Cocktail hour (or entire evening) is tempting, but the problem is cocktails can come at a price. Sure, the Artesian may be one of the world’s best cocktail bars, but you’ll pay £17.00 for a martini. Ouch. Even in less acclaimed bars you’ll pay £9.00–£10.00 a drink, minimum.
There are happy hours all over, but where can you quaff cocktails at any time without doing major damage to your wallet? Here are some bars with a good choice for £8.00 or less.
This basement bar is so popular it can be difficult to get in after 6pm. The reason? About 60 cocktail varieties listed on a vast blackboard behind the bar, ranging in price from £6.75 to £9.60. A good third are under £8.00. Leave work early, bag a seat and try the Aztec (tequila, cacao, vanilla and tabasco).
198 Shaftesbury Avenue, WC2H 8JL
We’re not going to pretend this Waterloo stalwart is sophisticated or cool, but it sells cracking Cuban street food and you won’t find a cocktail clocking in at over £7.00. Cubana specialises in mojitos, caipirinhas, daiquiris and other sun-soaked drinks. While you’re in the area, check our guide for more cheap and free things to do
48 Lower Marsh, SE1 7RG
Revel in 1980s Britishness at one of Little Nan’s four leopard-print, swagged-curtain, EastEnders-loving bars. Impressive for a pop-up that emerged at the start of Deptford’s hipster challenge to Shoreditch and Peckham. It’s cocktails in teapots here, each pouring four cups for between £18.00–£21.00. At Catford and Deptford you can buy them individually for £6.00 or £7.00. Ours is a Sexy Frank Butcher.
Broadway Theatre, Catford SE6 4RU / Arches 13-14, Deptford Market Yard, SE8 4BX / beneath the Rio Cinema, 107 Kingsland High Street, E8 2PB / beneath the Golden Anchor pub, 16 Evelina Road, SE15 2DX
There are more teapots at Simmons (teapots are the new jam jars, especially in bars that tend towards the kitsch). While individual cocktails are £8.00 or above, teapots that serve three to four are priced at £20.00. There’s also a Sunday-Friday happy hour 3pm-8pm, but a fiver a drink at any time is still very reasonable.
Lots of branches, including Soho and Camden.
The Chelsea Pensioner
Simmons is also responsible for this bright and modern pub-slash-bar on Fulham Road where normal price cocktails are all under £8.00. That’s before the even-better-value happy hour, where you can pick up two cocktails for a tenner between 4pm and 9pm on weekdays and also Saturdays and Sundays. Then shoot some pool, relax in the courtyard and, if you’re lucky, say hi to the cats.
358 Fulham Road, SW10 9UU
Now a Peckham institution, but a summer-only one since Frank’s perches on the roof of a multi-story car park. Its specialty is the Negroni and there is a definite emphasis on Campari, but you can get a Tom Collins or Dark and Stormy if you like. 2016’s prices were £6.00–£7.50 and we don’t see that changing much. Just be aware that on weekends it gets so popular the queues can be enormous. There’s plenty of great street food to try while you’re there too.
10th floor, 95a Rye Lane, SE15 4GT
This place is part of the ongoing trend for turning high street shops into boozeries. It’s got a homely feel when it’s not crammed full of people which, with most cocktails at £8.00 and under, it usually is. The cocktails have a sophisticated vibe, too; check out the Gin Gin Mule. They also host street food pop-ups—previous residents have included Anna Maes mac and cheese and Nanny Bills burgers. 75 Chamberlayne Road, NW10 3ND
A pub that’s definitely on the gastro side, this Kennington venue does cocktails for £7.50 alongside its quail’s eggs and edamame. Stretch out on a leather banquette and savour a Rude Cosmopolitan.
185 Kennington Lane, SE11 4EZ
Three Eight Four
Thank god for Three Eight Four, saviour of a night out in Brixton when it’s getting late and pennies are running out. It’s a cosy drinking den where your drinks may come in pewter tankards, and the cocktails are on the smokey and savoury side. Most drinks come in at £8.00 or under.
384 Coldharbour Lane, SW9 8LF
Seven at Brixton
This is the sister to Three Eight Four, located in the foodie heaven that is Brixton Market. The drinks are even cheaper—£5.00–£7.50—and more experimental. Cocktails with Earl Grey tea or London Pride beer, anyone?
Unit 7, Market Row, SW9 8LB