Ah, there’s nothing quite like summer drinking, eh? Contrary to the usual motivation behind British bingeing (blocking out the misery of grey and gloom), summertime is when Londoners bask in the sunshine and smile over after-work pints, rather than drown their sorrows in them. 

Only, your average Londoner today is grinning over something a little more colourful than a beer. According to a survey of 1000 people by designmynight.com, 69% claimed a cocktail is now their drink of choice, while 63% referred an “experience” cocktail bar over a pub.

And you only have to look at the city’s ever-growing raft of experimental cocktail joints – think Shoreditch’s Worship Street Whistling Shop, where ingredients such as aubergine crisp are deemed acceptable, or 69 Colebrooke Row in Angel, where a drink comes with “a hint of hay” – for the proof.

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Expect some theatre at London Cocktail Club

Perhaps it’s appropriate, then, that the “happy hour” shares its history with cocktail bars. The former has its routes in the Prohibition era, where speakeasies served drinks before patrons went out to eat in restaurants that couldn’t serve booze.

Once the Prohibition period was over, these speakeasies became cocktail lounges, continuing the trend for drinks ahead of dinner. Fast forward to the present day, and London is awash with happy hours offering  2-4-1 cocktails in the early evening. Even more happily, they tend to go on for a lot longer than a mere 60 minutes.

Take the London Cocktail Club, for example, a pioneer on the city’s experimental cocktail scene and provider of a happy two-and-a-half-hours most nights of the week. Co-owner JJ Goodman tells TNT that LCC practises “tongue-in-cheek mixology”, serving up the likes of cheese and pineapple martinis (a wheel of Babybel decorates the side of the glass) and oyster bombs (Red Bull jelly and Jäger served in an oyster shell).

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Southsider’s blueberry pancake mule

Still, he’s keen to point out that a sense of fun isn’t at the expense of taste. “We’re not going to put a shit drink on the menu!” he laughs. One of his favourites is the squid ink sour. “It has this gorgeous saltiness and silky texture that really brings out the tequila,” he reckons. Um, yum.

Another unpretentious trailblazer is Southsider Cocktail Club in Clapham. Co-founder Jimmy Drummond says the idea behind the venue was to create a “local cocktail bar for a regular crowd”. But the drinks are far from “regular”, mixed with the likes of chicken salt, atomised tobacco and dehydrated bacon.

 “I was first inspired by Heston Blumenthal,” Drummond admits, explaining that Southsider’s Full English Flip (bacon-infused bourbon with egg and maple syrup) sprung from the chef’s bacon and egg ice cream. Delish.Feeling thirsty? Challenge your tastebuds or just sink a bargain beer with our pick of the city’s cheap drinks.  

Happy hour (2-4-1 cocktails) at London Cocktail Club is on Monday. 
Available all night at at 224 Shaftesbury Avenue, WC2H 8EB  
Tube | Tottenham Court Road   

Happy hour (£5 cocktails) daily at Southsider Cocktail Club, 5-8pm.  
56 Battersea Rise, SW11 1EG  
Tube | Clapham Junction  

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Floripa – Shoreditch

Beers for £2.50 and cocktails for a fiver – you can’t really go wrong with Floripa every Tuesday to Thursday between 5pm and 7pm. This boho Brazilian bar (above), smack-bang in the middle of Shoreditch, does a decent job of convincing you’re kicking back in a colourful beach shack, with its flower-garland chandeliers and tumbling plants. Better still are the cocktails, blended using South American staples such as cahaça (sugar cane rum). A night out here usually ends with dancing on tables.

£2.50+, Open Tue-Thur, 5pm-1am;
Fri-Sat, 5pm-2am; Sun, 1pm-midnight  
91-93 Great Eastern Street, EC2A 3HZ 
Tube | Old Street 
floripalondon.com

 

The Court – Central London

If a fancy pants cocktail isn’t so much your poison and you prefer a good old-fashioned boozer to a sleek lounge bar, The Court pub has the happy hour for you. Every Thursday night, Jägerbombs are £1.50 or you can get a double for £2.50. Now that’s what we call cheap. 

