Savage Garden LDN, Tower Hill

Type of Bar: Bar/Restaurant, Rooftop
Damage: ££
Ideal for: ViewFoodDateSmall Groups, Large GroupsAfter Work

Overlooking the Tower of London and the gorgeous Trinity House, the Sky Lounge of the Doubletree Hilton has been revamped into the wildly beautiful Savage Garden.

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From the sweeping view of old London to the stunningly modern decor, the bar evokes a sense of expanse and clashing beauties that gives clout to the bar’s name.

From the dining room, to the hall and main bar, to the two terraces hosting carnivorous counters for seafood and meats, to the Beefeater (We’re next to the Tower, so) gin terrace and Jägermeister bar, the enormous venue attempts to cater to all eagerly making the most of the sun by sunset – which is met with a live band in the main bar area overlooking Tower Bridge.

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We were immediately welcomed with citrus buttermilk chicken sliders, crisp and brought to life with kimchi slaw and Korean gochujang-inspired ketchup, and soon after moreish beef sliders served in threes on a bone. Our time on the sunset terrace was accompanied by crispy prawn toast with a delightfully smokey bacon jam. The venue wants to make something very clear: they know their proteins.

Worry not for vegetarian options! Not far away we found the honey miso aubergine burgers served with fried green tomatoes, mozzarella and basil in their glorious red brioche.

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Well, we did say savage.

Not that we’ve forgotten about the cocktails!

Opening we have the Devil’s Advocate: Olmeca Blanco tequila meets pink grapefruit and lemon, blackcurrant and sage. Outside the deceptive name and the threatening chilli garnish, this drink is incredibly tame for the light drinker – though I suspect it might sneak up on you.

This vegetal tequila mingles smoothly with the sage, that adds a pleasant contrast to the sweet blackcurrant and bright grapefruit.

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Now if you’re looking for something slightly punchier, you wanna check out the Flambard Colada, inspired by the infamous Ranulf Flambard – first prisoner in the Tower of London, and the first to escape it – Havana Club 3YO rum mixes with pineapple, cucumber, topped up with Ayala champagne and a hint of absinthe. I found toning down the cucumber and upping the absinthe did wonders for this cocktail as a less creamy alternative to the tiki classic.

The marzipan of the rum stands out on the nose, and the cocktail itself packs a punch though it might seem innocent at first glance. The initial cucumber fades to a subtler pineapple that accompanies the champagne, waiting for the absinthe to cut through. Should probably relax on the garnish though, visually speaking.

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The Wild Poison makes a great long drink to relax with. Wild Turkey 101 bourbon, Merlet apricot brandy, cloudy apple juice, smoked pine syrup, Campari, with the garnish of ‘poison apple’.

The simplicity of the visuals is refreshing, while maintaining a solid theme, which I like. And though it is one of the sweeter drinks tried that evening, it isn’t offensively so (we are all aware by now of my struggle with sweet cocktails). You might take your time with the heaviness of this cocktail, but the mix is wonderful.

The USA has seen several renditions of the Apple Bourbon with a hint of sweet, so here Savage Garden takes a well-loved homemade goodie and give it a London up-do. This summery take on an Autumn cocktail uses Merlet apricot brandy in place of the oft-used honey or maple, while balancing out some of the excess sweetness with smoked pine and bitter Campari – making it accessible to a wide range of palates.

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Our last two cocktails were possibly our favourites of the evening, and two very different cocktails indeed.

One certainly counts as dessert: the Horny Beast comes inspired from the savage gardens of the Red Riding Hood tale in a mix of Beefeater pink gin, Aluna coconut rum, almond, lime, green strawberry, smoke and oak bitters, apple, rhubarb, and cinnamon soda, served with a strawberry, lime, and black pepper cracker.

Okay. So. Let’s discuss that cracker.

This cocktail is worth getting for that cracker.

The cocktail is a swirl of flavours that settles on ‘grown up cotton candy bubblegum’ which is bizarre, and yet… works. Well. I never thought I’d find myself saying that about something I’d describe as cotton candy bubblegum, yet here we are. A surprisingly fun drink that embraces itself.

Also that cracker.

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Finally, probably my favourite drink of the evening shouldn’t have surprised me from the moment I read the first ingredient.

Hey, we all have favourites.

The Lady Grey mixes Freya birch spirit, Seedlip Spice 94, apple and Earl Grey liqueur, oak and aromatic spices, topped up with Fever Tree Mediterranean tonic.

