Unless you’re a total baller, chances are good that your bank account occasionally just gives you an angry, hurt look when you check its balance. Living in London doesn’t help matters -- we are living in one of the most expensive cities in the world, after all. Luckily, there are plenty of bars around town that can help you forget about the state of your finances... while not taking a massive toll on your remaining funds.
Down on the scruffier bit of Hoxton High Street, this understated cafe and bar is known for its killer brunches, Asian-inspired small plates, and delightfully cheap happy hours. Snag a curbside seat and sip on two cocktails for a tenner while watching the neighborhood dig in its heels against gentrification.
Sitting practically in the shadow of the Westfield behemoth, this Young & Co pub has a super-solid and surprisingly diverse beer selection, while being handy with their cocktails, as well. A great place to escape the shopping zoo or meet up before a gig at the nearby O2 Shepherd's Bush Empire, this spot also runs a pretty nifty happy hour from 5pm-7pm Mon-Sat, and 5pm-11pm Sunday: if you buy a cocktail for £8, the second one is only a quid. Bosh.
This award-winning cocktail joint has somehow been flying below most people’s radar for a while now, which is honestly just silly. The concoctions here feature a lot of tinkered-with ingredients -- there’s infused-this and dehydrated-that -- it’s in a great location, and the decor is quirky yet swanky. Making this bar even better: its two-for-one deals Mon-Fri till 10pm. Ten o’clock, people! At that point, you should really just call it "Happy Night."
King's Cross (& other locations)
Simmons’ growing empire is comprised of guilty-pleasure bars that can’t stop, won’t stop, with old-school games, kitschy neon, mismatched everything, and a ridiculous happy hour that makes you wonder what the markup must be the rest of the time. For a beautiful five hours (between 4-9pm, Sun-Fri), beer, wine, and a rail cocktail are all available for a ridiculously low £2.50. You can also go all in for a bottle of wine for a tenner... or if you’re feeling extra celebratory, throw in an extra fiver and make it prosecco.
Sitting on the banks of the Three Mills Wall River, this converted warehouse space is beautifully removed from the crowds of central London. On Fridays between 6-9pm, claim a spot on their expansive waterside terrace, check out a rotating cast of DJs, and sip two-for-one cocktails, like their The Print House Island Mule, which is made with fresh chilis.
While the land of suits and day walkers might not be your first thought for delicious cocktail hours, this bi-level spot tucked on Queens St is set to change your perceptions. It feels a bit like it was transported from Dalston, with neon artwork, graphic prints, edgy-yet-comfy booths, and a food and drinks menu that has a bit of serious R&D behind it. Head over between 5-7pm, when they’ll make your bank account feel better with a £4.50 cocktails, beer at £3.50, and a £10 discount on champers.
Sitting on the edge of trendy east London and desk life City, this cavernous dim sum spot has been doing its delightful thing for years. While the daytime service is pretty lackluster and the decorations are a little tired, their happy hour can’t be beat: £5 cocktails and £10 buckets of beer from 5-7pm Mon-Fri, 6-8pm Saturday, and all Sunday long.
Set underneath the Breakfast Club in Spitalfields, Mayor's is actually accessed via a fridge hidden at the back of the cafe; pull open the door, then climb inside and down some stairs, and find a brick-walled, moodily candlelit space. Cocktails include their Purple Rain, made with pisco, Kamm & Sons, grape syrup, and Champagne -- only a fiver a pop between the hours of 5 & 6pm every weekday.
You may have a few, very hazy memories of this spot from your student days (or last night, we don’t judge), but when the lights are up, this joint is actually a super-slick number. The happy hour lasts from 5-8:30pm every night, and you can snag half-priced cocktail pitchers and bottles of wine, as well as two-for-one beers. If you feel like breaking a sweat, drink a couple rounds and stay for the club nights, which have crazy drink specials early in the week -- the DJs spin Indie, pop, and electro.
