After an eye-popping rundown of the year's most important restaurant openings, we could all probably do with a stiff drink... from one of London's most important bar openings of 2014. From hidden cocktail dens to rum shacks to brewpubs, here are the best drinkeries the capital has seen this year...
London's 11 best new bars of the year
After establishing themselves with a series of fantastic breakfast joints (and filling a gaping void in the market), the Breakfast Club brought us the Mayor of Scaredy Cat Town, followed by The King of Ladies Man, and secured our faith in their post-breakfast-ing abilities. Their latest drinking den opened under the Southwark location, where you travel through a maze of hallways, stairs, and even the kitchen to a gloriously divey bar filled with tequila and Christmas lights.
When JJ Goodman announced that his next opening wasn’t going to be another London Cocktail Club, eyebrows were cocked. What would this project be? Well, it's time to raise the other eyebrow, because this place is like an off-license for cocktails. Knocking out fantastic drinks is like breathing for JJ, and this time he got busy with bottles, draft lines, and house-made spirits, pre-batching out drinks for on the spot, or -- even better -- grabbing a couple bottles to go.
After the departure of Viajante from the Town Hall Hotel, we waited with baited breath to see how their replacements would match up. P+P responded by turning things up by several degrees, distilling its own sprits (three different types of gin alone), and getting hugely creative with drinks like the Marmite vodka martini and the Salt Beef Sazerac.
Despite making no sense in the UK, speakeasies are still fantastic. And finding one opening up inside longtime Mexican favorite La Perla got our attention in a big way. With a menu that focuses solely on agave spirits (and coming from the guys who make Ocho tequila) the food menu is, naturally, every bit as good as La Perla's, to boot.
With microbreweries popping up like... well, pop-ups, it’s about time a small batch spirit company caught on to that idea. Currently producing vodka and gin in their London site, they’ve got a sister still in California handling rum and whiskey, rounding out their portfolio nicely. Not content to just make spirits, they naturally set up a bar as well to showcase their wares, plus a full range of others.
A little easier to find then their last incarnation, the first permanent brick & mortar location of PP ticks all the boxes and even some circles. From powerhouse couple Robbie Acres and Charlie Otth, they have a nautical theme, all the rum you could possibly ask for, and their tiny kitchen also puts out some surprisingly good food.
See this drink? This is a real drink. It's called the "Sazerac to the Future", and it comes with "Delorean fire trails". That alone should convince you to go here. After all, with Brixton edging more securely into a state of hipsterdom, it was only a matter of time before a highly experimental cocktail bar opened its doors. And this place is it. The drinks rotate daily, and come with things like homemade crackers, tuna sashimi, and a paper aeroplane. It's truly incredible.
After five years of happily drinking at 69 Colebrooke Row, everyone was pretty surprised when Tony Conigliaro very quietly opened a bar in Soho. Naturally, there had been rumors for years that he was working on some project, and finally it has materialized as a coffee by day, cocktails by night, Italian culture overload that is just what Soho didn’t realize it was missing. The drinks are -- as always -- perfectly crafted, but have a smaller (seven drinks in all, three of which are Negronis), simpler selection than Tony C fans might be used to.
White Lyan is amazing -- and its sequel Dandelyan is too. Housed inside the shiny new Mondrian Hotel right on the river, and with stunning floor-to-ceiling windows and lots of leather and velvet, this is a slightly more refined experience, though. Its menu is naturally inspired with local botanicals and are split into floral, cereal, or vegetal groupings. This one’ll bring home some serious awards, just wait.
After doing the neighbourhood pub thing for a couple of years at Hops & Glory, Durham Atkinson teamed up with Bobby Hiddleston (fresh back from Dead Rabbit in NYC) to create a cocktail den on the rougher side of Dalston. Experimental and classic, their menu pushes your pallet, but in the best way possible. With low lighting and old-school charm, this is a welcome oasis to the area.
