lovely, and a great choice for a gin lover (Gordon’s gin, cucumer, elderflower cordial, apple juice and mint) and if you’re feeling a little bit peckish, you must order the sharing platter of different hams, salad, cheese, olives and nuts. It’s delicious!
Bourne & Hollingsworth, Charlotte Street
I’ve talked about this bar in a separate post, but i think it needs to be repeated (in case you missed it) because it is a great little place to go for cocktails, especially if you’re out with your girlfriends, going on a date or just wanting to grab some after work drinks. It can be found on the corner of Rathbone Place, Charlotte Street and Percy Street. Everything about this basement bar is sort of adorable. Go down a rickety set of metal stairs and you find yourself in an old woman’s living room – At least this is the perception you’ll get from the decor – floral wallpaper, old pictures, sweet little tables upholstered in old lady linen (can you imagine what I mean?) There’s a bit of a prohibition vibe in this place. Like you want to settle down and have a picnic on a lawn under a parasol. Set up a tab in here and you’ll be given a card from a standard pack of cards, which is so much nicer than some horrible laminated number that you’d get in most other bars (it’s quirky – I like that!) Order a glass of wine, expect it to be served to you in a cute little tumbler rather than a wine glass, and the cocktails are mostly served in cute jam jars, and are delicious, and deceptivly strong. I tried many different cocktails when I visited, and I can recommend the Ginger Daisy £7.50, wholeheartedly. The menu is broad and there are plenty of things to try, all reasonably priced between £7 and £9. There aren’t many seats (but you can book a table) so it does genuinly feel like you’re sitting in a living room, and the bar itself is very small, which is cute. A bit like a hole in the wall. It doesn’t feel over imposing, and the danger that this bar could be perceived as pretentious isn’t a reality. it’s adorable instead.
Vista Bar @ The Trafalgar Hotel, Trafalgar Square
On the top floor of the Trafalgar Hotel is a gorgeous roof terrace which over looks the whole of Trafalgar Square, and Whitehall down to Westminster and the Houses of Parliament. This bar thrives on a hot day in the summer, and is the best place in London to soak up some sun with a cocktail. But you might need to think about taking out a mortgage before ordering a cocktail, as they are priced between £11-£16 each! But they are tasty (you’d hope so for that price!) I suppose you pay for the view with this place, as well as the drinks (you literally do some nights as there is a £5 entrance chanrge occassionally!) Unfortunately as a result I can’t give you too much more information on the cocktail choice because I’m not that rich, but they do have Rikorderlig cider which will set you back £6 a bottle if you don’t want to part with too much of your hard earned cash. The menu changes with the seasons, and while this is more of a bar for the summer, if you can’t wait for the sun to think about making an appearance in April/May, then this bar is open during the winter months, but it is completely covered and heated for the comfort of guests. There is a huge range of champagnes on offer (a visit up here is great for a special occasion) and their house champagne is Pommery (my favourite!) My main recommendation – don’t bother with the food. It’s expensive and not that tasty – if you’re hungry you should probably try the restaurant downstairs, or one of the other many restaurants which are just a stones throw away.