Best Bars in Oxford for Cocktails, Wine and All Things Fine
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Oxford has more than its fair share of bars – no surprises there. But when it comes to cocktails, not any bar will do. Looking for the best cocktail bars in Oxford? You’ve come to the right place.
Oxford is a city that does cocktails well. For a relatively small area, there are a lot of talented bartenders who know their way around a liquor cabinet. Even so, picking the best bars in Oxford can be a difficult task.
Luckily, I’ve spent plenty of time navigating the drinks scene. So, I am expertly clued up on which of Oxford’s cocktail bars are worth spending money on and which are to be avoided at all costs.
I always knew this expertise would come in handy one day… Without further ado, enjoy this list of the best cocktail and wine bars in Oxford.
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Best Bars in Oxford – Top Picks
Named as one of the Top 50 Bars in the World by The Sunday Times, Raoul’s is always going to feature on any list of the best cocktail bars in Oxford.
Set over a couple of floors, the bar is a warren of small nooks and cosy seating that’s perfect for date night or a chilled-out catch-up with friends over an absolutely banging cocktail.
Believe the hype – the cocktails are good. More than good – the kind of cocktails that make you throw caution to the wind and have one more even though you have a train to catch or an essay to submit (we’ve all been there).
The menu changes frequently – partly driven by what’s in season (they use a lot of fresh fruit to create their cocktails) and new concoctions created by the bartenders.
It’s too difficult to pick a favourite – half the fun is picking something you’ve never heard of and finding out that it’s the new apple of your eye.
Note: Raoul’s is temporarily closed but will reopen in 2023 – keep your peepers out for that!
The Duke of Cambridge
Tucked away on Little Clarendon Street, The Duke of Cambridge (or the Duke as it’s affectionately known) is one of our favourite bars in Oxford.
The Duke of Cambridge has been serving stellar cocktails in Oxford since 1981 – that’s over 30 years of mixing, shaking and cocktail expertise – and it shows.
The extensive menu covers a lot of classics done well. Their negronis are on-point, and the Manhattans – a cocktail that should be relatively simple but can go horribly wrong – are perfect.
There are many in-house concoctions, too – our favourite is the rather cheekily named F.U Gentily – a very drinkable combination of Jade absinthe caramelized sugar cube, passion fruit syrup and champagne.
The Duke’s Happy Hour(s) offers excellent value and great quality cocktails – a rare combination.
Add to that comfortable seating and friendly mixologists who are always willing to recommend something new for you to try and you’ll see why it’s one of the best cocktail bars Oxford has.
A bar that’s on top of a shopping centre… doesn’t sound that great. But, you know what? The Alchemist pulls it off.
The first sign that The Alchemist takes its cocktail-making seriously? The huge array of liquors meticulously arranged on numerous shelves behind the mixologists.
The second? The menu itself – it’s vast. Perhaps a little too vast but when you’ve got the goods (well, the cocktails) to back it up, you can’t blame them for wanting to show off a little.
It’s not often that you come across a cocktail that pretty much knocks your socks off but the White Negroni, a punchy (and tasty) combination of gin, white vermouth, bitter bianco and negroni caviar was memorable for all the right reasons.
The one caveat? It’s a shame that all the comfortable seating is reserved for diners only.
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The Varsity Club
For a city with so many gorgeous views, Oxford has surprisingly few rooftop bars.
That’s where The Varsity Club steps in. Put together the central location and the rooftop seating and you get an Oxford cocktail bar with some pretty incredible views.
The Varsity Club is set over several floors with each floor serving a slightly different purpose. The cocktail bar is technically on the floor below the roof but when the rooftop is open, it’s easy enough to get cocktails there. Unsurprisingly, it can be difficult to nab a spot on a hot summer’s day.
Cocktail Bars in Oxford
We’ve raved about LJ’s plenty before – what’s not to love about a cool cocktail bar tucked away in the coolest part of Oxford? Answer: Absolutely nothing.
During the week, things are pretty casual. It’s the perfect spot for a long-awaited catch up with the girls. But by Friday night, things have amped up a little bit… and suddenly you’re five cocktails in and the music is blaring and you just want to PAR-TAY. Just me?
In all honesty, the cocktail menu isn’t too inspiring, instead filled with much-loved classics, but the sheer variety (we counted more than 35) means you’ll find something new no matter how many times you visit.
We remember having a few misgivings when Angels opened – it’s right across the road from the Duke of Cambridge, in Jericho, an area that doesn’t suffer from a lack of cocktail bars by any stretch of the imagination.
What would Angels bring to the table?
Well, more than a decade later, the answer is clearly a lot. The menu features old faves alongside new creations and the daily happy hour is excellent value.
This is a real neighbourhood cocktail bar – sure Angels sets out to impress, but the mixologists are friendly and down to earth and more than willing to help if you have your heart set on something that isn’t on the menu.
Buzzing atmosphere, great cocktails and friendly mixologists? We’re sold.
Read More: The Best Pubs in Oxford – Historic Inns and Famous Drinking Holes
The younger sister of The Duke of Cambridge, The House opened in 2009 and has firmly propelled itself onto every list of the best bars in Oxford.
It’s no surprise seeing as it’s the same guys who run The Duke – over 30 years of expertise has brought the bar to life.
