On the 21st and 22nd of February, Leeds Town Hall will hold their annual Cocktails in the City event. Following a hugely successful sell out last year, this celebration of cocktails is both serious about its drinks and enormous fun. Twenty of Leeds’ best cocktail makers from top city bars congregate together to knock out favourite classics and new creations. Each is competing to be voted best bar experience by visitors, so expect a variety of vibes to be soothed into and wowed by. Alongside the drinking delights will be street food and live music in what promises to be a fun-filled couple of days.
The list of bars showcasing their cocktails is mouth-watering, from unique shakers Neon Cactus through craft experts Jake’s Bar to high-end offerings at Sky Lounge, each one bringing their own excellent mixes and flavours. So, with cocktails on our mind, we’ve put together a few of the best independent Leeds places to mix it up at, some present at Cocktails in the City for lucky attendees to check out, others around town for those without tickets to make their own cocktails in the city.
The glorious Grand Arcade has revitalised in recent years, filled with independent shops, cafes and bars, with the latter creating a reputation as a cocktail hotspot in Leeds. At the forefront of this is The Domino Club, an instantly hip speakeasy that serves impeccable drinks alongside live jazz. The menu is fittingly classic with gin favourites like their awesome Tom Collins especially apt to swing the night away with. Opposite this basement bar, head upwards to the attic space of Porco Rosso, where equally excellent cocktails of Italian origin, including arguably Leeds’ best Negroni, continue to make the Grand Arcade your new cocktail crawl.
Your old cocktail crawl may well have been Call Lane, and this strip of nightlife still provides plenty of places to enjoy a glass or two. One of the original Call Lane bars that always did keep the party going, Oporto, continues to knock out a mean cocktail from their back wall lined with countless bottles. Here, the spirits are high in the drinks and in the people, and the booze-heavy mixes flow along the street, including at Call Lane Social and their upstairs tropical rum shack Tiki Hideaway.
At the top of Call Lane, The Maven opened as a secret loft space that was soon let out and spread around due to their classy setting and stunning cocktails. The vibe is vintage with modern touches, which is reflected in their cocktails, from the sweetly refreshing Gin Garden to the whisky bitter Saratoga. Settle in here for the night.
In between the above two streets is another that can easily lure you in for a good few drinks. New Briggate is a ramshackle collection of neon takeaways and nuanced bars, which unsurprisingly means some serious cocktails. Perhaps more surprising is that Leeds’ famous original beer specialists North Bar make this list too. Few veer away from North’s abundance of beers to know if their cocktails are any good, but those that do soon find out that of course they are. An Old Fashioned tipple in this old fashioned bar confirms that the old ones are the best.
Next door, Wax Bar prides itself on a strong cocktail game, where friendly bartenders will get you merry on mixes that are both respecting tradition and inventive. Downstairs, Sela has been soothing souls with jazz and drinks for several years now and keeps apace with its impressive neighbours by stirring up some fine cocktails of its own. Their Espresso Martini and Long Island Iced Ting are exemplary twists on the coffee and tea delights.
Aptly named, Remedy occupies a snug space on the same street, with candlelit ambience perfect for one of their carefully concocted cocktails. Proper ingredients done right, the menu is small, perfectly formed, and awesomely authentic. Try the sherry dominant Poison and the fruity warming Remedy to discover that these are indeed a cure for your ills.
As this list proves, cocktails lend themselves to a secluded setting, many in cosy basement dens or special lofty spaces. Continuing this theme, Below Stairs is just that, downwards into a superb cellar bar which creates cocktails to rival any of those above. These innovative combinations are clever and made with love, each telling a story and tasting terrific. Travel from Scandivarian to 109 Miles to Filey and beyond, all without leaving the Leeds underground.
With these and plenty more places also serving up top cocktails, both classic and creative, it is beyond tempting to take on your own cocktails in the city tour. Whether yours is a breakfast Bloody Mary, a mid-day Mojito or a late-night White Russian, Leeds will sort you out.