The Dolls House, Islington

Type of Bar: Members, Late Night
Ideal for: Night Cap, Small Groups, Party


In a fantastic display of impermanence, the exit of Islington’s House of Wolf and Hoxton Square’s Dead Doll’s Club means the latter possesses the former’s space – manifesting as the all new Dolls House!

Doll House. Dolls House. Doll’s House. Confusing syntax.


Now before we go further, I’d like to clarify that Highball Hoodoo never had any intention of covering members clubs, since the Hoodooist’d like all our reviews to be of venues that are easily accessible.

However we are willing to make an exception for DH since the ground floor Parlour is open to the public, and that membership is easily attained by filling out a form, and bringing a bottle of the club’s requested spirit on your first visit: List found HERE

Dolls House Islington

Spaced over three floors, the ground floor public Parlour is a large open space with a stage – the launch night opened the stage up to the awesome Kansas Smittys to entertain the crowd – shame about the repetitive fire alarms. With a decent sized bar, no complaints about this space that provides us with jazz bands till 4AM.


The first floor provides us with two intimate private rooms: the Drawing Room and Library. The Drawing Room is a slightly larger space than the Library, with windows open to the Islington Town Hall. Both make most of their space by eliminating décor in favour of hand-illustrated walls, which left the table divided as to whether or not we’d prefer furniture instead. The Library is where we found ourselves most comfortable, though we’d wish our bearded bartender would teach his beardless colleague the secret of stirring a cocktail without causing such a racket. Canapes were sparse, which was tragic.


Finally, the upstairs member’s-area-after-dinner, the Ballroom, is a beautiful space. Fogged mirrors, decent seating, gorgeous chandeliers, it’s not a large space, but a stunning one.


Dolls House Islington Negroni

Dolls House Negroni

Menu-wise, options are limited (9 in total), but very decently priced. Think Negronis, Old Fashioneds, Aviations, et al – all classics. Flavour-wise, decent. Glad to see Antica Formula used in the Negronis, Old Fashioneds were – for some unfathomable reasons – only being served on the top floor bar and not in the Library. Bartenders also refuse to make any classics off menu, which is the first time I’ve ever really encountered such a philosophy. The rules here stopped making sense after a bit.

Except for one bartender, service is half-hearted. Exhausted. With complete lack of interest.

I sense I have been using the word ‘decent’ an awful lot. Because that’s exactly what the Dolls House is. Decent. A *shrug* and pout. A friend on the top floor caught a total of one canapé.

Dolls House Islington

The sadly lacking number of late night cocktail bars in the area means that your major options past midnight is either the Dolls House or Pisco Embassy (Click HERE for Review!) – although past 10PM non-members expect to be charged 5 pounds for entry – don’t worry members, you can bring 3 non-member friends along.

Although then I must ask – why? Other than the late night opening, there I very little I find particularly fascinating about the venue, and it’s incredibly limited menu.

Some things are just… Decent.


Drinks: *** (Although risking a ** with tiny menu)
Atmosphere: ***
Service: ** – *** (Depending with whom you’re dealing)


The Dolls House

181 Upper Street, Islington,
London N1 1RQ.


Pisco Embassy @ Comedor Grill & Bar, Islington

Type of Bar: Late Night, Peruvian, Pisco
Damage££  £££
Ideal for: Date, Small Groups, Large Groups, Party, Pisco

Ah, Islington. Though it has stars like 69 Colebrooke Row (Click HERE for review!), it needed some new blood, or something that stood out from the myriad of mediocre French restaurants that litter the area.

And so head bartender Jose Francisco-Modonese turns the Comedor Grill and Bar into a Peruvian drinking den everything Friday and Saturday night. A late-late night ‘pop up’ of sorts, from midnight to 5AM on weekends, tables are shoved out of the way for a dance floor with DJ JJ Latino at the helm.

London has a complicated relationship with pisco. The unaged grape brandy (think of other unaged brandies like Grappa, Zivania, or Palinca) has tried to break out into the UK cocktail market repeatedly since 2011 and always fell short – maybe it is its inherent difficulty to be used in cocktails. As bartender Jose put it, “Everyone’s had the Pisco Sour,” – another notable twist on the Sour would be Gareth Evans’ Piscotheque. And the Hoodooist could see it being used well in a punch.

