Well it’s that time of year again. The day when loved up couples get extra mushy gushy and those who are single are also ready to mingle. But whether you’re attached or flying solo, we’ve rounded up the best ways to celebrate Valentine’s Day (or Anti-Valentine’s Day, as is becoming increasingly popular).
Loves Company are making cupid work extra hard this Valentine’s Day by hosting a whole week of celebrations, from 9-15 February. On Friday the 13th, it’s a night dedicated to the “Unlucky in Love” – an evening for those of us who are, let’s say, romantically challenged. Share your most embarrassing date story @LovesCompany #crymeariver and the top five worst will win a free cocktail. On 14 February, they’ll be hosting a masquerade ball – so you can drink, dance and debauch your way into total delirium at this freaky affair for star-crossed lovers. Plus “Lovely Hour” will happen every day from 7pm – 9pm, in which the classic cocktail menu will be 2-for-1 – that’s a drink for you and a free drink for your luvah … 9-15 February.
104 City Road, EC1V 2NR.
Spend the night wielding paddles in a room full of single Londoners. Get your head out of the gutter! It’s a massive ping pong party with DJs spinning tunes all night. Expect live entertainment, free ping-pong and one hell of a party. Saturday 14 February. Doors at 8:30pm, party until 3am. £5 for early bird tickets, £7 for standard tickets. 121 Holborn, EC1N 2TD.
Guided by the TRH chefs, you’ll get a step-by-step tutorial on creating the perfect banger. Whether it’s a long and thin pepperoni or a long and wide bratwurst, it’s what’s on the inside that counts. You’ll kick things off with a glass of fizz, followed by cocktails and on-theme canapés. Stuffing the skins is definitely a two person job: squeeze too hard and your bratwurst may burst, not enough pressure can lead to a limp larry (and no one likes a limp larry). You’ll get to take away your creations and the chefs will decide which couple has the finest banger. The winners will win their very own sausage maker – so you can practise your handiwork back at home. Masterclasses start at 10am, Saturday 14 February.
Tickets are £60 a head and include a glass of champagne, a Valentine’s cocktail, canapés, lunch and a glass of wine … your loved one could do a lot wurst!
50 Davies Street, Mayfair, W1K 5JE.
A one night only pop-up in a 500-capacity townhouse, Meredith Bespoke returns after the Nordic Yulefest and is bringing everyone together for this special night. Expect an evening of laughter, cocktails, love and disco, with five themed rooms including a pop-up Lulu Guinness Kissing Booth, a luxurious cinema space and heart-shaped piñatas with prizes up for grabs. Saturday 14 February. Doors at 6.30pm. Early Bird tickets are priced at £15. Standard tickets are £20.
Bloomsbury House, 2-3 Bloomsbury Square, WC1 2RL.
Get a bit experimental this Valentine’s Day, and learn how to spark a chemical reaction and create your own cocktails. In a 90-minute masterclass, you’ll work side-by-side with the talented bartenders to learn how to make their show-stopping creations. You’ll be treated to demonstrations on the bar’s three most sought-after libations: the Smokey Old Fashioned (bourbon and bitters with maple syrup and oak smoke), the French Martini (Green Mark Russian Vodka and Chambord with cranberry juice and pineapple foam) and a Passionfruit Mojito (Havana Club rum with passion fruit, lime and mint). Saturday 14 February at 3pm. £30 per person.
6 Bevis Marks, EC3A 7BA.
Ingredients from far out east are carefully balanced with on-trend cocktail bases. Take the Hoa Hong – made from sake, hibiscus flower, Aperol and prosecco, it’s the Vietnamese take on a Spritz. Delicate flavours of the Orient make a great base for refreshing drinks like the La Long Ice Tea, with lotus ice tea added to tequila and grenadine. Aperitif drinks are a match for lightly spiced and subtle bar snacks, including “pig on a stick” and salt and chilli squid with red eye mayo.
The bar isn’t large in size but packs a punch with exotic rich red drapes, lanterns and upholstery.
Best Bars tip: Try the Viet Royal – a spoonful of plum jam lays in the bottom, with spoon left in. Simply stir to make this drink as sweet as you like.
