It’s that time of year again as the UK’s biggest cocktail celebration returns to the capital this month. The spring edition of Cocktails In The City brings some of the best drinking hotspots to you. Setting up camp at the stunning surrounds of One Marylebone, Londoners can go on a bar crawl under one roof.
Twenty-five of the world’s top bars will be hosting pop-ups from 30 March – 1 April in the Georgian venue’s Grand Hall. Among those representing will be The Artesian (four-time winner of World’s Best Bar), concealed hotspots London Cocktail Club and Reverend JW Simpson, speakeasies Barts and The Lucky Pig and hotel classics Trader Vic’s and The Blue Bar, serving their signature drinks and experimental new creations.
Meanwhile, jetting in from Europe will be Berlin’s Schwein Bar, Stockholm’s Linje Tio, Oslo’s Himkok and Copenhagen’s Ruby. The Nordic bars will be teaming up with Woodford Reserve to create the ‘Hygge’ drinking experience with their pop-up bars nestled together on the cosy 2nd floor.
Cocktail fans will also have the chance to blend their own bespoke gin with London micro-distillery Sacred in the enchanted garden, mix their own concotions with some of the capital’s finest mixologists and learn how to create the ultimate Rum Punch with The Duppy Share.
Other bars taking part include 100 Hoxton, 214 Bermondsey, Burlock, Cahoots, Disrepute, Gaucho, Hush, The Four Sisters Townhouse and Three Six Six.
- Cocktails In The City takes place from 30 March – 1 April 2017 at One Marylebone, 1 Marylebone Road, Marylebone, NW1 4AQ. Nearest station: Great Portland Street or Regents Park. Ticket: £15 includes 1 cocktail. For more information and booking, visit the Cocktails In The City website.
For a guide to what else is on in April, click here.
Following on from their success of The Flavour Rooms at the Sanderson Hotel and Bluewater last year, flavour pioneers Smith & Sinclair are back with a new sensory, taste experience for adventurous Londoners. Launching in Soho this March will be an exciting new pop-up cocktail bar with a twist.
Smith & Sinclair are teaming up with Tanqueray London Dry Gin to launch the Tanqueray Experimental Garnish Bar. The menu will feature a bespoke collection of four Tanqueray cocktails which drinkers are invited to get creative with and experiment with their own edible garnishes, such as edible perfumes, gin oils and spherification balls that pop in the mouth. Guests are encouraged to reserve a spot at the bar in advance at £12pp, which includes a Smith & Sinclair edible cocktail, a Tanqueray cocktail and a range of garnishes.
For those in a really creative mood, you can head to the edible perfume workshop to make your own scents to smell… and taste. You’ll be taken on a journey through the history of fragrance along with tastings, before the opportunity to create your own bottle. Sessions start from £35pp and can be booked in advance.
Meanwhile, in addition to the bar and perfume workshops, Smith & Sinclair’s range of boozy sweet treats, including its signature cocktail pastilles, alcoholic bubbles, cocktail-infused vapours, alcoholic dib dabs and more will be available to buy.
- The Flavour Room, Carnaby will be open from 3 March – 2 April 2017 at 8 Ganton Street, Soho, W1F 7QP. Nearest station: Oxford Circus or Piccadilly Circus. Opening times: Shop – Mon-Sun 10am-7pm. Bar (over 18s only): Wed-Sat 10am-12am. For more information, visit the Flavour Room website. For tickets for the Smith & Sinclair and Tanqueray Experimental Garnish Bar, visit this DesignMyNight link, or for tickets to the Smith & Sinclair Edible Perfume Experience, visit this link.
For a guide to what else is on in London in March, click here.
Anyone who follows my Instagram account will know I’m quite the cocktail connoisseur. Despite having my favourites (yes Mojito, I’m talking about you!), I usually opt to try as many new concoctions as possible to widen my booze palate so to speak. However, my extensive experience of downing alcoholic creations meant I wasn’t so good at recognising some at a recent special event.
For Valentine’s Day last week, I was treated to a visit to Pitch Black – a new blind tasting experience. Pitch Black was a pop-up in Shoreditch in late 2016 before moving to its current base, the Sixties-themed No Such Place events space in Covent Garden. I wasn’t given any information about the evening beforehand, so had no idea what to expect. After arriving at the basement venue – which had a very Mad Men vibe – we were treated to a welcome glass of Prosecco to ease into the evening. At this point the lights were on, so be rest assured, the night doesn’t start with you suddenly being plunged into darkness.
