Joel Harrison and Neil Ridley have arguably the most enviable jobs imaginable, scouring the globe for the best drinking experiences known to humanity. The duo’s latest book Straight Up covers over 550 of the world’s best drinking experiences, from rock ‘n’ roll dive bars, through to rum retreats and even Martini joints worthy of James Bond.
Here, they detail their top ten locations in the UK to get tipsy.
The Crobar, London
There is one hell of a band assembling in the afterlife: Hendrix on guitar; Lemmy on bass; Bonham on drums. Think of the noise this lot would make, and you’ve got the vibe of The Crobar. Boasting the most diverse collection of people at any bar in London, post-midnight with the fallout from Soho’s clubs melting in with off-duty bartenders, band members and those just not ready to go home. Don’t expect table service or fancy cocktails. Do expect to keep on drinking. To have to shout. And to probably lose your shoes. That’s the sort of thing that happens here. Welcome to The Crobar.
17 Manette Street, London W1D 4AS / +44(0)20 7439 0831 / crobar.co.uk
The Edgbaston, Birmingham
As boutique hotels go, The Edgbaston in Birmingham has to be one of the smallest, but arguably most perfectly formed, with just six bedrooms, each one delivering a timeless Victorian elegance. However, it is the cocktail lounge – or three of them to be precise – that has been turning heads since the hotel opened two and a half years ago. Slick table service gives the whole place an elegance harking back to the Art Deco age of drinking. Keep an eye out for the masterclasses from luminaries of the drinks industry, who seldom travel outside of London when imparting their wisdom to a UK audience, but clearly see The Edgbaston as something very special indeed.
18 Highfield Road, Edgbaston, Birmingham B15 3DU
+44 (0)121 454 5212 / theedgbaston.co.uk
The divide of London’s hipster hangouts in the East, and the posh hotel bars of Mayfair and St James has been bridged by the brilliant DandeLyan, near London Bridge. The brainchild of award winning bartender Mr Lyan, aka Ryan Chetiyawardana and his team, it is simply a must on the cocktail trail of England’s capital city.
Mondrian, 20 Upper Ground, London SE1 9PD
+44 (0)20 3747 1063 / morganshotelgroup.com
The Smugglers Cove, Liverpool
Head to the recently refurbished Albert Docks in Liverpool and you might think that you’ve entered the set of Pirates Of The Caribbean, especially when you swing through the doors of The Smugglers Cove. This isn’t a pirate-themed bar, but it certainly takes its in influence from the era of tall ships, export on the high seas and, of course, rum. The bar itself is absolutely cavernous, which mirrors the extensive rum list – that’s doing it a disservice as it’s an actual book all about the history of rum so comprehensive that you would be hard-pressed to find this level of passion and sheer volume of the spirit anywhere else in the world. This alone makes The Smugglers Cove an essential place to visit, me hearties…
Britannia Pavillion, Albert Dock, Liverpool L3 4AD / +44 (0)151 703 6555 / thesmugglerscove.uk.com
The Pot Still, Glasgow
Whisky, whisky, whisky – in one compact public house. Glasgow’s Pot Still is a shining light on Hope Street; a venue that has become a destination for almost every weary whisky connoisseur travelling on to the outer reaches of Scotland. The interior is still that of a classic Victorian pub: dark wooden alcoves are lined with every conceivable bottle of whisky (over 700) that you could think of. All this and the simple pleasure of a plate of pie and beans. Genius.
154 Hope Street, Glasgow G2 2TH / +44 (0)141 333 0980 / thepotstill.co.uk
Dukes Bar, London
If we had our way, every great bar in the world would have its own unique theme tune to hum while you sipped and savoured their delicacies. At Dukes, supposedly the location where Ian Fleming developed some of his most memorable characters, this theme tune would surely be Monty Norman’s ‘James Bond Theme’ and the cocktail list reflects this: from the zesty double punch of the classic Vesper, through to the 89 Jermyn Street, a Martini based around Bond’s favourite fragrance, ‘89’. And their Martini… well, it packs more of a punch than Jaws.
Dukes, 35 St James’s Place, London SW1A 1NY / +44 (0)20 7491 4840 dukeshotel.com
The Lucky Liquor Co, Edinburgh
The Lucky Liquor Co is one of a bouquet of booze boutiques that adorn the city and is unmissable, with its large neon sign proclaiming simply ‘liquor’. Across two floors, you’ll find incredible drinks in an American diner style environment. The chequered floor upstairs sets the scene for a laid-back drinking experience. Downstairs you’ll find a pool table, perfect for hanging out with one of their brilliant cocktails. They even do take-away versions. What’s not to like?
39A Queen Street, Edinburgh EH2 3NH / +44 (0)131 226 3976 / luckyliquorco.com
Red Light, Bristol
Hidden on Bristol’s Unity Street is a place designed to be missed. Spot the red light, pick up a phone and call down to the best-dressed bartenders. The bar calls itself an ‘adult drinking den’, but is really an Art Deco hangout. The cocktails are wittily grouped into playful adult areas (’foreplay’ etc.) and come sensibly priced.
1 Unity Street, Bristol BS1 5HH / +44 (0)117 929 1453 / redlightbristol.xxx
Bar Swift, London
One of the latest in a string of new bar openings in London, Swift in Soho is spread over two levels, each one offering something completely different. The bar is the brainchild of husband and wife super-team Bobby Hiddleston and Mia Johansson, and their combined passion is on display in every drink. Head upstairs and have a wonderfully light aperitif-style sherry and tonic, and after this has woken up your taste buds, pop downstairs for one of the best whiskey lists in London and a perfectly weighted menu of big flavoured classic cocktails. Their Irish Coffee is perhaps the best in the world.
12 Old Compton Street, London W1D 4TQ / +44 (0)20 7437 7820 / barswift.com
The Grill, Aberdeen
The Grill in Aberdeen hides in plain sight, masked by fogged out windows and elderly facades, yet hiding behind is a great drinking experience. Established in 1870 as a restaurant on Aberdeen’s main street (complete with ‘billiards table and electric lighting’), The Grill is pretty much unchanged from this time with unusual oxidized-bronze fascia panels and scrollwork on the exterior still in place today; it feels very traditional both from the outside and the inside. Yet this bar is really the heart and soul of drinking in Aberdeen, with a fantastically warm atmosphere, a great selection of ales and an even better list of whiskies. They even feature their own bottlings from time to time.
213 Union Street, Aberdeen AB11 6BA / +44 (0)1224 573530 / thegrillaberdeen.co.uk