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Reader Treats Just For You!

A cocktail, and make it snappy!

We've collated the best bars across the Muddy counties in which to whet your whistle with your favourite tipple. Ibuprofen at the ready? Then we'll begin!

BEDFORDSHIRE BERKSHIRE BUCKINGHAMSHIRE CAMBRIDGESHIRE CORNWALL DEVON GLOUCESTERSHIRE HERTFORDSHIRE HAMPSHIRE KENT LEICESTERSHIRE NORFOLK NORTHAMPTONSHIRE OXFORDSHIRE SOMERSET SURREY SUSSEX WARWICKSHIRE WILTSHIRE

 

BERKSHIRE

The Royal Lounge at The Hind’s Head, Bray

Hiinds Head Royal Lounge Bray Berkshire velvet chairs wooden floors shotgun chandelier

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. hindsheadbray.co.uk

 

Chez Mal Bar, Malmaison Reading

Malmaison Reading neon sign industrial bar

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. malmaison.com

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SUSSEX

The Plotting Parlour, Brighton

A short stroll from Brighton’s Palace Pier, yet tucked away enough to be a hidden gem, the Plotting Parlour is a cool cocktail bar that you won’t find on any hen party routes. It’s a stylish and quirky hangout with frescoed ceiling, vintage cinema seats and an inventive menu. Expect favourites with a twist, like Margarita with ginger and chilli, and wittily named specialities like the herby ‘Sage Against the Machine’. Book ahead to be sure of a spot – there’s a civilised table service only policy. Planning a party? Upstairs is available for private hire. Or, why not try your hand at making cocktails with friends on a masterclass? theplottingparlour-brighton.co.uk

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KENT

The Common Rooms, Tunbridge Wells

This new bar on Mount Ephraim has a Shoreditch vibe serving a funk and soul soundtrack and strong cocktails. Wannabe DJs can spin their own vinyl on Sundays. Muddy has a particular penchant for their Bramble cocktail – sweet but strong… remind you of anyone? *flutters eyes*. thecommonroomsbar

 

The Pound, Canterbury

Bringing together our two fave things – character and cocktails – this Canterbury bar with a difference sits in a quirky historic setting, in the city’s former police station and jail (hence the name, see?). With its funky, distinctive setting, central town location and The Parade Room restaurant in the same building this is a well-deserved winner of Kent’s Best Bar in 2018’s Muddy Awards. onepoundlane.co.uk

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CAMBRIDGESHIRE

Old Bicycle Shop, Cambs

On yer bike! Bars don’t get much quirkier than this beloved old bike shop turned hip hangout in central Cambs, with saddles and handlebars turned into wall art and parts fashioned into funky ornaments and lamps to celebrate the venue’s heritage. As well as a curated wine list, other tipple includes craft beer cans and a small cycling themed cocktail list complete with mocktails for designated cyclists.

 

Parker’s Tavern, University Arms, Cambs 

Setting up shop in former coaching inn, this brasserie and bar offers a relaxed setting mixing old and new with a stylish interior of brass leather stools, flashes of hot orange and books pages for wallpaper. The extensive wine list from The University Arms’ famously well-stocked cellar and traditional selection of spirits is matched with an inventive cocktail menu with Cambridge-esque twists, like the Blushing Byron and The Beetle Collector (sans beetles, don’t worry!), inspired by famous uni alumni Charles Darwin.

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SOMERSET

The Beckford Bottle Shop, Bath

Some 250 wines from around the world to buy (it’s a wine shop) or sup alongside delectable small sharing dishes, British charcuterie and cheese (it’s a tasting room with food) in a Georgian house on Saville Row, next to the Assembly Rooms. Expect sash windows, walls lined – from floor to beaten tin ceiling – with bottles of wine, and possibly the world’s longest wraparound red leather chesterfield. The latest venture from the people behind the fabulous Talbot Inn, Mells, Lord Poulett Arms, Hinton St George and The Beckford Arms, Fonthill Gifford. beckfordbottleshop.com