Following the bubbles, we went into a cosy room for the main part of the evening – the blind cocktail and wine tasting. Our host for the evening was Dom, an experienced and enthusiastic bar veteran with plenty of knowledge and banter. Although admittedly apprehensive when I found out it was in the dark, Dom soon set our minds at ease so it wasn’t long before I was intrigued and ready for the challenge. When the lights went off, we handily have glow-in-the-dark coasters in front of us so we can easily find our drinks. We started on the first cocktail served in a lowball, smelling it first before sampling the liquid inside. As a group we were invited to discuss what smells and tastes we were experiencing, which soon showcased just how different our senses were given the wide variety of answers.
Before moving on to wine after the sweetness of the cocktails, we were given an amuse bouche each to cleanse the palate, ready for the stark difference in texture and flavour of the wines. The first wine was a white one which I was convinced was a Chilean Chenin Blanc (I was wrong). After the tasting, the lights were turned on (gently!) and we were given the results of the tasting tests. Turns out, many of us were pretty incorrect on the main ingredients of the cocktails, as well as the identity and origin of the white, but a couple of people correctly guessed the red.
Overall, it was a fun and interesting experience. Living in London, we’re such a rush, we don’t often take the time to fully savour the smells and flavour of the food and drink we’re consuming. By restricting our vision, we were able to focus on the taste and it really brought a new dimension to drinking. If you’re looking for a night out with a difference, it’s well worth checking out.
- Pitch Black @ No Such Place, 68A Neal Street, Covent Garden, WC2H 9PA. Nearest station: Covent Garden. Advance bookings only for 90 minute experience. Tickets include bubbles on arrival, two cocktails, an amuse bouche and two wines. For more information, visit the Pitch Black website.
For more of Metro Girl’s bar and restaurant reviews, click here.
Fancy a bit of Alpine action, but can’t get to the slopes? Well, the Vauxhall Winter Village is bringing some winter fun to the capital. Following their November-December opening before the Christmas and New Year break, the Village is reopening for business from 19 January 2017.
The Vauxhall Winter Village is presented by the team behind Vauxhall Street Food Garden and offers weekday lunchtime and evening venue for eating, drinking and socialising. Located just moments from Vauxhall station, the pop-up alpine ski village features plenty to keep you entertained, including a Retro Ski Wear with Cable Car Photo Booth, bookable alpine cabin booths and Winter Sports Bar screening the latest sports.
For those feeling peckish, there is a host of street food stalls, including Valcie Flavours jerk shack, City Burger, Win & Lilly’s Oriental Foods, Country Kitchen and Souper Soups and special weekly foodie pop-ups on Fridays. Meanwhile, drinkers can head to the Smirnoff pop-up bar, serving Hot Pimm’s Winter Cider, Festive Glühwein or Mulled Cider, together with spiced drinks; beer, wine, spirits and champagne. There is also the Red Bull Winter Lodge serving Red Bull cocktails while showing Red Bull TV. With the temperatures biting outside, the Winter Village is fully undercover with heating and lighting to give a cosy and relaxed atmosphere with plenty of dining areas to sit.
- Vauxhall Winter Village is open from 19 January 2017 on Monday to Fridays only from 11.30am-10pm. Free entry. Vauxhall Winter Village, South Lambeth Place, Vauxhall, SW8 1SP. Nearest station: Vauxhall. For more information, visit the Vauxhall Winter Village website or the Facebook page.
To find out what else is on in London in February, click here.
Many of you have probably heard of Bompas & Parr, the food and drink wizards who have created a series of sensory, taste experiences. I visited their Alcoholic Architecture – a room full of inhalable alcohol in Borough Market earlier this year and was looking forward to visiting subsequent projects. When I heard about their special Christmas experience – Beyond The Waterfall – I knew it was right up my street. It combines an immersive theatrical experience and cocktails so I was eager to take part.
This week, I was fortunate enough to be invited to their special preview night. Beyond The Waterfall is located in the plush The Village area of Westfield London – surrounded by designer shops. The fact they have managed to turn what I presume was a standard retail unit into a magical land is pretty impressive. Standing outside the front door, we were treated to a glimpse of what to expect as we peered through the windows to see the gloomy and misty lagoon. Upon entering, we were greeted by who I would describe as glamorous nautical advisers, giving us warnings of what to expect and tokens to exchange later for fantastical concoctions.
