Oxford’s Best Cocktails
Because sometimes we want something with a bit more pizzazz than a country pub, right? Make mine an Aperol Spritz, barman.
Looking for a night out with a dash of glamour? Lager and lime and a Scotch egg down the village pub not quite what you had in mind? We hear you. Sometimes only a cocktail will do – but can you make it snappy, please? Why do “mixologists” (sorry, can’t take that job title seriously) always take so darn long? We’re thirsty here, guys! Anyway, glad-rags and non-sensible shoes on, let’s go OUT out in Oxford….
Amid the trad, ancient, studenty pubs of the city centre is this gleaming, modern bar, tucked away down Blue Boar Street – the kinda place that’d give Inspector Morse a heart attack, basically. We suggest you perch on a Philippe Starck sofa on the outdoor terrace, sup a well-priced cocktail (most are £6.95, £4.95 during happy hour) and put the world to rights.
If you like your culture with a side-order of booze (*raises hand*), head for the Ashmo’s rooftop restaurant. There you will find (until 30 July at least), like a glimmering mirage in the desert, a lovely pop-up bar on the outdoor terrace. You can snuggle into a deckchair and admire views of the city’s dreaming spires with a delicious, cold concoction to hand. Don’t tell all the tourists downstairs though, it can be our little secret.
Under The Pint Shop, on George Street, to be precise. This new cosy bar is a welcome addition to the site’s ground floor pub and basement family-friendly restaurant (which it adjoins). It has a short but sweet cocktail menu, with an emphasis on G&T permutations, and lots of low-lit nooks with comfy velvet armchairs and leather Chesterfields. If you’re going to a show at the New Theatre opposite, this is the perfect spot for a warm-up snifter.
It looks like a classic boozer with its unassuming frontage on Little Clarendon Street (loads of cool indie shops, cafés and restaurants down this road, by the way) but don’t be fooled, this is cocktail Nirvana. Bonus points for knowledgeable, friendly staff and flattering lighting (hey, it’s important!).
We wouldn’t normally advocate martinis in a shopping mall but we make an exception for The Westgate Centre in Oxford. As do a helluva lot of other people – the lively Alchemist, with its prime roof terrace location, is always jam-packed with party people. Their cocktail list is inventive and extensive – we’ll take a rhubarb and custard sour, please.
This quirky converted – guess? – jam factory near the station is an art gallery cum bar cum restaurant, and because it’s away from the main city centre drag, it’s pleasingly tourist-free. If you prefer craft beer to cocktails, you’re in luck – they have a huge range here, including local brews from the Cotswolds. Happy hour is daily from 3pm-7pm.
We’ve spent many an evening rocking the Kazbar over the years. It may be on gritty Cowley Road but squint (and I do after three sangrias, believe me) and you could almost be in the Med. Admire the colourful Moorish décor, grab some tasty tapas to soak up the booze and try to choose between a fig & vanilla daiquiri and Moroccan iced tea (pimped with Absolut). Café Coco just across the street is pretty fun too.
The last Muddy Christmas party kicked off with mojitos at this Oxford institution – need we say more? Um, actually we literally can’t say more because we can’t remember anything past 8pm. What we can tell you is that this bijou bar in groovy Jericho has an insanely long drinks lists and was voted one of the Top 50 best bars in the country by The Sunday Times. Hic!