The Vault

The Vault's Skandy Dandy

Situated below London’s oldest whisky shop, The Vault is a proper, Hollywood-like secret bar. Walk in with confidence and make your way to the back of the shop to push with all your strength against the bookcase; and down you go to a small cellar bar where we guarantee a boozy night. A little rough around the edges, this feels like the old school Soho so many are saying is going and gone – a must-visit, then.

Keen on a little education? Take a seat at the bar and let the bartending team guide you through the menu. This is a bar where you sort of have to go big from the start – so try The Buckley, with punchy agricole rum infused with fruit and balanced with egg white. Later at night, you can’t go wrong with The Simo, named after the bar’s owner and main bartender, a twist on a Manhattan made with rye whiskey, dry vermouth and delicately bitter Byrrh.

If you fancy extending your stay, the leather sofas are welcoming, the salted almonds a dream, and some days of the week, Simo’s dog Chester hangs around – let’s make it a rule that all bars must have a dog now, shall we?

Best Bars tip: There’s a barrel-shaped room at the back that’s available to book if you’ve got something to celebrate…

— Gaëlle Laforest, @gaellelaforest

The Vault Soho

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

The Engineer

The Engineer Primrose Hill exteriorThe Engineer is arguably one of London’s best-kept secrets. Tucked away in a secluded Primrose Hill spot, this laid-back pub offers up an extensive beer, cider and drinks menu, gastro grub, canal views and an incredible outdoor space that’s designed for all-year alfresco drinking.

If you’re not too busy celeb spotting (yes, this a prime hub for those Primrose Hill darlings), the drinks menu should grab your attention.  Whether on draught or bottled up, The Engineer specialises in “The Best of British” beer and cider, hosting local brews such as Camden Hells, Meantime’s London Stout and Sharps’ Orchard. The pub also prides itself on a rotating selection of real ales, a global range of craft beers, old and new world wines, plus a decent list of classic cocktails.

It’s not just about relaxed drinking here but informal, chilled-out dining, with fresh seasonal dishes and notoriously delectable bar bites – we challenge you to find anywhere that serves a better homemade Scotch egg. Décor is traditional with a modern twist and the upstairs not only looks out over the Regent’s Canal but also switches from a restaurant by day to a party area or private hire space by night.

Best Bars tip: It’s a little known fact that The Engineer is home to one of the City’s best pub gardens. The spacious outdoors area is made for both summer and winter drinking. When the sun’s away heated undercover seating keeping you toasty even on the chilliest evenings.

— Mieke-Kyra Smith, @mieke_chu

The Engineer Primrose Hill interior

Beaufort Bar at The Savoy

Beaufort Bar at The SavoyThe Beaufort Bar at The Savoy is an art deco masterpiece and one of the singularly most decadent drinking holes in London. And by hole, we mean hotel extraordinaire. Walking in, you’ll feel every ounce special occasion — even if it’s just a Monday after-work tipple. Even though the Beaufort is a new addition following the 2011 multi-million refurb, the bar is set up on the hotel’s former cabaret stage where legendary performers used to entertain. From Frank Sinatra to Marilyn Monroe, the world’s greatest have whiled away the hours here … and you should too.

Since the bar’s a stage, it’s only appropriate that the drinks be theatrical. And boy, are they. The menu itself is a work of art — a pop-up book that you’ll want to take home — and you can for a cool 50 squids. To start, try the fresh yet insanely balanced Embankment Gardens. This is a straight-up citrus number that is just sharp enough with a beautiful earthiness from the fig syrup. The bartenders even collect the figs themselves from the neighbouring gardens. If you’re finishing off your evening, then order The Ratification — a drink that takes inspiration from Italian and Mexican flavours. Made with Rattafia, Martini Rosato that’s pressure infused with fresh strawberries, mezcal, tequila blanco, a bit of Kahlua and is garnished with an edible shot of freeze-dried raspberries and chocolate coffee beans which coats your mouth and as you drink through the drink, it enhances the flavour.

Every night you’ll be treated to live music, so it’s perfect for really impressing a date. Lush, luxurious and incredibly special.

Best Bars tip: You’ll be hard pressed to find a better setting than this to watch cabaret. And over 80 years after they first started at The Savoy, Cabaret Evenings are back at the Beaufort — taking place on the first Sunday of every month. Top talent from around the world come in to give you a show filled with acrobatics, hula hoops, magic, juggling and more.

