Food & Drink

The Ultimate Shoreditch Drinking Guide

Published On 05/10/2016 Published On 05/10/2016

Ah, Shoreditch: the land of weekend party kids and once-upon-a-time ravers. When every other storefront is a bar, it can be tough to find one that's not just playing a numbers game, with lame music and two-for-one drinks that leave you wondering what was actually in there. But some of the best bars in London are hidden here -- you just need to know where to look. And now, with our pick of the best bars Shoreditch has to offer, you do.

Flickr/Ewan Munro

Best date spot: Happiness Forgets

8-9 Hoxton Square

This subterranean cocktail den is one of those comfortable spots that makes you never want to leave. Situated in a barely marked basement off Hoxton Square, there's a distinct lack of stupid haircuts/pretension in general. In their place, you'll find plenty of banter, expertly crafted drinks, and general good times by all. Owned and operated by a bartender, it’s a bit of an off-duty industry watering hole, but with a chilled-out, sexy environment, and plenty of dates making eyes at each other, as well.  

NOLA Bar

Best trip to the Big Easy without a flight: NOLA

68 Rivington St

Welcome to the French Quarter in Shoreditch. Secretly stashed upstairs inside the bro-y bar/comedy/gig space that is Bedroom Bar, NOLA smashes out Southern hospitality at its finest with New Orleans signatures, live jazz, and cigars. Hang out on the terrace (or in one of the massive booths) while sipping on hurricanes, Ramos Gin Fizzes, and Vieux CarrĂ©s while dreaming of sunnier skies in the Big Easy.  

Callooh Callay

Best three-in-one bar: Callooh Callay

65 Rivington St

There’s more (a lot more) than meets the eye at this award-winning bar, so be sure to go exploring. The front room is where mixology meets party, with loud music and fast cocktails that’ll leave you wide-eyed and asking for another. Be sure to go through the wardrobe in the back (yes, literally), and check out the backroom lounge space where you can sit and get some serious talking done. Then, sneak past the curtain and up the stairs in the back left of the room to the Jubjub: it's a secret micro-bar where the concept changes every few weeks, with resident bartenders taking over and showing their stuff. Weekends can get pretty mental across the board, so if you’re looking for a quiet one, best to go earlier in the week. 

The Nudge/The Cocktail Trading Co.

Best absurdist cocktails: The Cocktail Trading Co.

68 Bethnal Green Rd

The kings of playful boozing have packed up their Soho spot and joined the party out east with their new flagship venue just off Brick Lane. Expect drinks served in Chinese takeout boxes, rain boots, and sunscreen bottles, with garnishes like toasted marshmallows, sunglasses, and chips -- playful boozing, remember? The bartenders all have some serious pedigree, so while the jokes may be flying, the liquids are no laughing matter. Get ready to work your way through the whole menu. 

Hoxton Grill

Best drink and a show: Hoxton Grill

81 Great Eastern St

Housed inside the trendy Hoxton hotel and run by the cats from Soho House, here, there's always a bit of a scene. But late-night shenanigans are where the Grill really shines. Open 'til 2am -- a good hour later than most things in the area -- it’s a solid spot to get those last couple Negronis down and make some terrible/terrific decisions in the photo booth that you may or may not remember the next morning. Walking that line between debauched hotel bar and classy lounge, Hoxton Grill is not a place to find any students causing a scene. But the people-watching can be better than TV. 

PortSide Parlour

Best rum soundtrack: PortSide Parlour

14 Rivington St

What started as a pop-up under Broadway Market has turned into a fully fledged cocktail bar on the lower stretch of Rivington St. 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. This neighborhood spot is all about setting you up for a great night: it closes by midnight, so it's a perfect spot to get your cocktail on without fear of of ending up dancing on tables. Into rum? So are they -- their collection is pretty spot-on. 

White Lyan

Best spot for science: White Lyan

153-155 Hoxton St

Hyperbole aside, this bar really is unlike anywhere else: there's no ice, no bars, and none of that fiddling-around nonsense like shaking and stirring we’ve come to associate with a bar. This place has a rectifier's license, meaning everything from the water up is made in-house -- no, really, the water's redistilled to make sure it has specific minerals, and all spirits are distilled to the bar's unique design. From there, all cocktails are pre-batched, prediluted, bottled, and stashed in massive fridges, so all they have to do is measure (on a scale) and serve. 

Best place to eat toasties and make bad decisions: Loves Company

104 City Rd

This bar has a serious case of Jekyll & Hyde, in the best way possible. At ground-level, there’s a tiny cocktail bar where you can sit and watch the world of Old Street go by, all the while nibbling on kick-ass toasties like the Jamon Eileen (chorizo, pineapple, and Double Gloucester) or the American Pie (apples, sultanas, and custard). As the night rolls on, things start to kick off downstairs where DJs get things rolling and the party kids take over. Expect the night to get dark and dirty; there’s a good chance you’ll lose your jacket, phone, and more likely, dignity. 

