Sometimes the coolest cocktail bars are also the hardest ones to find. After all, they wouldn’t be nearly as chic if everybody knew about them, right? But lucky for you (and your Instagram feed—just wait until you see the swoon-worthy drinks!), we did a little digging and tracked down Britain’s most hidden watering holes. Can you keep a secret?
The Dead Canary
Cardiff CF10 2FR, UK
Finding this secret speakeasy, located in the basement of an isolated alleyway in Cardiff’s city center is no easy feat, but trust us, the impressive cocktails make up for it. There’s no sign (or actual address for that matter), just an industrial steel door with an empty birdcage hanging above the entranceway. It may not look like much from the outside, but ring the buzzer and step inside, and you’ll be transported into a 1920’s style speakeasy outfitted with velvet couches, dark wood, and stiff drinks. Order one of the house specialities like “Way of the Ninjah” or “Dead and Dirty” and prepare to be dazzled as the expert mixologists shake, stir, (and sometimes, light on fire) your drink to perfection.
The Blind Pig
58 Poland Street
Soho, London W1F 7NR
For artfully-crafted cocktails with a dramatic flair, head to London’s Social House in Soho—but don’t grab a table in the main dining area. Walk to the back of the restaurant and up the thin stairs until you reach the upper-level. There, you’ll find one of the hottest lounges in the city. Featuring antique mirrored ceilings, reclaimed wooden chairs, and a copper-topped bar, it’s the perfect fusion of downtown cool and upscale style. But the real draw are the cocktails, which are fashioned with such technical precision (including tweezers!) that you’d swear the bartenders were mixing toxic chemicals and not flavored tonics. For a grown-up twist on one of your childhood candies, try the Kindergarten Cup - skittle washed vodka, Aperol wham-bar syrup, lemon, and egg white.
Hoot the Redeemer
7 Hanover Street
Edinburgh EH2 1DJ, UK
It would be a crime to visit Scotland without sampling a bit of whisky, but if the thought of sipping it straight sends shivers down your spine, we’ve got the place for you. Located down a flight of steep stairs beside Bella Italia is a funhouse-themed bar offering beer, wine, specialty cocktails, and naturally, boozy ice-cream and slushies. Can’t decide what to order? Treat yourself to a double-dip of “Oreos over Dublin” and “Whisky and Dark Chocolate,” or rally your pals for an alcoholic ice-cream social and sample them all. If mixing dairy and liquor makes you feel queasy—or if you’re looking for something a bit more high-brow—the bar also serves a selection of wine-infused sorbets. Now you can really rosé all day.
36b Carlton Street
Nottingham NG1 1NN, UK
At first glance, this Nottingham watering hold looks like a sketchy electrics shop—there’s even a sullen salesman standing guard (don’t worry, he’s the bouncer). But walk through the entranceway and through the “staff room” door near the sink, and you’ll find yourself in a trendy (yet surprisingly, low-key) cocktail bar. Despite the hidden entrance, everything else is pretty straightforward: strong drinks, reasonable prices, and comfortable chairs to relax in. But what you won’t find is dancing—it’s a house rule. To quote the establishment directly: “The aim is for you to chill, our method is booze, and the playground is Boilermaker.” Enough said.
1-3 Call Lane
Leeds LS1 7DH, UK
For stylish cocktails (and an equally stylish crowd to boot), head to Call Lane and follow the hidden staircase to the doors emblazoned “M” and you’ll enter a room concealed behind darkened windows. Though it’s hard-to-find by design, if you’re really struggling, simply shoot the bar and message and one of the bartenders will send you detailed directions (talk about service!) Once you make your way inside, grab a seat at one of the tall wooden stools and let the magic of mixology begin. And just in case you can’t find a cocktail that strikes your fancy, the expert barkeeps will happily shake, twist, and swirl the perfect concoction.