For the non francophones out there, “Joyeux Bordel” roughly translates as jolly mess – but while there might be potential for a messy night, walking through the hidden entrance (this is Shoreditch, after all) and down the stairs to the bar gives off more of a sophisticated vibe, with just a little plenty-of-dark-corners kind of edge.
The latest born of the Experimental Cocktail Club, it’s got a drinks menu with the expected flair, and a reasonable amount of French influence – old aperitifs, dusty bottles with continental names and all the Suze and Lillet you’d ever want. Go for the bar’s signature drink – the Jolly Mess – which uses rye spirit, pear eau de vie, vermouth, cardamom syrup and chocolate liqueur. Sounds moreish and decadent but is surprisingly balanced, with a nice bitter chocolate aftertaste.
One thing you might not expect at first is that Joyeux Bordel is a music lover’s paradise – a nice touch when you know the space used to be legendary club Plastic People until it closed early this year. The sound system is one of the best in Europe, with speakers and amps legendary in a way that we didn’t manage to understand, so expect a refined line-up of DJs with The Clove Club’s Daniel Willis at the helm.
Best Bars tip: If you’re fond of antique bottles and glasses, and fancy sipping on something really special that no one quite knows the history of, Joyeux Bordel has a collection of antique spirits that they might just let the regulars try.
Now, this one’s the real deal. You’ll find the great and greater of the bar world both sides of the bar at (pretty much) all times of night, and no doubt joining in will make you feel a bit special – even more so with drink in hand. Sovereign Loss is small, the list is small, but the welcome is warm and the knowledge without bounds. You’re in for a good night.
The drinks list changes weekly, so it’s hard to know what to expect. You’ll likely find classics slightly twisted and a short selection of drinks with a good emphasis on fruit spirits. While we cannot speak highly enough of the Army and Navy — a wonderfully creamy, slightly sweet and pleasantly bitter almond drink — the best thing to do at Sovereign Loss is to tell the team what you like to drink and they’ll be happy to find a serve to your taste that’ll still surprise you.
This is the perfect place for late-night drinking: hard to find (you’ll have to be escorted from an unexciting side door of the downstairs Prince of Wales to the bar), darkly-lit and open until 5am or more. Add to that very reasonably priced cocktails and the cosy 20s feel and you might as well move in. We sure are.
Best Bars tip: Week evenings are quiet enough, but if you’re planning to visit on the weekend, book ahead.
The guys from Happiness Forgets have spread their magic touch, and this time it’s a slightly bigger (but definitely as beautiful) operation on Stoke Newington Road. Welcome to Original Sin. This basement bar is all dim lighting, cosy booths, free pool and there’s one seriously long bar that begs for you to come perch on.
Drinks are delicious and deceptively simple — meaning it shouldn’t take too long to get a few into your hands. We are partial to the long, refreshing and lightly smoky Sea City with mezcal, cachaca, lemon, agave, salt, mint and soda. For a moreish, spicy and creamy drink, try Mr Sandman with Remy Martin, allspice, lemon, maple syrup, ginger and egg yolk. It’s Christmas in a glass.
If you get hungry, burger maestros Stokey Bears are just upstairs. Sorted.
Best Bars tip: Original Sin is just a straight shot down the road from High Water and POND, so we reckon this is going to quickly become one of your favourite cocktail crawls.
*This bar is now closed, but keep an eye out … they may be cropping up at another locale soon.*
Come hell or High Water, Dalston has a new chilled out cocktail haven. This treasure of a bar is the product of one seriously talented team: Bobby Hiddleston of New York’s Dead Rabbit, Durham Atkinson of Hops & Glory, Mia Johansson of Milk & Honey and Barbarossa Inan of Hawksmoor. Are these capable hands? Why yes they are.
Whatever your tipple of choice, it will be perfectly executed and utterly delicious. Classics are bang on, and so are all their twists. For a fresh and zesty choice, order the Rolling Tackle made with rosemary tequila, Aperol, carrot and mandarin sherbet. Or for a sweeter, fuller drink then try the Foo Foo Band Night with peanut butter rum, lime and banana. Yummers. For the beer drinkers, there are enough hand-picked choices to keep you happy. And for a bit of both, get a “mini” cocktail chased by a bottle of beer (for less than a tenner). One of our favourites is The Admiral, a crazy twist on the Julep, with rye, cacao, falernum, absinthe and mint.
The exposed brick walls and wood beams instantly create a cosy inviting atmosphere — the kind of place you’d be happy to prop up at the bar any time of the week. Hospitality is king here and the staff are immensely friendly and welcoming, so we reckon your best bet is to grab a couple of stools at the bar and get chatting away to these lovely folks. Or if you want a place to catch up with mates, then this is a perfect choice.
Best Bars tip: We have a sneaky suspicion that this will quickly rise to the top of your favourite bars list. Get in.
It’s not always about sitting down for a sophisticated cocktail. Sometimes you just want to cut loose, drink shots and party down until the sun comes up. Here are the UK’s BEST bars for debauchery. Now whatever mischief you get yourselves into, it ain’t our fault … enjoy!
It might be one of London’s teeniest charms, but what Casita lacks in square footage it makes up for in personality. This is the kind of bar you pop into for a quick one and then end up cancelling all of your plans (happily so).
Live piano music, sing-a-long throwback tunes, crazy-looking cocktails and some of the happiest party people in town. If you’re not feeling up to it, nip down here and they’ll turn that frown upside down — guaranteed.
