Best bars in London hotels, from The Connaught Bar to Lyaness

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ondon is home to the best hotel bars in the world. Sure, there’s some strong competition out there — New York City needs no introduction, and Tokyo, Singapore and Hong Kong all have booming cocktail scenes — but nothing quite matches the heritage and historical significance of hotels in the British capital.

And it’s not just those long-standing icons that make the city so special. London also boasts a new crop of contemporary hotel bars that add a thrilling freshness to the scene, going beyond the classics. They craft innovative serves, often using advanced techniques — centrifugal clarification, vacuum distillation, fermentation, acidification and beyond — but you don’t need to know exactly what any of those things mean when the end result is so magical.

With hotels now realising that an increasing number of modern travellers are being sold on where to stay by the quality of a hotel’s food and drink offerings, we expect to see even more world-class bars popping up in London over the next few years.

But, as things stand, here are the best hotel bars in the capital, from time-tested classics to contemporary cocktail dens.

The Connaught Bar at The Connaught

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The Connaught Bar, at the legendary five-star Connaught Hotel, opened in 2008, and has since established itself as one of the most awarded bars in the world. Led by the hotel’s director of mixology, Agostino Perrone, Connaught Bar has held the prestigious title of the World’s Best Bar for the last two years — a testament to the team’s attentive service and creative cocktails.

While the bar’s new menu, titled Impressions, will certainly leave a convincing first one — the Memento, a martini-style mix of Hendrick’s gin, Old Duff genever, Del Duque, 1757 extra dry vermouth, cypress oil and marble is a memorable standout from the list — the only thing you simply must do is order a martini. The bar’s signature serve is elegantly built tableside, courtesy of the bar’s bespoke trolley. A dapper bartender engages with you to learn how you prefer your martini before mixing it up before your eyes, finishing the serve with long, flamboyant pour into the bar’s custom martini glasses. A little bit of theatre, a dash of hospitality and a whole lot of tasty cocktails will keep you there longer than you’d originally planned.

Carlos Place, W1K 2AL, the-connaught.co.uk

Scarfes Bar at the Rosewood London

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In 2020, Scarfes Bar was impressively named the Best International Hotel Bar at the Spirited Awards. Since then, the bar — which is designed like a millionaire’s grandiose study, fit with a grand piano and pianist to bring the space to life — has gone from strength to strength, recently debuting one of their best cocktail menus yet: Off the Wall.

It lifts the bar’s iconic caricatures — all drawn-up by the bar’s namesake artist, Gerald Scarfe — quite literally off the canvas and onto the table for a one-of-a-kind cocktail experience. Featuring 20 drinks, the menu embodies a playful and light-hearted approach, with a sophisticated yet simplified cocktail offering. The Princess Peach, a wet-style martini, is as sexy as it is elegant, blending Procera gin with peach wine, Sauternes, and acacia and dill cordial for a tipple that is guaranteed to quench your thirst and subdue any lingering stress. Oh, and don’t leave without drinking the Happy Mistake — it’s a rhubarb and white chocolate-laced old fashioned that will be the best mistake you’ve ever drunk.

252 High Holborn, WC1V 7EN, scarfesbar.com

Side Hustle at the NoMad London

Simon Upton

Side Hustle, located in the impeccably designed NoMad London — an American boutique hotel import — turned a year old in May 2022, but it’s already a sensation.

Unlike many of London’s five-star hotel bars, Side Hustle isn’t stuffy, nor does it take itself too seriously. It’s quite the contrary: the vibrant, Mexican-flavoured spot is a straight-up fiesta powered by non-stop Latin jams, sure to get your hips swivelling on the bar stool. After a couple of what must be some of the best margaritas in London, those hips might even get off their stool and make for a memorable night (or not, depending on how much you fancy the margaritas).

The bartenders are easily some of the most talented in town, serving up a high volume of guests at speed; the New York-style menu cocktails (read: the old favourites) with a Mexican flair are all mixed to perfection, and off-menu classics are just as impressive. The tacos and tostadas, meanwhile, make for a delicious companion. It’s no surprise the bar has already received some global recognition for its work — it really is a special place. The hotel bar London didn’t know it needed.

