Thursday, 11 March 2021

6 of London’s coolest cocktail bars that only the locals know about

Waeska Bar
The bar seating at Waeska Bar

1. Waeska at The Mandrake Hotel

The bar, hidden away within the new Mandrake Hotel, is a world of hedonistic fun with just a hint of the surreal. The eclectic interiors are decorated with priceless works of art, intriguing soundscapes and specially designed Azzi Glasser scents.

The team of talented mixologists is handpicked from leading bars around the globe by award-winning bar manager Walter Pintus (The Ritz, The Connaught), and the drinks collection is unlike anything else to be found in London. They are specially designed by Pintus and his international team – divinely decadent and made with the world’s most exotic ingredients. The Goji Cocktail, for example, is a careful mixture of Bombay Sapphire Gin, St Germain elderflower, maraschino, rhubarb and goji berry cordial diffused into a carbonated finish. All the syrups, infusions, garnishes and bitters are made on site – with even the ice handcrafted to perfection. This place really offers both substance and style, and it’s only a matter of time before the guidebooks wise up to Waeska’s glistening charms.

Nearest tube: Tottenham Court Road

Punch Room
The timeless interior of Punch Room. Photo credit: Nikolas Koenig

2. Punch Room at The London EDITION

Punch Room may be just off the chaotic Oxford Street, but is thankfully a secret corner of calm in Fitzrovia, within The London EDITION. Their speciality is the daily changing sharing punch bowls or classic house punches. If punch tasting was a thing, this would be its birthplace. The venue offers a meticulously crafted menu comprising 30 specialty punches, one of which includes Punch Room’s very own signature gin-infused house punch.

Punch Room is inspired by the grand traditions of Great Britain – from the English country manor to the quintessential London private gentleman’s club. In the daytime, it’s quiet and relaxed, perfect for intimate catch-ups or playful daytime dates. In the evening, it caters as more of a hot spot for social groups, with Punch bowls available for up to eight people at £14 (US$19) per person.

Nearest tube: Oxford Circus, Tottenham Court Road

The Gin Bar
Tall stools to accompany the classy mood

3. The Gin Bar at Holborn Dining Room

There’s only one bar for gin lovers in London – The Gin Bar at the Holborn Dining Room. It has the city’s largest collection of gin, specialising in gin cocktails with exclusive tonic pairings. Here you’ll find unique gin cocktails reflecting the flavours and ingredients of each British season, as well as spirits, wines and craft beers. The bar staff are very knowledgeable so if choosing between 500 varieties of gin sends you into a tail-spin, tell your waiter what interests you and let the experts whip something that will awaken your taste buds. We suggest the Williams Chase Pink Grapefruit & Pomelo gin and tonic, a delicious concoction that’s slow infused with eight botanicals and distilled with grapefruit and pomelo peel before it is complemented with Merchant’s Heart Hibiscus Tonic.

The experts here also hold gin tasting masterclasses. Guests learn everything from the stories of gin’s place in London’s history (with over 7,000 gin shops catering to Londoners in the 18th century, it is no surprise that the spirit’s popularity remains to this day) to how it is made. Of course, there is a chance to sample select blends throughout the class, guests get a welcome gin and tonic on arrival that’s paired with delicious bar bites delivered straight from Holborn Dining Room’s kitchen.

Nearest tube: Holborn

St James Bar
St James Bar radiates an extravagant aura

4. St James Bar at Sofitel London

This Coco Chanel-inspired intimate bar is one of the most gorgeous places in the city, and cocktails here are individual works of art. On its shelves are an impressive collection of artisanal cocktails such as the St James Reviver comprising Ketel One citron vodka, Chamberryzette strawberry liqueur, elderflower syrup, citrus and soap bark.

If you’re feeling adventurous, why not pick up the ‘Passport’ menu? Its a special menu only offered at St James Bar that allows guests to order popular drinks from across the globe. Pay a virtual visit to Japan by ordering their Shodo made of Roku gin, black cherry syrup infused with green tea & apricot, lemon juice, egg white, Suze bitters for the traditional flavour. Or take a quick trip to Thailand by trying the Mekong, a mixture of complex flavours including Mekhong Thai spirit, Koko Kanu coconut rum, lime juice, basil leaves, homemade earl grey tea & spicy syrup, Peychaud’s bitters. St James Bar is currently temporarily closed due to pandemic restrictions so check its website for updates.

Nearest tube: Piccadilly Circus

Out Of The Blue bar
The bar where future meets the present

5. The Blue Bar at The Berkeley

With a striking, blue, art deco-accented interior, The Blue Bar at The Berkeley oozes an exuberant glamour. The striking Lutyens Blue colour scheme was originally created by David Collins for a jewel-box, salon-style feel. In 2016, it was extended into a state-of-the-art glass pavilion, giving it spacious airiness and a contemporary twist.

Its Meta menu is a curated list of 16 cocktails to suit every whim, with drinks color-coded as a guide to their flavour profiles. For instance, green would be “fresh”, with cocktails such as Peaches and Cream comprising Michter’s Bourbon, peach, rooibos and soda; red would be “bold”, with cocktails such as The Mountie comprising Aecorn Aromatic, maple, Everleaf aperitif and coconut water. The bar is temporarily closed due to pandemic restrictions so check its website for updates.

Nearest tube: Knightsbridge

MKNY Lounge
The view of the lounge from the DJ panel


MNKY LNGE is the place to be seen for Mayfair darlings; the lounge is accessible separately from the Latin American restaurant MKNY HSE. The swanky interiors include a collection of contemporary art, including a glass sculpture by celebrated light artist Chris Wood – made from dichroic – a material originally developed by NASA. Random fact: this is the nicest smelling bar we’ve ever been to.

The vibe is relaxed early on in the night, and later the music gets livelier as the party swings into the early hours. The MNKY LNGE has some stunning, rare and distinctive tequilas and mescals alongside a selection of signature cocktails and MNKY Masterpieces. The Masterpieces include S.O.S The MNKY’s, a house favourite that is made up of Moose The Alpine Spirit, homemade kiwi syrup, creme de menthe, fernet branca, fresh lime juice, mint and cucumber.

Open from 4pm from Mondays to Fridays, MNKY LNGE is also a trendy spot for coffee meetings with the city’s A-List crowd.

Nearest tube: Green Park



SEE ALSO: 7 secret bars and restaurants in Hong Kong only locals know about

This article was originally published by Singapore Press Holdings on 9 March 2018 and updated on 11 March 2021.

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