The Ultimate guide to Islington’s best cocktail bars
If you’re more than a little partial to a colourful tipple, and you live and work in London, it’s generally a case of so many cocktail bars, so little time. This is when a quickfire guide to some of the best watering holes in your local area will come in handy. After reading this guide, you won’t have to worry about paying through the nose for second-rate cocktails. First-rate cocktails at fair prices only, please. For those who call Islington home, here’s where to head to for a cocktail…
We couldn’t in our right minds leave this speakeasy off the list. Also known as ‘The Bar With No Name’ – as it is otherwise known by the first line of its address – this cosy backstreet bar is the brainchild of celebrated mixologist and drinks maestro Tony Conigliaro. We used the word ‘cosy’ as a kinder word for ‘small’, and this establishment is small, taking in only one room. Yet this only adds to its charm. If you want to be sure of a table on a Friday or Saturday night, we recommend booking in advance. There’s an upright piano where a pianist plays smooth jazz melodies, while the décor is reminiscent of a scene in a film noir.
Conigliaro serves his own cocktail creations downstairs, while upstairs there is a laboratory where new cocktails are invented for the menu and masterclasses are held. Despite the bar’s impressive reputation, the cocktails are reasonably priced. The menu list is not too long, making it less of a task to choose what to drink. The cocktails are refined, luxurious, and made with passion and professionalism – and it shows in every sip.
This bar’s décor steals its style from the interiors of a cross-continent express steam train during the golden age of travel. Its interiors are alluring and exotic, and there are echoes of Egypt and the Orient. The scene is very much set up for you when you enter. There are velvet-covered seats to sit on, and you’ll be surrounded by jungle plants. Then all you need to do, is sample the cocktails.
The cocktails here are exceptional, so if you find yourself near Islington’s Upper Street, we strongly recommend you pay this place a visit. Like The Bar With No Name, many of the cocktail ingredients are made in-house, and there’s an intoxicating selection to choose from. You’ll also notice influences from all across the globe, in both the food and drinks menu.
If you’re looking for a spot of theatre in a unique and inspired setting, this is it.
Only a short stroll from Highbury & Islington tube/train station is this intimate establishment. If you’re on a budget, we suggest showing up at Happy Hour, but if you’re willing to spend a little more for a restorative ‘pick me up’, then you’ve stumbled on the right spot. The old wood paneling adds to the atmosphere, while the comfortable Chesterfields and low lights make this the ideal place for a reviving drink after a long, mind-numbing day at the office.
Renowned for its Negroni cocktail, the drink options are inventive, and there’s a slight nod to a botanical theme. Just some of the ingredients used include orange oil, lemongrass, lavender tonic, Earl Grey, and chamomile.
If you’re something of a cocktail lover, you might already have been to Callooh Callay in Shoreditch. Callooh Callay has steadily grown in stature, and is now frequently included in the ‘best cocktail bars in London’ lists. Little Bat is the little sister of Callooh Callay, and the same team is behind it. That’s a good start. Little Bat comes highly recommended. It’s very much a neighbourhood bar, and a great after-dark hangout for Islington locals. The cocktails are fairly-priced too, with most around the £9 mark.
Also on Upper Street, this is the place if you want slick, modern interiors, an extensive list of cocktails, and table service. The original venue is in Covent Garden, but Islington-dwelling Martini lovers no longer need to travel all that way for a smoothly-shaken – or stirred – Martini, the queen of cocktails. Gin or vodka, you choose. There are also ‘still spirited’ mocktails on the menu, a selection of old cocktail classics, and a rather daring ‘Banoffee and cashew crème’, which, we think, comes in a glass.