South east London is stuffed with teeny independent bars, funky homages to gin and speakeasy-style bars that only those in the know frequent. Become part of the underground crew by checking out the coolest and best 14 cocktail bars in south east London (and Brixton, our adopted SW neighbour)…
1 The LP Bar, New Cross
The LP Bar is the liquor-purveying sibling to New Cross’ The London Particular and Maddy’s Fish Bar and has the same approach – working with small, independent suppliers and producers to make something tasty. Here you can sip cocktails in plane seats, inspired by the golden age of air travel. The decor includes aeronautical trimmings, but it’s our drinks menu that will carry you away – the Aviation Redirected has gin, fresh lemon juice, Maraschino liqueur, orange blossom water and orange bitters, while the cheeky Mile High Club has scotch, fresh orange juice, Foragers Cherry liqueur and Mancino Rosso.
All mixed drinks £8
401 New Cross Road SE14 6LA; 020 8691 8822; thelpbar.co.uk
2 The Cooperage, Greenwich
Davy’s, long a favourite for a glass of wine, opened a cocktail bar in the basement Victorian wine cellar last year. The Cooperage has a real speakeasy feel with low lighting, comfy leather armchairs and a musty, basement air. The cocktail menu is small but expertly crafted, featuring home-infused spirits. Savoury cocktails are very much de rigueur, so do try a roast pepper and paprika margarita (tequila infused with roast pepper and paprika for a savoury note). It’s a bit of an acquired taste, mind. For something a bit zestier, the Sidecar (brandy flavoured with lemon and sweetened with orange juice) is punchy, sharp, strong and excellent. The spiced apple punch, made with The Cooperage’s own rum infused with apples and spices and lengthened with more apple goodness, is a great winter cocktail.
161 Greenwich High Rd SE10 8JA; 020 8858 7204
3 Brooklyn Bowl, North Greenwich
Brooklyn Bowl London – the super fun bowling alley, convert venue, restaurant and bar all rolled into one at the O2 Arena – has just launched its first cocktail menu. Created by Tim Halilaj, the five new cocktails showcase unique twists on classic vodka, gin, rum, brandy and bourbon cocktails. The Wythe Avenue is Brooklyn Bowl’s very own old fashioned with the added freshness of raspberries and a classic Collins is turned on its head with ginger and a Brooklyn Lager frothy top to create the Brooklyn Collins. Do try the Bourbon St Milkshake and Frozen Margaritas too, which have featured on the menu since Brooklyn Bowl London opened in January 2014.
The O2 Arena, Peninsula Square, North Greenwich SE10 0DX; 020 7412 8778; london.brooklynbowl.com
4 Communion Bar, Camberwell
Adorned with beautiful handmade stained glass windows, depicting different biblical scenes, Communion Bar in Camberwell opened in May 2014, serving up signature cocktails inspired by and sourced from the south London community. Take the Nurse Bethai (£8.5), for example, designed in honour of the Thai and Filipino nurses at King’s College Hospital mixing rum, lemon and calamansi juice. The Communion Bar’s added benefits include the ‘Blessed’ happy hour, with all cocktails for £5 daily from 6-8pm, delicious tapas from the Time Out-rated Angels & Gypsies Spanish restaurant upstairs, live music every Thursday to Sunday and – in keeping with the theme – communion wafers and complimentary communion wine on every table.
29-33 Camberwell Church Street (basement) SE5 8TR; 020 7703 5984; communionbar.com
5 The Crooked Well, Camberwell
The Crooked Well is awesome at food (read our Best Roasts in South London article), but they’re pretty fly at cocktails too. There are three things I’m always excited by in a cocktail menu: name-dropping the locale, originality and a good benchmark drink, and the Well has these firmly covered. Take the Camberwell Sour (Pikesville straight rye whiskey, lemon juice, egg white, merlot), the Hemmingway Special (Havana club rum, maraschino liquor, fresh lime, orange marmalade and maraschino cherry) and Kir Royal (crème de cassis and champagne). The vibe is relaxed, the décor cosy and contemporary and, if you’re lucky, you might just spot Florence Welsh of Florence and the Machines tucked in a corner.
16 Grove Lane, Camberwell SE5 8SY; 020 7252 7798; thecrookedwell.com
6 The Crystal Palace Market, Crystal Palace
Crystal Palace has never been so buzzy. With excellent pubs, great restaurants and a stonking great historical park, it’s the perfect place to spend a Saturday or Sunday afternoon. The Crystal Palace Market is based on the live local, shop local, eat local ethos and as well as an awesome restaurant with its own fresh fish counter, you can also hop on a stool at the bar to sample excellent cocktails like the Market Twinkle (Chase vodka, a dash of elderflower and Prosecco) or classic French Martini (Chase vodka shaken with Chambord black raspberry Liqueur, lime juice and raspberry puree).
3-7 Church Road, Crystal Palace SE19 2TF; 020 3475 7080; thecrystalpalacemarket.com
7 Frank’s Cafe, Peckham
Ok, so you have to wait till summer for this one, but it’s a must. The legendary bar-cum-restaurant-cum-gallery opened in 2007 atop Peckham’s multi-storey car park and is now a summer institution with extraordinary views stretching across the London skyline. An exhibition and events programme keeps things exciting, with site-specific performances by Peckham collective Bold Tendencies and artworks peppered around the space. In year one, when it was affiliated with Campari, everybody felt compelled to drink cool, retro negronis. I’m pretty sure most people don’t like negronis, however, so give the Aperol Spritzer (simple, clean and fresh with just Aperol, Prosecco and soda) or the Dark and Stormy (dark rum, ginger and lime) a whirl.
