I set off to try out three of the London Cocktail Week lower-alcohol cocktail options last night, across three different venues in the Shoreditch/Spitalfields area, to feedback to Club Soda members and followers. The thought process behind these offerings is explained in the blog we posted last week so I went along to see how they tasted, how strong they seemed, what the venues were like, what information I received from bar staff and how I felt at the end of the night…
Review of lower-alcohol cocktails
Before I set out, I had a very large curry for lunch with a bottle of sparkling water and I took another bottle of water with me to drink between bars.
Venue One – Blixen
On Brushfield Street, where the low-alcohol option was the ‘Bold Sour.’ Served in a short tumbler over lashings of cubed ice, it’s comprised of Regal Rogue Bold Red vermouth, cherry bitters, lemon juice and egg white. It’s a really lovely drink – light, citrusy, refreshing, with the perfect balance of bitterness and a clean finish. It was sippable but it didn’t last very long. Smaller glasses are great for tasting and assessing a drink but are tricky when you’re trying to pace yourself. Having said that, I enjoyed it and the alcohol content was pleasantly subtle. The bar and adjoining restaurant is simple, the service was polite and efficient and they were quick to ask if I was there for Cocktail Week and give my two drink options. They didn’t differentiate between the low ABV option and the higher-alcohol-content cocktail though, something I understand will usually slip most bartenders’ minds, but unless the customer knows what they’re looking for or even knows that these options are available, then they won’t think to ask.
Would I go there again? Yes but probably to eat rather than just for a drink.
Could they improve their low ABV option? This was a great lower-alcohol drink but an array of options is always welcome!
On Bishop’s Square, to check out the ‘Lavender Bellini’ which is served in a champagne flute, straight up. I’m a huge fan of Lavender and a good classic Bellini so I was excited to try this but alas, I really didn’t like it. Their take on this concoction is peach puree with lavender bitters, lengthened with Prosecco – resulting in an absolutely beautiful aroma but an incredibly bitter flavour. Personal preference plays a big part I know but I would prefer a slightly sweeter edge – a lavender syrup instead of bitters for this recipe would work better for me. The alcohol strength was okay due to the simple recipe but the flavours gave the illusion of a higher alcohol content. The venue itself is attractive with a cosy atmosphere, bustling bar and good service. This time I wasn’t given the options that my Cocktail Pass allowed, I was just provided with the regular drinks menu and advised that it was happy hour – luckily I already knew to order the Bellini.
Would I go there again? Yes.
Could they improve their low ABV option? Personally yes but it was a logical recipe for the adult palette.
Venue Three – Apples & Pears
On Brick Lane, to grab a slice of ‘Lemon Pie.’ This indulgent cocktail recipe consists of Vanilla vodka, limoncello, caramel, fresh lemon juice, vanilla bitters, egg white and soft cheese – the brain-child of barman Antoine. If you like lemon meringue pie, lemon cheesecake, or lemon tart… this is the one for you. It’s sweet but the citrus gives the right amount of bite to prevent it from being too rich. Served in a Coupe glass with no ice, it’s not a ‘long’ cocktail but it’s thick and packed full of flavour, so it’s not one to drink quickly AND you have a ginger biscuit to dunk. The bar itself is dark and cool with a nice atmosphere and a heated back garden. The bartenders were friendly, attentive and informative – Thomas told us our Cocktail Week pass options when we arrived and explained the Lemon Pie is their lower ABV option, that his colleague created it and that we wouldn’t be disappointed. When I asked about mocktail options I was advised that they will create anything from the seasonal fruit and ingredients they have at the bar at the time, so all you have to do is ask and you’ll receive something unique.
Would I go there again? Absolutely. The staff really care about their craft, with no reduction in passion or enthusiasm when talking about no or low-alcohol options.
Could they improve their low ABV option? This drink was the winner of the night for me and the perfect low-alcohol end to the evening, so I’d be interested to see what else they can come up with for the low-alcohol drinks category.
Overall it was a successful evening because I had a couple of great drinks and it’s exciting to know that mindful drinking is being taken seriously and that those who choose to consume slightly less booze aren’t looking for less flavour, art or craft. We only sampled 10% of the festival’s low ABV offering across the city but having scrutinised the list of venues and drinks, I didn’t see many hi-ball/long cocktail recipes and a few of them still seem like they may be too astringent for someone who’s looking to take it easy. I definitely felt a bit drunk by the end of my three drinks, so some tweaks for next year would be well received.
Having the pass within the ‘Wallet’ feature of the app on my phone was super easy, not to mention more environmentally friendly than wristbands, tickets or lanyards. Huge thank you to Drink Up London for getting the mindful drinking ball rolling and for curating such a fantastic week of flavour, we look forward to next year!
Not familiar with the Club Soda Guide already? Take a look at the Club Soda Guide website and search our huge list of venues across London, who support the Mindful Drinking Movement™. If you run a pub, bar or restaurant, it takes two minutes to sign up and get your free listing!