And yet, I was intrigued by some of the choices made in the cocktails here. Some were either twists on classics (like a Metropolitan, but with Pisco. Or a Mojito, but with Pisco), or recipes brought over from Peru, but so few really channelled *Peru*, if I’m making any sense. For example, drinks using bitters, went for Angostura instead of using flavours that would work with Peruvian Amargo Chuncho bitters.

Let’s start with a few drinks that worked well:

A traditional Pisco Sour; Pisco and sugar/lime/eggwhite/Angostura: providing a well-balanced Sour, dry, just right. A safe bet.

The Piscojito (Pisco Quebranta, sugar, lime and spearmint), obviously a twist on the Mojito, makes a surprisingly smooth drink that beats a traditional Mojito any day of the week. By going back to the original Cuban Mojito recipe using spearmint instead of the popular modern use of mint, we get a subtler, more fragrant and less assaulting cocktail that allows the drinker to enjoy the flavours of the pisco quebranta instead of just herbs.

The Pisco Embassy Punch… Whew. Okay, the Hoodooist loves raw pineapple, just the fresh fruit – but for some reason in juice or cocktail form, it just sends shivers down his spine. Yet, this drink, though not my style, I recognise as being well-made, well-balanced, though simple (as long as you like pineapple juice). Not strictly a ‘punch’ by definition, the 1850s Californian recipe: Pisco, pineapple juice, lime, cinnamon syrup brings up a different perception of the Californian gold rush, one with a strongly Caribbean sepia tone filter.

L-R: Chicha Sour as shot, Pisco Embassy Punch

L-R: Chicha Sour as shot, Pisco Embassy Punch

Now for the other drinks involved. Some were a bit more adventurous, but there was one flaw that seemed to pervade many of the drinks we had: imbalance. Instead of having one leading flavour, it would be overpowering.

The Chicha Sour brings Chicha Morada – a sweet non-alcoholic maize drink to the Pisco Sour. The purple maize adds a lovely colour to the drink, though I wish they removed the sugar syrup because god, help me, this is diabetes in a glass. Sickly sweet, and almost sticky, with a thick mouthfeel. I can see this, if served shorter as a dessert drink as possibly working.

The Paddington Bear – Pisco, cinnamon and clove syrup, lime and orange juice and bit of marmalade (obviously!) had overdone the spice syrup, though it is an excellent idea, this can be saved really easily if the syrup is toned down a bit. Similarly, the Capitan: Orange peel-infused Pisco, whisky barrel bitters and red vermouth infused with cinnamon, cloves, star anise and 2 smoked star anise was bit too heavy with the star anise. Less of that, and we are looking at a sharp, tart, winter drink for those with less of a taste for juicier drinks.

The Macchu Picchu Nights has far too much going on with shiso infused pisco, lemon, apple juice, red basil syrup and crème de cassis, but as far as sweet drinks go, works better than the Paddington Bear. But still excruciatingly sweet with bit too intense cassis.

Finally, as a fan of Chilcanos, I was a bit surprised at how over the top the ginger flavours were here. Pisco, ginger ale, fernet branca, lime, sugar and muddled ginger slices I can only imagine meant too much muddled ginger.

The Capitan

The Capitan

On the other hand, the choice of Piscos is excellent, and Jose’s knowledge of the spirit is extensive – what would make the Pisco Embassy a hit, other than the Midnight to Dawn license, would be the Pisco flights he can take you on – and this is the primary reason I would urge you to visit if you wish to develop your knowledge on Pisco.

Otherwise, I find that the cocktails do need to only slightly tone down some flavours in their drinks, especially with some drinks costing a whopping 12 pounds (this affects the scores) – since the drinks here do have incredible potential, and the passion of the staff is admirable. It’s a fun atmosphere, with a dancefloor and great music, with excellent service and bar snacks – so there is a lot to enjoy here, particularly at 3AM!