Clear, composed, with a certain nobility in flavour, the Lady Grey has a running  undernote of the earthy birch spirit all the way through the cocktail, as the woody and spicy Seedlip’s cardamom finds itself comfortable in the spice mix. The Earl Grey liqueur soon comes to the fore as the cocktail soon settles on the floral tonic.

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If there was one thing I would add to this cocktail menu, it would be short cocktails. A lot of what we had seen was primarily topped up with juices, sodas, champagnes and tonics – and though each drink was carefully designed with a distinct personality that worked well with their length, those of us who enjoy our short drinks will have a smaller choice.

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Savage Garden is a strange beast. With its sprawling square footage and variety of bars and food counters and terraces it feels like more of a touring experience than a singular bar.

One thing is for certain, with the retractable ceilings and immense view, it will always be a summer draw, so expect late night parties under this wild city’s sky.

Drinks: ***
Atmosphere: *****
Service: ****


Savage Garden LDN @ The Doubletree Hilton,

7 Pepys St,
London EC3N 4AF

https://www.savagegarden.co.uk/

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The Elephant’s Head, Hackney

Type of BarBar/Restaurant, Pub
Damage££
Ideal forFoodDateSmall Groups, SundaysAfter Work

 

It’s firmly back in place!
The Elephant’s Head has reclaimed it’s spot at 43 Lower Clapton! Which is exactly what we all needed after years of the venue changing hands.

The pub has itself ready for anything, a spot to spend the night with friends, a dim lit room to nurse a hangover, and not mention, a fantastic Sunday roast.

And they ain’t too shabby on the cocktail front! Classics with a few signatures, the bar knows what they do, and do it well.

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Before our late night roast makes its way in, we sit below the beautiful stained glass ceiling nursing an El Chapo and a Martinez.

The classic Martinez has gin, sweet vermouth, maraschino liqueur and Angostura bitters, but this classic is twisted slightly with a 2:1 gin:vermouth rather than the old 1:1. The result is a lighter, brighter, much more balanced and modern cocktail.

The El Chapo stands out tonight as the best of the bar’s signature cocktails: Ocho Tequila, agave syrup, lime, ginger syrup, a mezcal float with candied ginger garnish. The sweet agave of the tequila and light white pepperiness is followed up by citrus to end with a crackle of ginger. Simple, clean, wonderful.

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After a plate of wings, a classic Japanese Cocktail makes an appearance with cognac, orgeat, lemon juice and Angostura bitters – sweet with almond and orange flavours, with an undercurrent of ripe fruit and oaky vanilla from the cognac. Certainly for the sweet tooth.

The roast sirloin was perfectly medium rare, but what we were cheering on were those incredible infinite trimmings. Tenderstem broccoli with peppered sweet root vegetables, roast potatoes that though simple were entirely too addictive, and *that* cheesy cauliflower with that distinct honeyed sweetness.

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After a second helping of the methtatoes, the now unable to move Hoodooist and co. order Gin, and Tequila Old Fashioneds, respectively.

The Gin Old Fashioned gave us rosemary infused gin, maple syrup, and black walnut bitters – which is a promising recipe, but the maple could overpower the rosemary gin – although that’s easily sorted by asking for a little less maple syrup for a sweet and savoury digestif.

The Tequila Old Fashioned I wanted extra spicy, and extra spicy I got it: tequila, chilli, agave syrup, grapefruit bitters, for a brighter alternative to the Gin variant. The agave and the tequila give us the sweet and earthy, while the grapefruit and chilli go bright and effervescent. What an excellent combo.

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I’m glad the Elephant’s Head is back, and better than ever. With quality cocktails at a price you couldn’t frown at, the most dramatic WCs ever (no, seriously), and all the methtatoes with that excellent roast, the EH makes a great spot to spend a Sunday afternoon.

Drinks: ***-****
Atmosphere: ****
Service: *****

 

The Elephant’s Head

43 Lower Clapton Rd, Hackney
London E5 0NS, UK

https://www.elephanthackney.com/

T.T. Liquor, Shoreditch

Type of Bar: Basement, Speakeasy, Cocktail School
Damage£ – ££
Ideal for: After Work, Date, Small Groups, Tasting, Shop

The sudden appearance of TT Liquor is a welcome gift from some of the folk behind Umbrella Brewing of the amazing Discount Suit Co. and Sun Tavern!

