A London Cocktail Week burger, packed with private members clubs, bar crawls and a floating space drink on the side

This Life Recipe reveals how you can explore some of London’s best and most exclusive cocktail bars for less during London Cocktail Week.

Ingredients (all prices per person)
1 x half price London Cocktail Week digital pass from Time Out (£5)
5 x LCW cocktails at £6 each (£30)
Total: £35

Method
It was London Cocktail Week last week – one of my favourite dates in London’s jam-packed calendar where you get to explore dozens of the capital’s best (and often most secret) bars to sample their weird and wonderful cocktail creations.

This is the third year in a row that I’ve been. I was amazed to see how the event has grown to become the world’s biggest cocktail festival with over 250 of the city’s top venues taking part. Knowing this, it wasn’t hard to convince a group of seven friends to join me for a bar crawl on the Saturday (my friend James even beat me on the deal front by finding half price passes for the festival on Time Out!).

This year’s festival was ticket, wristband and guidebook free for the first time as Drink Up London created a digital pass and guide on their very useful event app. This made it easy to plot our route and pick up the best bars (and tastiest sounding cocktails) to try. We decided to explore the Bloomsbury / Soho area with it’s bountiful array of watering holes.

Here are the highlights from this year’s festival:

Flight Club Bloomsbury
We started our bar crawl at 5pm in Bloomsbury and after being turned away from the extremely rude members of staff at The Bloomsbury Club (who had signed up to London Cocktail Week but wouldn’t let non-members in on the day… sigh), we stumbled across the incredible Flight Club. This was a great start to the evening as we made our way down to the secret basement to discover a lively Victorian fairground themed bar with cheesy music and social darts games.

We stepped up onto the carousel bar, showed our LCW passes and handed out the first round of festival cocktails called “Life’s a Peach” (Bulleit Bourbon, black tea, peach liqueur, lemon, sugar syrup and rosemary garnish). A quick cheers followed by a catch up over the tasty cocktails (in what was an incredibly lively bar for 5pm on a Saturday) and we were ready to carry on to the next stop.

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Basement Sate
We nearly walked straight past the rather unassuming entrance to our second bar of the evening – an open door with a small sign above it that states “This is not a brothel, there are no prostitutes at this address”… interesting start. We made our way down the stairs and opened a second door to reveal a warm and welcoming basement bar decked out with comfy leather sofas, New York style decor and an impressive whisky selection behind the bar. The friendly and talented bar staff (who were the quickest cocktail makers of the evening) served up another whisky based cocktail and explained that they’re famous for only serving cocktails and desserts. Think I’ll be back again soon!

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Graphic
As evening fell and Soho started getting packed with the usual partygoers, we made our way into the lively Graphic bar. Here we finally got our first gin cocktail (hurrah!) called Army & Navy (Hayman’s Royal Dock Navy Strength Gin, lemon, almond, syrup and orange bitters). By this point I think the team were starting to feel the effects of London Cocktail Week (I certainly was!), you could see that everyone was enjoying this rather edgy bar with its pumping music and street art plastered over the walls.

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Direspute
This was our first private members club of the evening (and the only one that let us in during London Cocktail Week..). The friendly bouncers welcomed us into yet another basement bar where we were given our own private area in one of the underground tunnels. After a small welcome drink, we were brought our penultimate cocktail of the night, which went down easily in this swanky cocktail den that’s clearly designed for late night liaisons like these. On the way out I was tipped that this brand new club was offering a free one year membership to anyone who applied on their website.

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Blind Pig
The final stop of our cocktail-fuelled tour was the most unusual of them all. Hidden behind an inconspicuous door with a blindfolded pig’s head on it, we quite literally “stumbled” upon this incredibly lively speakeasy bar. Once sat, the waiter brought over a giant glass bottle, popped the cork and poured a mysterious green substance into paper cups with helium filled balloons attached to them. It was strong to say the least. A real nightcap to end the night made out of gin and “space dust”.

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Craving some water and savoury snacks to counteract the long evening of sweet cocktails, we made our way out of the bar taking our Blind Pig balloons with us. As we excitedly discussed next year’s London Cocktail Week plans – where we were going to go and where we’d like to go back to – we released our balloons and watched them sail across this incredible city where there’s no end to the amount of amazing new bars and cocktail experiences that you can discover.

See you next year London Cocktail Week, we can’t wait!

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