When you’re situated between two of the North’s most popular and thriving nightlife scenes (Newcastle & Manchester), it makes it difficult to build up your own nightlife reputation.
Leeds, however, is not a city to be underestimated and when it comes to their cocktail bar offering, they more than hold their own against some of the other big cities up North.
Call Lane & Boar Lane have become something of a bar/cocktail breeding ground and with a handful of noteworthy bars scattered around the city centre, Leeds has a selection of cocktail bars to suit all tastes and occasions.
With this in mind, we’ve put together a list rounding up the best bars in Leeds so that you don’t need to waste any time trying to find those hidden (or not so hidden) gems.
1 Call Ln, Leeds, LS1 7DH
To kick off this list we have arguably the most well known (globally) cocktail bar that Leeds has to offer. The Maven was initially discreetly located on Call Lane in a Victorian building with an unmarked door, so customers were, therefore, those that were “in the know”.
Fast forward to 2021 though and The Mavens reputation precedes itself. It’s now much less of a hidden gem and more of a must-visit cocktail bar! With a 1920’s inspired decor and Prohibition-era style drinks, The Maven is all about vintage/classic cocktails with modern presentation and mixology.
Whether you opt for the fresh Hibiscus Swizzle – Monkey 47 gin combined with hibiscus syrup and blackberries – or the stronger hitting Velvet Punch with Havana Club 7yo and Mandarin liqueur, you can be sure that it will take you back to the 1920s without disappointing on taste.
156 Lower Briggate, Leeds LS1 6LY
Originally launched as a pop-up bar for events and festivals, the Hedonist project evolved over the years eventually becoming a mainstay destination in the city centre. The core message is to create a bar with a homely feel for family and friends as they brand themselves a neighbourhood bar – in the city centre.
Hedonist bar is most well-known for its seasonal concept menus which take inspiration from travel guides around the world. The quality of cocktails has seen them scoop up multiple awards internationally whilst also making it onto the list of the top 50 cocktails bars in the UK for a brief spell (https://www.top50cocktailbars.com/).
While Hedonist is known for their concept menus, they’ve toned down the frequency of menu change over the years (it was initially every 3-4 months!) yet still, bring out a new concept on occasion. At the time of writing, their “specials” menu is Project One, a selection of cocktails with only one unit of alcohol for more responsible/casual drinking.
The Domino Club
7 Grand Arcade, Leeds, LS1 6PG
The Domino Club is a classic, speakeasy cocktail bar with retro decor, live music playing most nights and a stripped-back yet classic cocktail range.
Located via a stairway in the back of a barbershop, this underground bar oozes a laidback and sophisticated drinking experience. The dark interior with red lined booths is as though early 20th-century American jazz bars have been directly re-imagined in the heart of Leeds.
The Prohibition-era inspiration is clear to see with one glance at the back bar (lined with a vast selection of American rye & bourbon) and cocktail ranges featuring the Devil May Cry – rum, sugar can and Campari – and a Lord’s Above – cognac and cherry liqueur.
The bar also features a “break-even liquid” offer where each week, they sell a special/unique spirit at cost price (hence break-even) which enables customers to experience a spirit they might otherwise never try. The Domino Club, therefore, cater to both cocktail drinkers and those looking for a more casual evening drink.
Yorkshire House, Greek St, Leeds LS1 5SH
Situated in the popular drinking and dining area of Greek Street, the Alchemist provides a unique and experiential cocktail range, unlike anything Leeds has had before. The cocktail range is not only extensive but served up with an element of theatre for a truly immersive cocktail experience.
While the food is great, you go to the Alchemist to experience the cocktail mastery served up by knowledgeable and skilled bartenders. The molecular concoctions range from dry ice infusions and changing colours to hot/cold combinations, you can be sure there’s a cocktail to both entertain and inspire.
As the Alchemist is a national chain, the concept itself is not unique to Leeds but it’s also far from a standard duplicate menu repeated in different cities. If you’re looking for a unique cocktail experience, there are few bars that can do it better in Leeds.
17 Park Row, Leeds LS1 5JQ
The Decanter is technically a wine bar but also offers up a great cocktail range. Situated in the financial district of Leeds, this bar is a stylish, upmarket, and sophisticated venue for those that are looking for a more premium offering.
The exposed brickwork, reclaimed wood bar and black plush seating create an urban vibe and despite being billed as a quiet speakeasy, The Decanter is always busy providing a great & vibrant atmosphere.