Only a couple of hours after the sign was put up, the Hoodooist found himself amazed by the venue from the street – aged wood and metal clasps in the ground floor guard some of the fantastic products that can be surprisingly hard to acquire, like the 5% ginger beer by Umbrella Brewing that is the talk of the town.

Umbrella Brewing TT Liquor London cocktail bar

Mind, there are three floors to this venue, behind the store and upstairs are cocktail classrooms that make up what is essentially a cocktail school – this is literally my Hogwarts.

Downstairs, though, that’s where we find the bar and the ex-prison cells that make up the vaults where gin, rum, and whiskey tastings are held, including Cocktail Journeys, where several cocktails inspired by the various eras of cocktail culture are enjoyed as a flight. The cosy, candle lit surrounds are excellent for huddling over cocktails and small dishes served up at the venue.

Umbrella Brewing TT Liquor London cocktail bar

The menu is divided into eras, and are all wonderful takes on cocktails of their time. If you were to level a criticism against it, it would simply be that it seems to be a tiny bit gin heavy at times.

That’s not to say those that those cocktails that are there are not satisfying. They are gorgeous – the tequila Rosetta is one such beautiful cocktail.

Umbrella Brewing TT Liquor London cocktail bar

Blending Arette Silver tequila, Briotte Rose, lime juice, rose water and syrup, the Rosetta’s nose is distinctly Arette. Upon first sip, it is tequila heavy – so agave fans will be most pleased. If the sound of rose is intimidating, there is nothing to worry about here, as the rose is quite subtle and soft, wisping in at the end, and lightened by the lime citrus.

Next, the Dorian, in keeping with one of Umbrella’s favourite whiskeys, mixes Redbreast 12 yr with hazelnut syrup and the Fee Brothers Aztec chocolate bitters. A little bit on the sweet side and one note for myself, it is best to ask for a slightly less sweet take on this when ordering. Unless, of course, you’re really in the mood for bittersweet chocolate hazelnut!

Umbrella Brewing TT Liquor London cocktail bar

The Dorian

Next, the Sexy Kung Fu Fighter really goes for it – Jinzu gin meets kumquat, fresh bergamot juice, kaffir lime and shiso leaves, Belsazar white vermouth and syrup. A little heavy on the bergamot, a bright, lively and effervescent cocktail with hints of kaffir lime and cherry blossom from the Jinzu. An exciting and enjoyable drink.

Umbrella Brewing TT Liquor London cocktail bar

The Sexy Kung Fu Fighter

Le Chat Noir is dangerous. Hayman’s Old Tom gin, Lillet Blanc, Henry Bardouin pastis, fresh lime juice, syrup and tarragon will deceive you, and vanish in the space of seconds. A long drink that is easy to down, you will have to consciously nurse this one early on, so they don’t get thrown back late in the evening.

Reminiscent of a (much) lighter take on a Corpse Reviver No.2, Le Chat Noir manages to channel the herbal tarragon and pastis incredibly well, for a light cocktail that does not hold itself from packing a punch in the long run.

Umbrella Brewing TT Liquor London cocktail bar

Le Chat Noir

And then there is the signature.

Doing the rounds since about London Cocktail Week 2016, the home made Umbrella Brewing Ginger Beer packs a punch at 5%, with gorgeous effervescence and spice. A candied and ginger nose is followed by a palate that is uncompromisingly spicy, with hints of malty molasses sweetness, and citrus.

Beautiful.

Umbrella Brewing TT Liquor London cocktail bar

Honestly, it was great to see cocktails go back to simpler combos and try not to outdo themselves.

The only cocktail here I can say I did not take to was the Dead Ringer. Woodford Reserve, Toussaint coffee liqueur and Bob’s Peppermint bitters formed something not particularly enjoyable. But when held up to the beautiful cocktails above, who’s to care?

Do the right thing – go to TT Liquor. Get a class. Buy a bottle. Support your fabulous new local.

Drinks: ****
Atmosphere: ****
Service: ****

T. T. Liquor

17b Kingsland Road,
London E2 8AA

http://ttliquor.co.uk/

The Gibson, Clerkenwell

Type of Bar: Tiny, Experimental
Damage: ££ – £££
Ideal for: DateAfter Work

After being open for a while, The Gibson, known for it’s complex and imaginative menu highlighted by the simple classic that is its namesake, went for a small menu rehaul.

The new cocktails are similarly complex, boasting nearly a dozen ingredients at some points, taking risks with flavour profiles.

