Dark and moody, slick and sophisticated, luxurious and lavish. No, we’re not talking about the choice (or wish-list) of potential partners propping up the bar on a Friday night, we’re talking about the ever expanding selection of cocktail bars in the UK.
Whatever you’re into, there’s something for every taste, but the best cocktails are worth searching for. There’s a wealth of bars in the UK now all shouting about how they make the best cocktails in the country. The thing is, the best one’s are merely whispering, luring you in to come and try their lip-lickingly delicious menu.
When we say cocktail, we don’t mean the student style concoction of rose, white lightening and whatever is in the spirit cupboard, with a glace cherry on top - we’re talking high quality, world class sipping pleasure. This isn’t only to be found in London either; Bristol, Manchester and Edinburgh have their own spots of sophistication, but be prepared to keep your eyes peeled for non sign-posted doorways and having to ring the doorbell to be let in.
Speakeasy style bars are a trend that has developed within the last few years, giving customers a drinking experience with a vintage atmosphere and sophisticated scenery. Seeking these places out can be an art in itself- if you know where to go to find the best drinks in town and no-one else does, that’s impressive. See lightbulbs flashing above the heads of single men all over the country, first date = sorted.
Now we’re wine people here, so obviously we will be searching out the cocktails that feature a hint of sauvignon or a pop of prosecco. The Alchemist, Manchester’s list features a not to be missed ‘Strawberry Bellini’.
Food blogger and wine lover David ‘Gastronome at Home’ Crichton speaks on his love of wine-based mixes. ‘I won't describe the situation where I first came across Bellinis, makes me sound a bit pompous! All I can remember though is this has become my favourite aperitif and I've never come close to it. Wine based cocktails are the perfect "aperitif" though as they generally come with lower ABVs and then mixed with syrups. So getting everyone on a sugar high as opposed to too much alcohol.’ He claims the best cocktails around have been served for years at ‘Restaurant, Bar and Grill’ in Manchester.
So the quest to hunt down the finest cocktail establishments is on; eyes peeled and taste buds at the ready.
Here, in no particular order, is a list of what we think are 10 of the best cocktail bars in Britain
1. Hausbar, Bristol
Opened in June 2006 by Aurelius Braunbarth, Hausbar has brought a much needed injection of Berlin-esque class and style to the bar scene in Bristol.
2. The Raconteur, Edinburgh
Raconteur, literally meaning ‘one who tells stories with skill and wit’, well known, award winning Edinburgh bartenders Jamie Macdonald, Teddy Joseph and Nick Reed have teamed together to create a modern tavern that embodies stories of the past in many shapes and forms.
3. Good Godfrey’s, London
Good Godfrey’s proudly takes its name from the former leader of the Waldorf House band, the handsome and talented Howard Godfrey. Their signature cocktails include 'The Astor Hip Flask' named after William Waldorf Astor, the owner of the Waldorf Astoria in NY. Also great for champagne cocktails.
4. Dukes, London
The legendary bar is internationally renowned for its famous martinis and personalised cocktails. Frequented by James Bond author Ian Fleming, the bar is said to be the inspiration for the classic line, 'shaken, not stirred'.
5. Purl, London
The word 'purl' refers to an old English drink consisting of warm ale, gin, wormwood and spices. This bar imagine drinks that satisfy on a multi-sensory level, using aroma, fogs, airs, foams, food, bespoke serviceware and liquid nitrogen to bring the drink to life and transport the guest to another place or time.
6. The Alchemist, Manchester
The Alchemist opened in November 2010 and quickly established itself as a stalwart member of Manchester’s vibrant food and drink scene. The Alchemist’s signature libations are carefully crafted, using a variety of molecular drinks-making techniques to surprise, baffle and confound your taste buds in a most pleasant manner.
7. The Maven, Leeds
The Maven is Leeds’ most characteristic cocktail lounge with a pre-Prohibition look & feel but with a twist. Stating they are much more than a cocktail bar, it’s easy to miss but well worth the search.
8. The Bon Vivant, Edinburgh
Here is Edinburgh’s leading late night stop for cocktails. If the restaurant tables are empty, grab yourself a seat and prepare to order from the extensive and exciting cocktail menu. Pina Colada establishment this is not.
9. The Merchant Hotel, Belfast
Whatever drink you're into, this is the place to be. Their classic and award winning cocktail bar has a textbook-style menu filled with trivia and facts on what you will be indulging in. It also contains the world’s most expensive cocktail, costing a mere £750
10. The Worship Street Whistling Shop, London
With a completely unseen before approach to cocktails, craft beers, all-English sparkling wine selection, two seperate private experience rooms & some pretty tasty food, The Worship Street Whistling Shop will dazzle with an all-encompassing gustatory experience.
Cherry martini image via shutterstock