If you love cocktails like we do, you’ll always be on the lookout for the best new spots to enjoy the art of mixology.
Finding your next drinking spot just got a whole lot easier with the release of the Top 50 Cocktail Bars list for 2022.
Cardiff’s Lab 22 took top honours, with Swift Soho and The Connaught in London also on the podium.
Below we’ll explore what makes a good cocktail bar, along with the best cocktail bars near you.
What is the UK’s best cocktail bar?
Cardiff’s Lab 22, once described as an up-and-coming bar, has claimed the top spot on the Top 50 Cocktail Bars list.
In just two years, the experimental bar which sits above a well-known bakery (whose name rhymes with “eggs”) has risen 32 places on the list.
Head bartender Max Hayward curates a cocktail menu known for bold and eccentric flavours.
In 2021 the menu won the Siete Misterios Best Cocktail Menu Award at the World’s 50 Best Bars awards.
The current menu, named “Theory + Frontiers”, comes from the bars inspiration from science, exploring themes including invention, and the environment.
The Concrete Daisy incorporates rooftop honey as a nod to urban farming, with ingredients like sea-salt chocolate fish scales in the Point Nemo cocktail giving a nod to marine exploration.
Previous menus have seen bartenders breathing fire, incorporating an element of theatrical magic into their mixology process.
Curious guests can scan a QR code to find out more about the science and inspiration behind the drinks.
The Top 50 Cocktail Bars List
Compiled from votes from hundreds of experts, bartenders, bar owners and drinks writers, the list for 2022 is as follows:
- Lab 22, Cardiff
- Swift Soho, London
- The Connaught Bar, London
- Tayēr + Elementary, London
- Satan’s Whiskers, London
- Bramble Bar & Lounge, Edinburgh
- Three Sheets, London
- Oriole, London
- Panda and Sons, Edinburgh
- Speak in Code, Manchester
- 🔶🟥🔵, London
- Disrepute, London
- Nightjar, London
- Homeboy Bar, London
- American Bar, London
- SCHOFIELD’S BAR, Manchester
- Opium Cocktails & Dim Sum Parlour, London
- Coupette, London
- Artesian, London
- Scarfes Bar, London
- Trailer Happiness, London
- Lucky Liquor co., Edinburgh
- Happiness Forgets, London
- Jake’s Bar & Still Room, Leeds
- Little Mercies, London
- The Absent Ear, Glasgow
- The Milk Thistle, Bristol
- Berry & Rye, Liverpool
- Laki Kane, London
- Filthy XIII, Bristol
- Lyaness, London
- Roland’s Leeds, Leeds
- Gungho!, Brighton
- Hacha, London
- The Hideout, Bath
- Pennyroyal, Cardiff
- Couch, Birmingham
- Bar Termini, London
- Below Stairs, Leeds
- Hey Palu, Edinburgh
- Public, Sheffield
- Hedonist, Leeds
- Present Company, Liverpool
- The Pineapple Club, Birmingham
- , London
- Ojo Rojo, Bournemouth
- L’ Atelier du Vin, Brighton
- Callooh Callay, London
- Mother Mercy, Newcastle upon Tyne
- The Cocktail Trading Co, London
What are the best cocktail bars near me?
Best Cocktail Bars in London
London is surely one of the UK’s best drinking spots, taking half of the positions on the Top 50 Cocktail Bars list.
Choose from the class and sophistication of the Connaught Bar in Mayfair to Irish inspirated Homeboy in Islington.
From the trendy Tayēr + Elementary in Shoreditch, and agave inspired Hacha in Dalston, there really is something for every taste.
Read more: We recently released our take on the best bars in London.
Best Cocktail Bars in Manchester
Manchester took two spots on this year’s list, with Speak in Code’s imaginative menu and industrial New York vibes delighting judges to place them in the top ten.
Joining them is Schofield’s Bar at number 16. Sitting in an art deco building, guests can enjoy some of the owner’s favourite books, which are paired to cocktails.
Sipping a Vesper Martini whilst reading Casino Royale. Yes, please.
The Manc bar scene is diverse and extensive, so we compiled our list of the best bars in the northern powerhouse.
Best Cocktails Bars in Edinburgh
It was a good year for Edinburgh, with two bars in the top ten.
The well-hidden gem Bramble Bar & Lounge takes number six, with prohibition themed Panda and Sons following in number eight.
Hidden behind a false barber-shop exterior, the downstairs bar at Panda and Sons offers a menu with six chapters, each focusing on various areas of mixology.