A first glance at the menu did make the Hoodooist a bit cautious, I am bit of a traditionalist with warning that drinks going past 5 ingredients were at risk for getting lost, but that won’t stop me from trying out new cocktails.

A tiny, intimate venue, with dim light and close range seating, the Gibson has gone for a powerfully apothecary atmosphere, reflecting its equally strange and varied menu, including everything from oregano flowers to the infusion of forest bees.

whisky cocktail the gibson bar london

The Garden of the Sun King

Beginning with a cocktail very much up the Hoodooist’s street, the Garden of the Sun King mixes Ailsa Bay whisky, infusion of forest bees, 3 La Quintinye Royal vermouths, lemon balm and leaf extract aged aquavit, maple ice wine tea and white port tincture, garnished with floregano, roasted pepper jacket and black olive.

Get the gist? Yeah.

The nose is undoubtedly full of red pepper, smokey and almost beefy. First sip is full of the tarry, smokey, liquorice of Ailsa Bay, followed by a light honey from the bee infusion. A lightness follows, from the lemon balm, then the white port. If you choose to dunk the red pepper in, a spice trails at the end. You want to finish this drink quickly – over time the sweetness begins to dominate the bottom half of the drink

whiskey cocktail the gibson bar london

Beyond the Pines

Next up, the Beyond the Pines. Loving pine flavours, this had to be tried. Monkey Shoulder whiskey and pine resin infusion, mixed with Kamm & Sons ginseng liqueur, lemon, ‘pine-apple’, elderflower juice, smoked juniper and rosemary honey, hot gooseberry chutney, ginger beer, wasabi, and matcha.

Thanks to the pine and flaming pinecone garnish, the nose is powerfully forest-y. In the best way. Palate starts with pine, smoked rosemary and juniper. There is a light effervescence to it, immediately followed by ginger and matcha, with a length of wasabi.

This was easily my favourite drink of the evening. Distinguishable flavours, cool and refreshing.

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Winter in Neverland

Finally, the Winter in Wonderland was a great example as to why a dozen ingredients can be majorly problematic.

Cacao shell soaked Bols Genever, Mulled spiced cordial vintage cider, apple and pear conserve, lemon, 7 y.o. mandarin bitter, white snow waffle topped with raspberry and chocolate, cedarwood ice.

A cold drink the nose was spiced and citrus-y. But the drink was orange throughout, with the variety of flavours drowned out.

The stroopwaffel was ace, though.

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Angel Tears

There is a food menu, with an exquisite beef tartare – love. Service is fab, however preparing these complex cocktails takes a while, so do be prepared. On the note of fab service, it has to be, as I found myself asking for flavour profiles being far more useful than reading the variety of ingredients. This can be difficult when working with a menu that is one of the longest I’ve seen in recent history.

The Gibson is a great bar for those who want to take risks and have the money to spend, there are certainly some gems like the Beyond the Pines here. I know I had a good night – but you do have to take risks and keep what you get. With the great staff, you shouldn’t have too much of a problem getting the flavour profiles down and chatting about what you enjoy.

And push comes to shove, order the Gibson Martini.

Drinks: ***
Atmosphere: ****
Service: ****

The Gibson

44 Old St,
London EC1V 9AQ.

Aqua Nueva & Spirit, Oxford Circus

Type of Bar: Bar/Restaurant, Spanish, Japanese
Damage££££
Ideal for: FoodDate, Small Groups, After Work

 

As crowded as Argyll Street is, it is easy to miss some of the signs around you – including the doorway that leads up to the 5th floor, where three of Aqua’s dining experiences are hidden away.

The opulently decorated Aqua series begins with the shimmering mirrored surfaces of the Aqua Spirit bar, before opening up to the Nueva restaurant, heralded by the charging Pamplona bull – an awful lot of spectacle, so the Hoodooist was curious to see if there was substance behind the glitz.

 

Aqua Kyoto Nueva London cocktails

The Smoke Over Spain

 

Once seated at our table, looking out the balcony to the Central London skyline, and over the bar of Nueva, we are served with the London Cocktail Week offering of the Smoke Over Spain.

I’m already sold with this. Tanqueray gin, orgeat, sherry, wild strawberry liqueur, fresh lemon juice and served with a paprika foam, a gorgeous balancing act of sweet without being sickly, citrus without being overpowering, and smoky for a burst of flavour. You begin with the smoky paprika foam that teases the tastebuds before a wash of fruit and nutty sweetness of the orgeat, giving way to the powerful strawberry flavour that dominates the drink, leading to a dry finish from the sherry.