From the folks who bought us the equally fantastic Discount Suit Company, this far more accessible bar not only puts out similarly stunning cocktails (try a tankard of the Bogcutter, w/ apricot brandy, sherry, lemon, and a rare Irish barley moonshine named poitin), but in fact has its own beer program too, with its own house lager & pale ale, as well as a rotating menu of local microbrews. The industrial, brutal-chic space marries a slick copper bartop and red leather seating to bare brick walls, and steel light fittings.
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1. Call Me Mr Lucky11 Southwark St, London
2. The Craft Cocktail Co.Arch 253, Paradise Row, London
3. Peg + PatriotPatriot Square, London
4. Agaveria El Nivel28 Alto Maiden Ln, London
5. East London Liquor Company221 Grove Rd, London
6. PortSide Parlour14 Rivington St, London
7. The Shrub & Shutter336 Coldharbour Ln, London
8. Bar Termini7 Old Compton St, London
9. Dandelyan20 Upper Ground, London
10. High Water23 Stoke Newington Rd, London
11. The Sun Tavern441 Bethnal Green, London
Tell the cafe staff you "want to get lucky," and follow them down stairs, through the kitchen, and into a dark, secluded bar with a ceiling covered in multicoloured, mini chinese lanterns. There’s a bit of a culinary bent to the menu, with drinks like the "Tian Green Margarita," which features Tapatio Blanco tequila infused with kaffir lime leaf and red chili, lime coconut milk, and lemongrass-infused agave
Bringing true cocktail innovation to Bethnal Green, The Craft Cocktail Co. concocts sophisticated 'tails using premium ingredients and traditional methods.
This Shoreditch cocktail bar has an old-fashioned vibe and a host of delicious craft 'tails, which are primarily made using house-distilled spirits and off-the-beaten-path ingredients like roasted rice ice-cream liqueur, beeswax cheery, and passion fruit hops.
This classy Covent Garden 'tail spot specializes in agave spirits and antojitos (small plates), the former of which is represented by a large variety of rare and exclusive tequilas, mezcals, bacanoras, sotols, and raicillas.
This distillery produces and imports a wide variety of gin, vodka, rum, and whiskey, and then serves 'em up in their bar, which features a comprehensive list of 'tails made with the finest ingredients.
What started as a pop-up under Broadway Market has turned into a fully fledged cocktail bar on the lower stretch of Rivington Street. PortSide knows a thing or two about concocting quality cocktails, with new ones popping up all the time. With a vaguely nautical theme and a banging soundtrack, the Parlour's a place to pop in for one drink and end up staying all night (well, until midnight, when it closes). Into rum? So are they -- their collection is pretty spot-on.
The Shrub & Shutter is a mixology wonderland in which imaginative cocktails reign supreme. Consider, for example, the barbecue coconut old fashioned: a whimsical combination of Ron Millianaro 15-year, coconut water reduction, angostura, and barbecue fat smoke, artfully presented in a blowtorched coconut husk. The kitchen offers fresh interpretations on classic British fare and adamantly uses locally sourced, organic ingredients. The place has a laboratory vibe to it -- a mélange of white-tiled walls, recipes scribbled on chalkboards, and shelves laden with beakers, bottles, and curious fauna -- quite fitting, considering the experimental nature of the drink list.
This Soho drinkery does coffee by day and cocktails by night, and is brought to you by Tony Conigliaro, the same man behind the wildly popular 69 Colebrooke Row.
With stunning floor-to-ceiling windows, leather and velvet decor, and deliciously refreshing cocktails, Dandelyan offers you a refined experience. Winner of Tales of a Cocktail's Spirited Awards for Best New International Cocktail Bar, Dandelyan boasts an iconic green marble bar and a dramatic view of the Thames River. Its menu is nature-inspired, featuring local botanicals as the ingredients and in the display.
Experimental and classic, its menu pushes your palate, but in the best way possible. With low lighting and old-school charm, this is a welcome oasis in Dalston.