The best cocktail bars in the UK for 2023 have been named – and it’s East London bar Satan’s Whiskers that is No.1.
It tops the Top 50 Cocktail Bars ranking, with last year’s winner, Lab 22, based in Cardiff, coming second, and Tayer + Elementary, based in Shoreditch in London coming third. London dominates this year’s list with 23 bars in the top 50 spots, followed by ale-loving Yorkshire, which claimed five of the top 50 spots.
Chris Lowe, publisher of Top 50 Cocktail Bars, said: ‘Whilst London continues to dominate this year’s list, it is very exciting to see other major cities across the UK make their mark. The ever-growing interest in cocktails and bartending within the UK means we are spoilt for choice on where to go, and this list allows for the best of the UK bar scene to have a spotlight placed on them – and for consumers to find these hidden gems.’ Scroll down for the full ranking.
No.1 – Satan’s Whiskers, 343 Cambridge Heath Rd, Bethnal Green, London
‘Whimsically known as London’s “bartenders’ bar”, it is not your cliched swanky London cocktail bar,’ said the judges of Satan’s Whiskers (above)
This unassuming cocktail bar has jumped up four places from last year.
The judges said: ‘The team pride themselves on providing excellent service and great music, embodying the ideal neighbourhood bar.
‘Whimsically known as London’s “bartenders’ bar”, it is not your cliched swanky London cocktail bar, but full to the brim with character that oozes from its exposed bricks, taxidermy and hip-hop music and unique décor.’
No.2 – Lab 22, 22 Caroline St, Cardiff
Lab 22 ‘is a unique space in every sense of the word and offers a scientific approach to its cocktails’
Lab 22, owned by Pajtim Tana Hasa and tucked away above a well-known bakery, ‘has found its feet among the world’s very best cocktail bars’, say the judges.
They add: ‘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.’
No.3 – Tayer + Elementary, 152 Old St, Shoreditch, London
The team behind Tayer + Elementary are ‘two of the most influential people in the bartending world’
The judges said: ‘Based on Old Street in London, and open to walk-ins only, Tayer + Elementary by Alex Kratena and Monica Berg is a special venue.
‘The venue appears as a brutalist space with concrete and exposed steel trunking, but that’s not to say it is cold and trendy for the sake of it. In fact, the team and the whole vibe of the venue offer a warming reception.
‘Kratena and Berg are two of the most influential people in the bartending world right now.’
No.4 – Schofield’s Bar, 3 Little Quay Street, Manchester
Schofield’s Bar serves ‘classic cocktails as well as crafted inhouse stylings… along with beers, wines, Champagne and also some food’
Manchester’s Schofield’s Bar is the brainchild of brothers Joe and Daniel Schofield who, between them, have over 25 years of bartending experience.
The judges said: ‘This impressive duo have risen through the ranks of the Top 50 Cocktail bars jumping 12 places to the top five in just a year. Although some reservations are welcome, the bar itself is predominantly a walk-in operation, serving from Wednesday until Sunday between 12pm and 1.30am.
‘The menu consists of classic cocktails as well as crafted inhouse stylings created by the Schofield’s, along with beers, wines, Champagne and also some food.’
No.5 – Swift, 12 Old Compton St, Soho, London
What lies below: Swift has a basement den that serves over 300 whiskies and a ‘buzzy’ operation on the ground floor
The judges said: ‘Swift is split into two areas, with a more casual buzzy layout on the ground floor and a relaxed – some would say sensual – lounge in the basement.
‘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.’
No.6 – Panda & Sons, 79 Queen St, Edinburgh
Panda and Sons has a prohibition vibe. ‘It is a wonderful experience,’ said the judges
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 said: ‘The false exterior is all part of the prohibition-style disguise. Once you get downstairs, the prohibition theme remains strong with witty curiosities adorning the walls and dim lighting. It is a wonderful experience.’