While all the Barrios have pretty epic Happy Hours, East wins the grand prize with its large space (bring a crew), marble bar top speakeasy tucked away in the back, and a favela-chic area up front that houses an entire caravan. East makes some globe-spanning cocktails, including favorites like the tequila/pomegranate Hand Grenade, or the rum & mango-fueled Tropic Plunder, which are available during their "Amigo Hour" for a mere £4.5 from 4-8pm... which is essentially the first half of the night.
This place has been truly trussed up like a classic US-style dive, featuring vintage band posters peeling off the walls, diner booth seating, and a customer-controlled jukebox. They are seriously on-theme behind the bar too, with a happy hour that brings you two-for-one cocktails and non-premium (that is, below 4.2%) beers for just £3 between 5-8pm Tues-Fri and 5-10pm Sun & Mon. Of course, if you want a completely free drink, and you happen to be a girl wearing a bra, then you’re in luck! According to official bar policy, just take it off, hang it from the ceiling, and it won’t be the only thing that's on the house. Where you can find a decent-quality replacement for under £3, however, is beyond us.
Shoreditch (& other locations)
With LCC’s popping up everywhere, it’s getting easier and easier to find killer cocktails for wallet-friendly prices all over town. Each location has its own personality and slightly different HH hours, so find your favourite and head down to drink half-priced or two-for-one cocktails from their massive, classic-centric menu.
Brixton (& other locations)
Part colourful, upscale beach shack, part dark-wooded ship's quarters, here you’ll find a predominantly rum-driven cocktail list including a Navy-style grog and a secret-recipe house punch named the “Rattle Skull.” Come for two-for-one weeknights from 6-7 pm and because these drinks aren't expensive to begin with, you're looking at a mere £4 a pop during happy hour.
Perched along Battersea Rise, the appropriately named Southsider is the younger sibling of Clapham award-winner 64th & Social, with a more laid-back vibe, filling itself with lounge chairs, fireplaces, and a frankly amazing cocktail list. Start off with a Tinkerbell (a yellow Chartreuse and absinthe sour with grapefruit juice) or their pumped-up Aperol Super Spritz (like the classic, only better, trust us). Delicious, well-balanced cocktails like these will set you back just a fiver if you get there between 5-8pm.
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1. 100 Hoxton100 Hoxton St, London
2. The Defectors Weld170 Uxbridge Rd, Shepherds Bush
3. Barsmith18-20 St John St, London
4. Simmons Bar32 Caledonian Rd, King's Cross
5. The Print House133 High St, London
6. Core10-15 Queen St, London
7. The Drunken Monkey222 Shoreditch High St, London
8. The Mayor Of Scaredy Cat Town12-16 Artillery Ln, , London
9. The RoxyRathbone Pl 3, London
10. Barrio East141-143 Shoreditch High St, , London
11. Slim Jim's Liquor Store112 Upper St, London
12. The London Cocktail Club Islington108 Essex Rd,
13. The Rum Kitchen6-8 All Saints Rd, , London
14. The Southsider Cocktail Club56 Battersea Rise, London
What used to be an unassuming kebab shop underwent an extreme makeover to become what is now the industrial-chic 100 Hoxton, where refined Asian-influenced shareable plates and cheap happy hours draw patrons to this scuffier part of Hoxton. There are only a handful of dishes on the tiny menu, so, go ahead, try the entire list, which includes a burnt eggplant salad (toasted coconut, cherry tomato, apple, coriander, beetroot, hazelnuts) and char-grill lamb belly. Don't skip out on the house cocktail with prosecco and hints of ginger, chili, and lemongrass, or the sweet mango-shrikhand-cardamom yogurt for dessert.
