Whether a group of colleagues have been counting down the minutes until clock-off time, or have been working tirelessly into the evening on that important upcoming venture, every team needs a little time to unwind after a particularly challenging day in the office. Post-work drinks also provide a prosperous forum for business networking, in a form that the majority of London-based professionals are very comfortable with.
As Character Magazine explains, “The after-work drinks culture is a leisurely getaway for professionals, where they like to vent out over a few drinks. With a decline in the pub culture, and rise in the number of bars, we know priorities are shifting. While some just care about their beer, others want an ambience worthy enough to help them unwind.”
Clearly, then, a successful after work soirée requires more than mere alcohol content. So here are our top places to go for after-work drinks in London, and what makes city professionals love them.
By Appointment Only
Bishopsgate, Central London
For most working Londoners, going underground after work is more often associated with the daily commute than communal fun. Unless, of course, they are a patron of By Appointment Only, a drinking establishment of some 121 years that is literally located beneath London’s streets.
Initially constructed with the intention of hosting a Turkish bath, this bar is rife with stunning original features such as rich red draperies, ornate tiling and private booths for intimate gatherings. By Appointment Only also boasts a pleasant courtyard where workers can sip a drink on summer evenings. Their in-house mixologists offer everything from local craft beers to G&Ts with a lavender and rosemary twist, and even dessert cocktails. One popular choice is the Stirred Salted Caramel, a sea salt and caramel infused Scotch whiskey with nothing but ice and patience. They claim the drink must be tasted to be believed, saying “I don’t know what else to say to you, it’s sexy in a glass – but not in a weird way!”
Possibly the most immersive whisky bar in London (and probably even the UK), Black Rock has one singular failing according to a traditional bar’s standards: it doesn’t have one. However, this doesn’t put off the establishment’s dedicated professional clientele, because instead of a bar the owners have taken a gigantic 185-year-old oak tree, laid it on one side and turned it into an impressive whisky-filled table. It’s quite a sight to behold. Two channels are cut down the length of the trunk, lined with charred American and European oak and covered with glass. Within each channel are 17 litres of whisky cocktails which age as they're stored there, before being delivered straight into your glass through taps at the end of the trunk.
Whisky sceptics need not despair: one of Black Rock’s sleek bartenders will mix your perfect cocktail right at your table. Rice Highball with Nikka barrel and sake and a 40 Shades with a mix of apple and fennel pollen feature on this abbreviated yet exclusive menu.
Work friends are drawn to The Remedy as much by its community atmosphere as by its impressive wine bar and menu. Run by three friends with a passion for food and wine, The Remedy’s proprietors claim, “we wanted to create a cosy and relaxed place where people could discover great food and beautiful wine”. Almost exclusively selling independently produced products (they are stoutly in opposition to the mass produced wine industry), a large part of their ethos stems from sharing personal discoveries with their loyal customer base.
But it’s not just wine that professionals will chat over at The Remedy. Their resident cocktail master Abel also creates a range of vermouth cocktails such as the ‘Jimmy’, featuring white vermouth, Hendrick's gin, tonic water and the ‘Bamboo’ with Dolin vermouth, Manzanilla and Bitters 7. Plenty to try for a tipple!
Grain Store Bar
Shying away from the kitsch trends of speakeasy appeal and retro revival, Grain Store Bar is everything it professes to be. That is possibly why so many workers flock to the central meeting place every evening. However, whilst presenting the brand as trustworthy and authentic, there is no dearth of excitement at Grain Store.
Bold and innovative, the drinks on offer will surprise the palate, with everything from a Bellini made with celeriac purée to ‘Greco-Roman wines’ infused with smoked paprika cordial – all created by cocktail expert Tony Conigliaro. And with brilliant views of the city skyline, this is one of the most exciting venues in London.
Hawksmoor Spitalfields bar
Various locations in London, including Spitalfields, Knightsbridge, Regent Street, Guildhall, Seven Dials and soon Borough Market
There may be a few Hawksmoor venues scattered across the capital city, but Hawksmoor is far from a chain brand. Each of these delightful pubs, bars and restaurants is unique.
Perhaps the most popular with post-work groups is Spitalfields Bar. Located in a former illegal strip club, Hawksmoor Spitalfields is an award-winning bar set in a subterranean location in a basement bar. Some of their highly original yet earthy tipples include ‘Shaky Pete’s Ginger Brew’ and ‘Marmalade Cocktail’, using homegrown shrubs and handmade syrups.
They also serve mouth-watering snacks, with their Shortrib nuggets making Time Out’s ‘Top 10 Dishes in London’ list. And, with a new venue opening in Borough Market in February 2017, you can expect to find more and more London professionals frequenting Hawksmoor joints in the future.
The Book Club
This highly cultured bar-come-book club lives up to its name. By day, The Book Club is a second home for local creatives working with Volcano coffee on tap from the bistro’s highly trained baristas. By night, the venue becomes full to the brim with off-duty professionals who have a passion for their craft, be it publishing, advertising or design.
The comfortable décor, ping pong and delicious drinks are of course draws, but it’s the “boozing with brain power” ‘Thinking and Drinking’ events that really appeal to inspired groups looking to bond after the working day is done. Customers are often spotted spilling out into the street outside whilst attending everything from special screenings to informal evening classes.
Old Bengal Bar
This enchanting eatery is located in a beautiful Grade II listed building once owned by the East India Company. But far from its imperial beginnings, the venue is now host to the Old Bengal Bar, a diverse and thriving bar and restaurant which professionals flock to for a work dinner or the famous cocktail hour.
You’ll often catch groups chatting in the glamorous Jungle Book-themed terrace sipping rare vodkas, speciality wines and whiskeys, or exclusive cocktails such as the ‘Plum Tickered’, a rejuvenating tipple full of fresh plum, Tanqueray gin, cherry liqueur, rosemary syrup, lemon juice and egg whites. You can’t fault the Old Bengal Bar on their attention to detail – even their ice is hand crafted!
Steam and Rye
The Steam and Rye is literally a bar from a fantasy. Expertly fusing 1940s glamour with nods to Wild West mythology, this venue is probably one of the most visually stimulating in London. It may not be the everyday hangout for local professionals, but on a Friday evening, young creatives fill up the bar’s three rooms inspecting every element of the intricately decorated interior. The bar’s décor was designed by Hollywood set designer Jonathan Lee, with its aesthetic credentials matched by its Michelin-standard food and award-winning cocktails.
Situated a stone’s throw from Grand Central Station itself, the concept for the Steam and Rye is based on a fictional hero’s hangout where he planned his travels and inspected the curious souvenirs he had collected in a lifetime of eccentricity. Complete with a sculpted bar, a stage, Grand Central’s clock and Eastern Pacific Steam Train dining carriages, many post-work gatherings would be needed to entirely explore this venue. But in the process, connoisseurs can sample drinks such as the Mississippi Dead Man's Boot, which really is served from a boot.