10th Floor, Peckham Multi-Storey Car Park, 95a Rye Lane SE15 4ST; frankscafe.org.uk
8 House of Tippler, East Dulwich
House of Tippler opened its doors in March 2012 and has since become Lordship Lane’s favourite tippling destination – relaxed, cool and fun with a retro-inspired feel. Co-owner and industry guru Tim Oakley has created an exciting and unique cocktail menu, already recognised by industry experts in publications such as Square Meal’s Sip of the Season. The party steps-up a gear at weekends, with live music and DJs, so you can carry on until 2am on Friday and Saturday, then nurse your Sunday morning hangover with brunch, or a delicious roast and a Bloody Mary, if it’s one of those weekends! Boost your love of the local area by sipping a Lordship Mule (Gold Rum shaken with pink Champagne rhubarb puree, fresh ginger, a touch of chilli and ginger beer) or an ED Bellini.
123 Lordship Lane, East Dulwich SE22 8HU; 020 7998 4878; houseoftippler.com
9 Little Nan’s Bar, Deptford
Little Nan’s Bar enjoyed a homecoming earlier this year when, after running a series of popular pop-up bars, it finally returned to where it all started – Deptford. The new bar, situated under the arches at the newly developed Deptford Market Yard, serves cocktails named after members of the Royal Family in dainty teapots with charmingly mismatched tea cups. Relax into an old armchairs and take in the chintz, the leopard print and the truly ramshackle-but-lovely interiors. Owner Tristan Scutt, who made his name running events at The Cavendish Arms in Stockwell, opened the popular ‘secret living room’ in homage to his Nan. Menus, offering ‘drinks with a vintage price tag’ are stuck into 1970s cookery books. Cocktails from £4 a mug and £12 a teapot (for four). Oh and they serve up massive slabs of killer cakes, too.
Open daily 11am-11pm at Arch 14, Deptford Market Yard SE8 4BX; littlenans.co.uk
10 Village East, Bermondsey Street
Village East on Bermondsey Street updates its cocktails with the seasons and has recently introduced the carbonised cocktail, served straight from a Cornelius beer keg named the Village Fountain. In New York, bars have been celebrating sparkling craft cocktails for years, but now for the first time, Londoners can enjoy carbonised cocktails from a keg. Priced at £6 per drink, the Village Fountain will change its recipe and flavour every week, using seasonal ingredients and creating gin-based variations with combinations including Cucumber and Thyme, and Strawberry and Basil.
171-173 Bermondsey Street SE1 3UW; 020 7357 6082; villageeast.co.uk
11 Locale, Blackheath
Locale, a favourite neighbourhood restaurant in Blackheath has had an overhaul that makes the bar more of a feature, so do call in just for drinks. The bar is now located under the window at the front and the light streams through making the bottles of spirits gleam like a boozy kind of stained glass. Arrive early for dinner, hop on a stool, and let the talented mixologist whip you up something special. I recommend the warming Smoked Cracked Black Pepper and Basil Margarita and the show-stopping Big Pink (Bombay Saphire, Campari, elderflower and fresh grapefruit juice shaken with cardamom bitters).
Cocktails from £7
1 Lawn Terrace, Blackheath Village SE3 9LJ; 020 8852 0700; localerestaurants.com
12 Seven at Brixton, Brixton Market
If only it could always be cocktail hour. Seven at Brixton is one of those relaxed, convivial places that you can saunter into after a hard day’s meandering the market, or doll up of an evening and head to with your girls. Traditional, with a twist and experimental describes their seasonal cocktails best – this autumn try the Fig Teatini (Earl Grey tea with Edmond Briottet Fig Liquer, a good balance of tannins and Bergamot with sweet fig liquer) or the showpiece Gunpowder Negroni (Boxer Gin infused with Gunpowder tea, stirred with Martini Rosso and San Bitter Aperitif, served in a Roman candle-style bottle with a sparkler). Do check our their new lil’ sister bar too, Three Eight Four on Coldharbour Lane, serving up small plates and yet more fab cocktails.
Cocktails from £5
Open daily at Unit 7 Market Row, Brixton SW9 8LB; 020 7998 3309; sevenatbrixton.wordpress.com
13 First Aid Box, Herne Hill
Run by drinks impresarios Chris Edwards and Dave Tregenza (who also set up The Shrub and Shutter on Coldharbour Lane), First Aid Box is a quirky take on the traditional cocktail bar with a theme of ‘health, nutrition and doctors orders’. Yes, the drinks are a little gimmicky – think cocktails served with syringes, drip bags, vapours and the like – but it’s fun! Chef Joe Knowlden has created a menu of ceviche, carpaccios, salads and daily special using local suppliers and fresh, locally sourced vegetables.
119 Dulwich Road, Herne Hill SE24 0NG; firstaidbox2015.com
14 214 Bermondsey, Bermondsey Street
Think you know your gin? Then put yourself to the test at 214 Bermondsey on the corner of Bermondsey Street and Long Lane. The gin and cocktail bar with 49 types of gins, 12 gin cocktails and everything else in between (bellini, rum, tequila…), even has a ‘guess the botanicals’ quiz. These guys have created their own homemade tonic, too, to make sure you get the best out of every sip. The house gin here is Hammer, from Norway, but if you’re concerned about your food miles, you can order your drinks with a Beefeater gin from Kennington, a Jensen Bermondsey distilled just up the road, Little Bird from Peckham, or London-crafted Sipsmith. Keep it local by trying The Peck’em cocktail (Little Bird gin, Aperol, Cinzano and grapefruit juice), a Bermondsey Negroni or a Long Lane (the SE1 take on the classic Park Lane with Sipsmith Gin, apricot brandy, a dash of orange juice and egg white and mint).
214 Bermondsey Street SE1 3TQ; 020 7403 6875; 214-bermondsey.co.uk