As a newcomer to this city and someone who settled in the East End, I couldn’t ask a single person about the nightlife without hearing Shoreditch mentioned. It is the hip centre of London; the confluence of retro, popular, vintage, trendy and bohemian. Shoreditch is one of those places you simply can’t be ignorant of, whether you love it or not. "No, no" cry the stubborn few, "I’m not a Shoreditch-type person." False. It’s impossible to pigeon-hole an area so eclectic, there are corners of the urban jungle that you haven’t ventured into. "How can we find them?" Could you ever be in any doubt?
Even if you think Shoreditch is hipster haven or a base for the bohemian, we’ve put together a Top 10 of the best cocktail bars Shoreditch has to offer.
By Omer Hamid
Image courtesy of Flickr user bixentro.
Worship Street Whistling Shop
Shoreditch / Bar / Cuisine: British
We go from a cocktail bar that does exactly what you expect but better, to a cocktail bar that will crush every assumption you can form. Walk into the Whistling Shop bar and you'll find yourself in the pages of a Charles Dickens novel, in a dark wooden room like a Victorian cellar. Even the smartly dressed staff appear to be from another era. And yet this experimental bar breaks all boundaries - ever tried a cocktail prepared with gunpowder? The bar is all about laboratory reboots of popular drinks - 'high pressure hydrosol' or 'clorophyll bitters' to name but a few. This bar is so far out of the ordinary it could only be in Shoreditch. Best Cocktail: Gold Dust
Shoreditch / Bar / Cuisine: English
Conceived as a cure for the overcrowded, overexcited masses that spill into London in search of something nobody really knows about, the Nightjar is a cocktail bar and live music venue hiding in plain sight along City Road flanked by cafes. The air is discreet and effortlessly stylish, the Nightjar is a tribute to the spirit of a speakeasy in another generation. A menu including the 24 Volt Cobbler (a specialty cocktail) is available to any and all who may stride through the door for a classy night. Play your cards right and you can stumble onto live music; special events; or even that elusive sense of worth that you rarely glimpse in today's glitzy traps. Best Cocktail: New Orleans Fizz
Shoreditch / Bar /
There is a side to Shoreditch that appeals to the inner anarchist. That sense of 'screw the establishment' that breeds gutsy pride is definitely an aspect of this suburb, and from there comes Happiness Forgets. A comfortable, dimly-lit hidey hole from the real world, a place to go if you're the kind of person who wishes, from time to time, that the world would hold still. Here, it does. Serving modern cocktails in an atmosphere that feels familiar and trustworthy on your first visit, Happiness Forgets is intimate; private; broody. In short, Happiness Forgets is your chance to be the misunderstood teenager you once were, somewhere nobody can find you. Best Cocktail: Harry Palmer
Shoreditch / Bar / Cuisine: Bar
My first revelation when investigating this cocktail bar was that they were winners of the Cocktail World Cup. I'd never heard of that before, but it goes straight on my list of things that I thank humanity for. Callooh Callay is a cocktail bar clearly designed with a little bit of madness in mind, and their cocktails are quirky and original. Using a London Underground map, you can find such inspirations as Raisin the Bar or Bitter-Sweet Symphony on the menu. I do love a good pun. Even if you don't, you'll have a chuckle at this nonsensical, beautifully mad bar. And see if you can locate Callooh Callay's secret Jub-Jub cocktail bar without asking. Best Cocktail: I Am The Moon
Ninetyeight Bar and Lounge
Shoreditch / Bar /
Perhaps if I mention to you that at Ninetyeight Bar and Lounge, you will be able to order a candy floss margarita, that will help you conjour an image of the bar itself. Desiring above all to be different and unpredictable, Ninetyeight cocktail bar uses mixology and molecular cocktails to draw in the curious customers and then knock them bandy with loud, vibrant events like burlesque, high tea or cocktail classes in their own fashion. A place where the pillars of Shoreditch - art, music, cocktails, fashion and social trends - all come together in one eclectic buzz. Best Cocktail: Off in the Clouds
Shoreditch / Bar / Restaurant / Cuisine: Steak House
A cocktail bar and steakhouse that takes its name from Nicholas Hawksmoor, architect of the nearby Christ Church Spitalfields. Hawksmoor values authenticity, their bar was lifted straight from a 1930s dancehall in Hull and is made of beautifully crafted teak. The bitters are homemade and their cocktails take on the same level of careful detail. Best Cocktail: Georgia Mint Julep.
Shoreditch / Bar /
I have spent many moons searching for a true lounge bar in London, and all along it was just up my road on Great Eastern Street. Lounge Bohemia does all the things that I would like a lounge bar to do - from atmospheric lighting to a smooth, stylish and avant-garde décor. Shoreditch has the reputation as home to bohemian Londoners - those who resent custom and uniformity. Lounge Bohemia is, I think, what they had in mind. An artsy but mature setting to enjoy cocktails mixed so as to ensure they could never become predictable. Shrug off the world and live in a theatrical paradise. Best Cocktail: Bubble Bath Martini
All Star Lanes
Shoreditch / Bar / Restaurant / Cuisine: American
Just like Shoreditch itself, bowling never goes out of fashion. All Star Lanes is a bowling alley, restaurant and bar with an Americana vibe enforced by the waitresses attire; the jukeboxes and the fairly predictable food of smokehouse burgers, ribs and chips ("fries"). There isn't much to expect from this place other than a good laugh on the lanes and the wide range of people you can expect to be competing with. City slickers to students to families, from karaoke to pool tables, you'll always find something to enjoy at All Star Lanes. A solid night out. Best Cocktail: Pin Up Girl
McQueen Lounge Bar & Club
Shoreditch / Bar / Club / Cuisine: American
I'm perhaps a shade too young to have truly appreciated Indiana native and movie legend Steve McQueen. I'm not sure how likely it is that I'll ever invest myself in his films. Nevertheless, I'm quite certain that I'll be investing in this tribute to the iconic celebrity. The lounge is tastefully decorated in classy black leather sofas and a polished bar that works with the original brickwork to create an atmosphere of expensive masculinity. Some people will be reminded of 60s nightclubs, others will take this as Hollywood meets London. Whatever your disposition, there is something to enjoy in the tasteful ambience or fiery cocktail list. Cheers, Steve! Best Cocktail: McQueen Martinez
Shoreditch / Bar / Restaurant / Hotel / Cuisine: British
Ignore the ENORMOUS wine list on offer here (until you eat dinner at the faultless restaurant) and get stuck into the cocktail list instead. Chat with the bartender about your favourite types of premium spirits and he or she will suggest a cocktail to match your desires. Compact and bijou, this cosy cocktail bar is ideal for secret liaisons (being a basement cocktail bar, it may not have the phone coverage prying ears might need). Best Cocktail: French 75.
B@1 (Be at One)
Shoreditch / Bar /
This is London's best area for cocktail bars and clubs. B@1 is one of the friendliest cocktail bars in Shoreditch and it's the largest of the B@1 cocktail bar dynasty. With BOGOF Happy Hours during the week, loads of seating options, a 2am license on Friday and Saturday, and a music policy that veers towards "classics" (basically anything you haven't heard in ages but will no doubt provoke a spontaneous sing-song), this cocktail bar isn't too concerned with adopting the ultra East End cool that many of its neighbours do, although you will witness a reasonable amount of sartorial one-upmanship. Best cocktail: the long, tropical Junebug because it contains one of your 5-a-day.