London Cocktail Week Round-Up
Last week saw London awash with cut price cocktails, boozy pop-ups and one off events marking one of the finest events in the calendar: London Cocktail Week. At it’s heart is the Cocktail Village, a space flowing with cocktails, music and food.
This year, the Cocktail Village promised to be the biggest cocktail hub London had ever seen, with trucks and trikes, beaches and gardens, smoke houses and saunas, a boozy-carousel and an authentic Japanese Izakaya alley all squeezed into London’s Spitalfields. The best details? All were serving £6 cocktails! Here’s our round up of things that caught our eye from those involved in the gin world…
Stranger and Sons took over Fitz’s bar with an immersive night named ‘The Queens, The Pickle and The Police’. The journey began at a traditional Ittar (perfume) stall as guests entered Fitz’s. Entrants were asked to select their favourite fragrance from an array of aromatic Indian scents. The choice you made informed which colour eye you were given (a reference to both seeing the bigger picture and the distillery name – Third Eye Distillery).
Such an odd utensil to be given became clear once you saw the menus, which were printed with overlapping drinks, one printed in red, the other blue. The only way to unscramble the cocktails was to look through the coloured eye. It was already a cool installation, but the fact that the drinks were then made by bar queen Beckaly Franks (of The Pontiac, Hong Kong) tipped it over the edge. Unforgettable!
Guests were also invited to look for a hidden bar entrance amongst the revelry, where they’d find revered Indian mixologists Devender Kumar and Jeet Rana. To find it, a token ‘gift’ needed to be given to the policeman for a permit…
Overall, the night was filled with fantastic cocktails matched with immersive experiences and clever interactive menus. The take over was just what Cocktail Week is all about, moreover it showcased exactly what Stranger & Sons are capable of and just why so many are excited about the Indian Gin scene flourishing as it is.
The Cocktail Village
Gin brands were out in force in the village, seemingly making up around half the distillery-led stands there. Fords Gin was shining bright with its Martinis & Oysters van, which was serving up Red Snappers and other gin-delights. It was nothing new from the team, but there’s a reason for that: it works.
Aviation’s presence was okay, if a little underwhelming for a brand on such a meteoric rise. Bathtub Gin kept to their usual informal style, while sister brand Boutiquey Gin Company had a slightly more dynamic and youthful feel with the range of bottlings on offer to try and a vending machine serving up their new ready to drink cocktail cans. All three served some innovative, interesting drinks.
Suntory had a lovely idea for their experience, recreating a Japanese Izakaya Alley, in which guests could hop between three bars. It was a really nice idea, serving cool cocktails by a well versed team, but we just couldn’t help feel it was badly let down by fluo lighting (self inflicted – not the venue) killing all sense of discovery and intimacy. The end effect was more akin to trade stalls with London Underground lighting than an escapade down a bustling Japanese backstreet.
Slingsby kept it simple with three cocktails and tasters of Slingsby Marmalade Gin, while Napue went the opposite way and built a sauna behind their bar. Ramsbury made an amazing effort, bringing their estate to life with cocktails on tap, one of which was a twist on a Bees Knees using gin, honey and a mango IPA all made in house. Both Napue and Ramsbury added much needed visual spectacle to the occasion, creating a real experience for attendees.
Talking of stands with plenty to look at – Opihr brought in the sands of the silk road and accompanying spices to bring their presence to life, using the event to launch three new expressions. The brand also took the opportunity to show off their latest collaboration with The Last Overland, driving a jeep right into the village, fresh off its three month expedition from Singapore to London. Some amazing history right there, but in the context of London Cocktail week, the bonnet made for a good bar top…
As for the trio of new Opihr gins – there’s a European, a Far East and an Arabian edition. We didn’t taste the Far East neat but it includes the addition of Szechuan pepper and Ajwain (similar to caraway/ dried thyme). The Arabian edition has Persian black lemons and Timut pepper, a fantastic combination that gives the gin’s profile a zesty citrus spice hit that endures throughout. Served in a twist on a Daiquiri (same specs as you would normally make it with, just replace rum with gin), the zingy nature of the gin powered through.
The Opihr European edition includes botanicals such as cascarilla bark (very bitter raw, but somewhat more fragrant as a distillate). The gin has an intense woody smoke aroma similar to oud in perfume. Whether that’s the cascarilla or something else is unclear at this stage, but the combination of the two tasted fantastic in a Negroni.
Ten years into its life, what’s clear is that London Cocktail Week goes from strength to strength, improving its hub, shifting with demands and building in new ideas each and every time. Cocktail Village aside, across the capital there was masses going on and for Gin lovers in particular there was much to discover. Let’s face it, it’s not exactly like we all need an excuse to go into some of the world’s best bars for a tipple or two anyway, so when everyone edges up a notch while simultaneously taking the price down… What a week!
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