28 Bow Street, WC2E 7AW, thenomadhotel.com

Le Magritte Bar & Terrace at The Beaumont

Helen Cathcart

Le Magritte is a humble bar that gets everything right. The service is timely and perceptive, the cocktails — named after famous works by René Magritte, the surrealist artist — are subtle twists on spirituous classics that are delightful without trying to be the centre of attention. The bar bites are truly buzzworthy, too: caviar bumps and a glass of Bollinger, followed by an order of the moreish French toast, bacon jam and truffle is enough to leave any bon vivant smiling from ear to ear. Finish with the Empire of Light 1950, a Black Manhattan twist made with mezcal, Cocchi Torino rosso vermouth, Amaro Averna and orange zest oil and you’ll be ready to nip on over to The Colony Grill Room down the hall for dinner.

Aside from the fare and sophisticated tipples, the atmosphere at Le Magritte is a major part of its appeal. Drawing inspiration from American bars that became legendary in London and Paris during the 1920s, such as The Savoy and the Ritz Paris, the bar exudes a sense of timelessness; ideal for some Roaring Twenties role-playing. In fact, the eclectic collection of early 20th century paintings and photographs hung on the elegant, walnut-panelled interior and Art Deco design practically encourage Gatsby impressions — with a fine whiskey in hand, smoking a cigar on the terrace, you’re hitting the mark.

8 Balderton Street, Brown Hart Gardens, W1K 6TF, thebeaumont.com

Lyaness at Sea Containers

Whether you’re someone who simply enjoys a good drink without too much questioning as to how exactly it got into your glass, or you’re a cocktail nerd who is there to have your mind blown, Lyaness delivers. With views of the Thames and a slick, contemporary design, the bar is led by internationally renowned bartender and owner Ryan Chetiyawardana (aka Mr Lyan), and the calibre of drinks and hospitality served at this chic bar are second to none.

The latest menu, Lyaness’s British Cookbook, focuses on British abundance and delves deep into culinary-minded drink development. The menu is divided into a few sections, each highlighting an original ingredient chosen after meticulous research — for example, one is called Oyster Honey, while another is Malt and Grass Amazake. Drinks are then built around them, such as the Plum Americano, a carefully concocted mix of Blood Curaçao (the main ingredient), Lillet Blanc, Empirical plum, burnt shoya, Sipello aperitif and soda water. For the casual drinker, it’s nothing more than a refreshing, bitter-savoury serve that’s perfect to have before dinner; but, for the cocktail enthusiast, there’s enough to keep you at the bar all night playing the role of drinks inquisitor.

20 Upper Ground, SE1 9PD, lyaness.com

American Bar at The Savoy Hotel

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The American Bar at The Savoy Hotel is the oldest surviving cocktail bar in Britain, first welcoming guests for its popular “American-style” drinks in 1893. Since then, it has established itself one of the most iconic bars in the world, becoming a regular haunt for celebrities of all sorts over the years. As far as the cocktails are concerned, the American Bar delivers on excellence — both in service and execution. Not only are the bar’s concept menus some of the best in London, but they know how to throw together a damn good off-menu classic, too.

After a few turbulent years for the bar as a result of the pandemic — and the untimely departure of Shannon Tebay, the American Bar’s first American head bartender who assumed the role for a brief period before unexpectedly parting ways with the hotel — it has recently turned to hospitality expert and former Savoy bartender Anna Sebastian to get things back on track. The bar recently launched a new menu called Re:Invented, which is a tribute to the bar’s storied history. The cocktails are inspired by the beloved classics born here — such as the White Lady and Hanky Panky — in addition to the characters who’ve worked behind the bar and the noteworthy guests who’ve visited, both past and present. One drink to note is the lunar-inspired To The Moon & Back, made with Bowmore 15YO, oloroso sherry, Chazalettes extra dry vermouth, chilli, green apple cordial, reused champagne and soda water — a complex whisky highball that tickles the senses with its bright, refreshing flavour profile.

Strand, WC2R 0EZ, thesavoylondon.com

Artesian at The Langham, London

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The award-winning Artesian is one of London’s most decorated hotel bars, having been named the best bar in the world for four years in a row from 2012 to 2015 at the World’s 50 Best Awards. A flurry of personnel changes since then have led to a bar that’s struggled to reach similar heights in recent years, but it’s undoubtedly on the rise under new leadership guided by head bartender Giulia Cuccurullo and bar manager Lorenza Pezzetta.