The first part of the journey was across a 20 metre lagoon – yes, they have actually created a huge water feature in a shopping centre. We boarded small, individual boats and made our way up the lagoon – with varying degrees of success in terms of speed and direction, depending on your paddling skills! Fortunately, there are strategically placed seafarers along the way to guide or push you in the right direction – which is ultimately ‘beyond the waterfall’. Don’t worry, you won’t get wet (unless you want to!), as waterproof ponchos and a large umbrella for the actual waterfall part are provided.
A quick pit stop with a wise man gives you an insight into the faraway world you have travelled to and the chance to show off your drinking skills as you down your first cocktail – an interesting brown liquid in a bottle. Finally, we ended up in the hidden cavern – a mythical cocktail bar staffed by mermen and the very fabulous host Ruby. After being greeted with some welcome punch, we settled down to peruse the menu and mingle with the mermen, who entertained us with their various talents. The cocktail menu has been inspired by the sea and features unusual ingredients such as undersea botanicals, real gunpowder and rare ambergris. I ended up enjoying a Shipwreck Sour (Shipwreck cider brandy, Coral Calvados, Creme de Peche, lemon juice, shipwreck bitters and egg white), which was frothy and sweet.
Overall, we had a really fun experience. My friend and I embraced the spirit of the event and enjoyed the various flavours of alcohol we tried. The staff and entertainers we encountered along the way certainly brought a sense of adventure and theatrics so we felt a world away from the bustling shops of Westfield outside. The event has been so popular, further dates are likely to get added, so I really recommend keeping an eye out for more tickets.
- Beyond The Waterfall runs from 9 – 23 December 2016. At The Village, Westfield London, Ariel Way, White City, W12 7GF. Nearest station: Shepherd’s Bush, White City or Shepherd’s Bush Market. Open 4-10pm. Tickets are time-slotted and last 60 minutes. Tickets: £15 (includes 2 drink tokens). For tickets, visit Westfield London website.
For a guide to what else is on in London in December, click here.
In the run up to Christmas, it’s the busiest time in most Londoners’ social calendars. No doubt many friends will be meeting for a cocktail (or three) in one of the capital’s various bars. With so many venues, we’re spoiled for choice when it comes to places to drink. However, if you’re looking for something extra festive, why not sip on a Christmas-themed cocktail?
Here’s Metro Girl’s round-up of the top Christmas cocktails on offer in London this 2016 season:
Clapham’s late night destination has recently had a more food-focused makeover. For December, they’ve given the beloved Espresso Martini a Christmas twist – the ‘Vanilla Espression’ (£9) including Cariel Vanilla Vodka, Tia Maria, Espresso and Sugar Syrup).
For a night out with a difference, head to Soho’s secret drinking den Cahoots, which recreates post-WW2 London in a ‘tube station’. The drinks menu is heavily influenced by wartime tipples. Their festive offering is ‘The Stocking Stuffer’ (Christmas spiced Bombay sapphire, signature almond mince pie sweet mix, sultana grapes infused with Martini Rosso, pink grapefruit, topped up with Bulmers pressed red grapes cider).
- Dirty Bones
American diner Dirty Bones have created a sweet festive concoction – ‘Mince Pie Bramble’ (Bombay Sapphire gin, lemon juice, brandy and port-infused mince pie reduction (£8).
Dirty Bones – branches in Kensington Church Street, Carnaby Street and Club Row, Shoreditch. Nearest stations: High Street Kensington, Oxford Circus or Shoreditch High Street. For Metro Girl’s review of Dirty Bones, click here. Read the rest of this entry
Sweets aren’t just for the kids! This Christmas, adult Londoners can get their sugar fix while indulging their passion for cocktails. Following the success of their first ever edible alcohol store Eat My Drink in Soho last year, candy wizards Smith & Sinclair are returning with two immersive shopping experiences. This festive season, two pop-up sweet stores will be opening in Fitzrovia and Bluewater shopping centre in Kent.
The Flavour Rooms at the Sanderson hotel will be like a trip to Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory with a boozy twist. The fun new experience will run alongside Smith & Sinclair at Purple Bar – which will serve alcoholic concoctions, including cocktails that change flavour. From 18 November until Christmas Eve, guests will step inside a surreal installation featuring a cocktail sherbet wall, pick ‘n’ mix, edible perfumes, twisted ‘salt & pepper’ shakers and alcoholic dib dabs. After sampling some of the treats, you can shop for boozy goodies – a great Christmas gift for your cocktail aficionado pals.
