Laid Back Cocktail Bars
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Cocktail bars can be so heavily laden with pomp and circumstance. Elaborate glassware, unnecessary garnishes, tiny napkins - we don't want any of it, thanks. And don't even get us started on the word mixologist.
All we want is a bar we can kick back in whilst sipping on interesting, qualitacious, and reasonably priced drinks. Are we crazy? No we're not.
Helgi’s is intimate - maybe even sensual. The smell of incense wafts in the air, a vinyl player blasts out tunes from the 60s, and wavy, psychedelic projections cover the walls.
To properly enjoy the vibe, a cocktail is needed, of course. Try the Alabama Slammer, a mix of sloe gin, whisky, Galliano and Cointreau topped with orange juice. Some might say mixing that much alcohol is a bad idea, but this is the 60s honey, and mixing substances is encouraged.
Tucked in between brighter, louder restaurants on Kingsland Road, Three Sheets is easy to miss. It's dimly lit and short on space, but makes up for it by oozing atmosphere.
Serving Alchemy coffee, light snacks, and a weekly rotating menu of inventive, seasonal cocktails (think an Old Fashioned made with oats, Manuka leaf, lemon, and sweetened with organic maple syrup), this inconspicuous neighbourhood bar can certainly hold its own in terms of quality.
Once a pop up bar at Oval Space, BTW's basement cubby hole administers ‘medicinal’ and 'additive-free' cocktails via a seasonal menu.
There are plenty of snazzy ingredients and techniques on show but the coolest thing we saw was the Vieux Over Manhattan being made - this involves bottling the smoke from smouldering cold apple cedar wood. The smoke is then mixed with 100 proof rye, sweet vermouth, pisco and herbal liqueur to create a tastier-than-it-sounds bonfire in your mouth.
One of the leaders of Peckham's cool scene, Peckham Springs is always filled to the brim with creative types. And for good reason too. It's pretty hard to resist the cocktails - and their prices.
Springs also comes with a large outdoor space ideal for sparking up a rollie, modelling your thrift store jacket and gobbling whatever street food residency is the flavour of the day. It's about as chill as a cocktail bar can get and even has a gallery space attached.
The community vibes are strong at this place, and we couldn't be more in favour of it. Diddy's (run by the super-friendly Diddy herself) is an all-day cafe/bar that's quickly become a local favourite.
They're not trying to do anything too fancy here, the short menu offers a few staple brunch bits but the cocktail list is king. We've long felt that London has been missing a continental-style place where you can get cocktails late without having to pay shit loads. This is it.
This sunny little slice of Jamaican cool is set up in the arches under Deptford rail station. It grew from one man’s dream to create a relaxed, inclusive bar that paid tribute to his own heritage and the neighbourhood’s Jamaican diaspora; now, local movers and shakers pack the place on a Saturday night, getting loose to r’n’b, soul, reggae, and the occasional live band.
Food is soulful, spicy and vegan; and cocktails are bang on: their twist on a whisky sour is smokey, limey and zingy as hell.
On the strangely desolate yet culinarily innovative strip that is Kingsland Road, lies this wee Korean restaurant and cocktail bar. It's fairly rough and ready, with just the right amount of novelty wallpaper - just how we like it.
And their tipples? We went for the slow sipping Jungle Bird, with El Dorado 8 years old, Campari, pineapple, demerara sugar syrup and fresh lime, it was like a zesty paradise in our mouths.
Launched by a Kickstarter campaign, Louie Louie is a handy neighbourhood staple in the no mans land of Elephant and Castle. By day, you've got coffee, cakes and lunch whilst nighttime is an far more atmospheric affair.
Music clearly plays a big part in the owners' ethos: there's an in-house DJ and a crystal clear HiFi system that sounds pretty lovely. Expect to hear easy-listening funk and soul from it to aid all those intimate conversations you'll be having.
This shape-shifting cafe-cum-tapas-bar-cum-cocktail-den dishes out a little taste of Spain from the morn to midnight nearly every day. The owners, Johnny and Liam, have a soft spot for España, and felt that the market lacked a laid-back place where they could go out.
We're huge fans of their ever-changing cocktail list, which always features one mainstay: the ginger beer and basil mojito. Oh so refreshing.