15 London Bars We Love (& You Will, Too)

Call it a mark of maturity, like signing up for direct deposit and actually taking your makeup off before you go to bed. After a certain point, throwing shapes at a throbbing, sweltering, eardrum-bursting nightclub every weekend loses its allure. Is it so wrong to crave an actual conversation that doesn't involve shouting? Could you actually enjoy a cocktail without having it knocked out of your glass by some twerking club-goer? Will your friends think less of you when they discover that you actually really, really hate house music? Can you live?

You can. Simply suggest a night out to one of these 15 bars, which are a step up from the local pub while lacking the all-out intensity of some sticky-floored club. The cocktails are top-notch, the decor is swanky yet inviting, the music is on point without drowning you out, and the vibe is so refreshingly chill, you might just find yourself still there for last orders. Trust us — these are the spots where you want to spend your Saturday nights (and Thursday, and Friday, and Sunday...).
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Photo: Courtesy Discount Suit Company.
Discount Suit Company

This subterranean spot eschews draft beer and a lengthy wine list in favour of signature cocktails like the Piña Fumada, a smokey take on the tropical classic. The bartenders are affable, the lighting is low, the soul-music soundtrack is beloved by all, and the cheese plate (with selections from Neal's Yard) is a must. Sister bar Sun Tavern in Bethnal Green is also worthy of a night out.

Discount Suit Company, 29A Wentworth Street, E1 7TB; 020 7247 8755.
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Photo: Courtesy The Blue Bar.
The Blue Bar

Rumoured to be Madonna's favourite bar (and that's good enough for us), this swanky spot in The Berkeley is the perfect place to spy on a celeb while pretending to be engrossed in the drinks menu. The Champagne cocktails are especially good here, and come with free nibbly snacks.

The Blue Bar
, The Berkeley, Wilton Place, SW1X 7RL; 020 7235 6000.
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Photo: Courtesy Dandelyan.

Drinks guru Ryan Chetiyawardana is the brain trust behind Dandelyan and its sister bar, White Lyan, where cocktails are prepared in bottles to cut down on serving time. Here, the Mondrian London plays host to a visually exciting Tom Dixon-designed space and an inventive cocktail menu that features drinks inspired by flowers, vegetables, minerals, and, yes, cereal. You'll never look at pink peppercorns, clay, and chalk bitters the same way again.

Dandelyan, Mondrian London, 20 Upper Ground, SE1 9PD; 020 3747 1000.
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Photo: Courtesy Sager & Wilde.
Sager & Wilde

If you're more into vino than vodka, seek out this East London wine bar. You can swish, sniff, and sip from an exhaustive wine list or book ahead for a special tasting evening.

Sager & Wilde, 193 Hackney Road, E2 8JL; 020 8127 7330.
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Photo: Courtesy Addie Chinn/Joyeux Bordel.
Joyeux Bordel

Fans of Chinatown's Experimental Cocktail Club and Covent Garden's Compagnie des Vins Surnaturels Seven Dials are buzzing about the group's latest addition. This Shoreditch newcomer is more modest in size than ECC, but boasts a more intimate vibe and similarly inventive cocktails that will knock your socks off. Fun fact: The name is French slang for "happy mess." Bookings are recommended.

Joyeux Bordel, 147 Curtain Road, EC2A 3QE; 075 9988 5001.
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Beaufort Bar

Got a promotion? Getting engaged? Just feel like celebrating because it's a Tuesday night and you're alive? Take it to this divine den in The Savoy, where everything feels better once you've chosen a cocktail from the drinks menu (styled like a children's pop-up book), taken in the opulent decor, and tuned in to live cabaret performances. Go on, you're worth it.

Beaufort Bar, The Savoy, Strand, WC2R 0EU; 020 7836 4343.
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Photo: Courtesy Zetter Townhouse.
Zetter Townhouse

You don't have to be a hotel guest to frequent this gorgeous cocktail bar situated in a Georgian townhouse, but no one would blame you for marching right over to the reservations desk. The dazzling, quirky space includes an apothecary-style bar counter from which you can order bespoke cocktails infused with nettle tea, homemade grenadine, and gunpowder-tea tinctures.

Zetter Townhouse, 49-50 St. John's Square, EC1V 4JJ; 020 7324 4550.
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Photo: Courtesy Dukes Bar.
Dukes Bar

Don't bother looking at the menu. Ian Fleming's onetime haunt — it is said to have inspired the 007 quote "shaken, not stirred" — is the ultimate place to have a martini and pretend for a moment that you're a billionaire.

Dukes Bar, Dukes Hotel, 35 St. James's Place, SW1A 1NY; 020 7491 4840.
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Photo: Courtesy Foundation.

Okay, you've got us: Technically, this is a club, too. Still, there's no resisting a round of playful cocktails after work in the more relaxing lounge space. Groups can share libations served in teapots, the #Selfie cocktail comes with a photo, and burgers are served up Happy Meal-style.

Foundation, 5 Langley Street, WC2H 9JA; 020 7836 5005.
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Photo: Courtesy 69 Colebrooke Row.
69 Colebrooke Row

Also known as "The Bar With No Name," this secretive spot takes its cocktails seriously. One favourite? The Prairie Oyster, made with tomato yolk, horseradish vodka, sherry, shallots, pepper sauce, micro herbs, and celery salt. Cocktail masterclasses are on hand should you feel like stepping up to the bar.

69 Colebrooke Row, 69 Colebrooke Row, N1 8AA; 075 40 52 8593.
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Photo: Courtesy Jerome Courtial/Nightjar.

This modern-day speakeasy is renowned for its live music and painstakingly prepared cocktails. You'll swear you've stepped onto the set of Boardwalk Empire.

Nightjar, 129 City Road, EC1V 1JB; 020 7253 4101.
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Photo: Courtesy Punch Bowl.
Punch Room

While everyone else is jockeying for a table in Berners Tavern, keep heading back until you hit this drinks den devoted to, yes, punch bowls. Modelled after a 19th-century private club, the reservations-only spot has a cosy, old-school decor, top-rate cocktails, and impeccable service.

Punch Room, London EDITION, 10 Berners Street, W1T 3NP; 020 7781 0000.
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Photo: Courtesy Peg & Patriot.
Peg & Patriot

Part of Bethnal Green's growing nightlife scene, this boozer entices with an incredible whiskey selection and cocktails whose ingredients are as clever as their names. Barley & Me? Anyone?

Peg & Patriot, Patriot Square, E2 9NF; 020 8709 4528.
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Photo: Courtesy Philip Lobban/Gordon's Wine Bar.
Gordon's Wine Bar

London's oldest wine bar is a tried-and-true favourite for a good reason. If you're lucky, you'll snag a table in the grotto area, where candle light and a steady flow of vino keep lovers feeling lascivious and the rest of us nice and rosy-cheeked.

Gordon's Wine Bar, 47 Villiers Street, WC2N 6NE; 020 7930 1408.
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Photo: Courtesy Powder Keg Diplomacy.
Powder Keg Diplomacy

Step back in time in this Victorian-themed bar and restaurant. The bartenders wear waistcoats and bow ties, the ingredients are homemade, and the drinks recipes are long-forgotten (and delicious) relics from the past. Local beers and wines are also on offer.

Powder Keg Diplomacy, 147 St. Johns Hill, SW11 1TQ; 020 7450 6457.