Looking for the best Shoreditch bars for decadent cocktail-fuelled nights in quirky London spots? Here’s where to start.
Gather round, we’re about to let you in on a little secret.
The bars in Shoreditch are some of the best in this little town called London.
OK, maybe that wasn’t such a big secret after all.
Pretty much everyone knows that drinking cocktails (as well as hunting out cool street art) is one of the best things to do in Shoreditch as long as you play your cards right and, most importantly, go to the right bars.
Question is, which bars are the right bars?
In these days when quirky is the new cool, particularly in East London, you can barely take a stride without some fantastically-decorated bar in Shoreditch popping out at you, hoping to lure your money into its coffers.
Truth is, some of those bars are great, but some of them are truly awful. Specifically the ones that serve you a drink that is mostly ice, with a measly serving of alcohol and a whole load of sugary grossness instead.
We have zero time for bars that serve bad drinks. A disappointing cocktail is like opening a particularly promising-looking pressie under the Christmas tree and finding a mouldy piece of bread there instead.
Moral of the story? Avoid the disappointment and head to one of these Shoreditch bars instead. You’re welcome.
The Best Bars in Shoreditch: At a Glance
In the spirit of all cool bars in Shoreditch, Found takes a little finding. A discreetly marked doorway is the only sign that yes, you’re in the right place. Once you find it, descend the steep stairs into what is about to become one of your new favourite drinking dens.
Headed up by the gregarious and very skilled Oskar, Found is a mix of friendly local and stylish speakeasy. Think low lighting, pared back decor and lots or cosy nooks that are pretty much perfect for date nights and quiet tete a tetes.
Nice as the decor is, it’s a poor bar indeed where the drinks aren’t the real star of the show.
Luckily for all of us, Found is a bar that knows its way around an alcohol cupboard (theirs, proudly on show should give you a hint of what is to come) and isn’t afraid to show it.
The menu is filled with innovative concoctions and uses a whole gamut of flavours. The only difficulty? Choosing which to have first, then second, then third… In fact, the toughest decision is knowing you’ve had enough and it’s time to toddle on home.
Feeling adventurous? Opt for the pleasantly punchy Heaven and Hell (cachaca, framboise, jalapeno agave, lime and raspberry) – it has a kick in the sip and a sting in its tail, nicely but not overwhelmingly spicy.
Happiness Forgets. This tiny little bar on Hoxton Square has a rather big reputation.
The result? It’s notoriously tough to get a spot at the bar never mind a seat unless you are a) ridiculously lucky b) get there the moment it opens c) beg your way onto a table with a few empty spaces so that you and your sis can enjoy a few cocktails.
You probably guessed that we opted for c) on our last visit (thanks to the kind gents who let us gatecrash their bro-union, we are eternally grateful).
However you go about nabbing a space, we’d highly recommend that you give it your very best shot because the cocktails here are definitely worth the effort.
Yes, it’s small, yes it’s packed, no the service isn’t the fastest (kudos to the waitress for navigating her way around the crowds without spilling a drop – that takes skill) but you won’t care about any of that. Because the cocktails are that good.
The cocktail menu itself is relatively restricted. We counted 12 on our last visit: though there is a note to say that their liquor cabinet is large and they can probably rustle up your favourite if you have your heart set on it.
Where’s the fun in that when there are intriguing tipples like Spruce & Root (gin, sherry, beetroot eau de vie, gentian and pine cordial) or the Underdog (cacacha, chestnut, Americano rosa, passion fruit and lime) to tempt you instead?
New for 2021, Ever After is the even more laid-back little sister of Happiness Forgets. Perched in a small space with a cool terrace, Ali Burgess has once again created one of Shoreditch’s coolest bars and hangouts.
Unlike Happiness Forgets, Ever After is open during the day AND they serve food (take it from us, it’s delicious).
Want to try something a little different. Go for the Sherry Cobbler, a delicious milk punch that ticks all the boxes.
Take a peek at our Youtube review of Ever After – complete with a few words from Ali Burgess on starting one of the newest Shoreditch bars!
Old Street Records
A great Shoreditch bar with a happy hour? That’s Old Street Records.
Most of the time happy hours are too good to be true – because the bars that run them serve crappy cocktails in the first place.
Not so with Old Street Records. We’ve plumbed the depths of their extensive cocktail menu both in happy hour and out and come up trumps every single time. Great cocktails for happy hour… Praise be, it’s a miracle.
2 for 1 cocktails between 5 and 8pm every day.
That’s the good news. What’s the bad? Getting served during happy hour can feel like a marathon, one where the end feels tantalizingly close… until the person ahead of you orders 10 cocktails, each in sets of two, leaving you 20 cocktails away from getting your hands on a much-wanted beverage (#truestory).
There was always going to be a catch right? And really, who cares – the music is great, the atmosphere buzzing and the mixologists (when you do get to the front of the bar) speedy.
