Special occasion bars in London
For a special occasion, we all want a venue with a bit of extra something. A place that oozes sophistication, that maybe gives you a frisson of excitement when you head to the toilet because the vibe is simply too electric. These London-based cocktail bars all offer just that.
Whether you’re looking for something affordable yet classy, somewhere to splash the cash on a martini, or you want to try something different on the drinks front, these top-drawer cocktail bars offer something for all. Margaritas with a heat of chilli could be in your future…
If you’re looking for something swanky, new Japanese hotspot The Aubrey at The Mandarin Oriental in Knightsbridge is the ULTIMATE choice. First up: the heavenly cocktails are super tasty, from a strawberry margarita (Kikenji) made with chilli umesho and red perilla alongside top-quality tequila bianco; to a memorable take on a martini called a Salome (sake, shochu, Estu ocean water and tomato liqueur), all with the engraved ice such luxury deserves. The décor is also to-die-for. It’s part omakase causal, part Victorian luxe with fringed lamps, gold-framed Ukiyo-e artwork and plush velvet seating. At between £15-£23 a cocktail, this is NOT going to be a cheap night, but a special occasion bar it is. The J-pop playlist featuring Tatsuro Yamashita will have you bouncing your head too.
London has plenty of rooftop bars, but many find themselves to be overcrowded, noisy and the views can often be a little lacklustre. The complete opposite has to be said about one of our favourite rooftop spots. Radio Rooftop is situated in the epicentre of the city, nestled between Covent Garden and Embankment, and is consistently buzzy. The bar set-up sprawls inside and outside (good for rainy days) and there isn’t a table in the house without a great – or different – viewpoint. The cocktails are crafted to perfection and their menu of offerings is ever-changing. Go classic with one of their top-notch Brambles or try one of their new Jubilee specials, to celebrate the upcoming festivities.
This is the perfect neighbourhood spot to head to if you want to avoid anything too pretentious or formal. Nine Lives is a considerably cool underground hangout that’s laidback, atmospheric and open until the wee hours of the morning. It’s great for a birthday with friends or if you fancy a post-date drink – we cannot say no to their Kokomo cocktail (made with tequila, rum and coconut cream!)
While London’s banking district is more ‘Wall Street on water’ than on-fleek, The Lowback manages to bring a decided helping of cool to what could easily be a dystopian cultural desert. The area is soon to be full of bars and restaurants as residential towers soon join the corporate ones, and this, Hawksmoor’s new bar, sits underneath the newest outpost of the country’s favourite steak restaurant. Cocktails at The Lowback are special enough to have you in a tizz: their Pink Gibson is made with ‘Umami gin’ which is infused with parmesan rind and lends a palpable meatiness that goes extraordinarily well with the vermouth and pickled onions. They call it the Monster Munch cocktail for a reason! This is exactly the kind of drink that would have you in the mood for a burger… Lucky then, as there’s one on the menu, alongside bone marrow oysters, need we say more?
Inside the Standard hotel in Kings Cross, a gorgeous Brutalist building itself, you’ll find Sweeties, accessible via a red pill exterior lift. It’s an apt entry to one of the most Mad Men-esque bars you’ll find in the capital. Its sumptuous 70s interiors are all Hollywood glamour (think terracotta velvet sofas, leather banquettes and mirrored tables). The cocktails stand up to the bar’s name (not for those without a sweet tooth!) and were created in collaboration with award-winning mixologists, Jack Sotti and Todd Austin. The menu is centred around feel-good ingredients, with the No whey Jose cocktail being a particular favourite: its warm egg white and salted coconut topping is like no other, and sits atop a cooler strawberry, rosé, and red rice milk liquid.
If you’re looking for special but not bank-breaking, Funkidory in Peckham is our pick for a neighbourhood joint with a little something extra. With cocktails such as their Oolong Martini chilled to perfection, or a whisky cocktail named after local highstreet Rye Lane, which includes fennel seed syrup and olive brine – it’s pretty hard to choose. With over 10 years experience making cocktails, the bartenders here know how to mix a drink, and they make a damn fine playlist too.
As Bloomsbury bars go, Fitz’s is all decadence. Velvet sofas, ostrich feathers, crocodile-skin wallpaper, and a functioning fireplace ensure you know you have a night of glamour ahead. The new menu is called ‘The Theory of Colour’ – a menu of 14 cocktails, each represented by a different rendition of the 1660 piece of art ‘Vase of Flowers’ by Jan Davidsz de Heem (as seen on the walls of Fitz’s Mirrorball Room). Your task? Choose the artwork you like best, maybe it’s a Mondrian style De Stijl which pairs banana with gin, vermouth and cola – or perhaps Rothko’s Abyss (whisky, vermouth, coffee, cacao and vanilla bean) will tempt you in. The menu comes alive with torchlight, and the book of art will guide you through your beverage choice. Snacks of charcuterie, truffle fries and oysters don’t go amiss either too!
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