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CORNWALL

Ruby’s, Padstow

A cosy hideaway for cocktails in Padstow, Rick Stein’s Ruby’s bar is perfectly situated for pre-dinner drinks, next door to St. Petroc’s Bistro and just a few minute’s stroll from the pretty harbour. The menu includes some Stein family favourites inspired by their travels, including the Ceylon Negroni (for Rick), Gin Highball (for Jill) and the South & Stormy (for Padstow). But mine’s a Ruby Fizz – with Pinkster Gin, Pomegranate and Camel Valley Pinot Noir. And for those of you want to take your booze appreciation to the next level, the Ruby’s bar team has a series of drinks masterclasses lined up over the next few months. rickstein.com

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BUCKINGHAMSHIRE

The Garage, Buckingham 

Found in Bucks’ indie hub, The Hidden Quarter, on Well St, The Garage restaurant and bar has an relaxed but cool vibe perfect for a sneaky after-work G&T (they have a majorly impressive selection) but still laid back enough to take the kids for food. Funky decor all ’round with long communal tables, industrial accessories and old-school petrol pumps flanking the doors.

wellstgarage.co.uk

 

Lata Lata, High Wycombe 

This one is located in an underpass, but read on, my friend! It’s perhaps the hippest hangout High Wycombe has ever seen. Created by the brains behind funky café, Tin Kitchen, Lata Lata has your Saturday night sorted with cocktails, a tapas-style menu and an Insta-worthy interior, with hanging plants and a pretty pink and forest green colour scheme.

latalata.co.uk

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SURREY

1907 Bar, Weybridge

Inspired by the glamour and elegance of the 1920s and 30s, the 1907 Bar at the Brooklands Hotel in Weybridge is a great place to catch up for a glass of wine or cocktail. Overlooking the Mercedes-Benz World track, you can literally watch the world whizz by. The bar offers a great choice of eats, including light lunches, sharing platters and afternoon teas. And if you can’t quite make it home, there’s just a 30 second stagger upstairs to one of the luxury rooms. brooklandshotelsurrey.com

 

Rose and Crown Bar, Godalming

Having recently undergone a spruce up, the Rose and Crown in Godalming is looking pretty dapper indeed – all minimalist Scandi cool in blues, whites and blonde timbers. Find a cosy corner and order from the cocktail menu, or from Wed to Sat throughout February and March the bar is hosting Apres Ski pop-ups featuring Schnapps, steins and icy cold beers as well as a range of cocktails including the Twisted G&T. Snowsuits and boots optional. roseandcrownbar.co.uk

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WARWICKSHIRE

Fizzy Moon Brewhouse, Leamington Spa

Looking to party? Leamington’s been ranked one of the happiest place to live in the UK, and this buzzy, trendy bar in a renovated Victorian townhouse will put a smile on your face. Fizzy Moon was the spa town’s first microbrewery pub when it opened in 2016, but it also has an effervescent Fizz and Gin bar – more than 140 different gins including unusual flavours such as Bakewell gin, lavender, smokey chilli and sherbet lemon; along with boutique beers and an intriguing cocktail menu. It’s  super-friendly, slightly kitsch and won Best Bar in the 2018 Muddy Warwickshire Awards. A new Gin Club is launching just in time for Valentine’s Night on Thurs Feb 14, with tapas, live music by the Sugar Sweet Duo and new flavour gins/cocktails (tickets £20pp). And if you’re celebrating a special occasion you can hire the outdoor luxury VIP hut for 8 – 10 people with waitress service. fizzymoonbrewhouse.com

 

The Clarendon Arms, Castle Hill, Kenilworth

This trad family-friendly pub is on the prettiest of cottage rows, just opposite one of Warwickshire’s top tourist attractions, Kenilworth Castle, and a short walk away from lovely Abbey Fields. The bar, refurbished last April, with its two warming wood burners, serves local British gins including Chase Gin and Whitley Neill, half-price Prosecco on Fridays and local beers from Banbury-based Hook Norton Brewery and Churchend Brewery in Nuneaton. There’s a Happy hour 5.30 – 7pm, Mon to Fri (on ales, lagers & wine), a function room upstairs and daily deals on classic pub grub. Especially good for a long, lazy afternoon drink after a dog walk as four-legged family members are also welcome. Next-door is bow-fronted rustic restaurant Harringtons on the Hill, jointly run by the same owners. clarendonarmspub.co.uk

