A few years ago, going for a drink in London meant stumbling into an old-man boozer or an outdated wine bar. But now the speakeasy, a different breed of bar based around atmospheric drinking dens of Prohibition America, have swept the city by storm, bringing formidable cocktails and an unbeatable array of spirits to the table. Here are 8 of London’s best speakeasies:
City-Style Wine Bar With a Twist
Hidden away under the old Harrild & Sons pub on Blackfriars Road, 5CC is centred around a glowing bar stocked with every spirit imaginable (there are over eighty kinds of whisky alone). Cocktails such as the P-daq, made with creamy pistacchio, are seriously impressive.
Authentic Speakeasy with Crazy Decor
Disguised in a block of flats in Chelsea, Barts is a real riot of cocktails and absurd design. Find the cartoon wallpaper, ring the bell and head inside for an Abstinence Cocktail – Campari, absinthe bitters and gin.
A Hard-Boiled Noir-Themed Bar
We’d forgive you for thinking that Evans & Peel was actually a real detective agency. Based around the crime novels of the ’30s and ’40s a la Raymond Chandler, the attention to detail here is really special – a bookshelf leads through to the bar, bottles have to be drunk out of American brown paper bags, and cigar boxes filled with cocktails.
Back-to-Basics Cocktail Cathedral
If all the drama and secrecy isn’t your thing, 69 Coleman Row – a bar so unpretentious it doesn’t even have a name – is the one for you. The focus is on the drinks, with world-class mixologists rustling up a seasonal menu of cocktails. Just be sure to book in advance.
Casino-Themed Bar With Your Very Own Mixologists
It’s your 1930s Prohibition-themed casino bar, but with an intriguing twist – you bring a bottle of your own spirit, settle down to a table and watch your very own mixologist create bespoke cocktails based on your tipple of choice.
Where: 9-11 Basement, Camden High Street, Camden, NW1 7JE
Dramatic Fun House of Booze
Already a legendary drinking hole, The Mayor of Scaredy Cat Town has a whole mythology of its own. Ask to ‘see the mayor’ in The Breakfast Club, and you’ll be led through a retro ’50s style Smeg fridge and into a whole new world of speakeasy. Have a dance, enjoy the drinks, and sneak out through the hidden exit through the toilets.
With its late-Victorian theme more reminiscent of Jack the Ripper than Al Capone, the Worship Street Whistling Shop isn’t your usual Prohibition speakeasy. Cocktails inspired by nineteenth-century drinking trends – old-timey flavours like rhubarb, marmalade and forgotten Sarsaparilla make delicious cameos – prove worthy treats.
High Class, Moody Underground Bar
From old classics such as the Sicilian Gimlet to big bold newcomers (the Olive Oil Gin Fizz is unbelievable), the cocktails here are the main draw, but it’s the decor of fireplaces-and-marble that make you want to stay. And a steady flow of funk and soul seals the deal.