£1.50+, Open Sun-Wed, 10am-midnight; Thur-Sat, 10am-1am 
108a Tottenham Court Road, W1T 5AA 
Tub | Warren Street 
thecourtlondon.co.uk

 

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Electric Social – Brixton

The eclectic Brixton bar (leather sofas, chandeliers, mounted deer heads, a moustachioed Mona Lisa) serves 2-4-1 cocktails between 5pm and 8pm every week night, plus £15 Tiger buckets if you’re in more of a beery mood. There are 18 cocktails to choose from, including the intriguing likes of Gingerpolitan and apple pie and custard.

£7.50+, Open Mon-Thur, 5pm-11.30pm;
Fri, 5pm-2am; Sat, 3pm-2am; Sun, 12pm-11.30pm 
40 Acre Lane, SW2 5SP 
Tube | Brixton 
electricsocial.com

 

Henry J Bean’s – Chelsea

A pint of Becks is £3 and cocktails are 2-4-1 every day between 5pm and 7pm at this US-style bar and grill.

£3+, Open Mon-Wed, 11am-11pm; Thur-Sun, 11am-midnight 
195-197 King’s Road, SW3 5ED 
Tube | Sloane Square 
henryjbeans.co.uk

 

The Loft – Clapham

A cut above your usual, The Loft’s house cocktails (mixed with homemade ingredients) have won a raft of awards. Try 2-4-1 (on beers too) all night Tuesdays and Sundays   and ‘til 9pm Wed to Fri.

£4, Open Tue-Thur, 6pm-midnight; Fri, 5pm-1.30am;
Sat, 12pm-1.30am; Sun, 12pm-midnight 
67 Clapham High Street, SW4 7TG 
Tube | Clapham North 
theloftclapham.com

 

Thirst – Soho

Forget happy hour, this Soho bar has a ‘stupid hour’ between 12pm and 7.30pm every Tue, Wed, Fri and Sat, where most cocktails are half-price. 

£5, Open Mon-Sat, 12pm-3am; 
Sun, 7pm-3am 53 Greek Street, W1D 3DR 
Tube | Tottenham Court Road 
thirstbar.com

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Adventure Bar – Clapham 

You can choose your own adventure from the four branches of this party bar across London, which all offer two cocktails or three beers for just £9 between 5pm and 8pm every eve, plus the same offer all night on Sundays.

There’s zero pretense and lots of personality at the Clapham Junction venue, and the cocktail list is long enough to keep you coming back until you’ve ticked them all off. Then what? Go round again, of course! Find the other Adventure Bars in Clapham High Street, Covent Garden and East Dulwich.

£9, Open Tue-Wed & Sun, 5pm-midnight; 
Thur-Sat, 5pm-2am  
91 Battersea Rise, SW11 1HW 
Tube | Clapham Junction 
adventurebar.co.uk


Slim Jim’s Liquor Store – Angel

This badass LA-style whisky bar is all neon and red bar stools, enticing you to become a hard-drinking muthafucka with its £3 draught beers, available 5pm-8pm every day except Saturday. 

£3, Open Mon-Wed, 4pm-2am;
Thur- Sat, 4pm-3am; Sun, 6pm-1am 112 Upper St, N1 1QN 
Tube | Angel 
slimjimsliquorstore.com

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TNT Reader Pick: Piccadilly Institute – Piccadilly

TNT reader Sharnese Goodwin-Wicks answered our shout-out on Facebook for London’s best happy hours with the Piccadilly Institute, saying simply: “From 5pm-9pm, everything half price!” And it’s not too good to be true –  the venue’s series of themed bars (from creepy hospital ward to country garden) offers 50 per cent off food and drink every day, Sunday to Friday, 5pm-9pm.  

£3.85, Open Mon-Sat, 5pm-3am; Sun, 5pm-12.30am 
1 Piccadilly Place, W1J 0DA 
Tube | Piccadilly Circus 
piccadillyinstitute.com

 

The Rum Kitchen – Notting Hill

A Caribbean-style beach shack in the heart of Notting Hill? Sounds unlikely, but this cool little cocktail bar brings the sunshine with its rum-heavy blends (below) and Afro-funk beats. Sample the varied menu with 2-4-1 drinks Monday to Thursday, between 6pm and 7pm.    