Smith & Sinclair have enlisted creative studio BeyondExact – famous for their works with Adidas, House of Holland and Lady Gaga – to design the Flavour Rooms. The studio’s founder James Ruth said: ‘Working with a brand like Smith&Sinclair is always a pleasure, as like us, they like to push ideas, through design and concept. To make people think, challenge and abandon the mundane.’
- The Flavour Room London is open from 18 November – 24 December 2016 from 12-8pm. Sanderson Hotel, 50 Berners Street, Fitzrovia, W1T 3NG. Nearest station: Tottenham Court Road, Goodge Street or Oxford Circus. For more information, visit The Flavour Rooms website.
For a guide to what else is on in London in December, click here.
Or to find out about London’s Christmas markets and fairs, click here.
As someone who doesn’t like to follow the crowd, I’m a huge fan of speakeasies. I love the idea of venturing into a secret bar or restaurant that only a few know about. Barts in Sloane Avenue has been on my to-do list for quite some time and this week, I finally paid a visit to attend the launch of the venue’s new Comic Book menu.
Barts is located in Chelsea Cloisters – a 1930s apartment block on Sloane Avenue. You’ll have to hunt a bit to find it – there’s no neon street sign guiding you to your destination. We eventually found the hidden door and rang the bell, prompting a tiny letterbox-sized window to open revealing a pair of eyes to check if you’re not the fuzz. Once we entered, we were greeted by an intimate, quirky space featuring cosy red and wood interiors. Vintage Bric-à-brac, such as taxidermy, lampshades and tennis racquets, adorned the walls.
The venue originally opened in 2009 and describes itself as ‘London’s worst kept secret’. However, the team behind Barts have decided to shake thing up and have launched a new Comic Book menu. The new drinks listings come in the form of, you guessed it, a comic book, which tells the story of how Chicago gangster Uncle Barts crossed the Pond and started his bootlegging business in Chelsea’s mean streets. Aside from the obvious of being a place to peruse the alcoholic concoctions on offer, the menu also gives you something to read (handy when your friend or date is running late!) and provides an entertaining back story to some of the innovative cocktails. The menu is separated into eight chapters (e.g. ‘The Real McCoys’ and ‘Most Wanted’), with each having a distinct theme and with boozy mixes complementing Uncle Bart’s adventures animated on the opposing pages.
After spending rather longer than we expected perusing the extensive menu, we settled on the Charleston Crumble (Grey Goose vodka, cranberry juice, rhubarb purée and vanilla syrup) and the Jazz Singer (Russian Standard Original vodka, passion fruit purée and vanilla syrup). On reflection, they had very similar ingredients, but tasted rather different. Mine was the Charleston, which tasted like a dessert and I absolutely loved it. When I tried a bit of my friend’s Jazz Singer, it was more fruitier. Next up, my companion wanted something a bit more dramatic – the intriguingly named Kidnap & Handsome. When the drink arrived at our table, it made quite the entrance. A short tumbler was oozing smoke under a bell jar, with the gangster theme continuing with dollar bills, a lipstick-smudged playing card and chocolate truffle. The drink itself was a mix of sweet and bitterness – Sauvelle vodka, oak-infused vanilla syrup and oak bitters. My choice, The Alchemist (Belvedere vodka, elderflower cordial, mint, gomme syrup and cloudy apple juice) was decidedly less theatrical in a simple coupe glass, but refreshing and subtly sweet.
Drinks aside, Barts also plays host to regular parties and live entertainment. During the night, we were entertained by the fabulous, feel-good vocals of the Haywood Sisters, who really fitted into the retro vibe. Barts regularly have live music on the bill so it’s worth checking out their website.
Overall, we had a great evening – the service, venue and drinks were all exceptional. I loved the intimate feel of the bar, while the staff were friendly and clearly knew their stuff when it came to mixology. Barts would be a great venue to impress a date or celebrate a birthday. I’m off to join Uncle Barts’ mob!
- Barts, Chelsea Cloisters, 87 Sloane Avenue, Chelsea, SW3 3DW. Nearest stations: Sloane Square or South Kensington. For more information, visit the Barts website.
For more of Metro Girl’s bar reviews, click here.
Cocktails In The City – Summer Edition: London’s best bars come together for a weekend of alfresco drinking
Returning this summer is London’s best bar crawl… where the capital’s best drinking venues come to you. Following the sell out Cocktails In The City event in March, a special Summer Edition is coming to a Bloomsbury this month. Taking place on Friday 29 and Saturday 30 July, cocktail aficionados will have the opportunity to sample drinks from London’s best bars.
