Someone should have let me know that I was sleeping on Birmingham’s bar scene cause damn.
Spending a weekend in the Midlands at the Bites Here and There conference, the Hoodooist and friends got to crawl around some of the most impressive cocktails bars B’ham has to offer.
I ain’t gonna tell you how to find this venue, but follow your gut. London’s speakeasies could learn a thing or two about how to….be an actual speakeasy from 18/81.
Once in, the décor is clean and simple, a risky decision but lord, was I happy to not see a speakeasy made of low lights and leather armchairs.
This menu unapologetically revels in the return of vodka and that is so refreshing to see.
The Oaxaca mixes mezcal, mole negro, red Muscat, and served with a dark chocolate garnish.
“Is this just you in a glass?” Natalie of legal and IT recruiters Tap Search asks.
And she has a point. Smoky mezcal with hints of white pepper gives into lightly floral sweet Muscat, before being a submerged into dark chocolate and spicy chilli, from the savouriness of the mole. Do I love this cocktail? It goes on forever and stands as one of the best I’ve had in a while,and certainly the best I’ve had in Birmingham (in competition with the Smokey Old Bastard by the Edgbaston Hotel).
The Garden to Glass serves vodka, wild nettle, cut grass, and garden herbs
Spectacular. Icy vodka prickled with fresh, grassy notes and effervescent nettle that cuts through the herbs. If light cocktails are your style, this is what you need.
Le Jardin once again gives us vodka, this time with jasmine, wormwood, and wild flowers. I have mixed feelings here. I do like the perfumed nature of the drink, and the anisey wormwood, but it feels a little *too* perfumed. If you like bitter and floral, here’s your cocktail, an acquired taste though it is.
The Shandong Blonde, a mix of vodka (Well, this has clearly made a comeback), Szechuan pepper flower, citrus, borage honey. Sweeter, if a bit confused. Maybe I’m just being fussy after the Oaxaca and Garden to Glass? The light floral spice feels a bit conflicted against the powerful raw honey sweetness of the borage honey. It doesn’t taste how you’d expect it, while also tasting exactly how you’d expect it to.
With a spectacular team behind the bar, service is impeccable. 18/81 serves us an amazing experience, down to the hunt for the venue.
Birmingham B5 4AU
Talk about a showstopping look. Black walls, blue banquettes, neon against a massive bar – complete with multi-sensory distortion dividers (touch em, you’ll see what I mean). Nocturnal Animals knows how to turn a look – and don’t miss the IG opportunities downstairs!
This menu is set up in an excellent manner – each section has a base spirit and set of ingredients, followed by three takes on that mix – the Short, the Sharp, and Long – each a longer version of the prior.
The Short Pisco, adds pink grapefruit, rosewater, peach, Turmeon Rose vermouth, Aperol, and Japanese peach bitters to the mix.
The fruit of the Turmeon Rose Vermouth comes through on the nose quite spectacularly. The palette is similarly sweet, but not overwhelmingly so. For its sweetness, the drink is perfectly short, since it would take you as long to drink.
Wonderfully fruited from the vermouth and fruits, the pisco and Aperol just pull it back from a fructose hell into being a fabulously balanced sweet cocktail with a mild winter spice hit. Wave after wave of fruit notes make this a rollercoaster delight.
The Short Gin, mixes green chilli, pear eau de vie, Turmeon weed vermouth, and charred fennel bulbs.
Now, there is a lot to be said about the political ramifications of racism and the prison system in the legal cannabis market but anyway, here we are being edgy.
That said, this Martini works excellently, though is an acquired taste. The gin is drowned out by the other ingredients, however. The bright chilli is immediately followed up by the cannabis flavour of the vermouth and fennel, but eventually settling on the sweeter notes of the pear and vermouth, and a great long finish.
Remember to book, this place is booked up and take in all this dystopian sexiness.
20 Bennetts Hill,
Birmingham B2 5QJ
Join us again next time for our review of the Edgbaston Hotel, Birmingham!