Probably not one for a cosy date, but perfect for a gossipy catch up with a group of friends.
Read More: The Best Pubs in Shoreditch
We’d heard about Callooh Callay long before we finally got round to having a drink there. A bar, named after a line in Alice in Wonderland, serving all kinds of weird and wacky drinks?
It was always going to be a winner.
Callooh Callay was one of the first decent cocktail bars in Shoreditch when it opened in 2008 and it’s still flying that flag loud and proud over a decade later.
We’ll freely admit that we love a design-based gimmick or two – it was a very clever person who decided to include a Narnia-esque wardrobe door as the portal between Callooh Callay’s front bar, back bar and the rather secretive Jubjub Bar.
Access to the latter is members only. Membership doesn’t cost anything but a love of cocktails, presumably demonstrated though the imbibement of several in Callooh Callay itself.
Even if you don’t manage to wing your way into the members area, Callooh Callay is a brilliant spot to indulge your taste for a cocktail or two.
No doubt the sassiest, campest bar in Shoreditch, Tonight Josephine isn’t the ticket for quiet, sophisticated drinks. Instead think hen dos and parties of glammed up ladies or drag queens cosmo in hand, makeup running and singing their heads off to Dancing Queen, don’t judge.
We are also confident to say you’ll be blown away by the interior. Not a single piece of this bar has been allowed to just stay mute. Neon pinks, glitter, and disco balls are the go.
Honestly. The outside world seems depressingly dull after a night at this Shoreditch bar.
Things are never quite what they seem. We were totally confused the first time we ventured into TT Liquor. Every other bar in Shoreditch we’d been in that night had been hopping, and this one was empty. In fact, it looked more like a shop than a bar.
That’s when the doubt crept in. Were we even in the right place? Had we totally got things wrong? Did we even like cocktails?
Luckily, a discreet nod from the staff sorted things out before we descended into a spiral of questions that would inevitably lead to that one unanswerable “Why are we even here”.
Turns out the front IS a liquor store while the cocktail bar is down in the cellar (you can use the force to find it, or you can just ask to be pointed in the right direction).
We were soothed from a near hysterical state by a good read of the cocktail menu. There was the rather tongue-in-cheek “Do You Even Shoreditch” – guessing it’s so named for the avocado included on the list of ingredients.
The Article Fifty (rum, amaretto, cafe, cocoa, hazelnut and espresso) touched on an ever-sore spot, that was too difficult to overcome, tempting as it looked. So we plumped for the Beagle, which was so good we make a point of having it every time we go.
Oh, and if you do fancy yourself a dab hand at making cocktails instead of just drinking them, the upstairs liquor store will sort you right out.
The Cocktail Trading Co
The Cocktail Trading Co is all those things that so many bars in Shoreditch aspire to be. Effortlessly cool, always busy but not so busy that you can’t find somewhere to perch and dishing out totally bizarre cocktails that actually work.
We first came across The Cocktail Trading Co by complete accident on a gossipy night out with the girls, but it’s established itself as a firm favourite in our little black book of good places to drink.
What’s so special? Well, for starters, this is one hella quirky bar in Shoreditch – perhaps not looks wise but certainly when it comes to the cocktails.
Where else would you get your cocktail served in a bottle enclosed in an airmail envelope with the instructions “post to oneself, enjoying on arrival”?
How about served in a food carton topped with a layer of crispy noodles (which incidentally, make for the perfect bar snack once you’ve finished slurping down your drink). It sounds gimmicky and it would be… were the cocktails not so very, very good.
This super-stylish bar is not just a haven for drinks but also the art deco. Low lit and gleaming with charm we are sure you’ll find plenty to love.
The drinks on offer run through the ages of cocktail history, beginning with a lesson. Did you know that cocktails we’re about in the Edwardian era? Neither did we. And that history lesson right there, ladies and gents, is as fine a reason to get drinking as we need.
You’ll obviously find the classics as you edge your way toward the present day. The thing that will really catch your eye though are the wild array of glasses the folks here use. Like, can you even call a clay peacock’s neck with a straw sticking out the back a glass?
Bull in a China Shop
So distracted were we by the quirky decor that we almost couldn’t focus on the cocktail menu. But we did, because we’re true professionals.
Two things immediately sprung out. 1) These are people who know their way around the world’s best whiskies and 2) we love whisky and want everything.
Turns out that we were right: the bar bills itself as a specialist whisky bar (it’s also a contemporary Asian restaurant but you’re more than welcome to go in and soak up the booze without eating if you so wish).
Cocktails make innovative use of different whiskies, from the peaty flavours of Islay drams to the richer, smoother taste of Nikka.
That said, if you don’t like whisky, there are actually a lot of cocktails for you to choose from too. Cocktails for everyone. But whisky lovers first.
