Cloud 23

Cloud 23 manchesterFor some of the best views Manchester has to offer, make your way up to Cloud 23. This slick and stylish cocktail spot has floor-to-ceiling windows (and boy are they high), so grab a spot next to one and sit back to enjoy the skyline. Come rain or shine, you’ll be happy sipping away in the clouds.

Prices may be as steep as the height of this bar, but with supremely friendly and attentive service you’ll feel alright about shelling out those extra shekels. For a fun and festive cocktail, try The Industrialist with a pre-batched frozen mix of Bulleit Bourbon, vermouth, mezcal bitters and maple syrup with is then poured over a big tuft of candy floss. Give a nod to ol’ Becks with the 7’s Club – a tasty mix of Haig Club whisky, Dubbonet, rosemary & demerara syrup, walnut and it’s served on a football pitch (of course).

Expect to see a mix of glitterati and polished out of towners all chirpily chatting away. You won’t spot too many sufferers of vertigo here though …

Best Bars tip: If you’re looking to impress, whether it’s a client or a date, this is the spot for you.

— Sasha Filimonov, @SashaSips

Cloud 23 manchester

GŎNG at The Shard

GONG at The Shard interiorNot many bars require a bag scanner, two lifts and some serious ear-popping to get into them; but GŎNG was never going to be understated. Sitting perilously on Level 52 of The Shard, the Shangri-La bar is the highest in London. The vertigo sufferers among you will certainly need a stiff drink to deal with the  view from the floor-to-ceiling windows, but those more in sync with their equilibrium will want one to celebrate it. Modern Asian design is the feel with the interiors paying homage to an upmarket Chinese drinking den, with purple furnishings, marble-top tables and a wall made of oriental-style cabinet drawers. Whether you sit in the cocktail or champagne bar, the atmosphere is as you’d expect: quiet and understated.

The menu, however, is anything but. Alongside the obligatory Bollinger and vintage wines, the signature cocktails are a mix of classics and clever twists. The dramatic Big Smoke (a libation consisting of Dodd’s gin, dry sherry and Mancino Rosso Amaranto) comes with a smoking bowl of herbs and spices, and the award-winning Black & Blue Swizzle mixes Talisker, honey, lime, PX sherry and blue cheese. Punchy, to say the least (we’d hope so, at £17 a pop). If you’re looking to mop up your spoils, and you don’t want to venture downstairs to the restaurants, the bar snack menu ranges from tapas to foie gras and Beluga caviar.

If you’re wanting to impress out of towners, then GŎNG is a winner. A couple of sophisticated drinks for a special occasion would go down well here too, and it’s a good excuse to put on a splash of finery while you’re at it. Just make sure you take plenty of dosh to play with – trust us, you’ll need it.

Best Bars tip: After 9pm, the infinity pool opens to imbibers who fancy poolside evening drinks. You can’t say that about a London bar often, can you?

— Millie Milliken, @milliemilliken

GONG at The Shard cocktail

Bank

Bank BirminghamJust off the ever-popular Brindley Place, floor-to-ceiling glass frontages and two seriously smart terraces put Bank leagues ahead of its surrounding pack.

Don your finest wares for champagne and oysters or if it is just-because bubbly you seek, try Henners’ eminently quaffable 2009 English sparkling. If cocktails are in order, we favour the classics here — Bank’s mixologists do particularly impressive Martinis and Cosmos.

The go-to spot in advance of a black-tie do, with flexible seating arrangements, Bank is equally adept at catering for client drinks, a lively date or cocktails with the girls.

Best Bars tip: Bank also does accomplished bar and restaurant food. Hire the not-altogether-private private dining room to make sure you are able to see and be seen whilst celebrating. 

– Katy Drohan, ICHOOSEBirmingham.com

Bank Birmingham

American Bar at The Savoy

American Bar at The SavoyOne of London’s most iconic bars, the American Bar at The Savoy is always ready to exceed your already high expectations. You’ll walk through the doors of the hotel and immediately be swept off your feet by friendly and attentive service, then ushered over to this art deco masterpiece. With more nooks and crannies than its sister bar, this space is perfect for tucking in to some of the best Martinis you’ll ever encounter and with just one look at those signature white blazers, you’ll know you’re in capable hands.