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DEVON

Crocketts Bar, Exeter

bar men bottles

Photo: Adam Oseland Photography

Sneak off Exeter’s busy Queen Street, up the cobbles of Upper Paul Street and you’ll discover a discreet black door – your invitation to step inside the award-winning Crocketts and experience pure gin heaven. This is one of the friendliest and most fun bars you’ll totter across in town, all executed with a touch of pure class. If you’re yet to jump on the gin wagon, then you’ll enjoy experimenting here; Team Crocketts are super-knowledgeable and keen to get you involved in their favourite tipple and, to be fair it would probably be quicker to list the gins they don’t have on the shelves. But rest assured, if you’re really not up for spirits and you still want a glam night out here (why wouldn’t you, it’s a fab space to meet with your bezzies), there’s plenty on the menu for the hardened wine or beer-supping types, too. We’ll drink to that – cheers! crockettsbar.co.uk

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BEDFORDSHIRE

The Hide, Ampthill

The aptly named The Hide is tucked down a side street in the pretty market town of Ampthill, full of twinkly, cosy promise. It’s a real hybrid of brunchy, lunchy family-friendly classics in the day (think unpretentious bacon sarnies, toasted ciabbattas and pastries), but from Tuesday through to Saturday it’s late night opening (well, 11pm – 12am!) with bubbles, cocktails and beers and a warm, inclusive, cool vibe. The Hide closes for a refurb on 24 Feb but is due to reopen on Fri 8 March. Watch this space, we’re bound to review it! thehidelounge.com

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NORFOLK

Blue Joanna, Norwich 

A funky little bar, just outside the city centre in the heart of the trendy Golden Triangle. The vibe is relaxed and fun and appeals to the 30+ hipster clientele. Dedicated to good music, there’s an impressive vinyl collection ready to take you on a trip down memory lane. Live music on Saturday nights invariably ends with the whole bar singing along around the blue piano. European style outdoor seating in the summer plus delicious Asian style street food and cocktails – it never fails to be a good night out. bluejoanna.co.uk

 

Archers Kitchen and Cocktail Bar, Kings Lynn 

If you’re escaping to the North Norfolk coast but can’t quite go urban cold turkey, head to Archers Kitchen and Cocktail Bar for fabulous food, funky music and fresh cocktails. Best things come in small packages and this shabby chic little bar is a great place to chill out with friends. Open all day, it serves a rather good breakfast – perfect for soaking up the night before. Late risers – pop in for cake and explore the cobbled quayside – fast becoming the cool place to hang out in West Norfolk. archerskingslynn

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GLOUCESTERSHIRE

Lily Gins, Cheltenham

Don’t expect the usual chic cocktail joint here – this is a whoopee spot where the gin is cold but the piano’s hot. The tunes come thick and fast, the staff are a blast and you’ll be downing shots in no time. Cocktails are loud, extrovert and unashamedly awesome. Lily Gin’s Cocktail Master Class is perfect for a celebration with your besties with a glass of fizz on arrival (that’ll get you started) before you create your own cocktail, or drop in on the first Sunday of the month for live music, ‘Lily’s Unplugged’. lilygins.co.uk

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OXFORDSHIRE

The Varsity Club, Oxford

If your on the hunt for a stonking good view with your tipple, TVC is a no brainer. The original rooftop hotspot in central Ox, the terrace has a 360° panorama of the city’s spires and is open all year round with a dedicated beer, Prosecco and Pimm’s bar and a cocktail list to boot (thankfully with heating during the winter months). The four-floor space has a grown up, sophisticated vibe, with the ground floor bar operating an over 21s policy- there’s even a resident DJ that plays until 3am if you can keep awake that long! tvcoxford.co.uk

 

Kazbar, Oxford 

Kazbar, on Oxford’s cool Cowley Rd, really goes the whole shebang with its decor. You actually feel like you’re in Spain when you’re in there. There’s sandy walls, hanging guitars, flowers and Flamenco dresses galore and a relaxed yet buzzy vibe. And, of of course, the key to any good holiday – amazing cocktails (the signature  Kazmopolitan is a must!) There’s also great tapas that you can eat perched on the bar, or in the restaurant out back while the live music blazes. A no brainer for a brilliant night out. kazbar.co.uk

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HAMPSHIRE

Incognito, Winchester

Incgonito winchester best bar

This is not just a bar, but Chadwick Smithfield’s very own Cocktail, Prosecco and Gin Parlour. The Muddy Award-winning Incognito has been wowing punters in Winchester for a while now with its OTT decor and similarly flamboyant drinks. Whether you stop by for a short libation or want to undertake their five-stop Gin Safari (a bargainous £29.99), you’ll be left with a wonderful taste in your mouth (if you can remember it the next morning). incognitowinchester.co.uk

