22nd July 2024
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Bristol’s top shelf: a guide to the city’s finest cocktail bars

Discover Bristol's vibrant cocktail scene as we explore hidden gems, unique concoctions and atmospheric lounges that elevate the city's nightlife to new heights.

Bristol is a city known for its vibrant nightlife, and nowhere is this more evident than in its collection of cocktail bars. Each bar offers a unique experience, from speakeasy-style establishments to modern cocktail bars and everything in between. Here are some of the city’s standout cocktail bars that will continue to impress in 2023 and beyond.

The Milk Thistle

Mixologists at The Milk Thistle secret bar in Bristol pour cocktails in their unique interior

First up, we have The Milk Thistle, a four-story speakeasy-style bar located in the heart of Bristol. The venue provides expertly mixed concoctions, unique decoration and is a bit of a hidden gem.

The atmosphere is dark and moody, with candles laid out in the quirky cosy bar on the first floor, dark oak wall panels and sophisticated furniture on the second floor, and spaces in the attic and basement available for private functions. While the drinks are on the pricier side, they are unique and well worth the cost, attracting a non-pretentious crowd of cocktail enthusiasts who appreciate the extensive gin list and the creative mixology on display​.

Hyde and Co

The 'secret bar' speakeasy cocktail bar, Hyde and Co in Bristol

Next, there’s Hyde and Co, a modern cocktail bar known for its captivating vibe. The vibe of the bar is inviting and welcoming, playing a crucial role in drawing people to it​. The brown furniture and dimly lit interior create a relaxing environment that allows patrons to unwind. The bar is a popular spot for special occasions, with its focus on quality ingredients and innovative cocktails. Their syrupy and tangy cocktails, along with a well-regarded wine list and high-quality beer, have allowed The Hyde and Co to make a name for themselves.

The Clockwork Rose

The Clockwork Rose, a steampink cocktail bar on St Stephen's St, Bristol

For a truly unique experience, there’s The Clockwork Rose, a steampunk-inspired bar boasting the most unique cocktail menu in all of Bristol. Each drink they serve comes with a small backstory, providing a deeper meaning to the bar itself and drawing people into the adventures of the fictional airship captain the bar is based on. From lockets to suitcases and flying goggles, the bar is filled with Easter eggs related to his travels. The cocktails are not only creative and delicious, but also happily affordable​.

Brozen Bar

Frozen cocktail bar, Brozen Bar, in Bristol creating boozy ice cream treats

If you’re looking for a cool way to beat the heat, Brozen Bar is the place for you. This unique cocktail bar freezes its cocktails solid using liquid nitrogen. Served in martini glasses, these frozen alcoholic drinks can be enjoyed with a spoon, making them the perfect boozy treat for a hot summer day.

While there, you can enjoy a variety of unique cocktails, such as the Passion on Ice, a tequila and passionfruit blended frozen margarita, or the Nippy Russian, a vodka and coffee liqueur ice cream​. The bar staff take their time with these freshly made drinks, explaining the process and the science behind it, ensuring you come away feeling informed and undoubtedly a little tipsy​.

The Last Word

Independent cocktail bar in Clifton, The Last Word

Nestled in the heart of Clifton Village, Bristol, The Last Word cocktail bar is a creation of Tom and Kate, a husband and wife duo who opened its doors in 2015. The bar has carved its niche for innovative cocktails, each crafted meticulously with superior ingredients. Besides its celebrated cocktails, The Last Word also boasts an extensive selection of wines, beers, and spirits, offering an eclectic mix for every palate. This tasteful selection, along with its inviting ambiance, has made The Last Word a cherished spot in Bristol.

This bar is also known for its extensive wine and champagne lists. Sharing plates are available to pair with your drinks, and the bar also hosts cocktail masterclasses where you can learn to mix your own concoctions​.

The Architect

The Architect indoor and outdoor cocktail bar on the harbourside, Bristol

Immersing Bristol’s historic harbour with an essence of European charm, The Architect Café Bar serves as an oasis of warmth and hospitality during the day. It offers a haven on the quayside where specialty coffees, teas, and sourdough sandwiches are savoured in a cosy ambiance, making it an ideal location for meet-ups or solitary moments of quiet reading and planning.