Dry January … it just sounds so, well, dry. But it doesn’t have to be. We all know that maybe we hit the sauce (be it cranberry or booze) a little too hard round the Christmas/New Year period, so everyone’s been cutting back. Yet switching completely to the green shakes and kale chips isn’t so enticing anymore. We’re here to help. If you’re not avoiding drinking completely, it’s time to try one of these delicious vermouthy Martinis. Plus, you’re going to look pretty bad-ass ordering off-menu drinks. If that doesn’t put 2015 off to a good start, we don’t know what will.
An underground masterpiece, MASH is big, bold and definitely beautiful. Reminiscent of cruise ships from a more decadent era, this Soho staple is perfect for post-work tipples or massive steak dinners.
If you’re in the mood for a mysterious tipple, then head to the Bar With No Name … or as it’s better known, 69 Colebrooke Row. Courtesy of cocktail maestro Tony Conigliaro and his lab (a.k.a. the Drink Factory), this cosy hidden bar is constantly breaking ground with its innovative creations.
Drink to try: Ask for Mike’s twist on a gin classic — the Lip Stinger. Equal parts vermouth and gin, with a few dashes of orange bitters and a drop of absinthe to finish it off. Lip stinging? Yes. Tasty? Yes.
The 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.
Drink to try: Ask Lorenzo to make you his land- and sea-inspired MM Cocktail — a decadent combination of vodka, dry vermouth, two dashes of pomelo bitters, a Parmesan water and Islay scotch rinse, with an oyster leaf and vanilla caviar garnish. It might sound a little crazy, but damn it tastes good.
A classy club in the heart of Soho, Quo Vadis houses the masters of Martinis. But you know what else they do well? Everything. So if you’re in the mood for sophisticated sipping, mosey on down.
Drink to try: If the ever-smiling Simone is behind the bar, ask to try The Harmony. A Martini twist made with chinotto liqueur, Noilly Prat Original Dry vermouth and Bombay Sapphire East Dry gin — it’s balanced and dry with gentle bitter notes.
The bar pays tribute to the grandeur and opulence of the original Town Hall building, yet there is a level of restraint that keeps things just the right amount of casual. And with plenty of spots to perch around the island bar — with an extra brass counter for your drinks — this is perfect for bar-side or table-side boozing.
Drink to try: Ask bartender Ally Martin for a Martini au Marseillen — a slightly salty mix of Bombay Sapphire Dry gin, Noilly Prat Original Dry vermouth, a splash of saline solution and garnished with a caper berry.
A subterranean Tiki party spot that is always up for a wild night fuelled by rummy cocktails. 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.
Drink to try: In true Tiki-style, the Smoki Joe Martini is all about the fire and flare — though a notably more restrained approach than some of the volcano drinks (which you should also try). We’ll leave the rest as a surprise.
Nestled in Bethnal Green’s classically beautiful Town Hall Hotel, there’s a hot spot that will tempt you further eastward — just beyond the boundaries of Shoreditch. Peg + Patriot is the latest haunt from talented drinksman Matt Whiley (of Talented Mr Fox), and he’s brought his unique style of cocktail-making to the East End.
Sitting within the naturally atmospheric railway arches on Bethnal Green’s Paradise Row, Mission’s copper-topped bar, ceiling-high palm tree, and alit wine-filled backbar all seamlessly come together to bring you that quintessential modern wine experience. Plus the food is extraordinary too.
Taking a casual approach in setting, this unassuming pub on Bethnal Green Road is pure magic inside. The dim, narrow, candelit space is equal parts cool and sexy with an L-shaped bar that’s lit up with some of the snazziest lanterns we’ve seen around. This is another page ripped straight off the New York City playbook, striking that perfect balance of Irish dive bar-meets-cocktail den.
This is one seriously talented team and they’ve brought their magic touch to South Bank’s hot hotel, Mondrian London, manning the Dandelyan bar as well as creating drinks for the entire hotel (from the Sea Containers restaurant to bottled cocktails in the mini fridges). The design is sleek and sexy, with deep purples and shades of green … oh, and the view of the Thames and St Paul’s is rather impressive too.
Socialising just got slightly darker, a bit sexier and a whole lot higher. Sitting pretty on the 24th floor of Tower 42, Jason Atherton’s skyrise outpost City Social is more art deco than the rest. We wouldn’t blame you for feeling like you are in one of New York City’s mainstay, high-rise haunts.