Joyeux Bordel

Best sound system: Joyeux Bordel

147 Curtain Rd

Head past the slightly picky doormen (hint: having a booking helps), down the stairs, and into the lower level bar run by the same crew as Chinatown’s Experimental Cocktail Club. The cocktails are tremendous, of course, but you'll also want to keep an ear out for the phenomenal sound system. The owners went mega-geeky on this one with 1970s Tannoy dual 18” speakers, each separately powered by 1960s Quad II amplifiers, and valves from 1940-1960 -- and if you ask very nicely, and promise not to touch anything, they might even show you the dedicated room for all the equipment.

Best wine bar: Sager + Wilde

193 Hackney Rd

This vino-centric spot is the project of husband & wife team Michael and Charlotte, who may just be the most unpretentious wine geeks ever. Overflowing with their laid-back charm, this is the perfect spot to try wines you’ve never heard of (there's an insane by-the-glass program) and then end up ordering several bottles worth. Also, the toasted sandwich game here is ace. 

Hawksmoor

Best French dip with award-winning cocktails: Spitalfields Bar at Hawksmoor

157 Commercial St

You already know about the amazing steak upstairs, but if you’re after a slightly more booze-focused experience, then beeline to the bar down below. Darker, sultrier, and with award-winning bartenders behind the stick, this place is always a little rowdier than its upstairs counterpart, which makes it ideal for letting your hair down, ordering an Old Fashioned, and smashing a short rib French dip. 

Nightjar

Best picture-worthy garnishes: Nightjar

129 City Rd

Have your Instagrams at the ready, because these drinks are mini pieces of art and demand to be documented as such. Hidden behind an unassuming door (and tough bouncer) just off Old Street, this basement speakeasy is jaw-droppingly gorgeous from start to finish, with a 1920s vibe, out-of-this-world drinks, and a constantly buzzy scene. Yes, you should make reservations, and no, no one will judge you for taking pictures of the ridiculous garnishes. 

Casita 

Best place to rediscover your love for tequila: Casita

5A Ravey St

Although this bar is about the size of a closet, it packs a solid, tequila-fueled punch that'll leave you shuffling homeward by last call, wondering where the last few hours went. Taking no prisoners, it’s always crammed with a devoted crew of super-friendly regulars, so expect to consume many shots of the signature tequila con verdita while insisting you stopped by for “just one.” Yeah, as if.

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Haley Forest is a food & drinks writer who lived in stumbling distance from most of these bars for many years. Yes, it was dangerous for her liver. Check out her adventures on all things social at @HCForest.

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1. Happiness Forgets 8-9 Hoxton Square, , London, N1 6NU (Shoreditch)

Happiness Forgets is subterranean speakeasy that’s also one of the sexiest spots in Shoreditch. Nestled in a discreet basement off Hoxton Square, there's a distinct lack of pretension in this cozy, dimly lit joint: you’ll find friendly banter, expertly mixed cocktails, and a convivial atmosphere evoked by books, liquor bottles, and candles along the shelves. Owned and operated by Alastair Burgess, whose hardcore training at Milk & Honey in London and famed Pegu Club in NYC is a testament to his mixology prowess, the watering hole is frequented by industry folk and locals alike.

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2. NOLA 66-68 Rivington St, London, EC2 3AY (Shoreditch)

Secretly stashed upstairs inside the bro-y bar/comedy/gig space that is Bedroom Bar, NOLA smashes out Southern hospitality at its finest with New Orleans signatures, live jazz, and cigars. Hang out on the terrace (or in one of the massive booths) while sipping on hurricanes, Ramos Gin Fizzes, and Vieux Carrés while dreaming of sunnier-than-London skies in the Big Easy.

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3. Callooh Callay 65 Rivington St, London, EC2A 3AY (Shoreditch)

Craft cocktails and whimsy reign supreme at this award-winning Shoreditch spot. It’s like stepping into the Narnia of nightlife -- guests literally enter through an old Victorian wardrobe -- into a world of mixology-driven drinks like the Pyropia, which features Nori-infused El Jimador tequila, green apple sherbet, lime, and agave. Between the cassette tapes decked along the walls (get it?) to the slick, black leather furniture, the vibe is decidedly trendy. While the mid-century lounge in the back may be secret, the bar itself isn’t: plenty of Londoners come here to party on the weekends, so consider making a reservation.

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4. The Cocktail Trading Co. 68 Bethnal Green Road, London, E1 6GQ (Shoreditch)

Owned and operated by three veterans of London’s bar scene, the Cocktail Trading Co. offers highly imaginative bespoke cocktails. From the first pour to the final serve, these libations excite and surprise – take, for example, the cleverly named Rum Forest Rum, which features aged Colombian rum, Chinotto wine, and tobacco and rose essence. Heck, you might even encounter drinks served in Chinese takeout boxes or rain boots, potentially garnished with sunglasses and toasted marshmallows. Between its numerous accolades, its “speakeasy-meets-Tiki bar” aesthetic, and the friendly staff, the CTC is a neighborhood destination for both industry folk and locals alike.