This is a cocktail you will remember, even for the Hoodooist who notoriously avoids sweet or fruit dominated cocktails. I do wish this will find its way onto the cocktail menu year round, to firmly place Aqua on the map for cocktail ingenuity.

We enjoy snacks of Manzanilla olives, chickpea croquettes, and Iberian meats before being served padron peppers fried with olive oil and dusted with sea salt that the Hoodooist absolutely adores. The addition of sea salt does stand out from many servings of padron peppers, and the Hoodooist doubts he can have it any other way now! A pile of green pepper heads on his plate, we are served another cocktail.

 

 

Aqua Spirit Kyoto Nueva London cocktails

Salmon and avocado maki with salmon ‘pearls’

 

Aqua Spirit‘s offering of the Japanese Citrus initially does not go down well – until it dilutes. Then we find a wonderfully refreshing drink. The melting ice dilutes the pungency of the powerful yuzu sake, which is mixed with Ketel One vodka, fresh lemon juice, ginger syrup, Angostura bitters and topped with soda water. Once you’ve waited a few minutes, the yuzu citrus provides a wonderful backdrop for the ginger to sizzle.

This was paired with salmon and avocado maki, topped with salmon roe. Clearly freshly cut and succulent salmon made this sushi worth travelling for, exciting seasoned residents of Japan at our table. Soon, chicken wings stuffed with coriander and miso are served, as well as crisp prawn tempura with garlic chilli sauce.

 

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Finally, melt-in-your-mouth oxtail topped with avocado creme is paired with a glass of champagne, before the finale of a shot of Espresso Martini as a digestif to polish off a wonderful evening.

Staff at the Aqua Nueva & Spirit are faultless: polite, swift, and conversational. I do prize service above everything else at a bar, and the Aqua series certainly score here.

 

Overall, the glitz is not just for show. Cocktails are engineered to be paired with food, so do not attempt to be enormously complex or demanding – but when they do, we find stars like the Smoke Over Spain. The Japanese Citrus is also a great example at how cocktails meant to be paired can be enjoyable even on their own.The atmosphere is perfect for a celebratory dinner, after work drink on the balcony, and particularly for meetings. You can’t go wrong for why you’re here, really.

Sure, it’s a steep price, which is expected – but all things considered, the Aqua Nueva and Spirit are venues a visit to London should not do without.

 

Drinks: ***-****
Atmosphere: *****
Service: *****

 

Aqua Nueva & Spirit,

240 Regent St, Oxford Circus
London W1B 3BR

http://aquakyoto.co.uk/
http://aquanueva.co.uk/

Bird of Smithfield, Clerkenwell

Type of Bar: Bar/Restaurant, Also optional Basement
Damage££ 
Ideal for: FoodDate, Small Groups, Large GroupsAfter Work

 

Here on Highball Hoodoo we had already reviewed this summer’s Aperol Spritz Terrazza open on the roof terrace of Bird of Smithfield – but it hides so much more.

A comfy restaurant and bar on the ground floor, with the private-bookings Birdcage in the basement serve up some cocktails that rival the best of Clerkenwell.

The ground floor bar is perfect for the day time – bright eggshells and greys with scattered kitsch and 70s throwbacks make a great space for an afternoon hang out or meeting. The Birdcage downstairs, though, takes the lighting down a notch for a sexy charcoal and cerulean, lit by mirrors and illuminated trees and birdcages.

Bartenders are wonderful, service is swift, and servers are more than happy to discuss the cocktail with you.

Bird of Smithfield London Cocktail bar

The new cocktail menu launched earlier this year appeals to a variety of palates and flavours, and does not shy from a little bit of experimentation.

Beginning with the Cointreauversial: Cointreau, Remy Martin VSOP cognac, apricot brandy, lime, Angostura bitters. The first wash is the rich and floral cognac, with strong notes of apricot and nectarine, violet and vanilla, giving way to the Cointreau’s orange and a stronger citrus, finally becoming quite tart.

A great option for those enjoying citrus and floral flavours, but want something a bit rich and not served long or with ice.

Bird of Smithfield London Cocktail bar

The Mr. Pacifico – I do love this cocktail: Mezcal, Pisco, blackberry and blueberry shrub, cardamom bitters, chilli vermouth, and Fernet Branca. Pisco ain’t easy to use in a cocktail – but this smoky/spicy tipple is just what you need when you want a bit of bite with your fruity sour/sweet.

