London may be the one city in the world that can go head to head with New York City when it comes to all things libations-related. Don’t believe me? Look no further than the World’s 50 Best Bars list, and you’ll find that half of the top 10 bars are located in England’s capital city.
Before you blindly stumble into another pub that looks just like the last one you were in, here are five places you should consider drinking at the next time you’re in London.
1C Portland Place, London, W1B 1JA, United Kingdom
Open Monday to Saturday, 11 AM to 1:30 AM (last call), and Sunday, 11 AM to 11:30 PM (last call)
When we visited London in May 2016, we had one spot in mind that we absolutely couldn’t miss: Artesian. Artesian, located inside the Langham hotel, was ranked the #1 bar in the world in 2015, according to World’s 50 Best Bars. In fact, they held the top spot for four years in a row, starting in 2012.* These accolades are not without reason, as the quality of their drinks is matched by the hospitality of the staff. It didn’t matter that we were tourists who they’d never see again; the staff went out of their way to make sure we had a good time (i.e. congratulatory shots of Don Julio!).
Artesian’s innovative take on drinks is on full display in their Surrealism menu. Drinks range from the “Last Wish” cocktail–containing Bulleit Rye, Calvados, Armagnac, Amber, and Essensia–to the amusingly named “Death of the Hipster” libation. The latter contains Workshop Coffee, Jasmine, Tonic, Oak Smoke, and Elderflower. Clever presentation is the name of the game at this prestigious bar. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself drinking cocktails out of rocks or suspended in the air!
*Note: We noticed that Artesian dropped a substantial amount in the 2016 rankings. These were released on October 6, 2016. Apparently this is related to the fact that a dozen staff members had left since the 2015 ranking. That being said, we still had a fantastic experience there and would wholeheartedly recommend going.
2. American Bar
The Savoy, Strand, London, WC2R 0EU, United Kingdom
Open Monday to Saturday, 11:30 AM to midnight, and Sunday, noon to midnight
Another highly acclaimed London bar, this one ranked number 5 in the world in 2015 and number 2 as of 2016. Any cocktail aficionado worth their lost shaker of salt should make a pilgrimage to this iconic bar, located in The Savoy. Case in point: it’s where Harry Craddock created “The Savoy Cocktail Book” in 1930 (read: bartender’s bible).
While historical significance abounds here, American Bar isn’t afraid to change up its menu and continue growing creatively. The current iteration of their drink list features “mixed drinks inspired by London and its stories.” Check out the popular “Abbey Road” in the Camden section (Star of Bombay gin, Martini Rubino, lemon juice, yuzu juice, Champagne syrup and citrus dust). Fan of brown spirits? Try the “Black Eagle” in the Tower Hamlets section. The drink features Dewar’s 12 year old whisky, Barolo Chianti, campari, Savoy grenadine, cold brew coffee and tonic.
Fun fact: Don’t confuse this bar with others with the same name in London! Turns out that the term “American Bar” is a generic one. It actually refers to a bar serving mixed or “American” style drinks (more widely known as cocktails).
3. Gordon’s Wine Bar
47 Villiers Street, London, WC2N 6NE, United Kingdom
Open Monday to Saturday, 11:00 AM to 11:00 PM, and Sundays from noon to 10:00 PM
When you first think of London’s bar scene, you probably think of a pub, or maybe even a cocktail bar. But a wine bar? On this list? Why, yes, young Jedi. Because when you drink vino at Gordon’s Wine Bar, you’ll feel like you’re drinking in a wine cave, which is just too damn cool. (There’s an outdoor area, too, but c’mon. WINE CAVE.) The place is also thought to be London’s oldest wine bar, operating since 1890. In addition to the multitude of wines available, there’s some tasty cheese boards and hot plates to nosh on and sop up that shiraz. If we haven’t convinced you yet, know that this was the bar most commonly recommended to us before flying across the pond. When you’ve got travel experts from Rick Steves and Fodor’s to Pink Pangea and Matador Network recommending that you go somewhere, you know that Gordon’s Wine Bar must be doing something right!
Pro tip: Be sure to get there early. Gordon’s Wine Bar operates on a first come, first serve basis, and it can be difficult to get a spot to sit due to its popularity. Try going during off hours (e.g. between lunch and dinner) to increase the likelihood of finding a seat.
4. Dog and Duck
18 Bateman Street, London, Greater London, W1D 3AJ, United Kingdom
Open Mondays to Thursdays, 11:00 AM to 11:00 PM; Fridays and Saturdays, 11:00 AM to 11:30 PM; and Sundays, noon to 10:30 PM.
Truth be told, there’s lots of great pubs out there in London, ranging from the historic to the rowdy and rambunctious. Hell, you could turn around any corner blindly and probably find a pub serving some delicious beer. On our trip, though, we particularly enjoyed Dog and Duck in London’s Soho neighborhood. Part of the initial draw was that famous people had graced the pub with their presence (i.e. the author of certain famous dystopian novels and the original Material Girl), but it’s not just that. The service was friendly and prompt, and the selection of brews was great, ranging from Fourpure’s Session IPA to Brewdog’s Jack Hammer.
5. The London Eye
Hold up. What the @#$! is the London Eye doing on this list? Don’t stop reading yet, seriously; there’s a method to my madness.
It turns out that you can actually go wine tasting while riding on the London Eye. This means that you can kill two birds with one stone: getting slightly tipsy while enjoying a beautiful 360-degree view of the city and knocking another tourist spot off your checklist. There’s a champagne tasting experience (£50 and up), but we opted for the regular wine tasting experience (£47 and up). You remain on board for not one, but two 30-minute rotations, and taste five varieties of wine with one of their experts. Admittedly, everyone quaffing drinks with us was American, which made us chuckle. But lest you worry that this experience is meant for romance or couples only, don’t: our fellow passengers were a mix of couples and single friends alike.
Honorable Mention: As usual, we asked the staff at these various spots where they would go for a drink if they were out on the town. If you’ve been to everywhere on this list, try checking out Nightjar, Connaught Bar, Dandelyan, Happiness Forgets, Bar Termini, 69 Colebrooke Row, Evans & Peel Detective Agency, and The Gibson.
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Where are your favorite places to drink in England’s capital city? Sound off in the comments below!