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Vinegar Strokes
Photograph: Courtesy Vinegar Strokes

Vinegar Strokes's five go-to gay bars in London

The 'RuPaul's Drag Race' contestant and WorldPride 2021 Drag Night performer share her favorite spots in the capital

Written by
Gianfranco Lentini
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You can catch a live performance from Vinegar Strokes at WorldPride 2021's Drag Night on Friday, August 20, 2021. As an official media partner of the international event, we'll be streaming the show live so you can enjoy the glitz and glamour wherever you are in the world.

Fresh off London’s Freedom Day celebration—a day that marked the end of over a year of COVID-19 lockdown restrictions—the LGBTQ nightlife scene is back. And who better to give us the tea on their five go-to gay bars than “the proper London lady” herself, Vinegar Strokes!

A finalist on RuPaul’s Drag Race UK Season 1, this comedy queen is no stranger around the Thames having appeared on the West End in Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, alongside Michelle Visage, and, most recently, Death Drop. Now, Vinegar’s back to share her must-visit list of Soho, “the LGBTQ Mecca of London,” as well as a few pro-tips.

G-A-Y Bar

“I would start [my night out] in Soho at G-A-Y Bar because it’s very affordable and they play some incredible camp music.” This world-famous Soho institution keeps the drinks flowing between three bustling floors of electric entertainment. And when their doors close at midnight, G-A-Y Late throws their doors wide open around the corner to keep the party going.

Admiral Duncan

“Where I would go after that is Admiral Duncan. It’s quite an old-fashioned bar in London. Very old school, lots of drag, lots of karaoke.” Located right in the heart of Soho, this infamous gay pub has been pouring drafts since the early 19th century. Packed by a slightly older crowd, it’s the perfect place to get a nostalgic fix of ‘80s and ‘90s music.

Friendly Society

“Friendly Society is amazing! It’s absolutely the underground place to go to. Lots of cracks in the walls [to gather] and pictures to look at. The cocktails are amazing. They’re an excellent place.” Sneak through a back-alley doorway and down an unassuming stairwell to find this nocturnal crowd that’s fierce in its fluidity. All shade of queer accepted here.

Freedom Bar

“This bar gets a lot of musical theatre performers [post their West End performances] coming in to sing a few songs. I do that a lot myself.” Though this cocktail lounge isn’t specifically labeled as an LGBTQ venue, the crowd is diverse, welcoming, and always ready to throw down à la Gatsby.

Heaven

“If I’m feeling like I need to go out-out, I’m going to Heaven. I literally almost ended up there last night, and I told myself, ‘I have to go home.’ So, yes, that always ends up being the end of my night.” London’s most hedonistic gay superclub since ‘79, partiers can quite literally spend their night on cloud nine. This venue also plays host to the long-running gay night G-A-Y (affiliated with the same company that operates the venues G-A-Y Bar and G-A-Y Late).

Pro-Tip: Tipping your bar staff
“It’s not customary to tip the bar staff. Literally, you grab the drink, and you go. Well, unless you want to tip them a different way after their shift… But usually, drink and go.”

Pro-Tip: Tipping drag queens
“Even the drag queens don’t get tips. I’ve seen drag queens try to do a little tip jar moment. Sometimes it works. But obviously, [the American dollar] is paper. Ours is a coin. If we were to tip the queens over here, chucking them pound coins, there’d be a lot of dead drag queens.”

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