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Drink Like a Local: Our Guide on Where to Drink in Durham

Finding your perfect drink experience in Durham is our mission. Whether you crave a cosy pub with a crackling fire, a lively bar for expertly crafted cocktails, or a hidden gem with a unique ambience, we’re here to guide you.

Our independent approach means we visit anonymously and pay for our own drinks, ensuring our reviews reflect the true experience you can expect. We carefully evaluate each spot, looking for excellent drinks, welcoming atmospheres, knowledgeable staff, and value for your money.

Let us guide you to Durham’s most memorable drinking destinations.

A Toast to Transparency – Building Trust in Durham’s Drink Scene

Places to Drink in Durham City

Finding your perfect pub or bar in Durham hinges on trust. You want to know you can rely on recommendations to lead you to a place that lives up to your expectations.

At Secret Durham, we understand that which is why transparency is the cornerstone of everything we do. Here’s how we ensure our “Drink” recommendations are honest, unbiased, and empower you to navigate Durham’s vibrant nightlife scene with confidence:

Independent Reviews, Unwavering Integrity

  • Free from Influence: We fiercely guard our editorial independence. Bars and pubs pay nothing to be featured on our site. This ensures our recommendations are based solely on the quality of our in-person experience, free from any external pressure or bias.
  • Anonymous Adventures: Our reviewers visit establishments anonymously. This eliminates the possibility of preferential treatment and guarantees an accurate reflection of the service you, the regular customer, can expect.

Our Review Process

Transparency goes beyond simply stating our independence. We believe in providing a clear picture of how we evaluate each drinking establishment. This lets you understand the factors we consider when making recommendations and helps you determine how well a place aligns with your preferences.

  • Experienced Reviewers: Our team comprises passionate individuals who enjoy exploring Durham’s diverse drink offerings. Some may be seasoned barflies with a discerning palate, while others are simply locals with a deep appreciation for a welcoming atmosphere and a well-crafted drink. This blend ensures a range of perspectives while maintaining high standards.
  • In-Depth Evaluations: We don’t base our recommendations on a single visit. We revisit bars and pubs periodically to ensure consistency remains a hallmark of the experience. This allows us to account for potential fluctuations in quality and provide you with the most reliable information possible.
  • The Power of “No”: If a bar or pub consistently falls short of our expectations on multiple visits, we won’t hesitate to remove it from our recommendations. Our goal is to curate a list of exceptional drinking experiences; anything falling short won’t make the cut.

Building a Collaborative Community

Our commitment to transparency extends beyond just our own actions. We believe the best way to discover Durham’s hidden gems and up-and-coming spots is by fostering a collaborative community. Here’s how you can contribute:

  • Share Your Favourites: We welcome user recommendations on our Facebook page! Let us know your favourite spots for a quiet drink, a lively atmosphere, or a unique selection of beers – your suggestions could be featured on the site and help others discover their perfect place to drink in Durham.
  • Engaging with Reviews: Leave comments on our reviews! Share your experiences at specific bars or pubs, agree or disagree with our assessments, and help to enrich the information available to the entire community.

Our Drinking Evaluation Criteria – What Makes a Durham Drink Spot Shine

To find those truly exceptional places amidst Durham’s vibrant bar and pub scene, we carefully evaluate each establishment based on a specific set of criteria. This helps us deliver reliable recommendations and ensures you know what to expect at every spot we feature.

1. Quality & Variety of Drinks

The heart of any great bar or pub is, undeniably, the drinks themselves. We consider:

  • Craft & Creativity: Does the establishment offer a well-curated list of beers, wines, or spirits? Are their cocktails skilfully made with fresh ingredients?
  • Local Flair: We look for places that champion local breweries and distilleries or showcase unique Durham-inspired concoctions.
  • Range of Choices: A satisfying drink experience caters to diverse tastes – from classics done perfectly to interesting twists.
  • Attention to Detail: Proper glassware, temperature, and presentation elevate the drinking experience.

2. Ambiance – Setting the Perfect Mood

The atmosphere plays a crucial role in your overall drinking experience. We consider if the space aligns with its concept and caters to a specific clientele or vibe.

  • First Impressions: Is the bar or pub inviting and well-maintained? Does the décor and lighting contribute to the mood?
  • Comfort & Character: Whether it’s cosy and intimate or spacious and lively, we assess if the space feels welcoming.
  • Suited to the Occasion: Some spots are perfect for casual pints, others for special occasion cocktails. We help you find the right fit.

3. Service: Attentive & Knowledgeable

Exceptional service differentiates between a good drink and a memorable night out. We look for:

  • Welcoming & Efficient: Are you greeted promptly? Is the service timely, even when busy?
  • Knowledgeable Staff: Can bartenders or servers make recommendations, describe drinks, and answer questions?
  • Genuine Hospitality: Friendly, approachable staff who truly seem invested in your enjoyment enhance the experience.