As the sun sets, The Architect transmutes into a sophisticated bar. Its nights are steeped in an assortment of signature cocktails, refined wines, and artisanal beers, all served with cheese and charcuterie boards to complement the flavours. During the summer, the terrace becomes a sought-after spot, offering a unique view of the water, the passing ferry boats, and the animated festival culture, all under the warm, inviting glow of the evening sun.

The Library

Cocktail bar in Bristol, The Library, accessed through a secret bookcase entrance

Nestled among Bristol’s varied watering holes lies The Library, a cocktail bar as enigmatic as it is enthralling. With an exterior reminiscent of an age-old bookshop, The Library conceals within its walls an exclusive cocktail lounge — the perfect haven for an aperitif or a nightcap.

The entrance to The Library is marked with a touch of intrigue. Visitors must press a buzzer to gain entry, stepping into what appears to be a conventional bookshop. But this is where the ordinary ends and the extraordinary begins. A secret passage, artfully concealed behind a bookcase teeming with antique hardcovers, leads the way to the main attraction.

The Library radiates a sophistication and elegance that is uniquely its own. It is a stylish cocktail bar where the quality of the ingredients is only surpassed by the flawless service. Every cocktail is a masterclass in mixology, crafted with the highest quality components. The service is consistently exceptional, ensuring an experience that is as unforgettable as the cocktails themselves.

Filthy XIII

Filthy Thirteen (or Filthy XIII) in Bristol is a hidden gem of a cocktail bar

Nestled on Cheltenham Road, Filthy XIII stands as a beacon for the cocktail connoisseur, blending an inviting atmosphere with an impeccable selection of drinks. This venue offers a unique blend of subdued urban chic and trendy sophistication. Despite its compact size, Filthy XIII never fails to make a big impression with its sensational cocktails and welcoming staff.

A hidden gem in Bristol’s vibrant cocktail scene, Filthy XIII is perfect for if you’re both seeking a chilled out evening or a lively night out, the bar’s atmosphere adjusts effortlessly to the time and day of the week. Filthy XIII has established itself as an essential stop on Bristol’s cocktail circuit.

Her Majesty’s Secret Service

Her Majesty’s Secret Service (HMSS) is a secret cocktail bar on Whiteladies Road in Bristol

At first glance, a plain black door on a Clifton road, but beyond it lies Her Majesty’s Secret Service (HMSS), a secret haven for cocktail enthusiasts. Inspired by the thrilling adventures of James Bond, this clandestine cocktail bar serves up impressive concoctions that would impress even MI6. The journey begins with a red telephone box, leading you into a bar that’s anything but ordinary.

HMSS is a celebration of British charm and spy-inspired cool, offering more than just delicious drinks. The staff are not only proficient in cocktail crafting, but also in sparking warm conversations, turning every visit into an unforgettable experience. With playful touches like a game of Jenga alongside your monkey nut snacks, and an ice-breaker pocket-sized menu full of bold and innovative drinks, HMSS is a must-visit for anyone seeking a unique cocktail experience in Bristol. The skilled bartenders at HMSS are capable of crafting both classic and innovative drinks, ensuring a thrilling cocktail adventure for every season.

As we bring our tour of Bristol’s cocktail scene to a close, it becomes clear that the city’s diverse offerings go well beyond the traditional pub crawl. From the speakeasy charm of The Milk Thistle to the icy innovation of Brozen Bar, from the narrative-driven cocktails of The Clockwork Rose to the hidden allure of The Library, Bristol proves itself a city of mixology mastery.

Its cocktail bars, each with their own distinct personality, offer not just a drink, but an experience. No matter your preference – whether you favour a classic cocktail or an adventurous new mix, a bustling crowd or a tranquil nook, a rich history or a contemporary edge – Bristol’s cocktail bars have something to please. So the next time you’re in Bristol, why not elevate your night out with a visit to one of these standout establishments? You’re sure to find a cocktail – and a story – that’s just right for you.