London is not only a melting pot of cultures, it’s also a city where you can drink in any given point in history. Below is a look at some 20th century watering holes – plus a couple of even more historic places for good measure.
1920s – Various
When it comes to 1920s-themed drinking holes, especially the stylised ‘speakeasy’, Londoners are spoiled for choice. If you want the full-on teacups and floral wallpaper experience, descend the staircase to Bourne and Hollingsworth in Fitzrovia. If you’re in the market for (almost) impossible-to-find entrances we can suggest Bart’s in Chelsea, and for an authentic Twenties basement bar, head to Rise 46 over Clapham way.
See also: Our guide to being Great Gatsby is packed with plenty of jazz-age style venues
1930s – Fumoir bar, Mayfair
Of course, you could always prop up the Champagne bar if you’re planning on a boozy jaunt at Claridges; however, if you want an intimate setting steeped in original Thirties fixtures, ask the doorman to direct you to the ornate iron-clad door which serves as the entrance of the Fumoir bar, a former cigar lounge. High ceilings, mirrored surfaces, plush red sofas and expertly mixed drinks (and addictive grilled Gruyère cheese snacks) await.
Fumoir Bar, Claridge’s, 49 Brook St, London W1K 4HR
1940s – Jackson & Rye, Soho
This new joint in Soho houses some heritage East-Coast USA inspiration complete with Forties furnishings of timber, tiles and pendant lamps, and some hearty all-American comfort food – buttermilk pancakes, fried chicken and melting chocolate sundaes. While it functions more of a dining/brunching spot, the cocktail menu was designed by the team behind Milk & Honey, so it’s worth popping into the cocktail bar that sits at the front of house for a Goldrush, Breakfast Sour or a Woodford Reserve Old Fashioned.
See also: Blitz party – like being at an World War II air raid, with the only threat being a monster hangover
Jackson & Rye, 56 Wardour St, Soho, London W1D 4JF
1950s – South London Pacific, Kennington
A kitschy Fifties Hawaiian Tiki bar resting just on the right side of tacky, with bamboo walls adorned with tribal masks, it’s popular among the south-of-the-river locals for its unpretentious approach and fruity retro cocktails – Mai Tai, blue Hawaiian, daiquiri – that are a bargainous £3.95 before 10pm. It gets pretty rammed at the weekend as the cheesy tunes and buzzing atmosphere draw in a crowd.
South London Pacific, 340 Kennington Rd, London SE11 4LD
1960s – The Rosebery, private hire/various locations
Being the transport geeks that we are, we’re more than a little excited about an original 1966 Routemaster, beautifully refurbished and decked out with a fancy cocktail bar on the lower deck. A nomadic venture, it’s available for private hire – and is already favourite among wedding planners and festival organisers – but it’ll set you back a few grand, depending on what you want. Although, with a capacity of 18-30, chipping in with your friends (or calling in some favours) is always an option.
See also: The Rosebery is not the only bus on the block – you can pop into the (stationary) Big Red, a former number 30 double decker, if you fancy some artisan pizza with a classic Campari Spritz. And see our piece on other uses for old Routemasters.
Check out the Rosebery website for more information
1970s – Disco, Soho
Think lower Manhattan at the hight of disco fever – paying homage to the legendary Studio 54, it’s a heady mix of choreographed dance routines, live musical performances and DJs spinning vinyl mixed in with the iconography of roller blades, cassette tapes and a bar decked up like a carnival. Not to mention the Pan-Am-styled reception area, where drinks and cloakrooms meet airline check-in, a la Mile High. If you want to get an idea of the vibe before you don your platforms, check out the club’s weekly output on Soundcloud and as for the cocktails, the menu features faithful recreations of Seventies tipples and some extremely modern mash-ups. Disco ball rammed with vodka and fizz, anyone?
Disco, 13 Kingly Court, Soho, London, W1B 5PW
1980s – Maggie’s, Chelsea/Fulham
A nostalgic neon-clad nightspot serving Eighties-esqe tipples, a time where every drink was stuffed with lurid blue and midori liquors. Naturally, there’s a whole list of champagne and indulgent concoctions, evocative of the affluent Eighties and yuppie-culture. The cheeky, playful nods to this decade are plentiful – from the Malibu Watering Can sharing cocktail (the hosepipe ban, remember?) to the over-size Rubik’s Cube tables. Also, be prepared to get reacquainted with the late Maggie Thatcher, after whom the club is named – her image graces many a wall and drinking receptacle, while her speeches are on loop in the loos.
See also: Wam Bam Electric, a trashy-in-a-good-way cabaret that doesn’t take itself too seriously, to the sounds of the Eighties
Maggie’s, 329 Fulham Road, London, SW10 9QL
1990s – Earlham St Clubhouse, Covent Garden
The trend for US Eastside-style continues with a smart, preppy Nineties-era beach house and broadwalk feel, conveyed through reclaimed wood, fairy lights, and recycled tin signs. As with most of the other entries on our list, there’s a heavy dose of quirk – a small selection of ‘hidden’ booths are equipped with phones and ‘gas’ pumps of chilled beer, and above the main bar you’ll find retractable menus fixed to the ceiling, which we’re prone to pull down and ping repeatedly like a five year child (don’t judge us, this was after a couple of ‘Stifler’s Mom’s). Set up for the casual dining-cocktailing crowd, there’s plenty of New York thin-crust pizza, and if you want to jack the jukebox, you can do so via the Secret DJ app. Just don’t stick Barbie Girl on ‘ironically’ – you’re not fooling anyone. Now hand over your phone.
Earlham Street Clubhouse, 35 Earlham Street, London WC2H 9LD
And if you want to go back a little further in time…
1790s – Rules, Covent Garden
Supposedly the oldest restaurant in London, Rules also has a cocktail bar upstairs, an elegant, beautifully wood-panelled retreat, with high lattice windows overlooking the busting streets of Covent Garden and its shoppers below. The cocktails are classy and classic – a Martini is never shaken – and there’s a bespoke list of ten that have been created in-house. The service, as one might expect at a venue that prides itself on its heritage and old-school roots, is professional – without being too stuffy. Equally, if you show an interest in the rich history of Rules, they’ll impart some of their knowledge to you – including the exact spot where King Edward VIII used to sit when he frequented the bar with one of his many mistresses.
See also: Ten of London’s oldest restaurants.
Rules, 35 Maiden Lane, Covent Garden, London WC2E 7LB
1870s – Mr Fogg’s, Mayfair
Based on the 1873 Jules Verne novel, this Mayfair hideaway is an artistic recreation of the titular Mr Fogg’s London residence – notably his drawing room, brimming with exotic artefacts, annotated maps and stuffed animals. In keeping with both the spirit of adventure and Victorian drinking culture, there’s a range of twisted drinks – from gin fizz to absinthe – complemented by unusual ingredients from far-flung corners of the globe.
Mr Fogg’s, 15 Bruton Ln, London W1J 6JD