London’s known for having the crème de la crème of cocktail bars, but does that mean there aren’t amazing haunts to be found elsewhere? Hell to the no. We thought we’d shun the capital for a change, so we’ve called on the nightlife know-it-alls at DesignMyNight for the low-down on the UK’s best watering holes. From a bar hidden inside a vintage barber shop to cocktails made with laughing gas; start ticking this lot off, one tipple at a time.
1. Cane and Grain – Manchester
Rib joint, tiki haven and scientific cocktail lounge? There aren’t many places like Cane and Grain around, are there? You can grab dribble-worthy comfort food during the day, before the cocktails flow thick and fast at night. There’s three menus to choose from too, so whether you’re after a gin-laced Juice Springsteen or an experimental American fizz served with co2 gas or a heady Zombie; you’ll be catered for at this one-of-a-kind haunt.
2. Dirty Martini – Birmingham
You’ve not experienced Instagrammable Miami-chic until you’ve seen the interiors at Dirty Martini in Birmingham. Like, seriously; they’ve got neon-red ‘talk dirty to me’ signs adorning the walls alongside other jaw-dropping interiors. The menu is martini-focused (you can get down with the likes of orange sherbert and chocolate) but they serve classic cocktails too. It opens in April, so make damn sure you pencil in a date to visit.
3. BYOC – Brighton
Better at drinking cocktails than making them? Us too. Luckily there’s amazing bars like BYOC Brighton, where you bring along your favourite spirit, and the experts behind the bar create bespoke cocktails based on your taste preferences. Their Brighton joint is all about speakeasy vibes, so dress shmancy.
4. Ex-Directory – Liverpool
Sure, London’s got plenty of secret bars, but Ex-Directory in Liverpool is as elusive as they come. You’ll enter through a red telephone booth into a brooding basement bar where you’ll be met with an out-of-this-world cocktail list. Think gin-laced sharers served in bathtubs with lavender bubbles, drinks topped with candy floss and cocktails in disco balls.
5. Panda and Sons – Edinburgh
Walking through a barbershop and down a staircase might not be your bog-standard entrance to a bar, but then there’s nothing bog-standard about Panda and Sons. Inspired by a lavish vintage establishment, these guys churn out some of the best cocktails in the city. The menu is split into six parts, based on classic cocktails, pandas and everything in between.
6. The Hockley Arts Club – Nottingham
A ridiculously Instagrammable bar with a delectable cocktail list? That’ll be The Hockley Arts Club in Nottingham. The first room looks like a vintage pub with Scandi-vibes, the blue room is packed with mismatch lampshades with chesterfield sofas and there’s even a gin and prosecco garden-themed bar; so there’s more than one place to revel in their cocktail creations.
7. Her Majesty’s Secret Service – Bristol
Like the sound of drinking up the UK’s best attractions in cocktail form? Check out Her Majesty’s Secret Service in Bristol. Their menu is hidden inside a pocket edition travel guide; and it spans the likes of the Loch Ness Mobster that’s made with tequila, absinthe and laughing gas, to a Blackpool Pleasure Beach made with Grey Goose, kiwi sherbet and a twister lolly.
8. The Maven – Leeds
You might need Google Maps to find The Maven (it’s located behind an unsigned door), but it’ll be oh-so-worth-it ‘cause it’s a certified gem. Sporting sophisticated vibes where the cocktails are a work of art; whatever your poison – be it a gin-laced English Garden or rum-based Mai Tai – you can expect each tipple to be as delish as the last.
9. The Dead Canary – Cardiff
There’s plenty of bars in Cardiff, but there’s nowhere like The Dead Canary. With an upstairs lab where they make cocktail ingredients, a Grade II listed setting and a jazz music soundtrack; it’s kind of a big deal. The menu is inspired by Mabinogion (that’s 13th century Welsh folktales), so expect a creative and pretty-as-a-picture offering of drinks.
10. The Book Cover – Exeter
The Book Cover might look like your average bookshop, but inside you’ll find a cocktail bar that story-filled dreams are made of. There’s a password to get in (it’ll be on their Facebook page) and you’ll be awarded with an electro swing-themed wonderland of ornate vintage trinkets. Cocktail-wise; each drink tells a story, whether it’s a prohibition staple or a liquid tale of the Mediterranean.