No. 7 – Three Sheets, 510b Kingsland Rd, Dalston, London
Three Sheets is a ‘clean and simple bar’ with cocktails containing ‘interesting ingredients’
The judges said: ‘Keeping its spot for its second consecutive year Three Sheets is a clean and simple bar with outstanding flavour profiles.
‘It is multi-award winning and is run by the founding Venning brothers – Noel and Max – who are both well known in the cocktail world and beyond.
‘The menu is well-put-together, with cocktails containing some interesting ingredients. However, the drinks are seasonal, making it a surprise whenever you visit.’
No.8 – Speak in Code, 7 Jackson’s Row, Manchester
Speak in Code has an ‘industrial New York vibe’ and offers ‘outstanding cocktails’
Speak in Code drew this praise from the judges: ‘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 plant-based menu.’
No.9 – ‘Bar with Shapes for a Name’, 232 Kingsland Rd, Hackney, London
The ‘Bar With Shapes For A Name’ serves cocktails ‘made and served in the most beautiful ways’
This bar doesn’t have a name as such, but rather three ‘Bauhaus-influenced primary-coloured shapes – a yellow triangle, a red square and a blue circle’. Which apparently can be summed up as ‘Shapes’.
The idea is ‘to challenge drinkers to reimagine what a bar actually is’.
Pretentious? Undoubtedly. But the judges implore you to visit for ‘very reasonably priced cocktails’ that are ‘made and served in the most beautiful ways’.
No.10 – The Connaught Bar, Carlos Pl, Mayfair, London
The Connaught Bar in Mayfair is where ‘expert tenders shake, mix and pour new and classic libations to the delight of eager guests’
The Connaught Bar ‘oozes class and sophistication from every millimetre of its structure’, said the judges.
They added: ‘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 martini trolley comes highly recommended.
THE TOP 50 UK COCKTAIL BARS 2023, FROM BETHNAL GREEN TO BRISTOL AND EDINBURGH
1 Satan’s Whiskers, Bethnal Green, London
2 Lab 22, Cardiff
3 Tayēr + Elementary, Shoreditch, London
4 SCHOFIELD’S BAR, Manchester
5 Swift, Soho, London
6 Panda & Sons, Edinburgh
7 Three Sheets, Dalston, London
8 Speak in Code, Manchester
9 Bar with Shapes for a Name, Hackney, London
10 The Connaught, Mayfair, London
11 Little Mercies, Crouch End, London
12 Couch, Birmingham
13 Bramble, Edinburgh
14 The Pineapple Club, Birmingham
15 Ojo Rojo, Bournemouth
16 Disrepute, Soho, London
17 Artesian, Oxford Circus, London
18 Hideout, Bath
19 Nightjar, Shoreditch, London
20 Present Company, Liverpool
21 Publiq, South Kensington, London
22 Scarfes Bar, Holborn, London
23 Lyaness, South Bank, London
24 Opium Cocktail & Dim Sum, Chinatown, London
25 The Absent Ear, Glasgow
26 Happiness Forgets, Hoxton, London
27 Hey Palu, Edinburgh
28 Filthy XIII, Bristol
29 Homeboy, Islington, London
30 Soma, Soho, London
31 Coupette, Bethnal Green, London
32 Passing Fancies, Birmingham
33 Bar Termini, Soho, London
34 Seed Library, Shoreditch, London
35 Murder Inc, Soho, London
36 Penny Royal, Cardiff
37 Callooh Callay, Shoreditch, London
38 Silverleaf, Liverpool St, London
39 Public, Sheffield
40 Fox & Chance, Birmingham
41 Blinker, Manchester
42 Below Stairs, Leeds
43 Milk Thistle, Bristol
44 Gungho!, Brighton
45 Hedonist, Leeds
46 Amaro, Kensington, London
47 Cottonmouth, Nottingham
48 Tabula Rasa, Leeds
49 Lunar, Glasgow
50 Bench, Sheffield