 

HarBAR on 6th, Southampton

harbar exterior 3

High above Southampton city centre located in the 5-star Southampton Harbour Hotel is HarBAR on 6th, a rooftop bar with arguably the best views on the south coast. Overlooking the marina, it’s the perfect spot to have a drink and some lunch in the summer sun, or sip bubbles overlooking the sun setting over the skyline. harbourhotels.co.uk

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HERTFORDSHIRE

Crockers Tring

It might be the fanciest restaurant that this little market town has to offer, with its seasonally changing tasting menus designed by Scott Barnard (Masterchef: The Professionals 2015 runner up) and served in a chef’s table setting, but Crockers also boasts a pretty swish bar downstairs, too. The copper-clad seating area feels super sophisticated and elegant, with the feel of a boutique hotel – the kind of place you want to get dressed up for. The cocktail list features a number of  intriguing variations on classics, from Martinis to Daiquiris, and all at a very pocket-friendly £8 a pop – we’ll take two, thanks! The bar snacks include a selection of lip-smacking morsels, which will give you a taste of what’s on offer in the restaurant upstairs. We were tempted to keep it a local secret, but it’s too good not to share… crockerstring.co.uk

 

The Mixer, Ware

With a definite air of Shoreditch cool about it, this vintage cocktail bar in the riverside town of Ware is as shabby chic as they come  – think peeling paintwork, moody lighting and mismatched furniture with worn upholstery, plus quirky touches such as retro Ladybird books dotted around. Specialising in experimental cocktails (think Candy Floss bellinis) there’s also  a good selection of gins as well as craft beers on offer. They host a load of cool events too, such as the monthly Art & Cocktails, where you can learn to paint while you drink (could be interesting!), themed nights and live music, with plenty more to come, so watch this space. themixer-ware.co.uk

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WILTSHIRE.

The Craft Bar, Salisbury

Craft beer, craft cider and a cool street food kitchen serving knock-out burgers and fries…welcome to your local Salisbury haunt. A blend of traditional and modern, you can drink yourself silly in this gaff – the cocktails are seriously impressive, from classic old school to modern and twisted, and there’s a whopping 45 on offer BOGOF during happy hour (or hours, in this case). The crew here know their stuff – they craft their own infusions from hedgerow-foraged fruits and even grow their own mint for mojitos. thecraftbar.wordpress.com

 

The Old Ale and Coffee House, Salisbury

The Old Ale and Coffee House has without doubt the coolest garden in Salisbury (bookable beach huts, no less), a garden bar, even a ping pong table. If you ever make it inside, check out the full range of craft beers, Bloody Marys to die for and over 30 different gins. Well, that’s got Muddy written all over it, hasn’t it? oldaleandcoffeehouse.com

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LEICESTERSHIRE

The Gadabout, Leicester

Open just over a year, this city centre bar has gone from strength to strength and was even a finalist in the Muddy Awards last year. Revamping a rather dull-looking 17th century tavern, you’ll now find plush seating scattered around original exposed brick walls, gorgeous navy walls with copper and brass accessories which have been a hit with locals and out-of-towners alike. The bar’s concept is based around seeking pleasure – as the name suggests – from around the world which starts to makes sense when you see their cocktail menu – Japanese Origami or Canadian Maple Chops, anyone? These guys aren’t messing around and they’re passionate about cocktails even the one they serve from a keg (the first ever for the city)! I feel a Muddy night out coming. thegadabout.co.uk

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NORTHAMPTONSHIRE

John Franklin’s, Northampton

John Franklin’s is one of those bars that suits most people. In the day you can come for a quiet coffee alone with a good book, or for a catch up with friends and a slice of cake. It also has its very own Deli counter where you can try the delish selection of locally-produced cheeses, chutneys, relishes and cured meats (nom!). The bar is centrally located and attached to the Royal & Derngate theatre so it’s a great place to start your evening with a good selection of traditional craft beers like BrewDog Punk IPA. Beer and wine not your thing? Sample some of the cocktails like a Pornstar Martini or Peach Bellini and get your dancing shoes on for the heady heights of northampton town! johnfranklins.com

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