The latest menu, Duality, celebrates the two-sided nature of Artesian — a progressive cocktail bar housed within a traditional, luxurious five-star hotel. The 14-strong cocktail collection is certainly inventive: one drink, Past, is an old fashioned-style cocktail featuring Mitcher’s whiskey infused with olive leaf bitter, olive oil and palo santo served down over a large rock, and on the menu it is paired with Future, served in a translucent test tube, filled with fino sherry, lemongrass, gin, mint extract, enoki mushrooms and olive oil. It’s an example of how the cocktail bar is evolving towards becoming one of the city’s best hotel bars.

1C Portland Place, W1B 1JA, artesian-bar.co.uk

The Aubrey at Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park

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The Aubrey is fresh on the hotel bar scene, opening its doors in January 2022 in the space where Bar Boulud existed before it. That said, it certainly doesn’t feel like a bar finding its identity when you’re propped up at the bar, sipping on a Nikka from the Barrel whisky and housemade yuzu soda highball, or another one of the perfectly executed, Japanese-inspired cocktails drawn up by bar director Pietro Rizzo.

As one might expect from any space housed within the Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park, The Aubrey also looks the part. Art is a key element of the bar’s design as it pays respect to the timeless elegance and expression of the Japonisme movement, and in particular, the 19th century British artist and illustrator, Aubrey Beardsley, whose name inspired the venue. Warm hues of gold, marbled green, plum and pink embellish the space, from the main bar area to the small nooks waiting to be discovered.

Talking of hideaways: behind one of the venue’s unassuming doors, Rizzo leads a drinking experience inspired by the Japanese phrase ‘omakase’ — roughly translated as “I’ll leave it up to you”. Sat at a secret six-seat bar counter, guests are taken on a liquid adventure, drinking cocktails that are created on the fly, crafted to the tastes of the drinker as well as the bartender’s own style. Each drink is served with a Japanese-inspired light bite too.

Secret sojourns aside, this is an easy bar to spend many hours in — and that’s especially true when the DJ starts spinning from Thursday night through Saturday.

66 Knightsbridge, SW1X 7LA, mandarinoriental.com

Seed Library at One Hundred Shoreditch

Caitlin Isola

The new sister bar to Lyaness still has that Mr Lyan blueprint — creative, culinary-led drinks and flavours paired with light-hearted hospitality — but it doesn’t feature any of the complex ingredients found over at its Thames-side sibling. What you will discover is a list of modern twists on classics such as the perfectly chilled sancho leaf martini, or the sour-style Penicillin, made with earthy mezcal and spicy galangal instead of the typical scotch whisky.

Located in the basement of the hotel, the loungey, tucked-away Seed Library doesn’t feel like your typical hotel bar, but that’s part of what makes it so special. The understated African and Mediterranean decór and warm, clay-like tones are comforting while also adding depth to the space, and when the DJ is spinning vinyl tracks in the booth modelled on a Tokyo record bar, time very much becomes irrelevant. This might just be London’s most laid-back hotel bar, and we’re here for it.

100 Shoreditch High Street, E1 6JQ, onehundredshoreditch.com

American Bar at The Stafford

Ever since getting a long-overdue facelift back in 2018, the American Bar at The Stafford has re-established itself as one of the most beloved hotel bars in London. Originally designed to make US tourists feel at home in the 1920s and Thirties, the American Bar at The Stafford has a long history of royals and celebrities occupying its seats. Today, the bar retains bits of its storied heritage — mostly in the conspicuous form of hung artefacts, such as baseball caps, from the ceiling — while focussing its energy on offering guests more contemporary cocktails and bar bites.

The bar’s latest menu of signature drinks, Alchemy of Equilibrium, is a testament to its progressive mindset. Overseen by a 30-year veteran bar director, Benoit Provost, and director of mixology Salvatore Megna, this new cocktail menu is a concept based on the four elements of nature. In practice, that means all 17 cocktails balance spirits, complementary flavours, textures and visual aesthetic to create harmonious drinks as Instagrammable as they are delicious. Levina, a vodka cocktail with goji berry, pomelo, citrus husk, Italicus bergamot liqueur, electric bitters and Mediterranean tonic water served in a lightning bolt-shaped glass is a paragon of the bar’s new era — one that strikes the perfect balance of golden-era tippling and the avant-garde.

16-18 St James’s Place, SW1A 1NJ, thestaffordlondon.com

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