Bird of Smithfield London Cocktail bar

The Lucky One is another that defies convention. Tincup Whiskey, Flaming Pig liqueur, Negra Modelo ale syrup, ginger bitters, lemon, Angostura bitters, egg white. The ale syrup really mellows out the other powerful flavours we see here: the cinnamon sweetness of the Flaming Pig, the butterscotch and high rye spice of the Tincup and ginger bitters. So what we get is an easy to down, grain-strong spicy tankard. Love it.

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The Lucky One

The LDN: BOLD London Cherry Spirit, Aperol, Cynar, orange & mandarin bitters, rhubarb bitters. BOLD does it again! Aperol dominates, but enjoys complexity added by the bittersweet Cynar and the sweetness of BOLD cherry. The citrus bitters are more noted here, adding an almost sparkling flicker in the cocktail.

Aperol Spritzes are well and good, but the LDN does not compromise on ABV and celebrates Aperol in way only London could.

Bird of Smithfield London Cocktail bar

The LDN

The Lord of Isles is another favourite here: Botanist gin, rhubarb and thyme syrup, Cynar, Kummel, and lime. Served for two, smoking inside a treasure chest, the box is opened to unveil two small cocktails in tiki glasses.

Not a sweet cocktail, but bright and herbal, with added depth from the Cynar. You’d almost forget it was gin. Warm and citrus with spice from the Botanist leads to the Kummel’s light aniseed flavour, but not compromising on it’s coating mouthfeel – finally enjoying a bit of sweetness from the rhubarb and thyme and then settling on the depth of Cynar, with a Kummel finish.

An enigmatic and adventurous cocktail. Loved around the table.

 

Not Just a Dram: Bruichladdich whisky, Lapsang souchong tea, lime juice, yellow chartreuse, sage leaves, plum and cardamom bitters.

I was hoping this would be a short, smoky cocktail – however the Not Just a Dram is served similar to a Julep, tall and filled with crushed ice.

I’d really like to return to try this straight up in a coupe, to really enjoy the whisky and tea. The brightness of the Bruichladdich is meant to be contrasted against the smoky lapsang, but I couldn’t get much with the ice here. Tasted a wee bit watered down, I’m afraid. Considering I absolutely *love* the sound of these ingredients together!

Definitely returning for this.

Bird of Smithfield London Cocktail bar

The Not Just A Dram

The Kenko Cha goes East by adding pineapple-infused Tanqueray gin to Canton ginger liqueur, Matcha, grapefruit, lime, sugar and egg white.

This was one cocktail I didn’t quite take to, but to be fair, I do have a slight aversion to strong pineapple flavours. And man was it strong here. I couldn’t help but feel it drowned out the others, and so missed the potential.

Bird of Smithfield London Cocktail bar

All in all: I love this bar. Wonderful service coupled with a large variety of cocktail flavours and various levels from the basement to terrace for different events make this bar a winner. Bird of Smithfield is a must when in Clerkenwell.

Drinks: ****
Atmosphere: ***-****
Service: ****


Bird of Smithfield

26 Smithfield St, Clerkenwell
London EC1A 9LB

http://birdofsmithfield.com/

W. M. Barker & Co., Bishopsgate

Type of BarBasement
Damage££
Ideal for: Date, Small Groups, Large GroupsAfter Work

 

Notorious for either its history or its name, the popular Dirty Dicks a stone’s throw from Liverpool Street Station has transformed its basement into an all new, all day cocktail bar and cafe.

Serving up toasties, coffee, craft beers and cocktails makes this a great ‘pop in anytime’ kinda spot, which is perfect for the City surroundings. Besides great coffee and bites, the cocktail menu takes a daring step with all the drinks being shrub-based. Shrubs, normally served as acidic aperitifs, can be sweetened dramatically depending on the infusion, and on the other ingredients in the cocktail.

WM Barker Dirty Dicks Bishopsgate City Cocktail bar

WM Barker & Co., goes for the sweeter. In fact, the whole cocktail list is made with primarily sweet drinks. Each cocktail is named after nearby area, marking the bar as the boundary between City and Shoreditch, attempting to appeal to both markets.