Tucked just above the long-loved La Perla is agaveria El Nivel — courtesy of industry legend Tomas Estes and his son Jesse. A departure from the 17 other Estes venues, this is a slightly more upscale venture with draped curtains, colourful Mexican artwork and Latin retro vibes. The bright and sunny room may be small, but the bar is big on service – and will bring you an intimate and elegant drinking experience every time.
This one’s a little out of the way, but so worth a visit. Stepping into The Shrub and Shutterfeels like being in a giant terrarium – there are plants, the flicker of candles, slates on the walls and metal cans decorating the shelves and ceiling. The menus are on the wall, and they’ll catch your attention real quick: what’s growing in this bar is one helluva cocktail list.
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, so whatever your tipple of choice, it will be perfectly executed and utterly delicious. Classics are bang on, and so are all their twists.
Always wanted to take that dream holiday to Hawaii? Well, we can’t help you there. Or maybe we can … welcome to London’s little slice of island paradise: POND Dalston. This happy haunt comes courtesy of Byron Knight, who has put his magic touch on places like Duke’s Brew & Que as well as Off Broadway (if you haven’t been to either of those, get them in the diary). The kitchen is manned by talented chef Frog Wong while the bar is pumping out elegant tropical cocktails by Megs DeMeulenare.
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 toOriginal 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.
Italian-styled cocktail spot Bar Termini is bringing glamour back to train station drinking. The design is pared back with nods to railways (like the overhead shelving) and the dark nighttime setting makes it rather intimate indeed. Cocktails are premixed in Tony C’s lab, so you can expect precision, consistency and most importantly, perfection. One of our favourite 69 Colebrooke Row drinks has made it over to this site: the simple-looking yet complex-tasting Terroir.
Drinking in the toilet just got classy. Think we’re mad? Think again. WC Wine and Charcuterie has opened in Clapham Common underground station’s toilets. Having lain derelict for years, the 100-year-old, listed cubicles have been given a bloody good once over and now house one of London’s most talked about bars.
Sitting in the back of what at first looks like a car park, is one of east London’s finest and newest gems — the East London Liquor Company. An industrial-yet-airy bar with copper touches and it’s biggest treat: an in-house distillery where the staff are crafting their own gins, vodkas and whiskies. If you’ve ever seen a backbar more beautiful than this … well, you probably haven’t.
The third and largest outpost of Dishoom is another beautifully designed Bombay café, setting up shop in the foodie destination of Granary Square. The warehouse-like space manages to ooze charm with antique knick-knacks and brass touches throughout. The Permit Room bar downstairs fits 90 people and opens at 5pm every day, so swing by for spicy twists on ginny numbers or even some zesty and fruity mocktails. They also have a whole selection of pre-batched cocktails for your pleasure.
UVNYE at Bounce Because you might want to let out that competitive spirit to see out 2014. Bounce is a ping pong mecca and the whole place will be lit up by UV lights — so we reckon it’s best to don your whitest whites. There will be unlimited UV ping pong all night (with free play on ALL tables), UV face painters to make you glow, special cocktail prizes for the BEST UV outfits and DJs spinning retro party anthems. Tickets are £10-£15.
8:30pm-3am. No entry after 11:30pm. 121 Holborn, London, EC1N 2TD.
NYE at The Sun Tavern With a host of DJs playing rock n’ roll from every era, new east London hot spot The Sun Tavern offers punch cocktails, classic mixed drinks and fine ales. If you fancy something a bit Irish, they have over 40 different spirits from the land, including whiskies and tasty poitins. £5 per ticket for guaranteed entry before 9pm. Tickets on sale at the bar. Open until 3am, 441 Bethnal Green Road, London E2 0AN.
New Year’s Eve 2015 at The Cat & Mutton Party into the wee hours at one of the best East End boozers around. Resident DJs will be on hand to give you the greatest funk, soul and disco tunes all night long. *And tickets are hella cheap.* Tickets are £5. Open until 3am. 76 Broadway Market, London, E8 4QJ.
