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Cocktails in the City is a three-day festival celebrating the most innovative (and delicious!) cocktails in London, as well as guest bars from Paris and Amsterdam. The opening night was held last night at One Mayfair.
Formerly St Mark’s Church, One Mayfair is a Grade I-listed building that was refurbished in 2009, to great effect. The event utilised the church space well – an altar bar, a cocktail mix in the baptismal font and a DJ in the pulpit.
Set over four floors, Cocktails in the City represented over 20 bars, with something to suit every alcoholic taste. It was my personal endeavour to try as many as possible.
The first was a Patron Rose-flavoured drink courtesy of the Oxo Tower Bar. Mixed with cucumber and yuzu, it aimed to banish those terrible memories of teenage tequila-fuelled hangovers and instead enhance the possibilities of the much-maligned Mexican spirit.
Gin got a look in at The Cocktail Trading Company, whose offering of a gin slushie featured mixed berry, rhubarb cordial, bergamot sherbet and black pepper. Served in a plastic milk bottle and wrapped in a paper bag, this was one of the most delicious and fun cocktails on offer.
The Alchemist, hot off the back of its first London opening, had an innovative Campari-based cocktail as well as popcorn with Campari caramel.
Whiskey drinkers will be a fan of The Golden Mile’s rooftop whiskey bar. Serving Johnnie Walker, Haig Club and Talisker Skye, the bar is nestled away among cosy tables and vines and provides the perfect respite to the lively party below.
But it was vodka lovers like me who really found their heaven at this year’s event, with six bars offering their own takes on the drink.
The Whip’s horse-racing themed stall served up a truly astounding rhubarb vodka with lemon juice, bitters and grapefruit, topped off with Wild Goose Chase Beer. The result was a summery light drink with hints of a Belgian-style fruit beer.
Reverend JW Simpson used the baptismal font to create both their Stairway to Heaven and Hell drinks, utilising liquid smoke to create a powerful effect.
Novikov’s signature cocktail featured Staritsky and Levitsky vodka with orange saccharum, lime juice, velvet falernum, oregano and szechuan buttons. Their Dark Matter drink was a heavy, dark concoction with vodka-soaked cherries and was just perfect.
The London Cocktail Club served up Zubrowka with lemon, apple and absinthe. They are currently crowdfunding to expand their company and if their drinks are anything to go by, they’ll be a surefire hit.
The Threadneedle Bar used Polish brand U’luvka to create an array of interesting drinks. My pick was their mushroom-based cocktail which had a strangely delicious earthy taste.
Despite stiff competition, Hush Mayfair was my personal favourite. Sitting before a stained glass window, the bartenders served Crystal Head vodka from the church’s altar. Though intrigued by their Angel cocktail (featuring bubblegum infused vodka, cranberry juice and champagne foam) it was their Devil that really stole the show. Vodka muddled with fresh blackberries and elderflower, it was a simple but effective drink that was refreshing and, most importantly, big!
Special mention goes to the two visiting bars from overseas. Door 74 is Amsterdam’s top drinking spot and has been featured in the World’s 50 Best Bars and twice nominated at Tales of the Cocktail in New Orleans. They served up whiskey and tea combinations and their stall was intriguingly decorated with rubber ducks.
Parisian Little Red Door revolved around secrecy. Tucked away on the upper floor behind (you guessed it) a little red door, the bar featured three illustrations in lieu of a menu. The menu came about as a result of invited diverse artists to a blind-tasting and using this to create a visual representation of the emotions of their drink.
The stall reversed that process by providing us only with illustrations; whichever one piqued our interest was our destined drink. I’m not entirely sure what I drank but it had absinthe and a pickled mini carrot and was beautiful. C’est bon!
With enough stalls to keep you entertained for hours, an eclectic mix of music and a food stall serving hotdogs and mac + cheese, Cocktails in the City was a fabulous night out in a stunning location.