Produced by the Bourne & Hollingsworth Group (famous for their bars and restaurants, The Blitz Party, the Prohibition Party and The Chap Olympiad), the extravaganza is like a bar crawl without the hassle of moving from venue to venue. Cocktail aficionados will be able to try anything from classics like Bellinis and Mojitos to unique mixes using rare ingredients created by mixologists.
An eclectic mix of bars will be setting up pop-up venues in a leafy Georgian square in Bloomsbury. Popular London hotspots from Soho’s boutique basement bars to Dalston’s dirty tequila joints to Mayfair’s elegant 5 star hotels and Shoreditch’s award-winning institutions will all be represented. Speakeasies such as Cahoots and Reverend JW Simpson will be popping up, with new drinking venues, such as First Aid Box setting up shop.
As well as plenty of opportunities to drink at your leisure, Bourne & Hollingsworth will be hosting a series of Spirited Sermons, featuring interactive spirit masterclasses from ambassadors and master distillers. The bars will also be offering unique cocktail tastings, interactive demonstrations, games and entertainment.
For those who want to line their stomachs, guests will be able to feast on tasty delights by chefs from Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen restaurant. Meanwhile, wandering jazz processions and vinyl DJs will be providing the soundtrack to the festival of mixology.
- Cocktails In The City: Summer Edition takes place on 29 and 30 July 2016. Open Fri 29 4-9.30pm, Sat 12-9.30pm (two sessions 12-4pm and 5-9.30pm). Tickets: £15 (include 1 cocktail, multiple complimentary experiences and cocktail booklet). Bedford Square Gardens, Bloomsbury, WC1B. Nearest stations: Goodge Street or Tottenham Court Road. For tickets, visit the Cocktails In The City website.
For a guide to what else is on in London in July, click here.
In late June 2016, a new venue opened on the fringes of the City of London. Located just behind St Katharine Docks is Trade Union, a versatile dining, drinking and lifestyle destination. Situated in Thomas More Square, the vast space clearly isn’t your average bar or restaurant. Open daily until late, Trade Union is one-stop shop for eating, drinking and ticking off a few errands… thanks to an on-site barbers and florist.
I went along to the launch last month and absolutely loved the concept. Located on the ground floor, surrounded by modern blocks, Trade Union features outdoor terraces. Inside, the vast space is split into different areas – depending on what you’re looking for. With exposed concrete, cosy orange booths and even a slide from the mezzanine floor, the venue has a cool, industrial theme, very much in keeping with its modern surroundings.
For daytime and early morning visitors, specialty coffee makers Vagabond have a café in the corner serving up a caffeine fix. Next door, is Drakes of London barbershop so you can givw your beard or hairline a quick trim in between coffees. Meanwhile, Maua London will be selling fresh flowers. I picked up some absolutely stunning roses.
On the night in question I visited, I was mainly focused on trying the bar and restaurant. The kitchen includes a choice of sourdough pizzas from the Bushwick Pizza Co, as well as a seasonally changing menu with European classics and signature dishes. My friend and I tried the delicious pizza, which went down a treat, as well as Veal and Pork Meatballs and Cornish Crab Cobb Salad. I particularly enjoyed the crab and pizza and needed no encouragement when subsequent portions were offered to us. In terms of drinks, I sampled several different cocktails from their substantial drinks menu, with beers, wine and sparkling also on offer. The friendly bar staff made a good Mojito, which was a perfect mix of boozy and mint.
Located in Wapping and near St Katharine Docks, there was a mix of locals and workers. What I really liked about the venue is its versatility. You could easily come here for a work meeting over coffee, then stay on until the evening to unwind with some cocktails and dinner. The concept of having so many different businesses under one space is refreshing and I hope Londoners embrace it. The slide was particularly alluring and I can imagine would be quite entertaining after a few drinks. Unfortunately during my first visit, I was wearing a skirt, so had no intention of getting on a slide! I’ll definitely be checking out Trade Union again in the near future.
- Trade Union, Thomas More Square, Wapping, E1 1YZ. Nearest station: Tower Hill, Fenchurch Street or Tower Gateway (DLR). Open 7am-1.30am. Daily Happy Hour from 4-7pm. For more information, visit the Trade Union website.
For a blog post on the neighbouring St Katharine Docks, click here.
For more of Metro Girl’s bar and restaurant reviews, click here.