This week is London Cocktail Week 2014, seven days of merriment all around the capital, with bars serving signature cocktails at £4 a pop. All you need to buy one is a London Cocktail Week wristband, the appropriate four shiny pound coins and be upright enough to drink. What could be simpler? Pick your route, pick your cocktails and away you go. And that’s exactly what we did…
Bar One: The Blind Pig Cocktail: Gin-Quininey Presentation: 7/10 Taste: 7/10 Tipsy-o-meter: I had a big lunch, all good!
For bar one, we hit up the swanky bar above Jason Atherton’s Social Eating House in Soho. We bagged a window seat and sat down to a refreshing gin fizz, served in specially-labelled bottles with a straw. I got a pleasant buzz – not too shabby a start.
Bar Two: Casa Cocktail: Tobacco Old Fashioned, rum-based Presentation: 10/10 Taste: 9/10 Tipsy-o-meter: Drunk. I know.
For drink two, we headed to Casa, a reassuringly stylish bar where the staff explained the cocktail to us in detail and made it with love and care before our very eyes. It was a thing of beauty, rum with some ice and bitters. We chewed the tobacco leaf, sipped the cocktail, my ears turned red, then we lurched out the door. Perhaps I should have had more carbs at lunch.
Bar Three: The Print Room Cocktail: The Print Room Twist, vodka-based Presentation: 7/10 Taste: 7/10 Tipsy-o-meter: Might fall off balcony at any minute.
Next up, we spiralled up to the sky and got a seat overlooking the jugglers on unicycles in Covent Garden. At rush hour. Amazing. The cocktail itself promised wild tea vodka, earl grey syrup and Prosecco, and succeeded in slapping us with the right combination of fizz & taste. This was, again, worth the trek.
Bar Four: Earlham Street Clubhouse Cocktail: White House, bourbon-based Presentation: 9/10 Taste: 8/10 Tipsy-o-meter: Back on track after some food and a beer (almost a soft drink).
For drink four, we’d just eaten but were offered free pizza with it too – score! The White House was a long drink of bourbon, Cointreau and a bucket of lemon juice, which meant you made that face when you drank it. Seriously. It also came with a cherry on top and an American flag. If you like sour drinks (I do), this was a winner.
Bar Five: Reverend J W Simpson Cocktail: Espresso Kopi Susu, rum-based Presentation: 10/10 Taste: 9/10 Tipsy-o-meter: Creamy, dreamy heaven.
It took a while to find this bar on Goodge Street, but once we’d descended its stairs, we knew we were in good hands. The star cocktail was presented beautifully by precisely bearded men and tasted divine – like the ultimate rum-coffee dessert in a glass. With a gallon of cream and sugar sitting on the top. Best to focus on the taste, not the calories.
Next up we legged it across the road to the famous London Cocktail Club, the original in Goodge Street. It’s a good-looking room, but when a cocktail bar is playing Robbie Williams’ Angels on full pelt, you know something’s awry. Sure enough, when our cocktail arrived with a condom paper-clipped to the side, my heart sank. The drink itself was well executed. The condom? I’m still making a face now and it’s worse than the one about the lemon.
Bar Seven: The Red Bar, Bambou Cocktail: Sencha Mizuwari, whisky-based Presentation: 8/10 Taste: 9/10 Tipsy-o-meter: Time for another?
The final stop on our cocktail odyssey took us high into the sky above BamBou, to its renowned Red Bar. They offered a choice of two cocktails, and mine was a perfect blend of honey, whisky, ginger and their own finishings, served in a crystal glass with the largest ice of the night – an ice boulder perhaps? If you discount the squealing American ladies opposite us – either they’d just seen a mouse or they were really excited by the cocktails – this was another triumph.
This year’s London Cocktail Week felt more grown-up and better executed than last time – it’s a festival that’s growing and that’s terrific. Fancy bars and delicious drinks at knock-down prices – what’s not to love about this cocktail adventure around London Town? If you haven’t been yet, there’s still three days left to hot-foot it down. And if you do nothing else, head to Casa and Reverend J W Simpson, our two stand-outs. Until next year…