Among this list, The Decanter has arguably the most basic menu when it comes to the cocktail range (with a focus on premium spirits and classic serves), yet for the experience and quality of the venue, it more than holds its own as a prime cocktail bar destination.
18 Park Row, Leeds, LS1 5JA
Situated alongside its sister venue – The Decanter – Thewlis is the go-to option for an extensive cocktail offering. Named after Leeds-born architect Joseph Thewlis, Thewlis Cocktail Lounge is a modern bar that looks to stay true to the buildings (and cities) heritage.
The stunning venue features the ‘frieze’ designed by Joseph Thewlis, an NYC style interior (comfortable booth seating and decadent design), and a library-style bar that is stocked close to an emporium spirit standard. From this extensive spirit collection, you’ll find an equally extensive cocktail range as the Co-owners have taken inspiration from both London and NYC cocktail bars.
Their expert mixologists have created a unique menu, comprising 30 cocktails that can’t be found elsewhere alongside 10 classic cocktails from which they’ve drawn inspiration for their other range. Thewlis is strictly a drinks only bar with cocktails at the forefront so if you’re looking for a cocktail experience in Leeds, Thewlis have you covered.
29 Call Ln, Leeds, LS1 7BT
Possibly the oldest and most well-known cocktail bar in Leeds, Jake’s Bar has been successfully providing cocktails for locals & visitors for over fifteen years. What allows Jake’s Bar to stand out is not only a consistent offering of solid cocktail ranges but the fact that they also double as a distillery!
This allows them to create their own spirits and liqueurs meaning that when you sample the house cocktails, you’re truly getting a unique drink. Alongside the drink range, Jake’s is known as a party location so if you’re looking for a dance and bustling atmosphere then this bar is going to be your ideal stop.
Don’t just take our word for it either, Jake’s Bar is currently holding down position 15 on the world top 50 cocktail bars, UK (source – https://www.top50cocktailbars.com/?paged=1#the-list).
Level 6, Trinity, 70 Boar Ln, Leeds LS1 6HW
Angelica is a penthouse venue offering panoramic city views and a wraparound terrace making it one of the most Instagram ready cocktail bars in the city. The cocktail range is strictly “classic” with a premium base. Bramble, Daiquiri, Pornstar Martini, Dark N Stormy and Negroni are just a few of the well-made staples that you can expect to find.
The premium trend features Belvedere vodka, Tanqueray 10 gin, and Don Julio Blanco as top-shelf spirits being used as the standard for a high quality pour with each cocktail. There is also a sponsored Ketel One menu with six specially curated vodka-based cocktails.
If you’re looking for a classy drinking experience with a view, Angelica is a must-visit cocktail bar and is loved by locals and visitors alike.
5 Cross Belgrave St, Leeds LS2 8JP
Often referred to as a drinking den, the Blind Tyger is a snug bar with intimate booths and quirky decor. Its main late-night draw is offering a relaxed and quiet drinking atmosphere but don’t let its quiet exterior detract from the cocktail menu which really provides all of the noise!
The main drawer for the Blind Tyger is premium spirits and homemade ingredients which allow them to create a truly high-quality cocktail menu. The GOD’S OWN COCKTAIL is their signature cocktail described as an “easy-going number with added Yorkshire” which consists of Wyborowa vodka, Briottet rhubarb liqueur, pomegranate syrup, pineapple juice
While the bar is known for a cosy and intimate experience, the Blind Tyger also offers cocktail masterclasses packages so large groups can use it as a party option or work social.
12 S Parade, Leeds, LS1 5QS
A unique/quirky cocktail bar – Below Stairs is situated beneath the streets of Leeds (hence the name) and has experienced ever-growing recognition since its inception in 2017. The venue is very much intentional in its design from the classic decor and antique furniture giving a sophisticated appearance, though also trying to create a friendly and pub-style experience at the same time.
The burgeoning reputation is for good reason as well, each of the 14 cocktails on the menu has quite clearly been carefully crafted and curated. Firstly, the cocktails come with their own back story and how many cocktail bars offer this level of detail? The reason being is that all the cocktails are created in house and aim to tell a story.
Primary Education is a great example. It’s inspired by the brother-owners childhood when their mother would make warm porridge and is created with Jameson Whisky infused with Oat, Bols Genever Butter-Washed, Muscovado Sugar and Cocchi Americano.
We felt this bar was the best one to finish off the list as it’s a great testament and example of the thriving cocktail bar scene in Leeds which is only set to grow more into the future.