But it would be a mistake to think The House is a simple replica of it’s older sibling. The House is all about playful fun and brilliant cocktails.
The quirky interior of dusky pinks and Phillipe Starck furniture sets the tone – as does the Games Room – which comes complete with its own billiard table.
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We deliberated about including Freud on our list of best bars in Oxford as, in truth, it can be a bit hit and miss.
But how often do you get to have your evening drinks in a converted Neoclassical-style church?
The building was constructed in 1836 and served as such before closing and being deconsecrated in the 1960s. Freud opened in the late 80s and the rest, as they say, is history.
Like many of Oxford’s cocktail bars, Freud has a happy hour but the cocktails, while decent, are nothing to write home about. It’s still a cool spot for a couple of drinks but set your expectations accordingly.
Hank’s is just the chilled out tonic you need after a busy day at work. Grab your friends and head to this Oxford bar for an evening of late night nibbles and cocktails.
Trust me when I say that Hank’s Peach Melba Spritz is possibly the tastiest cocktail we’ve ever tried. Although, those of you who like your drinks less sweet will appreciate the boozy Mai Thai.
Happy hour is between 6pm and 8pm on weekdays and 4pm until 6 p.m. on Saturdays – you can grab £2 off any cocktail on the menu. Doesn’t get much happier than that.
When it comes to Oxford cocktail bars, Thirst Bar is not only the spot for affordable drinks, but it’s one of the best party spots in the city. If you like your nights out unpredictably wild, you’ll want to head here with a group of your nearest and dearest pals.
The heated outdoor terrace is delightful even on the chilliest of winter evenings, while the dancefloor inside is the perfect place to bust some moves to the backdrop of the DJ’s sounds.
The bar menu offers a wide range of classic cocktails, as well as weekly specials which take on their own boozy twist.
Cool Oxford Bars You Should Check Out
Oh, OXO Bar, at first glance you might be tempted to skip this cool drinking hole situated on the corner of Chain Alley and George Street. But that would be very, very foolish.
The inconspicuous outside is the perfect cover for a dimly-lit, intimate cocktail bar in Oxford. You know the kind of place where you can saddle up on the bar and become besties with the bartender? Yep… it’s one of those.
The cocktails are excellent, they have over 150 gins, and the atmosphere is welcoming AF. What more do you need?
The Lighthouse is a 3-in-1 kinda deal: part pub, part cocktail bar, and part tapas restaurant, all rolled into one brilliant package.
They pride themselves on using only the best boutique gins and rums local to Oxfordshire, and their cocktail menu is a culmination of both classics and unique takes.
Any bar where you can scoff patatas bravas whilst you quaff cocktails is a winner in our eyes.
Head to the other side of Pacey’s Bridge, where Nomad Bar waits for you.
A Lebanese restaurant pairing mezze and cocktails in Oxford was always going to be somewhat of a hidden gem… but we’re feeling generous, so we’ll share. You’re welcome.
Cocktails change regularly, though they’re usually a combo of classics and more unique offerings. Order the spicy hummus (and the baba ganoush – why not, eh?) on the side and thank me later.
Located on Cowley Road, The Baron is truly one of the best cocktail bars in Oxford.
With a heavy focus on gin, you can bet that they know how to make a mean cocktail or two – and what’s more, they’re only £4 during Happy Hour (6 pm-9 pm, Sunday-Thursday). Happy Days.
The Raspberry Collins – a fruity take on the good ol’ Tom – is my top pick. Although I soon follow that up with a strawberry seduction, which can only be compared to a gin and strawberry version of a classic Mojito.
Or, ask for the Orgasm if you can hold back giggles (I certainly cannot).
The Mad Hatter
In a city linked with so many literary greats, it’s no wonder that there’s a brilliant Alice in Wonderland-themed speakeasy tucked away on Iffley Road.
Step into the weird and wonderful world of The Mad Hatter, where drinks are ordered by a telephone on your table and cocktails are as theatrical as they are delicious.
Brave The Queen of Hearts if you dare (a heavy concoction of vodka, passoa, pomegranate juice, lime juice, raspberry, and rhubarb bitters) or, if that all-important insta pic is your top priority, you won’t go wrong with An Unusual Flower – a floral gin-based cocktail garnished with edible flowers.
Sandy’s Piano Bar
Tucked away just behind the Radcliffe Camera, Sandy’s Piano Bar is a hidden speakeasy that just so happens to serve up some of the best drinks in Oxford.
Wines, beers, cocktails, and softs are all very much on the menu, as are excellent live shows featuring some of the best local talent. Perch at this fabulous underground bar as incredible musicians tinkle the ivories.
The Oxford Wine Cafe
For wine lovers, spending an evening at The Oxford Wine Cafe in Jericho is a no-brainer. This cool little spot is perfect for budding sommeliers and wine enthusiasts alike.
They boast a wide range of wines on their menu, both local and from abroad, so you’re bound to be catered to whatever your wine taste – for me, it’s a sweet sparkling rosé, thanks.
This spot is also located on Little Clarendon Street alongside many of the other bars featured in this guide, so it makes a great jumping-off point for an evening of boozing (sensibly, of course!).
Cocktail Bars in Oxford: Map
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