What’s better than a tasty ass cocktail? One that’s Instagrammable, naturally. Flower-topped fancies, gorgeous garnishes, edible enigmas… dream up a quirky cocktail accompaniment, and there’s probably a bar in London, somewhere, that serves it up, sparkler and all. In my short stint in the city so far, I’ve visited quite a few, and snapped many a drink before I’ve sipped, so I can log it here of course. Here’s my selection of the capital’s ‘grammable drinks (so far).
Tonight Josephine: Shoreditch
Tonight Josephine is arguably one of my favourite places to drink in London, period. It’s a bubblegum pink paradise with disco ball walls, cheesy pop tunes and girl power vibes. The cocktails are, in short, very yummy and very pretty. I have tried MANY. My favourite is the toasted popcorn sour, which is basically a twist on the whiskey sour, but they have such a wonderful array it’s easy to find one that suits you. Sweet, sexy, strong or sour, take yo’ pick.
Tip: Cocktails are between £10–12 a pop, but their happy hour takes place from Monday to Friday 17:00–19:00, so that’s a good two hours of 2-for-1 drinks (wahoo!)
Coffee or cocktails, you decide. But honestly, try the cocktails. There are a number of Grinds dotted about the city (London Bridge, Shoreditch, Greenwich, old Street, Exmouth Market, Covent Garden and Liverpool Street) – so you’ve got no excuse not to go to one. The decor is sleek and minimal, so if you’re one for aesthetics, head here.
My all time fave sipper is the lychee martini – a delicate and fragrant choice. I’m a whisky fan, so I’m also prone to a sour cherry whisky smash – and yes, that tastes as good as it sounds. For an extra kick, opt for ‘naked and famous’, it has a wonderful tequila kick.
Discount Suit Company: Shoreditch
One of my favourite speakeasies in London (and one of the first I visited after moving to the city!). Discount Suit Company is hard.to.find oh em gee. But is it worth all the faffing? YES. What was once a tailor’s stockroom is now a cosy bar with an ever-changing diversity of drinks. This place is small, so it’s definitely worth booking a table, but I’ve dropped in early in the week and it’s been fairly quiet so it’s worth the risk if you’re planning on going at that time.
Each cocktail comes with it’s own elegant design and a sweet little garnish to match, so drop in here regularly if you’re looking for carefully crafted cocktails that change and evolve constantly. If you’re not feeling any of the menu, they’ll make something specially for you too.
Tip: There’s no signage really, so look for a painted sign on the side of a building saying ‘Discount Suit Company’ and head to an open door that has some narrow steps. When you reach the bottom pull back the curtain and voila, you made it!
Escapologist: Covent Garden
Don’t dismiss Covent Garden as an area that’s full of tourists and undesirable for drinks. Yes it can get busy, but if you book a table and you know where you’re going, you’re bound to have a good night. Next on my list is Escapologist, which just so happens to belong to the guys behind Tonight Josephine. I wouldn’t mix these two up though, they have completely different vibes.
Where Tonight Josephine has a New York gal pal hang-out vibe, Escapologist has a Victorian men’s club aura about it. It’s made modern with colourful customised paintings and of course, the tasty AF cocktails – the menu mainly consists of the usual suspects given a fresh twist. The Baron’s Smoking Jacket is a clear winner for me, consisting of Jack Daniels, egg white, marmalade, lemon juice and a thick slice of crispy bacon just chilling on top.
Tip: Cocktails are between £10–12 a pop, but their happy hour takes place from Monday to Friday 17:00–19:00, so that’s a good two hours of 2-for-1 drinks (yas gents!)
Little Nan’s Bar: The Cavendish Arms: Stockwell
Okay I might be cheating with this one because it’s technically a pub, but sue me. Little Nan’s Bar is a mini chain of pubs and bars, that in a nutshell, transform drinking venues into your grandma’s living room if she was a kitsch hoarder. Cute collectables cover the walls, quirky mismatched furniture provide seats and the blend between royal family and Eastenders memorabilia makes you feel strangely patriotic – in a word it’s charming.
I fell in love with the Stockwell bar, mainly due to it’s Princess Diana homage and the endless umbrellas supplied with my cocktails. My fave was a Sexy Frank Butcher, which you guessed it, is a whisky cocktail… All dranks are served in mismatching mugs and glasses to keep with the theme too!
Summer (and Winter Vibes) in the Open Air
Here are my top three picks for both indoor and outdoor enjoyment in the city.
Night Tales: Hackney
Night Tales in Hackney is a hidden gem of a venue. I went there for the opening of their summer terrace and it was all refreshing (British-themed) cocktails surrounded by palms and a selection of street food. This place has a lot more of a chilled vibe, so if you’re looking to sip on something pretty without the pretence of a cocktail bar, this is your new favourite spot.
Guest DJs are pretty constant towards the weekends too, so you can stay and drink late into the night. During the winter months, the terrace has heating and covering, and is open on Friday and Saturday nights until 03:00 so you can party until your legs give up on ya!
Pergola is again, another location I visited when it was warmer, but with it’s popularity came the announcement that it would transform itself into a winter venue (woo!). Pretty vines weave their way around the pergolas that make up this perfect ‘rooftop’ location, and a selection of drinks are on offer, including a free drink (find out how to get one with my tip below).
But if I’m honest, what makes the drinks Instagrammable here is more the surroundings. Artifical plants, pastel painted wood and mood lighting all add to the magic that is Pergola. My favourite drink here is an espresso martini, which isn’t groundbreaking, and I’m sure I saw it being served through a tap (I decided to ignore this), but the great atmosphere is what really makes this place.
There’s also A LOT of street food on offer here too, I would recommend the halloumi fries. Mouthwatering is the word.
Tip: Sign up to Pergola to get a free drink that changes seasonally. This winter it’s prosecco spritz, but I had a frose when I was there in summer (a frozen rose, how inventive omg)
Mercato Metropolitano : Elephant and Castle
The last outdoor/indoor place on my list is Mercato Metropolitano. It’s a place I hung out a lot in during the summer months due to its sun-soaked seating, endless street food options and a rather tasty negroni spritz from the Jim and Tonic Distillery.
The drinks here are expensive, but the vibe is great and you’ll spend all evening trying out the various food options, I promise you.
Tip: During the colder months, head inside as there are plenty of benches. Don’t be afraid to have a walk around either, there are so many hidden little rooms with seemingly endless stalls.
Tell me all about your favourite places to get cocktails!