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Our favourite Christmas cocktail spots in London

From a swanky Mayfair spot to a quiet hideaway after Christmas shopping, Joel Porter finds London's best bars for some festive cheer

By National Geographic Traveller Food
Published 8 Apr 2019, 23:39 BST, Updated 15 Jul 2021, 15:46 BST

Christmas in the capital is an ideal time to catch up with friends over a few cocktails at one of London's many fine drinking establishments. This time of year calls for something special of course, somewhere that no only has great drinks but also gets you in the festive mood. Maybe it offers a particularly good hot, spiced cocktail or has a roaring fire.

Mayfair's Sketch is a fun spot for cocktails this Christmas; it's gone all out on the decorations, giving its spaces a festive makeover by London's top creative talent. The Glade, Sketch's 'enchanted decoupage forest', has been transformed by UK lighting designers Tala in collaboration with Hackney florists Rebel Rebel. The ceilings are covered in mistletoe and lights, and Christmas floral features suspended above artist Alexandra Kehayoglou's handwoven carpet. From 15 November.

Between shopping for presents and endless social engagements, Christmas can be a frantic time of year. So, where to head when you want to keep things chilled but still want great drinks? Teatulia, a tea-based cocktail bar in Covent Garden, fits the bill nicely. The Russell Sage-designed space will immediately calm shoppers with its comfy sofas, wood panels and huge library of books. The cocktails, designed by Enrico Gonzato, include the very festive 'Chai Hot-Buttered Rum' made from Spiced Rum, Chai Tea, Butter, Honey, Cinnamon, and Nutmeg.

Queen of Hoxton
Braving the winter cold to have cocktails on a rooftop bar isn't very festive at all. Unless, of course, you head for the winter rooftop pop up at the Queen of Hoxton in Shoreditch, complete with cosy heated wigwams and outdoor fire pits. This year's pop up is inspired by the glitz and glamour of 1900s Paris, with regular cabaret performances and a Francophile food menu featuring raclette toasties. To drink, there's a classic absinthe fountain, as well as Hot Tarte Tatin Rum, mulled wine and spiked hot chocolate. Now that's festive.

Christmas is a good excuse to go for cocktails at the top of a skyscraper, while gazing down on the now-miniature looking city below — and it doesn't get any higher than GONG, the Shangri-La hotel's bar on the 52nd floor of the Shard. As well as the epic views of London through floor-to-ceiling windows, there are special festive cocktails to try, including a Mulled Gin and Tonic, and the 'Christmas Coal' featuring champagne, cognac, and bamboo charcoal powder.

St Pancras by Searcys
For many Londoners, Christmas means leaving the capital. With thousands of people heading to London's train stations, it's important to be prepared for the long, crowded, and most-likely delayed journey and, for those departing from St Pancras, a drink or two at Searcy's champagne bar can help take the edge off. As well as a lengthy champagne and wine list, there are special festive cocktails including the 'Christmas Spice', an East India sour with pineapple juice, lemon and a spicy syrup of cinnamon and star anise. Available from 26 November.

Nothing marks the arrival of the festive season in London quite like the unveiling of the legendary Claridge's Christmas tree. This is no ordinary tree, however, and with previous collaborators including the likes of Karl Lagerfeld, who last year designed an upside-down tree, and Burberry who once made one out of gold umbrellas, it's decidedly non-traditional yet still somehow remains thoroughly festive. While the tree is always worth a visit in its own right, it's even better when combined with a cheeky Claridge's Julep sipped slowly at the hotel's gorgeous art deco Fumoir Bar.

If you're looking for somewhere to help you forget the damp cold weather outside in the run up to Christmas, there's no better place to hide yourself away than Oriole. This subterranean speakeasy nestled beneath Smithfield Market is decked out with bright jade leather booths, bamboo wood ceilings, golden light fixtures and walls decorated with palm trees. And if all that wasn't enough to warm you up, then the special Christmas Glenmorangie, served hot and paired with an array of festive bar snacks, should do the trick. This is one place not to miss.

Check out the best ports to drink this Christmas.

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