The best cocktail bars in the UK have been named – and Lab 22 in Cardiff has claimed the gold medal.
It tops the Top 50 Cocktail Bars ranking, which was announced on Tuesday evening at a ceremony at One Night Records, in London. The rest of the top five was made up of bars in London – Swift Soho (second), The Connaught Bar (third), Tayer + Elementary (fourth), and Satan’s Whiskers (fifth).
Top 50 Cocktail Bars publisher Christopher Lowe said: ‘London has always been seen as a global leader for cocktails, but as you’ll see from the 2022 list, other major cities across the UK are now catching up. Our newly launched website will help cocktail connoisseurs discover the best of the UK bar scene with many of these very much still under the radar.’ Scroll down for more on the top 10.
1. Lab 22 – Cardiff
Lab 22, pictured, ‘is sensationally designed, mixing contemporary style with a touch of elegance’
One of Lab 22’s cocktail creations
Lab 22, owned by Pajtim Tana Hasa and tucked away above a well-known bakery, has ‘bags of personality and is a must visit’, say the judges.
They add: ‘The bar itself is sensationally designed, mixing contemporary style with a touch of elegance and bounds of fun and exceptional experience.
‘It is a unique space in every sense of the word and offers a scientific approach to its cocktails, incorporating a wow factor into every drink mixed, shaken or poured.
‘Past menus have seen bartenders breathe fire and harness other elements in their magical approach to making cocktails, a theme that very much continues to this day.’
2. Swift Soho – London
Swift offers a cocktail experience that is, according to the judges, ‘exceptional’
Swift, on Old Compton Street, is split into two areas, with a casual buzzy layout on the ground floor and a relaxed – some would say sensual – lounge in the basement, the judges say.
They continue: ‘The basement den operates seven days a week and offers live music every weekend, over 300 worldly whiskies and is open from 5pm – it is also recommended that you reserve a space to avoid disappointment.
‘And you wouldn’t want to be disappointed as the downstairs menu is exceptional… Swift’s full cocktail experience.
‘The menu upstairs brings together much-loved classics as well as popular Swift serves in one place, particularly the bar’s Irish Coffee, which is like no other in the world.’
3. The Connaught Bar – Mayfair, London
The surroundings at The Connaught Bar are almost as good as the cocktails served, the judges say
Pictured here is a Connaught cocktail
‘The Connaught Bar oozes class and sophistication from every millimetre of its structure,’ say the judges.
They continue: ‘Whether a guest at the hotel [The Connaught], a passing commuter or Mayfair resident, the Connaught Bar is the place to be.
‘Conversation flows over sparkling glasses and candlelit tables, while behind the bar, expert tenders shake, mix and pour new and classic libations to the delight of eager guests.
‘The surroundings are almost as good as the cocktails served, with textured walls adorned in platinum silver leaf surrounding a cool grey bar.’
4. Tayer + Elementary – Shoreditch, London
Tayer + Elementary offers a two-part experience – a casual all-day offering and a more subdued environment for sophisticated cocktail sipping
Tayer + Elementary can be found on Old Street
Based on Old Street and open to walk-ins only, Tayer + Elementary by Alex Kratena and Monica Berg is a special venue, the judges declare.
They explain why: ‘[It’s] split into two parts including a casual all-day offering where cocktails are served within seconds thanks to a draught system that includes Old Fashioneds and Aquavit. This is Elementary and the prices here are exceptionally affordable.
‘Within Elementary, expect an all-day cocktail experience as well as a One Sip Martini experience with drinks served in three sized glasses of small, medium and large.
‘There is also a snacking offer that focuses on seasonality, deemed to be an important part of the bar’s overall experience.
‘Yet, through a partition, Tayer awaits and offers a darker and more subdued environment for sophisticated cocktail-sipping.’
5. Satan’s Whiskers – Bethnal Green, London
Satan’s Whiskers ‘doesn’t make a song or dance about its many accolades gained over the years’
Satan’s Whiskers offers classics with a twist
This is ‘not your cliched swanky London cocktail bar’ the judges say, but a place ‘full to the brim with character that oozes from its exposed bricks and unique decor’. (Taxidermy is a feature.)
It’s a humble venue, we’re told, that ‘doesn’t make a song or dance about its many accolades gained over the years and blends in well with the surrounding community’.
The judges add: ‘As the drinks list changes too often, it is difficult to say what you might be consuming, but know that each day the bar takes many classic cocktails and expertly twists them with fun and ingenuity.’
6. Bramble Bar & Lounge – Edinburgh
Bramble Bar is ‘a charming, easy bar, despite being highly decorated with accolades’
‘Once you find Bramble Bar & Lounge, you won’t want to leave,’ the judges conclude.
They continue: ‘The cocktail bar features a handful of private nooks and crannies for intimate drinks, should you wish to enjoy a romantic evening supping delicious concoctions with a significant other or friends.
‘It is also an ideal place to celebrate, let loose and enjoy yourself, especially when the live DJs are working their magic at the weekends. Even when the DJs aren’t there, the atmosphere is still lively.