— Sasha Filimonov, @SashaSips

Beaufort Bar at The Savoy Hemingway book Budi Photography
Budi Photography

The Blue Bar at The Berkeley

Blue Bar at The BerkeleyThe Blue Bar at The Berkeley is named after the bespoke shade (Lutyens Blue) that was created especially for the bar by its design guru, David Collins. It’s here that the famous five star formalities are tamed down a little, resulting in a homely, relaxed and stylishly informal environment with chilled out charm that’s impossible to resist.

The bar is essentially a gradual flow of three separate sections that are all cleverly set out to work to the mood of your meeting. If it’s more of a casual thing, hanging out in the open spaces either side of the main entrance to the bar is perfect. If it’s all about the drinks, then the main room is certainly the place. But if it’s privacy you want, the hidden promenade that runs along the left-hand side of the main bar area is perfect.

At The Blue Bar you are just as likely to get a Don the Beachcomber Zombie cocktail in a bespoke Tiki mug as you are a lip smacking champagne cocktail in a hand-cut crystal flute. There is an extreme amount of love and care that goes into both the drinks and the service and yet it never feels in any way pretentious. The understated elegance of this place creates an ambience that is completely individual within the world of London’s five-star hotel bars and cocktails are gangster. Try the Lemon Meringue for starters, made with Stolichnaya vanilla vodka, lemon curd, lemon juice, caramel syrup and Laurent Perrier Champagne or The Highlander featuring Dalmore 12 year, Pierre Ferrand orange curacao, homemade old fashioned syrup and orange bitters.

Best Bars tip: Pop in early afternoon to sip away on the super tasty drinks and bar snacks — plus you’ll get a good seat in the main bar area before the early evening crowds come in.

— Matthew Bray-Heather

Blue Bar at The Berkeley cocktail

The Trafalgar Tavern

Trafalgar Tavern London exteriorSitting on the banks of the Thames in Greenwich, The Trafalgar Tavern is possibly one of the most attractive pubs in all of London and is a destination for locals and tourists alike.

Make no mistake, this is a grand building. Built in 1837 on the site of a former inn, it is a fine example of late Regency architecture and it quickly attracted the luminaries of the day. Dickens dined – and probably wrote! – there. Food is good but traditional, with the bar menu aimed pretty squarely at the passing trade, and drinks wise you’ll find standard pub booze. The whole point is really to come and soak in the history while admiring the stunning views of the river and listening to the water lap at the pub’s foundations.

Punters are mainly tourists, with visitors most likely stumbling over the place after getting off the river boats which disembark a short distance away. Its location on the Thames Path is something of a mixed blessing, making it easy to find but also very busy, particularly at weekends.

Best Bars tip: It’s all about the bay window overhanging the water. Bag this seat and you’ll feel like you’re sailing in an old galleon. Get there before late to secure it, or better still head there early in the summer weeks and enjoy a long lingering sunset over the City.

— Andrew Finnegan

Trafalgar Tavern bar

Dukes Bar

Dukes Bar London AlessandroTucked away in St James Place is the legendary Dukes Hotel home to the perhaps even more legendary Dukes Bar. This space is arguably the home of the best Martini in the world — it’s become famous for them. Once inside you’ll see why it’s about so much more than the Martini, it’s about heritage and legacy. All of the staff are attentive, look smart in their crisp white jackets and create a relaxed and enjoyable experience for you and your guests. The simplicity is the real magic here and you’ll be won over by the history and a sort of five-star quaintness that no other bar comes close to capturing.

Everything belongs exactly where it is and when you hear the Martini trolley rattle toward your table, you know that Martinis will never taste quite the same again. All of the gins are kept in a freezer to avoid any dilution and thus there is a strict house rule of no more than three per customer. Salvatore Calabrese was the man originally responsible for this tradition that has been passed down from one legendary bar manager to the next. Today the charming Alessandro Palazzi is the man that runs the show and nobody does it better.

Drinks wise at Dukes Bar, the Martini is king and should certainly be tried. Local producers Sacred make the house vermouth exclusively for them but the list of frozen gins and vodkas is huge so it’s pretty much a win-win affair. Otherwise we think it’s a great idea to try any of the classic cocktails such as a Negroni or Manhattan. Dukes is a historical hotel bar that remains as classical and iconic as the drink that has made it famed throughout the world.

Best Bars tip: It’s just as much of an occasion as it is an experience, so there is a smart dress code — completely understandable. For the time you’re here you feel part of this “tradition” we keep mentioning and this, after all, is what a truly great bar should be about.

— Matthew Bray-Heather

Dukes Bar London cocktail