Best Cocktail Bars in London's South Bank
Forget the gimmicks – when it comes to cocktails, South Bank is home to some serious apothecary. With London Cocktail Week on the horizon, we speak to the area’s top bars reveal their unusual ingredients, favourite features – and what they’re drinking now.
Where – Dandelyan at Mondrian London
Tell us what makes your bar special – Our biggest aspiration with Dandelyan has been to challenge the conventions of what a hotel bar could be. The opulent Tom Dixon interior set along a stunning view of the Thames creates a great tone as you walk in, but then from our 70s guitar soundtrack, to our less formal yet attentive style of service, and of course, drinks like no other, we wanted to prove the London hotel bar is not as one dimensional as has long been seen.
We have also been awarded a number of awards including World's Best Cocktail Menu (2016) at Tales of the Cocktail Spirited Awards and Best Bar Team in London, Time Out Bar Awards (2016).
What’s inside your cocktail cabinet? It's all about bespoke flora and forna ingredients at Dandelyan. From clarified white miso syrup, to concrete washed Cognac & mummified lemons, we set ourselves apart from your average bar by those hours spent working before the lights go down and music comes on.
What’s your signature cocktail? - Our menu changes seasonally so all of the cocktails are signature. But if we had to choose one, it would be the Heirloom as it really highlights seasonality in terms of its flavours and the ingredients used. As we use domesticated varieties of fruits, many trace nutrients were lost – including higher iron content, proteins and trace minerals – as well as flavour. Many of these flavours have been reintroduced to capture the sensation of wild – or exploded fruit.
Where – Skylon
What makes your bar extra special? Skylon bar is a contemporary design bar situated on the third floor of the world-famous Royal Festival Hall. Floor to ceiling windows offer stunning views of the Thames and north bank mythic buildings such as the Savoy. Easy going atmosphere and great cocktails. Friendly professional service.
What’s inside your cocktail cabinet? We’re renowned for our extensive and unique cocktail menu and use a variety of unusual techniques and ingredients – from foams to ice cube carving.
What’s your signature cocktail? Philosopher No3, it is gin infused with a lemon twist, cardamom and lemon thyme. Stir with nettle cordial, ginger liquor and fresh lemon juice - serve in a goblet glass soaked with yellow Chartreuse.
Where – Mark’s Bar at The Old Vic
Special features - We welcomed Mark's Bar to the Dress Circle and Upper Circle area at The Old Vic in late 2015 - it's Mark's Hix's first ever stand alone bar. Expect an eclectic design with an illustration by Chris Martin, an array of artwork and the famous Mark’s neon sign by Tim Nobel and Sue Webster. With a cocktail list of historical curiosities and celebrations and a weekend license until 2am, it makes the perfect late-night drinking spot.
What’s inside your cocktail cabinet? We have a wide selection classics which we’ve given our own spin, from Manhattans to our famous Espresso Martini made with Workshop Coffee. Our themed cocktails take inspiration from the shows on our stage and are served up in beautiful Waterford Crystal Glassware.
Signature Cocktail - Our ‘Hix Fix’ with Cherry Eau de Vie topped up with Taittinger Champagne is always a firm favourite.
Where – Gillray’s at London Marriott Hotel County Hall
Special features – Gillray’s has unparalleled views of Westminster and Big Ben. Named after James Gillray "the father of the political cartoon" the bar features original wood panelling from when the County Hall was the centre of London’s political system and situated in what used to be a reading room - now Gillray's invites people to read from its list of crazy concoctions and botanical masterpieces.
What’s inside your cocktail cabinet? The bar team have designed cocktails to represent the political cartoons of James Gillray. We have a host of cocktail ingredients that are unique to Gillray's, from rhubarb and ginger jam gin, homemade spiced rum and bourbon aged with vanilla and apples in mini barrels behind the bar. Gillray’s also has 40 different gins handpicked by gin specialist and Head Bartender Sam Luis Mitchell who also makes his family recipe of homemade sloe gin behind the bar.
Signature Cocktail - Being an English steakhouse the bar has made signature cocktails to compliment the menu, including our pre-dinner drink Two Penny Whist - a twist on a classic using Langley's No8 gin, Kamm and Son's English aperitif , Sweet vermouth and peach bitters all finished off with Juniper and Cardamom seed smoke.
Where – OXO Bar
What makes your bar extra special? Firstly, at OXO, we have one of the best views in London! We are also currently celebrating our 20th anniversary, and we have a 20 Year Cocktail Menu launching at the end of the month (September). All of the cocktails are created in-house by our amazingly talented bar team. Each year at OXO is represented by one cocktail on the menu to tell the story of the past two decades.
What’s inside your cocktail cabinet? In our Restaurant bar, we have a Martini trolley, allowing our customers to take a journey through time to discover the history of the Martini. Martini cocktails are made up at customers’ tables so they can enjoy the evolution of the cocktails from the comfort of their seats. We have over 500 different wines, so customers are never stuck for choice when they come to dine with us! In both our Restaurant and Brasserie, we have a limited edition JD, which is a UK exclusive for us until October in honour of Jack Daniel’s 150th birthday.
Signature cocktail - Our bestseller is the Pleasure Boat, which is our Tiki concoction that represents the boats seen passing by on the River Thames from our amazing view.
Where - Primo Bar at Park Plaza Westminster Bridge
What’s makes your bar extra special? Primo Bar is a contemporary, yet elegant bar situated on the first floor of Park Plaza Westminster Bridge London Hotel. As one of the Southbank’s best kept secrets, guests can relax and soak up the lively atmosphere with free live music every day of the week. Make sure you reserve a table in our exclusive VIP area to enjoy your favourite cocktail with a spectacular view of Big Ben!
What’s in your cocktail cabinet? We have a cabinet full of the classics, plus a great Gin collection (which our mixologists love to serve up with interesting fruit garnishes) and a selection of must-try Japanese whiskies!
Signature Cocktail - Our most popular drink is our Signature Mojito – we spend nearly 50 hours a year making them!