Escape the shopping mayhem, or kill time before a gig at nearby O2 Shepherd's Bush Empire, at Defector's Weld, a swanky corner pub serving craft cocktails and local ales among retro lamp shades and comfy banquettes. The drink menu has your favorite standbys like a bramble and a mojito, plus specialty cocktails that might become your new go-to, like The Defector (vanilla vodka, kahlua, Disaronno amaretto, London Stout, and a splash of coke). Comforting pub food (burgers, mac & cheese, puddings) sates the alcohol-induced appetites of the locals who keep this place buzzing.
From the exposed brick walls to the distressed pipes to the zig-zag tiled bar, Barsmith is the epitome of style in Farringdon, curating every last inch of its interior, including the craft cocktails with house-infused ingredients. There's an Italian-influenced food lineup with pizzas and pastas, but you're really here for the drinks, particularly the Milky Way (homemade white chocolate vodka coupled with coffee rum, amaretto, and cream) and the Bellini Flower (homemade nectarine elderflower, peach purée, Prosecco, and homemade stone fruit bitters).
The mismatched furniture, old-school video games, skull disco ball, and (most of all) cocktails in vintage teacups make Simmons Bar the hippest cocktail hangout in Kings Cross. This mini London chain slings a range of drinks on the cheap, and on the sweet side -- from the Disco Fizz (gin, lemon juice, sugar, soda water) to the Zombie (rum, apricot brandy, pineapple juice, and orange juice) to teapots full of G&T's, cosmopolitans, and Long Island iced teas. Duck in for an after-work drink, or hole up in the neon-lit basement until the wee hours of the night, as Simmons is open until 3am on weekends.
Located right by the canal, this warehouse-style space is a pretty perfect spot to drink and eat away a hangover while sitting on their massive terrace, and taking in good weather.
Considering Core has two levels of different bar, club, and lounge areas that range from futuristic to kitschy to street-art chic, you could have a different night every time you come to this warehouse-style spot in The City. It doesn't exactly match the suits and day walkers you typically find in this part of town, but it's a welcome, eccentric change -- not to mention, it has killer signature cocktails, like the Rosemary Collins (fresh rosemary sprigs and Star of Bombay gin over crushed ice with citrus, sugar, and soda water). The food menu airs on the heartier side, with a pulled pork sandwich, burgers, steaks, and haddock & chips.
The paper lanterns with Chinese characters hanging over The Drunken Monkey's traditional wooden bar are a reminder that you're not just coming to this cavernous spot on the edge of trendy east London and the suit-filled City for quality cocktails -- you're here to nosh on the delightful dim sum. Fried, baked, steamed, or grilled, all of the delicate dumplings here are tasty: from chicken buns to shrimp & leek to prawn & pork. Don't be surprised to hear house, soul, or funk music blasting either, since this venue regularly hosts DJs from around the world.
Upon telling the helpful staff at The Breakfast Club that you are there "to see the Mayor,” you may then climb through a Smeg fridge and down some stairs into a brick-walled haven of booze. Keep an eye out for the Irish Garden, a blend of Ban Poitin, yellow & green Chartreuse, mint, cucumber, apple juice, celery bitters, and lemon juice. Remember when you leave to try and keep a straight face -- despite the fact that the exit takes you through the My Little Pony toilets.
This bar and nightclub has been known to have a great happy hour and is popular with college students during the middle of the week.
A funky, eccentric bar with good eats and a cocktail that has 'zombie' in the title, Barrio East is a hangout spot you'll return to time and time again.
This Islington establishment isn't a straight-up liquor store in actuality, but once you head into its divey confines, you're free to take advantage of their great happy hour and purchase yourself some liquor.
You can expect the same kind of awesomeness at this drink den as the previous LCCs. Order up some outstanding mixeds and enjoy the unmistakable, fun vibe that is the essence of The London Cocktail Club. And if you enjoy making cocktails at home, you can pick up a number of bitters, liqueurs, fragrances, and vermouths for here for your home bar.
This Caribbean spot is colorfully decorated and divided into part beach shack, and part ship's quarters created with dark wood panels.