Last week, London welcomed the return of London Cocktail Week. A seven-day celebration of the capital’s coolest bars and the chic and wacky cocktails they have to offer.
As well as being able to experience the fun of London Cocktail Week in over 250 bars around the city, you can also head to Old Spitalfields Market near Liverpool Street station to discover some awesome concoctions from some of the best drink brands on the market…
How Does It Work?
You have to buy a digital pass via the DrinkUp.London App, these are £10 per person and you will be provided with a space in your online ‘wallet’ which will entitle you to £6 cocktails at the participating bars all week. Initially we thought that this meant that all cocktails at these bars were included in the £6 price bracket but soon found out that each bar had a special cocktail that they were serving to LCW holders – both a blessing and a curse as it meant that we had the chance to try something we wouldn’t normally pick but also meant that there were some cocktails I will never be trying again.
London Cocktail Village
Thanks to Cointreau, we were invited to the Saturday evening session of the Spitalfields Market Village. As we entered we were handed a cute tote bag & magazine and were thrusted into the hustle & bustle of the village. It was very busy, difficult to move busy. And was filled with slightly tipsy cocktail connoisseurs (but I suppose that’s what you get for going on a Saturday evening!)
We had a walk around the maze of brand spaces. Each one trying to stand out more than their neighbours. One opted for naked bartenders to entice people to their stall which seemed to work well and nobody was complaining (I certainly wasn’t), whilst others like fever tree opted for a forest-like scene and Monkey47 went for a giant Ferris wheel and a mystery button that determined which cocktail you were faced with. Havana were even offering free tours which allowed you to experience the brand in an exciting and innovative way!
We then arrived at the Cointreau kiosk which seemed smaller than a lot of the other stalls but definitely looked the part. It was styled as one of the Cointreau bottles and they served their cocktails in miniature versions of the bottles too, such a nice idea!
After this we were lured into the Pepsi Max silent disco which had a great view of the entire village and some fun music to bop around to as we sipped our cocktails.
We didn’t stay at the village for too long as it dawned on us that the cocktails were the same price as the ones in the bars and that the digital pass would allow us to head out on a bar crawl and to give us the chance to experience places we’ve never been before for less money than usual.
We checked the app for bars in the surrounding area that we could visit as a sort of ‘posh bar crawl’, we settled on The Alchemist in Bevis Marks (near Aldgate) for our first stop. I’ve written about the Alchemist in my previous restaurant bucket list post HERE and my parents visited the Leeds branch last week so it felt like a great choice.
The Alchemist isn’t just about how the cocktail tastes, it’s about the experience that surrounds it, lots of mixology expertise goes into the creation of each cocktail to provide the customer with a mini theatrical and scientific performance with a variety of different experiments depending on the drink you order. Such as ‘Bubblebath’ (Tanqueray Gin, Aperol, Chambord, Lemon, Apple, Fairy Liquid) which comes with a dome of bubbles that grow over the top of the glass or the ‘Flavour changing one’ (First, Absolut Raspberry & Citrus – Second, Briottet mint & chocolate. Gravity) which miraculously changes tastes as you drink it. No idea how. Clever.
To start with, I went for the ‘Lightbulb Moment’ (Tanqueray Gin, Pimms, ginger beer, raspberry, lemon, mint.) which came in a round bottom test tube beaker which was smoking and steaming all over the shop (bar), all eyes were on me as I attempted to decant the liquid from the beaker to the glass. Although it looked a little scary, it tasted great, you could sense that there was a lot of fruity goodness but also still got the kick of the gin. For some reason this cocktail seemed to hurt my throat for a little but about halfway through but this was soon solved by having another cocktail…
This time round I chose the Ell’s Diablo (Don Julio Blanco Tequilla, ginger liqueur, crème de cassis – served with a Jalisco Caviar), I really enjoyed this one, fruity and the pot of jelly caviar (which i poured in, not sure if that’s what you’re meant to do…) added an element of fun and creativity although I nearly choked on it a few times when I sucked the balls up the straw slightly too fast.
The red dead zombie (Bacardi carta blanca, wray & nephew, grand mernier, lime, pineapple, cranberry zombie mix. Smoke.) was my friend’s first drink of choice which was equally as smoky as mine and looked great. I would’ve picked this but have a history of bad experiences with Wray & Nephew. Her second drink was ‘The colour changing one’ (Reyka vodka, briottet apple, lemonade, citrus. Magic) which was cool and changed the liquid from blue to purple when a clear liquid was added.
The next stop on our cocktail tour was Madison, a swamky rooftop bar located in One New Change near Bank. It offers amazing views of St Pauls Cathedral and I’ve spent many summer evenings here but have never tried any of their cocktails until now. Here we were given ‘The Spicy Clover Club’ (Tanqueray Gin, Jalepeno syrup, raspberries, fresh lemon juice and egg white). This was my favourite cocktail of the night and people kept coming over to ask what we’d ordered. We ended up having 2 of these cocktails because they were so good. I don’t like spice and so would normally run a mile from a cocktail like this but I’m glad I didn’t as it was delicious and not spicy in the slightest. We would have stayed longer but a creepy man kept talking to us even when we made it fully clear we weren’t interested and it got a little bit awkward.
We then found ourselves at London bridge, at the foot of the Shard, queueing for what felt like airport security but was in fact for Aqua Shard. Located on the 31st Floor of the 95 storey glass building, Aqua Shard is a lavish bar and restaurant with breath-taking views of London. It serves contemporary British cuisine alongside its various drinks served from the 3 storey high, Atrium Bar.
As it had taken us a while to reach the shard and to get to floor 31, the first stop on our agenda was the ladies loo. Here we were greeted by floor-ceiling night-time views of London Bridge and its surrounding areas. Sadly, my phone had died long before this point but I’ve managed to steal a few photos from my friend’s phone. We found our way to the bar and asked for the LCW £6 cocktail and were soon presented with a beautiful orange coloured cocktail in a martini glass with a slice of dried orange balanced on the side with a small cube of brownie resting on the top. We had no idea what it was but decided to go with the flow although discovered that it tasted very aniseed and didn’t seem to be the Grapefruit G & Tea that was promoted on the LCW app. The brownie was ‘Spicy but Nicey’ as the barman rightly put it, definitely had a kick to it! It was also more than £6 because apparently the shards service was far better than the other bars we’d been to that night (in their opinion. Which was a bit odd).
It was 11:25pm by this point so we dashed off to Waterloo to try to find Goodnight Josephine to try to squeeze in one more bar before the digital pass stopped working at midnight but nobody seemed to know where it was (including our google maps and the staff at waterloo station.) With 5 minutes to go we admitted defeat but I swear I will find it and go next time I’m in the area!
All in all I had a great evening and tried some fab cocktails, some of which confirmed my likes and dislikes. It’s sad that cocktail week is, well, only a week long and I’m already planning my adventures for the next one!