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5. The Hoxton Hotel 81 Great Eastern St, , London, EC2A 3HU (Shoreditch)

Housed inside the trendy Hoxton hotel, Hoxton Grill walks the line between debauched hotel bar and classy lounge. There’s an array of food options across the breakfast, brunch, all day, lounge and dessert menus, including small plates of salads, burgers, steaks and ribs. Open 'til 2am—later than most things in the area—it’s a solid spot to get those last couple Negronis down and make some terrible/terrific decisions in the photo booth. Plus, the people-watching can be better than TV.

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6. PortSide Parlour 14 Rivington St, London, EC2A 3DU (Shoreditch)

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.

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7. White Lyan 153-155 Hoxton St, London, N1 6PJ (Shoreditch)

This Shoreditch cocktail bar is certainly out of the ordinary, using no brands of spirits other than their own, no ice, and also serving a special booze-infused coffee that gives a special kick. This place has a rectifier's license, meaning everything from the water up is made in-house -- no, really, the water's redistilled to make sure it has specific minerals, and all spirits are distilled to the bar's unique design. There’s no shaking required here, just the even pour from pre-diluted, refrigerated, bottled cocktails onto a scale for that perfect wash line, every time. With a modern, industrial tables and chairs, everything from the drinks to decor at White Lyan seems futuristic.

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8. Loves Company 104-122 City Rd, London, EC1V 2NR (Shoreditch)

This bar has a serious case of Jekyll & Hyde, in the best way possible. At ground-level, there’s a tiny cocktail bar where you can sit and watch the world of Old Street go by, all the while nibbling on kick-ass toasties like the Jamon Eileen (chorizo, pineapple, and Double Gloucester) or the American Pie (apples, sultanas, and custard). As the night rolls on, things start to kick off downstairs where DJs get things rolling and the party kids take over.

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9. Joyeux Bordel 147 Curtain Rd, London, EC2A 3QE (Shoreditch)

Joyous Bordel in Shoreditch is a dimly-lit, gold-inspired lower level bar run by the same crew as Chinatown’s Experimental Cocktail Club, so the cocktails—classic and experimental—are tremendous. Keep an ear out for JB’s phenomenal sound system: the owners went mega-geeky on this one with 1970s Tannoy dual 18” speakers, each separately powered by 1960s amplifiers, and valves from 1940-1960. Plus, Joyeux often hosts live performances and neighborhood event nights.

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10. Sager & Wilde 193 Hackney Rd, London, E2 8JL (Hackney)

Sager & Wilde is a sleek wine bar serving reasonably price drinks by the bottle or glass, and varying day to day. The food menu boasts a rotating set of small plates. Behind the long iron-grate bar sits staff members who clearly know what they’re talking about, so rest assured you’ll get something to your liking. Overflowing with laid-back charm, this is the perfect spot to try wines you’ve never heard of (there's an extensive by-the-glass program) and then end up ordering several bottles worth. Also, the toasted sandwich game here is ace.

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11. Hawksmoor Spitalfields Bar 157B Commercial St, London, E1 6BJ (Shoreditch)

Nestled in the basement of the Hawksmoor restaurant in Shoreditch, Spitalfields Bar serves up award-winning cocktails and bar fare. From old staples like Shaky Pete’s Ginger Brew (gin, ginger, lemon, and London Pride) to more recent highlights like the Sunset Sazerac (strawberry cognac, coconut bourbon, pineapple bitters and absinthe), these impeccably mixed drinks don’t disappoint. Sip while you savor delicious snacks (short rib nuggets, anyone?), and enjoy the sultry coziness evoked by glazed brick walls, intimate alcove booths, and Art Deco-inspired copper countertops.

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12. The Nightjar 129 City Rd, London, EC1V 1JB (Shoreditch)

Let the blues and booze flow. The Nightjar is a craft cocktail and jazz bar in a basement evocative of a Prohibition-era speakeasy (think Art Deco ceilings, brass fixtures, and red velvet furnishings), with specialty drinks corresponding to historic periods. Take, for example, the pre-Prohibition themed Toronto, made with Woodford Reserve, Fernet Branca, coffee and pecan maple syrup, orange blossom smoke, and candy floss. Yes, you should make reservations, and feel free to fire up your Instagram account: no one will judge you for taking photographs of these liquid pieces of art.

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13. Casita 5A Ravey St., Shoreditch, EC2A 4QW (Shoreditch)

Although this bar is about the size of a closet, it packs a solid, tequila-fueled punch that'll leave you shuffling homeward by last call, wondering where the last few hours went. Taking no prisoners, it’s always crammed with a devoted crew of super-friendly regulars, so expect to consume many shots of the signature tequila con verdita while insisting you stopped by for “just one.” Yeah, as if. The music is loud, the drinks strong, and everyone gets very up close and personal.

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