Try Hard Party at Looking Glass Cocktail Club Ah Shoreditch. You love it or hate it. But mostly love it. And we can all admit that it’s often filled with one too many “try hards” so here’s your chance to have a go (in the friendliest of ways). So come in your best “try hard” outfit — i.e. like you just rolled out of bed and haven’t bathed in weeks, but your hair is perfectly dishevelled. Performer Maya Petrovna, neo-burlesque artist Lolo Brow and DJ Testu Gomorrah are gonna smash New Year’s Eve and bring Shoreditch its best party yet. £10 before 10pm, £15 after. 8pm-5am. 49 Hackney Rd, Hackney, London E2 7NX.
Black and Gold Masquerade NYE at London Cocktail Club Oxford Circus A night of masked men and masked women with classic LCC tunes pumping all night long. If you get in early, you’ll be treated to 2-for-£10 cocktails from 7pm-9pm. And the DJs will be hitting the decks at 10pm. Tickets are £10-£40 and include various treats.
7pm-3am. 4 Great Portland Street, London W1W 8QJ.
Black Tie Masquerade Ball at Kettner’s Soho This is a pricier option, but if you want to get really fancy for New Year’s — then get in here. The opulent Georgian townhouse provides the perfect setting for a masquerade ball, with lots of rooms for exploring (and midnight smooching). Plus there will be cabaret, swing dance lessons, burlesque performances, live music and DJs until 3am. Tickets are £50-£110, some tickets include cost of three-course dinner.
Doors at 7:30pm-3am. 29 Romilly Street, London, W1D 5HP.
New Year’s Eve at Lost & Found Classic cocktails, fruity vodka shots and free entry, if that sounds like your cup of tea then why not try this little bar in Balham. Relatively unknown, this cocktail bar has been open just over a year and is the perfect location to enjoy a cool and comfortable evening with tunes pumping until 3am. Plus they have their own vodka luge. Boom! Free entry. 5pm-3am. 10 Bedford Hill, London SW12 9RG.
NYE at Pub on the Park Watch fireworks at this popular pub on the edge of London Fields, with two DJs spinning some of their best tunes over two floors, prizes and pub ale to enjoy in a huge beer garden (and it’s heated!). Best of all it’s free — and you don’t even have to book. Free entry. 12pm-2am. 19 Martello St, E8 3PE.
Nightbus to Catford NYE at New Cross Inn A cheap and alternative way to welcome in 2015. A one-off special with DJs playing motown, ska, northern soul and reggae in south east London, you can turn up without a booking and pay a few quid. Cheap as chips. £5 entry, £3 before 9pm. 8pm till late. New Cross Inn, 323A New Cross Road, SE14 6AS.
Midnight Madness at Madison For those who fancy an evening of class and entertainment, look no further than Madison for a night of burlesque, cirque de soir acts, DJ superstars and even a string quartet. The night begins with a prosecco reception, canapes throughout the evening, a champagne mini at midnight, evening snacks and one of the very best spots to watch the fireworks.
Welcome the new year à la française with sophistication and beautiful French cuisine with a six-course menu, including truffles, lobster and foie gras. Earlier seating can secure those with larger purse strings a place on their very own The Eramus to view the famous firework display down the Thames in style. Those who’d like to dine later with feet firmly on the ground can enjoy the same dining experience at a lower cost. There will be live music to accompany your night whilst you sip unlimited champagne all night long.
London 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”.
In a normal world, abandoned-looking industrial buildings tucked away behind railway arches are best avoided – expect of course if you’re in London, in which case chances are you’ve found a genial cocktail bar. It’s the case for Cecil’s, a gem of a drinking den that truly asks for some commitment to be found: a dark alley and grim looking stairs lead to a large, dim room where time is well spent.
The drinks list is really quite eclectic, with some interesting work on serving categories: choose from punches, highballs, large pots to share, or small pick-me-ups – elaborate shots. Keep it local with a Borough Citrus Punch — beautifully refreshing and dry. Or go bold with the whole Tinker Tailor Soldier Sailor set of shots, which combine different spirits with liqueurs and juices.
The place looks like an Asian-inspired Prohibition bar, perhaps a touch confusing but it really works: Chinese lanterns and small plates of dumplings mix with evenings of live blues and swing dancing. There’s really nothing not to love.
Best Bars tip: Saturday nights are Uff Tea nights – an immersive 1930s Shanghai experience with live jazz, extravagant glamour and of course, great drinks.