A cocktail, garçon
We love the cosy vibes of a country pub, but sometimes we need heels, sequins and the pizzazz of a bar where only a Porn Star martini will do.
Bye-bye boring old Dry January, dive headfirst into Wet Feb when only a belting bar will do – cocktails, craft lagers and alternative wines, please. And make it snappy, we’re thirsty here, guys! Anyway, glad-rags and non-sensible shoes on, let’s go out OUT. We’ve collated the best bars. Ibuprofen at the ready? Then we’ll begin!
1/ The Royal Lounge, Hind’s Head Bray
Don’t let The Hind’s Head’s Michelin twinkler fool you into thinking you that’s it’s only about food. Au contraire, Heston’s posh pub is home to The Royal Lounge – one of the coolest bars in Berks – and it lavishes as much love and attention on the booze too. Prince Philip hosted his stag do here (carnage, no doubt) and now you can knock back cocktails, wines and craft beers that are as flavoursome and well-considered as the dining. The vibe? Elegantly eccentric hunting lodge. Think shotgun chandeliers, taxidermy, Heston immortalised in the curtain fabric and cocktails in vintage china (Emily’s Earl Grey Tea Sour is a Muddy knockout fave). If you’re feeling peckish, tuck into the scrumptious savoury and sweet snacks – you won’t regret it.
2/ The Newbury, Newbury
Don’t be fooled by The Newbury’s rep for amazing food (Muddy winner of Best Destination Pub 2018), because luring beyond the triple cooked chips is a party palace. Upstairs you’ll find a cool cocktail lounge complete with mismatched furniture, neon signs, and its very own jukebox. Even better, if you want to keep you shindig bijou, book up the brand spanking new Distillery. A private room for 16 people offering gin tasting and making. oh and they even make their own gins, so you can take a bottle away. What could possibly go wrong? Hic!
3/ Bar Mal, Malmaison Reading
Neon signs, industrial touches, exposed brick, and more Instaworthy corners than you can shake a selfie stick at. Malmaison Reading is a grade II listed hotel designed by railways icon, Isambard Brunel. Yes, there’s a vast array of premium spirits, wine, and craft beers, but don’t pass go without working your way through the cocktail menu. It’s all about the science at Malmaison’s boutique bar, Chez Mal, with more than 40 potent potions available for your drinking pleasure. Reading’s signature tipple? A super zingy Paddington Martini – a concoction of Absolut Mandarin, Grand Marnier, Cointreau, orange, lemon, marmalade. I can’t think of a better place to be a stowaway.
4/ Bar Fifty Six, Wokingham
A wine bar! Before you holler, ‘The 80s called and they want their bar back’, there’s no Sade pumping through the sound system, no wine snobbery or power suits. Bar Fifty Six is a relaxed, cool Wokingham hotspot, where you can sample the delights of 56 rare and extraordinary wines. The interiors have a slightly eccentric traveller vibe, which is appropriate when you’re being enticed into taking a wine tour without setting foot in a vineyard.
5/ The Corn Stores, Reading
It was a pub that suffered an identity crisis but has been given a supermodel makeover. A shiny new cocktail bar with elegant interiors can be found on the ground floor, with a menu of drinkies sourced from British artisans. You’ll find a lot of delicious English wines, gins and craft lagers from small breweries and classic cocktails with a sassy twist. If you fancy upping the glamour, there’s the chi chi Members’ Lounge. Fancy.
6/ The Redan, Wokingham
It looks like a pub on the outside, but anything but on the inside…Welcome to the fun factory. Put your Farrow & Ball paint chart away, this cocktail bar’s cool vibes wouldn’t look out of place on London’s Old Street. Retro, quirky interiors give this place edge and the 70+ strong cocktail list will leave you shaken and stirred – especially if you work your way through all those cocktails *hic*. There’s a strict over 21s only policy, a great team, live music and a real emphasis on having a cracking night out.
7/ Ascot 55, Ascot
Ascot Fifty 5 is a wine and cocktail bar that’s putting on the glitz in an area that is seriously lacking in anything similar. Well, can you think of another place with chandeliers, vintage decanters, and flock wallpaper?! Basically it’s bling-tastic. The lighting is low, the button-backed booths are comfy, Coco Chanel quotes to remind you it’s important to always drink Champagne (happy to oblige), a fabulous VIP area (celeb-spotting obligatory), cool cocktails, premium spirits and a DJ pumping out delicious dance floor classics. Let the Muddy mayhem commence.
8/ The Dolphin, Newbury
The Dolphin Newbury has been transformed from traditional boozer to a place that wouldn’t look out of place in old Laaaaandon Taaaaaaarn. Perch your peachy posterior on this gorgeous orange velvet banquette and work your way through a tasty bar menu of boutique cocktails, artisan spirits, craft beers, and quality wines. If you fancy soaking up some of the alcohol, you can tuck into small plates or the full 3 courses.
9/ Coppa Club, Maidenhead, Sonning and Streatley
Berkshire is the home of Coppa Club. Yup, we’re taking ownership. Of the boutique group’s six venues, we have three – Streatley, Maidenhead, and Sonning. If you like a cool interior to go with your mojito, Coppa Club delivers in spades. Park your tush, pile into the cocktail menu. Taaaaaaxi!
10/ The Botanist, Reading
If you like your Porn Star Martini mixed by Monte Don, then you’ll love The Botanist. It’s a bar with a secret garden theme, serving with botanical-inspired cocktails, sometimes served in plant pots. Its cocktail menu is split into six sections, including long, shorts and spritzers, non-alcoholic drinks, shares, and the gin list. Or simply order a festive drinks package and swerve the menu entirely. You’ll find The Botanist on Kings Street, fast becoming a foodie quarter of Reading.
11/ Sit and Sip, Wokingham
Sip & Sit is a Wokingham newbie, but don’t be fooled by the lack of personality on the outside, the owner James Mattingley has been flexing his creative muscles and offers something different. Essentially, this is a tasting house that celebrates small producers, so if you love discovering a microbrewery or limited edition craft lager, you’re more than likely to find it here.
12/ Leafy Elephant, Wokingham
The Leafy Elephant is a gin bar with a library of 200 bottles from around the world and a passion for mixology. If cocktails are your thang, you’ll find plenty of Insta fun to be had here – one’s even served in a mini bathtub.