London Cocktail Week is back for the fifth consecutive year. From 6-12 October, it'll treat us to an infectious party vibe to rival that of New Orleans, and a stack of boozy goings-on to match; cheap drinks, free tastings, one-off events and pop-ups galore. If you adore cocktails or are a curious novice lurking in the rum-soaked shadows, this is the festival for you.
So, how does it work?
To take part, get your mitts on a wristband (£10 advance, £15 once Cocktail Week starts). One of the best things about this year’s festivities is that it encompasses even more of our great city, so there are a number of ‘hubs’ from which you can pick your wristbands up from. In addition to the original flagship pick up point at Seven Dials, you can swing by Bank, Spitalfields or Chelsea. Here’s the list of hubs in full:
KETEL ONE HUB, SEVEN DIALS (9 Earlham Street, WC2H 9LL)
TANQUERAY NO. TEN HUB, SPITALFIELDS (Mark’s Bar, Hixter, Devonshire Square, EC2M 4YN)
THE COINTREAU HUB AT BLUEBIRD (Bluebird Café, 350 Kings Road, London SW3 5UU)
THE NIKKA HUB AT THE WHISKY EXCHANGE (Vinopolis, 1 Bank End, London, SeE1 9BU)
There are fantastic drinking dens all over the city, each offering a limited edition cocktail, concocted especially for the occasion, and for the bargainous price of £4. And we are talking about some seriously smashing venues taking part — essential-booking hotspots, industry favourites and a fair few that consistently make the World's Best Bars list. Keep an eye out for our ‘Cocktails to Try this Month’ London Cocktail Week feature, where we’ll be selflessly sampling (tough job, eh?) and suggesting some tipples on offer.
There’s so much to see, do and consume — we couldn’t possibly list all the brilliant events here without a stiff martini in hand (and a lot of lost sleep), so here are a few highlights we've picked out, just for you:
We’re so stupidly excited about Nola vs Nola, which sees some friendly sparring barside, with our friends from across the pond, and, not going to lie, the ‘Trouserless Tuesday’ did get our attention. The concept is this — seven of New Orleans’ best bartenders were asked to make an original cocktail. The 'tenders at NOLA have the exact same ingredients. And that's it. No recipes. No measurements. Cue a seven-day long fest of both the original and London versions being served on each day, with patrons voting for their favourite. The delicious twist: the loser has to do penance (read: something highly shocking and/or embarrassing) at next year’s Tales of the Cocktail.
A late bloomer (excuse the pun), The Angostura Butterfly House is open 9-12 October. Inspired by the butterfly's dance around the sugar cane which signifies the crop's ripeness — an (ethically) constructed house, full of our most aesthetically-pleasing winged friends, becomes a hub of cocktails, with the chance to press your own sugar cane, as well as special ticketed events and masterclasses.
We gave a shout out to Monkey Shoulder DIY pop-up in 2013, and are doing so again as it was so darn good. This year they’ve formed the Cowbell bar and teaming up with the talent behind the innovative White Lyan for On Monkey’s Shoulder. This time around, you sit back while they do the hard work — expect cowbell karaoke, pallet tables and an eclectic mix of tunes.
The French martini takes on a brand new image in a super modern (and we suspect possibly boundary breaking) masterclass that aims to deconstruct this classic serve. Mr Ally Martin of Peg + Patriot is at the helm here, so expect great things. Oh and the prize of a night’s stay at the Savoy plus dinner and spa is up for grabs.
World of Zing plays host to The Spice is Right, a rumfest in Soho, with lashings of liquid gold, fun with spices, and a talk by Mr Floating Rumshack himself — Peter Holland. There will also be cocktails in confectionery form, courtesy of Smith & Sinclair, which we're quite fond of scoffing (trust us, they’re addictive).
Bourbon aficionados should head to Steam & Rye for a one off event with Maker’s Mark, which has tutorials, Old Fashioneds (yum) and a go at dipping the iconic red-waxed neck for yourself. Meanwhile, those partial to Polish Bison Grass vodka (and who need to top up their mascara) can sip while browsing the stock at Shu Uemura in Monmouth St.
As for screenings, there’s Jamie Oliver’s Drinks Tube over in Brick Lane, and Tom Cruise’s breakthrough flick Cocktail is showing at Boutique Cinema, Gorringe Park in Tooting, as part of a ‘film and cocktail pairing’ event — matching celluloid drink-for-drink.
And finally, the industry party of the year takes place on 9 October, featuring the who's who of bartending talent — World' 50 Best Bar Awards. It's a pretty closed affair but if you want to try your luck at getting hold of tickets, be sure to stalk the official Twitter account of London Cocktail Week.
Frankly, we don’t think we’re going to get a wink of rest next week. Don't be surprised if we hijack the Tipple Taxi residing up Camden way, which will be serving up tea-leaden Half-Hitch gin. And you know how we do love our gin.
See you at the bar, London.