Drinks: Cocktails – ** , Pisco Flights – ****
Atmosphere: ***
Service: ***

Pisco Embassy @ Comedor Bar & Grill

176 Upper Street, Islington
London N1 1RG

Cecil’s UFF Tea Ball, London Bridge

Type of Bar: Basement, Vintage
Ideal for: Party, Date, Small Groups, Large Groups, Birthdays


Tucked away down the industrial alleyway of 8 Holyrood Street, Cecil’s is a basement venue that on weekends goes from bar to 1930s glam with their galas. With Cecil himself on stage and the wonderfully charismatic Jim McMahon as host, the night wasn’t short of incredible entertainment and fantastic service. We have been to Cecil’s before, as we covered their Paris in London Grand Marnier pop up in London Cocktail Week (Click HERE for review!).


The UFF Tea Ball is characterised by its focus on the 30s and formal wear (always a good excuse to throw on a tux), with varying themes now and again, this time: 1930s Shanghai; with Cecil singing classic tunes on stage in front of a small dancefloor, two large booths on either side of the room and a scattering of tables among the indoor foliage.

Greeted at the door with an Oolong tea based punch, downstairs we begin with a New York of the East: Maker’s Mark Bourbon, a splash of Umeshu plum wine, sugar, bitters, orange twist. Essentially an Old Fashioned with Umeshu, it brought a brightness to the classic, with a lasting earthiness in the aftertaste. An interesting twist. The Cecil’s Rum Swizzle is one of those effortless and classic drinks that demands no pretention or fascination, and in many ways epitomises the style of Cecil’s cocktails, it’s quietly confident and here to get the job done: Santa Teresa Claro rum, Velvet Falernum, spiced sugar syrup from Barbados, lime juice, bitters. I’m going to go ahead and assume the ‘spiced sugar syrup from Barbados’ is the spiced sugar cane syrup that is mixed in with rum to make Velvet Falernum, but I could be wrong. What you get is a clean, soft cocktail that really is a quintessential rum swizzle.


The New York of the East

The New York of the East

The star of the evening would definitely be the Aperitif No. 20: El Jimador Reposado tequila, lemon, marmalade, sugar, splash of Kamm and Sons – bright, spry, lively, and effervescent. Citrusy, but only the best of ways, the tart sweetness of the marmalade and warm earthiness of the Kamm and Sons preventing a dreadful leap into sourness.


There was, still a hiccup with the Cecil’s Club Vodka Highball, which might appeal to some, but came off a bit *too* plain: Belenkaya Vodka, Umeshu, stripped cucumber, soda. Besides a distant umeshu after-taste, my bias against this might be the same reason I dislike so many of Hendrick’s Gin signature drinks, you could just eat a cucumber with a shot of vodka. So I am reluctant to judge this harshly since it could be a personal dislike, although it wasn’t a hit across the table for its plainness.

L-R: Cecil's Rum Swizzle; Cecil's Club Vodka Highball

L-R: Cecil’s Rum Swizzle; Cecil’s Club Vodka Highball

Service-wise, as aforementioned, Cecil’s was flawless. Especially with their hosting and shout outs of several birthday parties that seem to take place there. Maybe a *slightly* stricter policy on the formal dress code, after all, ticket holders paid for an event to come out in gowns and tuxes, and the random fellow with shades indoors and his shirt hanging out over his jeans is bit of a dampener – but I suppose everyone needs comic relief.

In short? Cecil’s UFF Tea Ball provides a stimulating night out without the oppressiveness of say, the Blitz Ball, or the general offishness of most of the London Vintage scene. Along with fabulous hosts, and simple, classic cocktails, it’s definitely worth a knees up.

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



8 Holyrood Street,
London, SE1 2EL.

Floripa, Old Street/Shoreditch

Type of Bar: Bar/RestaurantEasy-goingBrazilian
Damage: £-££
Ideal for: FoodPartyShamelessly Drunk


Floripa has gone through many changes over the years, from seedy house of debauchery, to carnivalesque party venue, to what it is today.

Floripa still has a good vibe and a party atmosphere, but a half a year after the last time I was here, things have changed a bit. On the cocktail side. It’s still a large open plan space with an outdoor area and a stage for both bands and DJs, with large groups of people coming in for dinner and drinks.


Beginning with the Fogo de Floripa: Cachaca, pomegranate syrup and far, far, far too much Temepero Baiano (a spice combo much like the Indian garam masala, where every family has their own combination of various spices. This was pretty much plain cinnamon, maybe nutmeg as well;). The result was, in a word, obscene. Chokingly sweet, no one at the table could ingest this. So sweet that it didn’t taste of anything. Regrettable in every way.

