The UK’s Top 50 Cocktail Bars list has been going strong for five years, launching in June 2018. Sponsored by Franklin & Sons, it is now widely recognised as the gold standard when it comes to bars producing exceptionally crafted drinks. It is part of the same portfolio as the highly respected Top 50 Gastropubs and is voted for by “hundreds of experts, bartenders, bar owners and drinks writers.”
As trends come and go, what stays the same is that the bartenders most dedicated to their craft are all about impeccable ingredients, expertly balanced flavours and stylishly presented drinks that are virtually impossible recreate at home.
Not to be underestimated, is the level of service. A great cocktail bar will give you that main character energy, making you feel valued and pampered while enabling you to relax and forget about whatever worries are whirring around your mind.
Taking it to the next level, is an eye for innovation, pushing things forward with creative ideas. Knocking up concoctions worthy of a Michelin star kitchen. Come to think of it, why isn’t there a Michelin or AA system for bars? Well, the Top 50 Cocktail Bars list is a good place to start.
While the list is always somewhat London-centric, with almost half the bars on this year’s list operating in the capital, Manchester still represents, and the bars that do make it onto the list are top notch, with two of them sitting pretty in the top 10.
Manchester’s untouchable Schofield’s Bar which this year has shot way up to #4 in the list from its spot at #16 last year. With the new Stock Exchange Grill to be added to the Manchester brothers’ list of esteemed hospitality venues this year, those boys are knocking it out of the park right now. Nice lads too.
The clandestine ideas factory that is Speak In Code also made it into the top 10 this year, up two spots from its position at #10 in 2022, it’s now at #8 and has impressively leapfrogged over London mainstay The Connaught which was last year at #3 and has moved down to #10 for this year. Speak In Code also unusually uses all vegan ingredients in its cocktails so this is even more impressive.
A new entry for 2023 is the racing green speakeasy Blinker which opened in 2022 to critical acclaim. Blinker’s Dan Berger was formerly Head of Bars at The Ned, London’s five-star hotel and restaurant complex and has been busy making a name for himself in this hidden gem of a bar down the road from Six By Nico. Blinker has entered the list at #41 for 2023.
Last but not least, one of Manchester’s newest bars, Project Halcyon was named One to Watch. It certainly is. Stick it on your list if you haven’t been yet and read our interview to learn more about this cocktail laboratory with a big focus on teamwork and service.
East-London bar, Satan’s Whiskers, was voted #1 this year - one to visit if you’re ever in the big smoke.
Chris Lowe, publisher of Top 50 Cocktail Bars, said “Whilst London continues to dominate this year’s list, it is very exciting to see other major cities across the UK make their mark. The ever-growing interest in cocktails and bartending within the UK means we are spoilt for choice on where to go, and this list allows for the best of the UK bar scene to have a spotlight placed on them – and for consumers to find these hidden gems.”
Aidy Smith, host of this year’s Top 50 Cocktail Bars event said “It was my absolute honour to join the Top 50 Cocktail Bars family last year and present an awards programme which sits at the beating heart of our industry. It’s been a rough couple of years and these people have fought relentlessly to keep the nations spirits high in so many wonderful ways - it’s time to pay a nod to that. I’m raring to go and couldn’t be more excited to announce the liquid pioneers of 2023. From the Northern coast of Scotland and the valleys of Wales to the southern tip of England, this Isle is home to some of the best mixology and bar-team talent on the planet and it’s my pride and honour to read each and every name on the list.”
Well done to Schofield’s Bar, Speak in Code, Blinker and Project Halcyon. All well deserved winners.
The full list of the Top 50 Cocktail Bars is:
1 Satan’s Whiskers, Bethnal Green, London
2 Lab 22, Cardiff
3 Tayēr + Elementary, Shoreditch, London
4 SCHOFIELD'S BAR, Manchester
5 Swift, Soho, London
6 Panda & Sons, Edinburgh
7 Three Sheets, Dalston, London
8 Speak in Code, Manchester
9 Bar with Shapes for a Name, Hackney, London
10 The Connaught, Mayfair, London
11 Little Mercies, Crouch End, London
12 Couch, Birmingham
13 Bramble, Edinburgh
14 The Pineapple Club, Birmingham
15 Ojo Rojo, Bournemouth
16 Disrepute, Soho, London
17 Artesian, Oxford Circus, London
18 Hideout, Bath
19 Nightjar, Shoreditch, London
20 Present Company, Liverpool
21 Publiq, South Kensington, London
22 Scarfes Bar, Holborn, London
23 Lyaness, South Bank, London
24 Opium Cocktail & Dim Sum, Chinatown, London
25 The Absent Ear, Glasgow
26 Happiness Forgets, Hoxton, London
27 Hey Palu, Edinburgh
28 Filthy XIII, Bristol
29 Homeboy, Islington, London
30 Soma, Soho, London
31 Coupette, Bethnal Green, London
32 Passing Fancies, Birmingham
33 Bar Termini, Soho, London
34 Seed Library, Shoreditch, London
35 Murder Inc, Soho, London
36 Penny Royal, Cardiff
37 Callooh Callay, Shoreditch, London
38 Silverleaf, Liverpool St, London
39 Public, Sheffield
40 Fox & Chance, Birmingham
41 Blinker, Manchester
42 Below Stairs, Leeds
43 Milk Thistle, Bristol
44 Gungho!, Brighton
45 Hedonist, Leeds
46 Amaro, Kensington, London
47 Cottonmouth, Nottingham
48 Tabula Rasa, Leeds
49 Lunar, Glasgow
50 Bench, Sheffield
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