The bar is over 125 years old, and it is still the place for a fancy tipple. Head barman Erik Lorincz is an industry champion, so whatever drink you choose — it’s going to be damn tasty. The Savoy Cocktail Book, written by Harry Craddock in the 1930s, is something of a cocktail bible. It is still the reference point for many of the drinks on the menu and we’re partial to Harry’s own Corpse Reviver #2 — fresh, uplifting and with a bit of a kick, it is made with gin, Cointreau, Lillet Blanc, lemon and a dash of absinthe. We really love to throw back with the classics here, but feel free to experiment with the twists on the menu.

A live pianist cracking out American jazz is there seven days a week — setting an elegant tone for whenever you stop by.

Best Bars tip: When you wrap up here, head over to the Beaufort Bar for more live music or cabaret (and naturally, insanely amazing cocktails).

— Sasha Filimonov, @SashaSips

American Bar at The Savoy cocktail

Peony at Opium

Peony at Opium ChinatownLondon can’t get enough of its secret bars, and its latest hidden treasure is tucked within Chinatown’s “labyrinthine” Opium. Once you finally find the tiny bar that is Peony (this will undoubtedly take a few attempts), one glimpse at the ceiling and you’ll notice that the design of this space is a microcosm of the whole townhouse — in the best kind of way.

Drinks are crafty with inventive twists on classic cocktails, plus a dose of Asian influence. For tequila lovers, try the Mexican in China with Herradura tequila, Xilli liqueur, fresh grapefruit juice, lime and maraschino. And if you want to share the fun, get a teapot of the Peony Punch — an easygoing number with Absolut Blue vodka, dragonfruit and coconut puree, cranberry juice, lemon, Angostura bitters and nutmeg. Food here is irresistible, so it’s best to treat yourself to a bit of dim sum. Get the whole bloody platter in fact!

With beautifully intricate wallpaper, dim lighting and dark wood — you’ll feel like you’re hanging out in the hippest spot in Shanghai.

Best Bars tip: This is Opium’s even more elegant sister, so come down if you’re looking to impress and prove (once and for all) that you are the MOST “in the know”.

— Sasha Filimonov, @SashaSips

Peony at Opium Chinatown 2

The Vaults

The Vaults Birmingham tapas TuesdayDescend an unassuming set of stairs into the brick-clad labyrinth which is The Vaults. Choose between the subterranean chic and bouncing beats of the main bar or the seclusion of a private booth within vaulted enclaves.

For those of the sweeter disposition, try a dreamily blended Porn Star Martini. For everyone else we like the Brookers’ Negroni. And because a first class cocktail bar is not enough, there’s also a smart modern British restaurant serving up seasonally changing fare, with an emphasis on close relationships with local suppliers. We’ve heard great things about the monkfish tail.

A young, buzzy crowd and house DJ keep the bar busy until late on Fridays and Saturdays. The restaurant is equally popular come the weekend.

Best Bars tip: Get table service by pre-booking one of eight booths for a taste of stripped back luxury.

– Katy Drohan, ICHOOSEBirmingham.com

The Vaults Birmingham

Purple Bar at Sanderson

Purple Bar Sanderson London interiorAlthough primarily reserved for hotel guests, it is possible to get into this legendary bar if you go about it the right way. Ring ahead and if it’s not busy, they will usually let you and someone special in for a drink or two. Then you’ll get to enter the subtly lit Purple Bar — which truly is, something quite out of the ordinary.

Adjacent to the concierge area of the Sanderson and its Long Bar, you’ll find a room of deep, rich purple velvet that evokes romance and intimacy. The ceiling is made up of studded purple leather and the bar itself is a huge piece of granite with flowing silk curtains covering the wall behind it. Some of London’s top bartending talent cut their teeth here and this tradition remains a constant. A strong cocktail menu is available, yet the service here is all about the intimate experience and thus they love to create bespoke drinks for their guests. A bar like this could really have only come from the imagination of the brilliant designer/architect Phillip Starck or Lewis Carroll, as it is, after all, curiously spectacular.

To get the best out of the experience you should definitely try a drink made especially for you to your taste specifications. If this seems all a bit much and you just want to delve into the menu, maybe try the Wordless Martini with 42 Below manuka honey vodka, green chartreuse, Luxardo maraschino and fresh pineapple juice. If you want to splash the cash, check out their awesome vintage cocktails such as the B&B King made with 1940 Martell Extra and 1940 Benedictine for upwards of £300.

Best Bars tip: Always ring ahead to check if you can reserve a table, always be nice about it and always take someone you love to pieces. Once inside spoil yourself with a few personalised cocktails. The name of the game here is bespoke, in a perfectly purple way of course.

— Matthew Bray-Heather

Purple Bar Sanderson London cocktails