‘It is a charming, easy bar, despite being highly decorated with accolades from the likes of The World’s 50 Best Bars and others. It is unpretentious and houses the sector’s greatest bartenders who are only too happy to talk guests through drinks and make recommendations. To put it simply, they’re a whole lot of fun to be around.’
7. Three Sheets – Dalston, London
At Three Sheets you’ll find a ‘well-put-together’ menu containing ‘interesting ingredients’
A concoction by the multi-award-winning Three Sheets
This multi-award-winning bar is run by the founding Venning brothers, Noel and Max, who offer a ‘well-put-together’ menu containing ‘interesting ingredients’.
The menu frequently changes, the judges reveal, but ‘notable serves’ include French 75, made using Victory Gin, clear lemon, Moscato and orange flower before being carbonated; My Lady Garden made using Potters Tropical, Petirgrain, raspberry, lemon and egg white; and Blackcurrant Americano, made with Americano Vergano, blackcurrant and soda.’
Want something non-alcoholic? ‘Just ask and wait to be dazzled,’ say the judges.
8. Oriole – Farringdon, London
Expect old-school hospitality on a visit to Oriole, which is decorated with murals and African artetacts
Oriole has table service and live music every evening
This is ‘the perfect place to disconnect from the hustle and bustle of the outside world’, the judges say.
They add: ‘Decorated in an old colonial style, with painted murals, African artefacts and deep blue furnishings, it couldn’t be more of a contrast to the world outside and above.
‘The bar is open Tuesdays to Saturdays from 6pm until late and has an over-21s policy, likely to keep the environment sophisticated.
‘Expect old-school hospitality on your visit, with table service and live music every evening.’
9. Panda and Sons – Edinburgh
Panda and Sons has a prohibition theme and is, say the judges, a ‘wonderful experience’
‘Don’t be fooled by the street-level barber shop exterior, Edinburgh cocktail bar Panda and Sons is waiting just on the other side of a hidden door,’ the judges reveal.
The false exterior, they say, is ‘all part of the prohibition-style disguise’.
They add: ‘Once you get downstairs, the prohibition theme remains strong with witty curiosities adorning the walls and dim lighting. It is a wonderful experience.
‘Although themed, it is certainly not a venue of style over substance and the cocktails on offer are first-class, refined and intelligent.
‘There are six chapters of the menu to peruse and presented in numerical order, each showcasing various skills in the drinks’ creation.’
10. Speak in Code – Jackson’s Row, Manchester
Speak in Code has an industrial New York vibe and a drinks list that’s extensive and imaginative, the judges say
One of Speak in Code’s offerings
The judges were highly impressed with Speak in Code, which they declare is a ‘must visit’.
They say: ‘Offering high-quality service, delicious food and of course outstanding cocktails, Speak in Code is an exceptional venue in the north of England and a must visit for those near and far.
‘Bringing industrial New York vibes to the area, the award-winning bar uses an extensive and imaginative list of ingredients to its exciting menu.
‘You’ll sip and dine in a relaxed environment featuring bare brick walls, subdued lighting, and dark wooden touches as well as plush velvety furnishings. It is an exceptionally sophisticated venue perfect for visiting with close friends or a significant other.’
THE TOP 50 BARS IN THE UK 2022
1. Lab 22, Cardiff
2. Swift Soho, London
3. The Connaught Bar, London
4. Tayer + Elementary, London
5. Satan’s Whiskers, London
6. Bramble Bar & Lounge, Edinburgh
7. Three Sheets, London
8. Oriole, London
9. Panda and Sons, Edinburgh
10. Speak in Code, Manchester
11. Bar With Shapes For A Name, London
12. Disrepute, London
13. Nightjar, London
14. Homeboy Bar, London
15. American Bar, London
16. Schofield’s Bar, Manchester
17. Opium Cocktails & Dim Sum Parlour, London
18. Coupette, London
19. Artesian, London
20. Scarfes Bar, London
21. Trailer Happiness, London
22. Lucky Liquor co., Edinburgh
23. Happiness Forgets, London
24. Jake’s Bar & Still Room, Leeds
25. Little Mercies, London
26. The Absent Ear, Glasgow
27. The Milk Thistle, Bristol
28. Berry & Rye, Liverpool
29. Laki Kane, London
30. Filthy XIII, Bristol
31. Lyaness, London
32. Roland’s Leeds, Leeds
33. Gungho!, Brighton
34. Hacha, London
35. The Hideout, Bath
36. Pennyroyal, Cardiff
37. Couch, Birmingham
38. Bar Termini, London
39. Below Stairs, Leeds
40. Hey Palu, Edinburgh
41. Public, Sheffield
42. Hedonist, Leeds
43. Present Company, Liverpool
44. The Pineapple Club, Birmingham
45. Publiq., London
46. Ojo Rojo, Bournemouth
47. L’ Atelier du Vin, Brighton
48. Callooh Callay, London
49. Mother Mercy, Newcastle upon Tyne
50. The Cocktail Trading Co, London
Top 50 Cocktail Bars is now in its fourth year, with the first list published in June 2018. The bars on the list are voted for by hundreds of experts, bartenders, bar owners and drinks writers, with a big focus on gaining votes for bars within specific regions to ensure the list represents as much of the UK as possible.