£7.50+, Open Mon-Wed, 6pm-11pm;
Thur, 6pm-1am; Fri, 6pm-2am; Sat, 12pm-2am;
Sun, 12pm-4pm 6-8 All Saints Road, W11 1HH 
Tube | Ladbroke Grove 
therumkitchen.com 

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The Mayor of Scaredy Cat Town – Spitalfields

East London’s worst kept secret speakeasy, the bar behind the Smeg fridge in Spitalfields’ branch of The Breakfast Club, even has its own happy hour – £5 cocktails between 5pm and 6pm, Monday to Thursday, every single week. A bit gimmicky, yes, but also a super-cool, low-lit corner perfect for hunkering down in over a few rounds. 

£5, Open Mon-Thur, 5pm-midnight;
Fri-Sat, 12pm-midnight; 
Sun, 12pm-10.30pm 
12-16 Artillery Lane, E1 7LS 
Tube | Liverpool Street 
themayorofscaredycattown.com

 

The Old School Yard – Borough

Fun and flair at this unpretentious joint that, along with karaoke, arcade and Wii games, offers cocktails for just £4.50 and two beers for a fiver between 5.30pm and 8pm every night.

£4.50+, Open Tue-Thur, 5.30pm-11.30pm; 
Fri-Sat, 5.30pm-12.30am 
111 Long Lane, SE1 4PH 
Tube | Borough 
theoldschoolyard.com
 

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Barrio East – Shoreditch

A slice of sunny paradise on grubby (but oh-so-trendy) Shoreditch High Street, Latino-themed Barrio East has a daily ‘Amigo Hour’, where classic cocktails are £4.50, bottled beers are £3 and there’s £5 off selected bottles of vino. To keep the happy holiday vibes flowing, it’s on every day between 4pm and 8pm. Score.  

£3+, Open Mon-Fri, 3pm-2am; Sat-Sun, 11am-2am 
141-143 Shoreditch High Street, E1 6JE 
Station | Shoreditch High Street 
barrioeast.com 


Covent Garden Cocktail Club – Covent Garden

Owned by the folks behind London Cocktail Club, there’s a massive list to sample at 2-4-1 from 5pm to 7pm every day.

£7.50, Open Mon-Thur, 4.30pm-11pm; Fri-Sat, 4.30pm-midnight 
6-7 Great Newport St, WC2H 7JB 
Tube | Leicester Square 
coventgardencocktailclub.co.uk

 

The Winchester – Angel

This ace Angel party pub offers a generous 2-4-1 cocktail deal between 6pm and 2am every Thursday, giving you plenty of time to get ‘em in. The menu is split between ‘expected’, ‘unexpected’, ‘fruit bat’ and ‘hot’ options. Works out around £4 a drink.

£8, Open Mon-Wed, 11am-midnight; Thur, 11am-2am;
Fri, 11am-3am; Sat, 9am-4am; Sun, 9am-midnight 
2 Essex Road, N1 8LN 
Tube | Angel 
thewinchesterbar.com 

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Be At One – Across London

The chain bar has 17 locations across the city, all of them mixing 2-4-1 cocktails between 5pm and 7pm every night (6pm ‘til midnight on Sundays).

£6.20+, Opening times and places vary 
beatone.co.uk

 

Cassis – Chelsea

Looking for something a bit sophisticated, dahling? Avoid bulk-buying Jäger at this Brompton Road bistro, where the bar serves up half-price cocktails every day between 3pm and 8pm. Ask for the cocktail of the day or try the signature French mojito. Works out at around two drinks for £11. 

£11, Open Mon-Fri, 12pm-11pm; 
Sat, 10.30am-11pm; Sun, 10.30am-10.30pm 
232-236 Brompton Road, SW3 2BB 
Tube | South Kensington 
cassisbistro.co.uk

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Dirty Martini – Central London

A schizophrenically decorated basement bar in Hanover Square (exposed brick, sparkly disco tiling, green-leather-padded tunnel?), this place shakes some wickedly inventive martinis (we like the mango and chilli).

From Monday to Thursday between 5pm and 10pm, and Friday and Saturday between 5pm and 8pm, martinis and prosecco cocktails are half price (so about £4.25 each). More of a beer drinker? Bottled brews are just £2.50. There’s another branch in Covent Garden, too.

£2.50+, Open Mon-Sat, 4pm ‘til late 
10c Hanover Square, W1S 1JH 
Tube | Oxford Circus 
dirtymartini.uk.com

 

Photos: Floripa; Adventure Bar; Electric Social; Barrio East; Dirty Martini; Rum Kitchen