The best speakeasy bars in London

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Born out of necessity during the American prohibition era, modern-day speakeasy bars definitely ooze more glamour and sophistication than the unregulated underground establishments of the 1920s. When a 1919 law decreed the sale of alcohol illegal in the US, it largely had the opposite effect, driving drinking culture into smoke-filled, moonshine-drenched basements. 

Transplanted across the pond and with the benefit of a century’s worth of rose-tinted nostalgia, today’s speakeasies are less about illicit drinking and more about having a properly good time (and, of course, getting some great content for the ‘gram). And in that spirit (excuse the pun), London’s speakeasy bars aren’t afraid to pull out all the stops when it comes to live entertainment, decadent surroundings and unique cocktail menus. So if you fancy going underground for a tipple or two, allow us to point you in the right direction… 

Lost Property Office, Waterloo

Tucked away behind a disguised door in Brewdog’s Waterloo pub, you quite literally need to pick up the telephone and call to be let into the Lost Property Office. Once escorted through the hallway, you’ll find yourself in a small, low-lit room decorated in a minimalistic fashion with plush red sofas and stools from which to watch the mixologists at work. The cosy hideaway, which only opened last year, is the brainchild of award-winning cocktail connoisseur Rich Woods, who has created a delectable menu of classic and unique concoctions, including the Full Flex, similar to a Manhattan with bourbon, cacao butter, ancho chilli and grapefruit oils, and the Lagerita featuring hopped tequila, lime, blood orange and bergamot. 

Brewdog Waterloo, 1 The Sidings, SE1 7BH, visit

The Den, Soho

The Den, a speakeasy piano bar beneath 100 Wardour Street, reopened its doors last autumn having undergone an extensive refurbishment that pays homage to the venue’s storied musical roots. Previously home to the Marquee Club, where music legends including The Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, David Bowie and Fleetwood Mac performed, The Den makes no secret of its famed heritage. Decorated with chart-topping vinyls and vibrant artwork by acclaimed London artist David Studwell, whose contemporary pieces are inspired by musical greats of the 1960s and 70s, the stripped-back décor, plush leather seating and moody lighting reflects a traditional speakeasy vibe.

Music lovers won’t be disappointed, with a roster of pianists performing every Thursday to Sunday, accompanied by a carefully-curated menu featuring innovative musically-inspired cocktails. We recommend trying Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door, a whisky-based serve with Disaronno and vanilla, or the tequila-based Purple Haze featuring all-spice liqueur, cranberry and ginger ale. 

100 Wardour Street, W1F 0TN, visit

Mayahuel, Marylebone


Located in the basement of acclaimed Mexican restaurant, Cavita, this equally-fiery cocktail bar specialises in unique mezcals and tequilas. The simplistic furnishings — think untouched brick walls and wooden seating — are designed not to detract from the extensive cocktail menu and distinctive drinking experience, curated by head bartender Manuel Lema, previously at La Bodega Negra. Featuring agave flights, mezcal mixes and Mexican spirits, Mayahuel also offers a limited menu of bar snacks, including tostadas, esquites and quesabirrias, to emphasise each cocktail’s flavour profile.

60 Wigmore Street, W1U 2RZ, visit

Barts, Chelsea

barts chelsea

Image: Johnny Stephens Photography

Barts isn’t just an underground bar; it’s a playful, theatrical drinking experience that starts the moment you find yourself outside 87 Sloane Avenue. Don’t be fooled by the B&B sign: after a barman has checked you’re not lost travellers looking for a place to stay, you’ll be escorted downstairs into an eccentric bar adorned with a graffiti-scribbled Mona Lisa and taxidermy stag on ruby-red walls, all inspired by the apartment of fictitious Chicago gangster, Uncle Barts. Head to the fancy dress box to take your pick of crazy outfits before sipping sweet cocktails from teacups. You might even be lucky enough to spot the Masked Mixologist: London’s most elusive bartender who has a reputation for the most exquisite drinks. 

87 Sloane Avenue, SW3 3DW, visit

Nightjar, Shoreditch

The epitome of speakeasy sophistication, you can find the golden hues and classy vibes of Nightjar behind a hidden door near Old Street. Taking serious pride in its menu, Nightjar has a reputation for some of the most delectable cocktails on the underground scene. Divided into four sections — pre-prohibition, prohibition, post-war and Nightjar Signatures — pick from the Grand Martini (parmesan and porcini Whitley Neill gin and smokey apple vermouth) or Name of the Samurai (Suntory Toki whisky, popcorn tea infusion, mirin and rice syrup). Not sure what to choose? Not a problem, sit back and let the team create your perfect cocktail. 

129 City Road, EC1V 1JB, visit

Below & Hidden, Clerkenwell

below and hidden

If you’re not ready for the party to end, it’s time to take a trip to Below & Hidden. Situated underneath Bourne and Hollingsworth’s sophisticated restaurant, the bright dancing den is the perfect spot for a nightcap. By day, the intimate room plays host to exhibitions, cocktail classes, life drawing and yoga classes. However, when the clock strikes midnight, the tapestry-covered walls are stripped back to reveal floor-to-ceiling LED light panels while the DJ’s fun sets will keep you on the dancefloor. 

42 Northampton Road, EC1R 0HU, visit

Discount Suit Company, Shoreditch

What was once a popular tailor in Shoreditch is now home to a classic speakeasy bar, paying homage to its roots with its name: Discount Suit Company. Follow an unassuming staircase to the basement below and find leather armchairs and vintage coffee tables, creating a relaxed atmosphere against a soundtrack of northern soul and rock’n’roll. The cocktails are reasonably priced (less than £10) and perfect for those always up for trying something different. We love The Bogan — Bombay Sapphire gin, regal rogue lively white vermouth, kiwi and macadamia — and, rather helpfully, each cocktail’s description recommends another one on the menu with similar flavours so you’ll never be disappointed with what you order. 

29A Wentworth Street, E1 7TB, visit

Cahoots, Soho

cahoots london

Probably one of the best-known speakeasy bars in the capital, Cahoots is famed for its wartime atmosphere which will transport you back to the 1940s the minute you step through the door. The underground bar was used as an air raid shelter during the Second World War and has now been transformed into an old tube station, featuring vintage adverts and sandbags. The retro cocktail menu doesn’t disappoint with highlights including Dig For Victory — Woodford Reserve Bourbon whiskey, Cointreau orange liqueur, red pepper and passion fruit cordial — and the unique Enemy Of The State, comprising Wasabi-infused Enemigo 89 Añejo Cristalino tequila, watermelon cordial and agave. 

13 Kingly Court, W1B 5PW, visit

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