WM Barker Dirty Dicks Bishopsgate City Cocktail bar Poitin

#TheBanker

Beginning with the Bank #TheBanker, we find a unique combo of Absolut vodka, Sherry vinegar, Ban Poitin, champagne syrup, milk, cream, raisin bitters. Now this is bizarre – served in a milk bottle, the first sip is a massive wallop of a hundred flavours at once, till you go in for a second.

Sweet, yes, creamy, oh yes – this certainly is a dessert drink that begins with a pleasing sherry vinegar bite to cut through all the cream. After, it, literally, there is no other comparison: it’s liquid bread pudding.

Honestly, that is exactly it. It finishes off with a lingering champagne syrup.

For someone who normally does not go for sweet drinks, the Hoodooist was oddly charmed by this. Probably the most unique cocktail on the menu.

WM Barker Dirty Dicks Bishopsgate City Cocktail bar Rye Whiskey

#TheInvestor

To go in for something a bit more balanced after the Bank, we ordered the Bishopsgate #TheInvestor: Rittenhouse Rye, La Fee absinthe, peach, peach bitters, mint, sugar. Sounding much more classic Sazerac/Julep, the likes of something that would not be amiss at the Buffalo Bourbon Empire.

However, bitter it is not – I think this cocktail could do with stepping back on the sugar syrup, the bittersweet is followed by a caramelly thickness which one assumes is coming from a lot of sugar syrup. Absinthe aniseed slowly develops. I suppose I went in with a certain expectation of this drink, I’d like to see the spice of the rye playing more of a part.

WM Barker Dirty Dicks Bishopsgate City Cocktail bar gin

#ThePriest

St. Pauls #ThePriest really stands out from the menu with its sour profile: Whitley Neill gin, Green Chartreuse, maraschino, cucumber, cucumber shrub, lime juice, sugar, cucumber ribbon and cornichon. It’s wonderfully heavy on the Chartreuse, which is unmissable as first. Wonderfully tart, the sweetness of the cucumber and maraschino do set in, and if you pay close attention, the unique botanicals of the Whitley Neill are present in the background. A nice change from the sweetness so far.

WM Barker Dirty Dicks Bishopsgate City Cocktail bar Vodka Gin

Foreground: #ThePriest, #TheTrader
Background: #ThePhotographer

Hoxton #ThePhotographer is, unfortunately, a drink I don’t see myself ordering again. Sipsmith Gin, Sipsmith Sloe Gin, apricot liqueur, pomegranate shrub, lime juice, shortbread crumble rim. Sound wonderful, but really, the shortbread rim is the best part. The overwhelming sugar content of the cocktail, though, is choking.

WM Barker Dirty Dicks Bishopsgate City Cocktail bar Bourbon whiskey

However, all is not lost: The delightful Craig behind the bar will knock out one of the best Maker’s Mark Old Fashioneds if you ask nicely. A great way to polish off the evening, and change from the Hoxton.

WM Barker Dirty Dicks Bishopsgate City Cocktail bar Halloween

Tarot XIII – #Death

Finally, with Halloween just around the corner, WM Barker will be releasing a Halloween special on the day!

The Tarot XIII – #Death, comes with all the dark sweetness you’d expect of the holiday: Muddled sour cherries, sour cherry shrub, sherry, Kahlua, Port, and Tia Maria, topped off with Schweppes. I will have to admit, this cocktail does have a lot going on in terms of depth, with all the layers of dry fruit from the sherry, the coffee from the Kahlua, et al. But the unmissable, striking flavour is the intensely sour-sweet sour cherries. It is distinctly Halloween, and probably also has the sugar content of a bag of trick-or-treating candy.

WM Barker Dirty Dicks Bishopsgate City Cocktail bar

WM Barker & Co. is certainly a spot one can see becoming packed with people through the week. Time spent sat at the bar is fun with the company of Craig and team, and more than enough space at a bar that is deceptively larger than it first seems. There is amazing talent behind the bar, and a more varied menu will really showcase their skill.

The only thing that makes this a difficult spot to grade for drinks is, though there is obvious thought going into the cocktails, they’re all on the sweet side, even the ones that lean away like the St. Pauls. Luckily, bartenders will make classics on request, but one feels it should be something that is addressed in the menu.

A fun night out, as long as you know what you are going for!

 

Drinks: ** (variety) – *** (quality)
Atmosphere: ****
Service: ****

 

W. M. Barker & Co.

Basement of Dirty Dicks,
202 Bishopsgate,
London, EC2M 4NR.

http://www.wmbarkerandco.uk/