With a wide variety of bars and restaurants on offer, Scotland’s capital has long been known as a fantastic weekend getaway spot.
Here’s The Society’s rundown of the best bars in Edinburgh.
Best Cocktail Bars in Birmingham
As any true Brummie (this writer included) will tell you, Birmingham has more canals than Venice.
Thankfully for cocktail lovers there are also a selection of great bars.
We’ve long sang the praises of Couch, situated in south Birmingham.
The design is sleek and elegant, with a menu inspired by famous songs.
The bar menu itself is a thing of beauty, with hand drawn images showcasing the inspiration of the drink designed by Alana Patchett.
The funky Pineapple Club takes a well-deserved place at number 43, with Bar Ikigai taking the Newcomer of the Year award.
We reviewed the best bars in Birmingham for any occasion.
Best Cocktail Bars in Cardiff
With Lab 22 taking the top spot on the list, Cardiff should be on any cocktail lover’s itinerary.
With 300 spirits and a beautiful Victorian inspired design, Pennyroyal takes number 36.
We’re busy compiling our take on the best bars in the Welsh capital, so if you think your local deserves to be on the list then get in touch via our socials!
Best Cocktail Bars in Leeds
Leeds has long been vying with Manchester to take the title of best cocktail city in the Northwest.
With four bars on this year’s list, you could argue that time has arrived.
From the inventive Jake’s Bar & Still Room who create their own shrubs and bitters, to Roland’s Leeds which has a variety of different spaces perfect to any occasion, there is a lot to choose from.
The relaxed vibes of Below Stairs make this a perfect space for sipping delicious cocktails, and Hedonist at the heart of the city should not be missed.
Reviewed: The Cocktail Society lists our top bars in Leeds.
Best Cocktail Bars in Newcastle
Intimate basement bar Mother Mercy takes spot number 48 on this year’s Top 50 Cocktail Bars list.
As we’ve previously explored, Newcastle’s rich and vibrant range of bars means it’s well worth a visit.
Read more: our take on the best bars in Newcastle.
Best Cocktail Bars in Oxford
There were no Oxford bars listed on this year’s list, but as we’re in the area we couldn’t resist adding in our take on the best bars in Oxfordshire. Maybe next year, hey?
What makes a good cocktail bar?
Every cocktail bar is different.
For example, The Connaught in London, often cited as one of the world’s best bars, has a distinctly different feel to Berry and Rye in Liverpool.
Similarly, guests will have different, but equally epic experiences visiting Satan’s Whiskers in Bethnal Green, as they would at Panda and Sons in Edinburgh, or Lab 22 in Cardiff.
It’s this variety that makes the experience of visiting a cocktail bar near you so great – as each venue will draw upon their own area and other influences.
Of course, there are certain elements which remain the same across the board.
First impressions can make or break a cocktail experience. The look and feel of a bar sets the tone.
Bar design, lighting, and greeting from staff should all be considered to kick off the experience.
These elements should combine to tell you a story. What is this place you’ve entered, and what journey are you going to be taken on?
The look and feel of a great cocktail bar also extend to the staff.
The white jackets of the mixologists at the Savoy or the Connaught evoke a timeless elegance, inspired by earlier times in bar history.
Whereas visitors to bars with a more modern design like Satan’s Whiskers will often see the bar team in jeans and floral shirts.
A great cocktail bar will also stock a wide variety of spirits.
Even if their cocktail menu revolves around the classic recipes like the Espresso Martini or the Negroni, including a range of different gin, vodka, rum, tequila, and whisky will allow the bartenders to experiment with different flavour profiles.
As well as making out of this world drinks, great hospitality is the mark of an esteemed cocktail bar.
Many people often ask us, can you order any cocktail at a bar?
In essence, it’s a tricky one!
Lots of the bar teams from the Top 50 Cocktail Bars list curate their own cocktail menus.
Creating bespoke cocktails, each with a history and unique inspiration, is an act of love, a mark of the passion these bartenders have for their craft.
However, a good bartender also needs to be flexible to the needs of the customer.
So, if you fancy a vodka tonic – just ask for one.
The best hospitality professionals know how to guide you through their menu but are flexible enough to adapt their offering to suit you.
UK Cocktail Bars Ranked
The venues listed above are without doubt some of the best cocktail bars in the UK.
However, with more great talent coming into the industry, it’s likely we’ll see more bars vying for the top spot.
The Cocktail Society are a bunch of cocktail and drinks fanatics. We love exploring and finding the best of cocktail culture, so if you think we should add a bar to this list, get in touch and let us know!