6 months ago, Caipirinhas over here were actually pretty good. Recently things have taken a turn for the worse.

We thought, hey, the last time we got decent ones, and how can one mess up a Caipirinha? It’s a Brazilian venue after all. The Velho Barreiro Cachaca muddled with lime and sugar just came tasting of artificial flavouring and refined sugar. Just. No.

Whereas this venue is great for parties, I wish I’d be able to drink something.

The food was mediocre.


I was also more annoyed by the general attitude of the venue, making it a headache to book spaces using bank detail etc., it ain’t Claridges. It just ended up feeling like such a waste.

Service was alright, nothing special, but not bad, either.
Next time I have a cachaca craving, I will remember to go back to Made in Brazil, Camden Town (Review HERE).

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


91-93 Great Eastern Street,
London EC2A 3HZ

Casita Bar’s 8th Birthday, feat. Ocho Tequila

Yes, that wonderful cocktail shed in Shoreditch has celebrated its 8th birthday this week, partnered with Ocho tequila (Ocho, geddit); if you haven’t been acquainted with Casita yet, check out its review, HERE.

And unlike most birthday parties, Casita had the idea of inviting spectacular bartenders from around the city to showcase their skills over the course of 8 hours – and what a brilliant idea that was. As if the wonderful Sophie Mackay and Oskar Klimaszewski weren’t enough, owner Will Foster shared the stage with the likes of Chris Dennis of Trailer Happiness, and Jesse Estes of El Nivel (Find review of El Nivel HERE). Only rules for the cocktails: All drinks had to be made with Ocho (not that anyone was complaining!).


Will El Generalisimo Foster’s ‘El Fenix’ encapsulated Casita’s spirit perfectly: a long spicy-sweet tequila drink of jalapeno, basil, and raspberries topped up with pink Ting – it’s by Casita, you know it’s going to be good, just go with it.

Jesse Estes, working with his own tequila brand, Ocho – knocked it out of the park as expected. The ‘Mexican 55’ – Ocho blanco, lemon juice, agave syrup and sparkling wine – was exactly what I was waiting for all night. A clear, refreshing drink that was a perfect pick-up after the dark and heavy ‘N’Ocho Average Negroni’ (Ocho blanco, spiced Guinness, Campari), by Penkul & Banks’ Simon Toohey.


Trailer Happiness
’ Chris Dennis presented another winning drink: the ‘Bipolar Daiquiri’. Ocho blanco, green chartreuse, lime juice and Falernum made an excellent tangy drink that wasn’t as herbal as one would suspect at first glance. Finally, Ian Macintyre of the wonderful NOLA (Find the review of NOLA HERE) presented the ‘Baloma’: Ocho blanco, grapefruit shrub, Campari and Sagres – a drink with a distinctly NOLA flair. One of us ordered the Baloma with Ting instead of Sagres and both had to admit that the Ting worked better with the drink than the Sagres, which drowned out the flavours of the other ingredients.

To end, Casita’s Sophie Mackay presented a deep Mexico-meets-Italy drink in the form of the ‘Dirty Mexican’: Ocho blanco, Martini Rosso and Fernet Branca (In a party bag!) and the 86 co.’s Dan Warner came with an Ocho Paloma.


For 8 nights Casita presents these discounted cocktails, and what a winning combo they are! Props to Casita for a fantastic mid-week night out! Even after, as long as they have the ingredients, the Casita bartenders will be happy to knock one of these out for you (as long as you remember the ingredients!).

5A Ravey St,
London EC2A 4QW

Casita, Shoreditch

Type of Bar: Easy-going, Tiny, Latin?
Ideal for: Small groups, PartyShamelessly Drunk

I kinda don’t want to tell you about Casita.

Just round the corner from The Book Club with its queue of people who just don’t know any better, Casita is a tiny cocktail space with a whole lot of character.


It’s worth playing Sardines in here

The Latin vibe of the place which is stressed in many reviews is barely noticeable in the crowded room, especially if you need to make your way to the bar. Luckily, the density of the crowd ebbs and flows, so as soon as you get some breathing space, you get a chance to get to know the wonderful bartenders. Always cheeky, up for conversation and a casual flirt, they know what they’re doing and will do whatever it takes to make sure you’re stumbling by last call at 11PM. Don’t be surprised by on-the-house shots of the bar signature Tequila con Verdita, which you’ll find yourself doing more of than expected (between-drinks palette cleansers I claim they are).

