Everyone loves a drinking den. Though the first thing that springs to mind may be a candlelit basement bar, below we have proved that cosy ground floor destinations can be equally worthy of den status, but low ceilings, dim lighting and creative cocktails are hard to beat. Plan a date, round up your friends and get drinking.
Pimlico's Hidden Cocktail Bar
Hidden below Pimlico’s boutique hotel, The Artist Residence, Clarendon Cocktail Cellar is known by those in the know but a hidden gem for those unaware. The bar serves top notch cocktails with an overriding theme – at the moment they’re focusing on the movies so you can sip a ‘Titanic’ made with rose, Plymouth gin, sea salt and iceberg, or try an ‘Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy’; brown butter-washed Monkey Shoulder Scotch, chardonnay reduction, oak angostura and orange bitters. We see what you’ve done there…
Where: 52 Cambridge Street, Pimlico, SW1V 4QQ
The Hotel Drinking Den
Blake’s Hotel has recently given its basement bar a smart makeover. Burnt orange and black striped wallpaper so shouldn’t work but it really does – something to do with the dim lighting and low ceilings. The whole bar qualifies as ‘drinking den’ status but we love the room round to the left, down a couple of stairs.
Where: 33 Roland Gardens, Kensington, London, SW7 3PF, United Kingdom
Nearest station: Gloucester Road (0.5 miles)
Rustic Basement Bar
Cocktails and cheese make the Discount Suit Company a must-visit. Throw in the fact that the worn wooden beams and exposed brick make the basement bar seem a well-kept secret and you have yourself one date-worthy drinking den to add to the bucket list. The cocktails are great too so there is style as well as substance.
Where: 29A Wentworth Street, Spitalfields, E1 7TB
In the depths of The London EDITION lies the Punch Room. Accessible only via prior booking, the oak-panelled room feels like your own private bar or secret members club. Try and reserve the table by the fire for the ultimate drinking den feel. The drinks menu focuses around punch bowls (hence the name) – ten speciality punches include the gin-infused EDITION punch with jasmine tea and oak moss and are available solo or for a group. The bar also serves their take on an afternoon tea with five tea pairings, light bites and boozy tipples so you don’t have to save all the fun for after-dark.
Where: 10 Berners Street, Fitzrovia, W1T 3NP
Nearest station: Oxford Circus (0.4 miles)
Swift is one of London’s newer bars. Whilst the ground floor is inviting, you’ll want to head downstairs where the cosy candlelit booths for a great late night drinking spot. The bar itself is relatively discreet, lacking any big sign from the street, but a bouncer will let you know you are actually in the right place. The cocktails are serious and the wine list concise. Ask the knowledgable staff for suggestions or plump for something exciting sounding like the ‘Amethyst’; still wide, Hennessy Fine, Becherovka, lemon and greengage.
Where: 12 Old Compton Street, Soho, W1D 4TQ
Resembling the home of your Wicked Uncle Seymour, The Zetter Townhouse Marylebone is full to the brim with artefacts, trinkets and random objects lining pretty much every surface. The deep red bar is particularly cosy so book a table, find the discreet townhouse entrance and pull the curtain to one side. The bar may not be below ground but it’s worthy of drinking den status none the less. Share a bottle of red and you’ll never want to leave. More east than central? The Clerkenwell sibling is equally worth a visit.
Where: 28-30 Seymour Street, Marylebone, W1H 7JB
Brick Lane is the perfect location for a bar that serves its cocktails in everything from Golden Syrup tins to snow globes. Cocktail Trading Co is no secret but if you are yet to visit the East London site but were familiar with the Soho spot then expect much of the same but with slightly more room. Impress an out-of-towner with the ‘Instaspam’. Morello cherry and hazelnut liqueur, apple brandy, orange blossom and lemon juice served in a Spam tin…
Where: 68 Bethnal Green Road, Shoreditch, E1 6GQ
East End Boozer
Named after Frances Nelson, wife of naval officer Horatio Nelson, east end pub Fanny Nelsons gets the balance right between pub and speakeasy. The downstairs room is available for 40 people to hire but sit down there on your visit and tuck into a Sunday roast. Who said drinking dens shouldn’t serve food too…
Where: 32 Horatio Street, Bethnal Green, E2 7SB
Tucked away beneath King’s Cross, Megaro Bar brings a bit of a Prohibition vibe to laid-back, modern day surroundings. 1920s jazz plays from the speakers, with intimate tables separated by thick red velvet curtains. A full cocktail menu is available but the bar specialises in barrel-aged cocktails like the ‘Boulevardier’ with Knob Creek Rye, Antica Formula, Campari and orange bitters.
Where: 23-27 Euston Road, King's Cross, NW1 2SD
It may not be much of a secret but you can’t get much cosier than Gordon’s Wine Bar. The 19th century cellars by Embankment are made even cosier by hoards of thirsty wine lovers who flock there as soon as they pack up for the day. You probably won’t manage to get a table but in the warmer months you can hang out on the alleyway outside but during a dark winters night you really do want to try and nab a seat under the arches.
Where: 47 Villiers Street, Embankment, WC2N 6NE
Cocktail Bar Tucked Away Above an Italian Restaurant
An Italian restaurant on Fulham Road isn’t the type of place you’d expect to find a drinking den but tucked away in Goat you’ll find the Chelsea Prayer Room. Accessed by an ever-changing secret code (the nice people at the door will keep you in the know), here it’s all about the cocktails. Twists on the classics include the ‘Sleepless Beauty’ which is basically an espresso martini with vanilla vodka and chocolate bitters, and the ‘Jackson’; cold-buttered bourbon with bitters.
Where: 333 Fulham Road, Chelsea, SW10 9QL
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