Illegal in the Ireland for almost a decade, banned in Glasgow and prohibited across 19 states of America, Happy Hours make for controversial subject matter. Seen by some as irresponsible encouragement to drink too much, booze promotions can be treated as if they are obligatory – as if it isn’t entirely down to each individual to choose how they take advantage of special offers.
Luckily for us, we Londoners are still deemed responsible enough to take advantage of cash-saving happy hours and make our own decisions regarding our health and wellbeing. For us, special drinks offers are spread across our city and range from short-lived price reductions to buy-one-get-one-free drinks all night long.
Ironically, much like the marketing principle behind happy hours themselves, the threat of banning these drinks offers actually serves to encourage more people to take part whilst the deals are still around. So, at the risk of being seen to encourage irresponsible drinking, here are some of our favourite happy hours, from the four compass points of London.
First up is multi-award-winning bar, The Loft in Clapham, which is fast becoming renowned for its cocktails – and for good reason. Designed by Andy Campana, the contents of their menu are crafted from over 40 homemade ingredients, from liqueurs and syrups, to cordials and bitters. They declare that, if they can make ingredients that taste better than those they buy, they make them – no matter the cost or hardship.
They genuinely make too many wonderful cocktails to name here, but some of our favourites include Cake or Death (rum, dark chocolate and cherry liqueurs, vanilla sugar syrup and cream), Good Karma (Ginseng Spirit with lime cordial, limoncella, maraschino, grapefruit juice and dry sherry) and the Allstar (bourbon, maple syrup, blueberry and orange liqueurs, lemon juice and cranberry juice).
The best part about these magnificent masterpieces of mixology is that, at certain times of the week, you can buy one and get one free. Their Happy Hours are until 8pm on Saturday, 9pm Wednesday to Friday and all night long on Tuesday and Sunday. If cocktails aren’t your thing, it’s also two-for-one on beer and a third off glasses of wine, but seriously – it’s all about the cocktails.
On the West side of town, you may stumble across Fiesta Havana, on Fulham Road (in Fulham). Complete with the rum, tequila and party atmosphere to rival any bar I found during my admittedly brief foray into Cuba itself, the place provides great live bands, guest DJs and music that ranges from the exotic to the commercial.
As you’d expect, the atmosphere is delightfully upbeat and embracing and, every weekday from 5-9pm, they have a Cuban stress-buster of a happy hour, where drinks are half price. In fact, if you head down on a Thursday, you can drink for half price all night.
However, the main reason we have included Fiesta Havana here is that, every day, they offer free dance lessons – smack bang in the middle of their happy hour. When the cocktails are a-flowing and the hips start a-swaying, you may well find the Latin beats totally irresistible!
Even when the happy hour ends, you’ll find the cocktails are only £5.50 and, if their huge range of cocktails isn’t enough for you (they serve eight different types of mojito), you can create your own.
Head to the other side of town and you’ll find Slim Jim’s Liquor Store in Angel, where you’ll find neon signs, a rock n’ roll jukebox and an incredible variety of liquors from the States. Here, happy hour runs from 5-8pm every day (except Saturdays) and involves two for one cocktails and £3 for simple beers.
One of the very best things about Slim Jim’s however, apart from the brilliant atmosphere, is that they don’t mind you stocking up on discounted drinks in the happy hour, then riding the storm until 2am from Sunday to Wednesday and until 3am for the rest of the week.
Finally, we have Amigo Hour – Barrio’s take on a happy hour, which lasts for four hours every single day, from 4-8pm. During this time, you can get your hands on special cocktails (Face Planter is a particular favourite) for just £4.50, get £5 off bottles of wine and pick up certain beers for £3.
The place itself is not suitable for those who are easily overwhelmed, especially at the weekends. The décor is, frankly, an explosion of sheer madness and it gets very full, very quickly – for good reason! Enjoy a few too many Amigo cocktails and you could be forgiven for thinking you’ve fallen into some kind of Lego vintage shop’s birthday rave.
Cocktails are on the sweet side, but they all come with a song suggestion – think Wham with Tropic Plunder – and ingredients that range from marzipan to fireworks. There’s a smoking backyard for nicotine hits and toilets that look like Brighton beach huts. Peckish? Pig out on the Mexican plates, which are all pretty good (especially the chicharrones).
This isn’t a date place, but if you happen to have one (like BarChick) hole up in the pagoda style booths and share the chocolate milkshake-style Rum Mocha Boca – it comes with a strong warning: ‘may result in scenes of a sexual nature.’ Fine by us.
By Charlie Perkins
What's your favourite happy hour in London? Let us know in the comments.
This article is part of our Best of London Food and Drink series. Visit the page for more recommendations of where to enjoy the capital's top food and drink, categorised by cuisine, food type and more.