With blackboard walls, plenty of chalk, and an easygoing crowd bopping about to garage rock — don’t be surprised at the more adult content drawn up on the walls. You can even have a go at one-upping them yourself. And remember, downstairs is for dancing. End of.
You know you’re in for some good ol’ fashioned trouble when you step into a bar and immediately need to peel your shoes off the floor. This is party-time Americana at its best and grungiest. It’s open seven days, always late, with a (sometimes) free jukebox cranking out classic tunes – from BRUUUUUUCE to Joy Division. So let’s get turbo-sh*tfaced on the bountiful bourbons. And we should probably tell you, if you give them your bra, they’ll give you a free drink. Now the decision is yours.
East London hipsters are a given, but those fond of a tipple – or twelve – come in by the bus-load after 3pm. Music-lovers are also in luck, as it often holds free events showcasing upcoming talent – from acoustic guitarists to spinning DJs.
The 70s basement décoris cheeky and cheerful, much like their staff and drinks. So when you’re looking to cut loose, there’s little better than this ode to Polynesia/Tiki-Americana, kitted out with (un)ironic shag carpets and Tretchikoff prints.
This cheeky spot is where Edinburgh comes to play. Garibaldi’s is a colourful Mexican-themed institution, beloved by all, boozed in by all, pole danced in by all. It’s late-night partying seven days a week, and it’s impossible not to shed your inhibitions here … the tequila shooters will make sure of that.
One tequila, two tequila, three tequila … and then it all gets a bit hazy, but we’re told Neon Cactus is home to well over 70 types of this beautiful spirit. The vibrant-themed joint not only specialises in Mexico’s infamous liquor but also brings the nation’s love for traditional street food, upbeat vibes and late-night partying to Leeds’ Call Lane.
Oporto is a must-visit for music lovers and late night revellers. This Leeds rock bar certainly lives up to its slogan/hazard warning of “Go Hard or Go Home”. Prepare yourself: you’re in for a night of heavy music, all night partying and shots, lots and lots of shots.
So Tiki it hurts, Aloha’s Polynesian carvings, colourful flowery wallpaper and bars set in wooden shacks transport guests to tropical climes where rum is king and Piña Coladas are served in fresh pineapples. This large basement bar attracts a fun crowd who are keen to dance in the packed room to classic songs and cheesy numbers.
A bright and flaming Tiki den, The Liars Club is all about having a real good raucous time. From cheeky flaring tricks from the bartenders to bangin’ reggae tunes to bamboo huts – you’d struggle not to cut loose down here.
Tucked below a discreet set of stairs just off the Leicester Square, a treat awaits you: the buzzy, party-loving Covent Garden Cocktail Club. Now technically this is a members’ only joint, but anyone can get a membership — just sign up here. And once you’re in, you can expect all of the qualities that make its brethren LCC venues so irresistible.
Drinking here is about frills and fun, so don’t be shy. Get the night started with a Won Ton Bomb: a Jagerbomb gone wrong. Red Bull jelly in a soup spoon served with chilled Jagermeister and a touch of tobasco. Wowza. Standing up at the bar watching the flaring masters at work should take your party mood up to eleven. And then get a bit cheeky and have an Optic Old Fashioned. A Woodford Reserve bourbon sipper that’s served in a flask. Classy, ay? If you need it, bar bites such as nuts and pizza are available.
Come at the right time and you’ll be serenaded with some lively piano playing. But this isn’t the stiff key tapping of five-star hotels, this is a seamless foray into sing-a-long tunes — and we love it.
Best Bars tip: Swing by on Monday for the ALL NIGHT happy hour, or come Tuesday-Saturday between 4:30pm-7pm for 2-for-1 tipples.
A west London staple, the Portobello Star is perfect for anyone and everyone who likes a tipple and a good time. With their own homebrand gin, it’s no surprise the chaps here really know how to make a solid drink.
Peckish? Good. Thirsty? Great. To eat, grab a sharing board with meat from the much-loved Ginger Pig butcher. Or maybe try one of Portobello’s homemade pies — beef cheek and real ale with proper gravy? Don’t mind if we do. To drink, you have to try The Slutty Mermaid (there’s a great story behind this drink, so ask the bartender). It’s a delicious mix of smoky Vida mezcal, Manzanilla sherry, lemon and egg white with a splash of seawater and garnished with a mermaid, of course. Most importantly, you can’t leave without having a Portobello Road Martini with their very own gin, Lillet Blanc, Gammel Dansk bitter Danish digestif, Bob’s Abbott’s bitters that’s all stirred up and served with a grapefruit twist. Simply EPIC.
Jake Burger is the brains behind this operation, and is responsible for some of our favourite haunts (aka Jake’s Bar and Still Room, Neon Cactus, Oporto and Cielo Blanco — need we go on?). This place is ready for a party any time, so if you swing by for a quiet cocktail … well, there’s always the chance you’ll be swilling and dancing by the end of the night. Weekends see the DJ crack out spot-on tunes and the sexy-looking crowd can’t help but pile in.
Best Bars tip: If gin is still a bit of a mystery to you, then book yourself in for a session at the Ginstitute upstairs. It’s a few hours of history, drinking and even MAKING your very own gin. If you absolutely love your own concoction, you can order extra bottles any time. WIN.