Quirky and classic, traditional and edgy, high class and laid back... our carefully curated selection has something for everyone to sip on
What constitutes a great cocktail bar, while sometimes subjective, centres around consistent themes: elegance; innovation; aesthetics; and most importantly, a kick-ass drinks menu.
According to Tristan Stephenson, drinks industry professional and author of The Curious Bartender books, the best bars are “the ones that do things effortlessly, and make you forget you’re even in a bar and not somebody”.
“It’s obvious when a venue is too contrived, or takes itself too seriously and that makes it difficult to relax. You end up feeling like you need to conform to a certain ideal or perform a certain role.
“Effortless bars feel like an extension of someone’s home: they keep you relaxed; keep things informal; and serve consistently great drinks.”
With that in mind, we’ve put together a specially curated selection of some of the best bars in the UK.
Feel free to disagree, but we think our carefully balanced smorgasbord comprising both quirky and classic, traditional and edgy, high class and laid back, has something for everyone.
Albert’s Schloss, Manchester
27 Peter St, Manchester M2 5QR
Named after Queen Victoria’s great love, this Bavarian-style beer barn describes itself as Manchester’s first Tankovna, “serving the freshest Pilsner this side of the Danube”. You can eat gourmet, party, attend live gigs and even bring your dog to this weird and wonderful bohemian rhapsody, which is consistently chosen as Manchester’s best bar.
The American Bar, the Savoy Hotel, London
The Savoy Hotel, 100 Strand, London WC2R 0EZ
Winner of last year’s World’s 50 Best Bars awards, this classic art deco establishment has been serving cocktails with a side of class for more than 125 years. In fact, it’s London’s longest surviving cocktail bar. But don’t be fooled by its historic credentials – the cocktails are nothing if not cutting edge and the head bartender Erik Lorincz knows more than 250 recipes.
The Beach at Bude, Cornwall
Summerleaze Crescent, Bude, EX23 8HJ, United Kingdom
The Beach bar is the heart of this charming seaside hotel, with stunning views of Summerleaze Beach in Bude, North Cornwall. Its contemporary, unpretentious and Instagram-worthy vibe will cater to both the young surfer and the more hip parents. The friendly staff and the cocktails sourced from the freshest local ingredients keep it a perennial coastal favourite.
40 Marsh Wall, Isle of Dogs, London E14 9TP
This stylish sky-high restaurant, bar and terrace boasts absolutely stunning views of Canary Wharf and the city of London, as well as two AA Rosette awards. The Bokan 39 terrace bar is the real USP here: enjoy innovative cocktails inspired by the docklands with a jaw-dropping selfie backdrop.
BYOC City, London
19 Bevis Marks, London EC3A 7JA
BYOC – or Bring Your Own Cocktail – is our favourite “disruptor” model of speakeasy bar. It sells no alcohol (yes, you read that correctly); you bring your own and pay on arrival, meaning your choice of spirit is in theory limitless. This puts the skill of their mixologists to the test, because without a menu they’re forced to create something new for each punter. The millennial-friendly chain has bars all over the UK, but our favourite is the City spot just next to The Gherkin, in a Prohibition-style basement.
20 Upper Ground, South Bank, London SE1 9PD
According to Lachlan Rooney, bar manager at The Voodoo Rooms, and Francesco Cama, bar manager at Eve, Dandelyan is the best bar in the world – and they’re not the only ones who think so. Regularly cited as world class, the swish bar in the Mondrian Hotel provides a winning formula: great drinks, music, views, atmosphere... you simply can’t go wrong here.
The Dead Canary, Cardiff
Barrack Ln, Cardiff CF10 2FR
Winner of Cardiff Life Awards 2016 and 2017, and the Cardiff Lifestyle Awards 2017, this eclectic bar serves cocktails with a side of the Roaring Twenties. The cocktail menu is charmingly Welsh folklore-inspired, the vibe is mysterious and atmospheric, and the secret door is an added bonus. Pro tip: this low-lit gem offers excellent cocktail masterclasses.
The Devil’s Advocate, Edinburgh
9 Advocate’s Cl, Edinburgh EH1 1ND
The perfect hideaway in an old Victorian pump house, The Devil’s Advocate is a popular spot in the atmospheric Old Town of Edinburgh. The exposed brickwork creates the perfect backdrop for the selfie-conscious drinker, and the bar is known as catering to even the most serious of whisky connoisseurs. There’s even a 400-strong whisky shelf.
Duck and Waffle, London
Heron Tower, 110 Bishopsgate, London EC2N 4AY
Overlooking the capital from the 40th floor of the majestic Heron Tower, no cocktail bar roundup is complete without a mention of this food and drink oasis. Come for the drink, stay for the food, as its menu consistently wins praise and accolades from industry professionals for its quality. Pricey it may be, but trust us - it's worth it for the views. You can even grab a sunset breakfast there.
34 Southampton St, London WC2E 7HF
Alongside Adam Handling's new restaurant, Frog, is the seductive subterranean Eve bar. Quasi-religious are the decorations; decadent are the cocktails; heavenly is the food. We recommend asking the bartender for a cocktail more personally suited to your tastes. Don't miss the accompanying bar hors d'oeuvres, available from the restaurant next door.
Piano Works, London
113-117 Farringdon Rd, London EC1R 3BX
One of those unforgettable city venues, the Piano Works brings old-world glamour back to live music. Part cocktail bar, part concert in a listed Victorian building, you can give your song requests to the musicians like a human jukebox, or simply lounge in the private candlelit booths with a selection of classic cocktails. Pro tip - the best happy hour deal in the area.
We’ve partnered with Kahlúa to celebrate National Coffee Week and you could win an overnight stay at the Hoxton Hotel, Holborn, plus cocktails and dinner for two. To be in with a chance of winning, tell us which Kahlúa cocktail you'd most like to try by clicking here*.
*Terms Apply: 18+. Enter before 23.59 on 22 April 2018. Please read full Terms before entering.