The shot of El Jimenez tequila with a chaser of coriander, mint, pineapple juice and fresh jalepenos will keep you coming back for more as you go through their list of expertly made classics like a Tommy’s Margarita (Tequila, agave nectar and lime, as usual), or a good old King of Roses: a sweet gingerbread syrup and Four Roses bourbon. If they have their hands on honey syrup, I highly recommend the Gold Rush, honey syrup, whiskey and lemon juice; or its gin cousin, the Bee’s Knees. They exemplify Casita’s nature: Simplicity, yet well done and supremely satisfying.

You could go off menu as well; a Sazerac I ordered came out fabulously – except it may have been served with ice (faux pas), but I can’t quite remember by the time I got to that drink. I believe I did experiment by ordering a rum daiquiri with Cynar artichoke bitter liqueur and loved it – not on their menu, but they will be happy to make this cocktail with a savoury roundedness for you.

And that’s the charm of the place; it’s a place to get disgracefully drunk without the risk of drinking something horrible.


As for food, the bar offers a selection of take away menus to bring food to the bar for you: which reflects Casita’s incredibly laid back nature. Or you could steal their blackberries to eat. As long as you’re not causing drama, they’re happy as long as you are.

The monetary damage is minimal – four drinks and four shots got a tab for 40 pounds, pretty fantastic for the quality.

For the high rating, you must understand that we can’t limit high ratings to cushy table service bars with drinks at 16 pounds a pop as some reviewers think we must. If you want a shameless night out pressed up against strangers with a bad drink, go to a London Cocktail Club branch. If you want a shameless night out pressed up against strangers with a spectacular Nuclear Daiquiri in one hand and blinding Tequila con Verdita in the other, Casita is your destination.

Update: The glorious Casita bartender, Oskar, is retiring end of May 2014! We love him dearly and will miss him terribly, and wish him best of luck in his next, mysterious cocktail venture! Watch this space!

Update: Click HERE to for article on Casita Bar’s 8th Birthday feat. Ocho Tequila! A spectacle to multiple invited startenders and their cocktails!

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

5A Ravey St,
London EC2A 4QW

Casita’s Google Plus Page

Made in Brasil, Camden Town

Type of Bar: Bar/Restaurant, Easy-going, Brazilian
Ideal for: Food, PartyShamelessly Drunk

Camden’s Inverness Street takes on a great party vibe in the evenings, and Made in Brasil is an indispensible part of it.

It seems to have a party atmosphere almost constantly – which makes it a necessary pitstop when in Camden practically every time. At under 7 pounds, you can’t turn down the incredible assembly line of bartenders preparing Caipirinha after Caipirinha. Or if Cachaca isn’t your thing, the vodka variation, Caipiroskatends to take a slightly different route in flavours. The caipirinhas tend to focus on one flavor at a time – acai (fabulous), kiwi, chilli; the caipiroskas tend to be more hybridized with strawberry and basil, or mandarin and cashew.

MiB offers other classics and variations of Vodka Martinis, but trust that they know what they specialize in, and do it well.

Once the live band comes in and the night picks up, you want to turn to a shooter that really does you in. When the Gostosa is brought to the table, the actual aged Cachaca looks a lethal acid yellow. But couple that with the slice of strawberry dipped in chilli sugar that chases the shot and the sudden effect on the palette is extraordinary.


Practically any flavour you need

The food menu is traditionally Brazillian, and well-priced, from a la carte to tapas. Expect a lot of cassava and black beans – you could dine in the much calmer basement, or keep the noise up upstairs when you’re stuffing face on the incredible Queijo coalho tostado com vegetais assados, or its meat-eater’s cousin.

In any case, the atmosphere coupled with the quick drink service means that you are always dangerously close to yelling “ANOTHER!” after every shot. Remember that Hailo is your friend.

Made in Brasil might not be a mixology haven, but they rock tradicional and rock it right. You want a live night out and a mother of a hangover; this is the place to end up.

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


Made in Brazil
12 Inverness St,
London NW1 7HJ‎