Big Chill Brick Lane
The Big Chill Brick Lane has been serving punters with drinks for well over a decade. Laid back with a capital L, it’s kind of a bar, watering hole and hangout all rolled into one.
Unlike the other places to drink in Shoreditch on this list, the Big Chill is not a cocktail bar, it’s just a nice place to hang out and shoot the breeze with your mates.
Large and comfy sofas, table football, craft beers, DJs Thursday – Saturday and decent food – the Big Chill is a sturdy anchor in Shoreditch’s sometimes tiny bit too pretentious drinking scene.
The Well and Bucket
We’re divided on whether this one is more in Bethnal Green or Shoreditch, but their website literally says The Well and Bucket Shoreditch so we’ll defer to them, they would know afterall.
So what’ve we got here? Only a really nice old pub with a great bit of history and some very well-preserved decor. And if that wasn’t enough, there’s a basement cocktail bar too.
It does stray from the vibes of the pub, and as much as we love it, we’re not complaining. The basement is a moody space with plenty of dark corners that make it perfect for date night.
We promise you won’t be disappointed about what comes from behind the bar either.
The Book Club
It’s the kind of Shoreditch bar that, like a chameleon, changes its atmosphere and vibe as the clock ticks on from afternoon to night.
The cocktails are good enough – fun drinks that will ease you into the evening and down to the basement bar party like a comfy pair of shoes. Though if you’re looking for something out of this world, you’re better off going to Found across the road.
Instead, The Book Club excels at what it’s always excelled at – fun nights out in Shoreditch with good drinks and an easygoing vibe.
Is Flight Club in Shoreditch? If it is, it’s hanging in there by a thread – but we wanted to include it anyway because which other Prohibition-styled bar in Shoreditch could you quaff your drink and play a rowdy round of darts at the same time? Exactly.
Questionable location aside, Flight Club is loud, boisterous and unashamedly so. Quiet date night it is not, boozy knees up with a healthy dose of competition it is (it’s all friendly until the darts come out – that’s the moment everyone really shows their true colours).
Beach Blanket Babylon
Beach Blanket Babylon describes itself as “a lifestyle, a club for the discerning without requiring a membership”. OK then. Just go with it for now.
Dodgy descriptions aside, it actually is a lot of fun – with neon signs, Instagrammable decor and a jam-packed dance floor in a sprawling location near Shoreditch High Street station.
Now, at the beginning, we started with a strongly-worded diatribe about bars that don’t serve good cocktails. If we’re honest, the ones we’ve had at Beach Blanket Babylon have been mediocre at best. But it’s not really a cocktail bar, more of an all-night venue, so we can forgive them. Just.
Nightjar is renowned not only for being one of the best cocktail bars in Shoreditch but also one of the best cocktail bars in the city.
So why is it so low on this list? Erm. Simply because for a long while, we struggled to get in due to the fact that we were too forgetful to make table reservations in advance.
But we finally made it!
Overall verdict? The cocktails are great but it’s a bit cramped. We’ll let you in on a secret though, Nightjar has a sister bar called Oriole in Farringdon and it’s awesome. Plus you can get in without reservations. Read more in our Farringdon and Clerkenwell bar guide. You can thank us later.
Want to know more? Read my full review of Nightjar Shoreditch
Don’t underestimate Black Rock – this underground Shoreditch bar has all the cool vibes and an extensive whiskey menu to match.
Despite the excellent drinks on offer, the star of the show is in the centre of the dimly lit bar: the trunk of a 185-year-old oak tree has been transformed into a whiskey filled table. Sip cocktails and straight whiskey from taps embedded in the oak – a truly unique experience.
Opt for a Cherry River (American whisky and cherries) and you won’t go wrong. Trust us.
Girl power and hedonism are the names of the game at Nikki’s.
Be warned – this is not the place if you’re after a quiet drink, but if you’re in the mood to party, you’ll want to make a beeline to this quirky Shoreditch bar.
With whole pages of their menu dedicated to vodka, whiskey, and tequila cocktails, you’re guaranteed to find yourself the perfect tipple. We love the Blackberry Tangle, a concoction of southern comfort, ginger, blackberries, and soda, as well as the melon-liqueur based Neverland.
Would you believe us if we told you Rick Astley owns one of the best bars Shoreditch has to offer? No, you’re not being rickrolled. He really does.
Never mind just Shoreditch, alongside business partner Mikkel Bjergsø, Astley has created one of the coolest bars in the capital: Mikkeller.
The main chunk of the menu is made up of beer, and there are some really unique options out there (especially great for those who don’t enjoy the taste of regular beer) – take the blackcurrant brew offering, for example.
Oozing with Danish flair, the bar feels a whole lotta hipster, without the eye-rolling cringe.
There we are, our go-to list of the top bars in Shoreditch, London. Any suggestions, shout up in the comments or drop us an email. Always open to hearing more suggestions.