4. Value for Money – Because Every Pound Matters

We understand that value isn’t just about the lowest price tag. When evaluating a bar or pub, we ask ourselves: Does the quality of drinks, service, and overall experience justify the cost? We aim to recommend places that feel worth the splurge, as well as hidden gems offering exceptional value.

5. The “X” Factor: Those Special Touches

Sometimes, the little things turn an ordinary drink into an unforgettable experience. We keep an eye out for:

  • Unique Drinks: Signature cocktails, a rotating selection of local beers, or a thoughtfully chosen wine list can elevate a spot.
  • Beyond the Bar: Does the place offer live music, special events, or perhaps a particularly stunning outdoor space?
  • Community Feel: A bustling neighbourhood pub with friendly regulars can be as special as a stylish cocktail lounge.

How We Visit & Evaluate – Ensuring Our Recommendations Reflect Our Experience

Pubs in Durham

We understand that trust in recommendations hinges on the integrity of the review process. We take great pride in our commitment to fair and thorough evaluations. Here’s a glimpse into how we visit and assess bars and pubs to ensure our “Drink” recommendations are reliable and reflect the experiences you can expect as a patron.

The Power of Anonymity – Levelling the Playing Field

  • Unobtrusive Observations: Our reviewers visit establishments unannounced. This eliminates the possibility of preferential treatment often extended to those identifying as reviewers. We blend in as regular customers, giving us an unfiltered perspective on the service, atmosphere, and overall experience.
  • Multiple Visits for Accuracy Through Consistency: We don’t base recommendations solely on a single experience. Each bar or pub receives multiple visits at different times and days of the week. This allows us to assess consistency in service, quality, and overall ambience across staff and business hours.

Beyond First Impressions – An In-Depth Look

A drink experience is a culmination of various factors. Our reviewers meticulously evaluate each element, ensuring a comprehensive understanding of the establishment.

  • The Drinks Themselves: We order a variety of drinks from the menu, including classics and house specialities. We assess the quality of ingredients, preparation techniques, presentation, and overall taste. This allows us to gauge the bartenders’ drink-making skills and the overall beverage program.
  • Ambience Matters: We pay close attention to the atmosphere – the décor, lighting, music, and overall feel. Does it match the concept and create a welcoming space for the target clientele? We consider details like noise levels, seating arrangements, and accessibility for people with disabilities.
  • Service Under Scrutiny:Throughout the visit, we observe how staff interact with customers. We evaluate greeting times, order accuracy, wait times, attentiveness, and overall friendliness. Do staff seem passionate about the drinks they serve and knowledgeable enough to make recommendations?

The Review Process – From Notes to Recommendations

After the visit(s), our reviewers compile their notes and create a detailed draft of the review. This draft includes an objective evaluation of the drinks, atmosphere, service, and value for money. It avoids subjective statements based on personal preferences and focuses on factual observations.

An internal review process follows. Senior reviewers and editors scrutinise the draft, ensuring clarity, objectivity, and consistency with our evaluation criteria. This collaborative approach ensures that the final review reflects a well-rounded assessment of the bar or pub.

Building a Dynamic Guide

The review process doesn’t stop after publication. We revisit establishments periodically to assess if anything has changed in terms of quality, service, or atmosphere. This helps ensure our recommendations remain up-to-date and accurately reflect the current experience at each bar or pub.

By employing these methods, we strive to create a reliable and informative guide to Durham’s drinking and nightlife scene. This section offers you a glimpse into the effort put into each recommendation, allowing you to feel confident using them to discover your perfect Durham drink experience.

Defining “The Best”

Best Bars in Durham

We understand that the “best” bar or pub is subjective. What’s perfect for an intimate date might not be ideal for a raucous night out with friends. That’s why our goal isn’t to crown a single winner but rather to offer you a diverse and curated selection of Durham’s excellent drinking establishments.

  • Variety is Key: Our recommendations showcase a range of styles and atmospheres. From traditional pubs to sleek cocktail bars, we highlight the best Durham offers across different categories.
  • Occasion Matters: Is it a casual post-work pint, a special occasion toast, or a place to catch live music? We help you find the perfect spot for your desired experience by considering factors beyond just the drinks.
  • Quality is Constant: While the “best” depends on your individual needs, one thing remains non-negotiable: quality. The drinks must be well-made, the service attentive, and the ambience fitting. We strive to recommend places that consistently deliver an enjoyable experience.
  • Always Evolving: Durham’s drink scene is vibrant and dynamic. We stay on top of new openings, changing menus, and hidden gems popping up around the city. Our commitment is to continually revisit and reassess, ensuring our recommendations offer a fresh reflection of Durham’s “Drink” landscape.

Where to Drink in Durham

Durham’s vibrant nightlife offers something for every taste and occasion. Whether you’re seeking a quiet corner in a historic pub, a lively spot with a fantastic jukebox, or a hidden gem with local brews and a welcoming crowd, we’re confident our recommendations will point you in the right direction. Let’s raise a glass to discover your next favourite place to drink in Durham.