Tuesday 22nd October - Ahead of Halloween this Thursday, I was invited to a preview evening of spooky drinks at the City of London Distillery Bar, hosted by the London Bar Consultants. Nate Brown and Lewis Hayes are an experienced pair who first worked together in The Living Room in Manchester. Nate has since had a big hand in setting up the London Cocktail Club chain, whilst Lewis has worked all over, including as the Bar Manager at Ronnie Scott's (best seat in the house, and free jazz piano lessons).
|London Bar Consultants - Nate, Lewis and Alfie|
At CoLD Bar, they have decided to train up some bartenders from scratch, as they want to get fresh ideas from people who haven't been in the bar trade their whole working lives. Our bartender for the evening was Rob, who got the job after seeing an ad on Gumtree! He had no bar experience before, and after only a few months is now the brains behind their special Halloween menu, The Horrors of Gin Lane.
|Gumtree Ginster Rob|
The special menu will be available from Thursday 31st October to Saturday 2nd November. There are 6 one-off cocktails available, all at £9.50, as well as some deadly Blood Shots (more on those later) for £3.50. Taro and I started off with a Poison Apple which isn't listed on the menu below but will be by Thursday. It was possibly the best drink of the night - a spicy fruity concoction laced with gin and garnished with a miniature toffee apple. The poison refers to the fiery pepper tincture which has more and more of an effect as the drink goes on.
We worked our way through the rest of the menu, moving on to an Eye-Ball Martini (complete with a hideous lychee & blueberry eyeball garnish), a Black Cat (a very boozy sweet iced coffee with a liquorice cat tail) and the Witches' Brew (served as a potion in a bottle). The Tom Collins Cadaver is filled with "blood and guts" and topped with chewy edible maggots, and the Blood Bath involves making a trick or treat choice which I won't spoil. Rob has had a lot of fun with the presentation, but has also made six dangerously drinkable cocktails along the way. Try them all!
With the cocktails all sampled, it was time to move on to the Blood Shots, all made with City of London Gin. Rob lined up a worrying number of glasses - Nate & Lewis were getting involved, as were seasoned drinkers Wilkes, Su-Ling, Andrew (Motley Spicer), Alex (Yelp) and Gavin (Blood, Sweat and Fashion). You can select Type A (redcurrant), Type B (plum), Type O (tomato) or mix A and B together to get Type AB! The Bloody Mary style Type O was the winner for me, but they were all tasty. I would imagine that tables are booking up pretty fast for this one off ghoulish gin event so email firstname.lastname@example.org to secure a spot.
If you can't make it to their Halloween event, there are plenty of other reasons to come - 217 in fact. CoLD Bar must hold the London (or even world) record for stocking the widest range of gins. There were 217 when we visited, but there are probably even more by now, as they are visited every week by new distillers handing over sample bottles. What makes this all the more impressive is that they have a distillery on site, run by Master Distiller Jamie Baxter, where City of London Dry Gin is distilled. It shows a lot of confidence to force your own gin to compete against every other variety in the world!
Jamie was on site that evening, and was kind enough to give us a quick tour of his distillery, talking us through the process. Tours are open to the public between 12pm and 3pm on the hour. You can also sign up for masterclasses and even make your own batch of gin if you so wish! Jamie has plans to release a second gin with more spices to form the base of the City of London Gin brand, before getting a bit more experimental next year.
|Jamie Baxter - Master Distiller of City of London Dry Gin|
Last thing to mention is the Connoisseurs' Collective, a new membership club (one-off £50 fee) from the London Bar Consultants for CoLD Bar which gets you all sorts of discounts and invites to special events. Most importantly, every time you order a drink, you get a shot of the gin used neat on the side for your sipping pleasure. A no-brainer for London based gin fans.
I dragged myself away eventually and scampered across town to meet flatmate Maggie who has sneaked up to 4th place on the Team List Leaderboard with a series of late appearances. We dropped in to the Rotary Room, underneath Rotary Bar and Diner near Old Street. The Rotary Room is usually a members only bar, but we were on the guestlist for Tweat Up Meet Up, a chilled evening organised by Street Feast and Tweat Up to say thanks to all traders, workers, and bloggers for support during the first "Summer of Grub". Cans of Camden Hells Lager were on the house, so we grabbed a couple and found a table.
It's a good looking bar, with attractive mismatching lights and mirrors all around. The fairly-lit walk to the bar (down a staircase that is open to the elements) is reminiscent of the Gin Store at the Merchant Yard Street Feast site. It is a shame that Rotary is only a temporary establishment, but hopefully they are going to relocate somewhere nearby. Try and talk your way in before it disappears!
Now that the clocks have gone back, and storms are raging, it is time for the street food vendors to move indoors. Tweat Up and Street Feast have just announced their winter project called Hawker House down the road from Broadway Market, which will run on Fridays and Saturdays for 6 weeks starting on the 8th November. They have managed to get a 2am late license which they have never had before, and these guys know how to throw a party. They have swapped the Gin Store for a Whisky Bar (complete with a Random Whisky Generator for the indecisive), and they will also have a Hot Bar serving up heart-warming cocktails.
They will have competition in the form of Night Tales, an alternative night market that is setting up shop over two floors of a car park near Dalston Junction. They will also have hot drinks as well as a Mezcal mezzanine, and a Negroni station. They have secured some excellent street food vendors including BAO and Patty & Bun, and are open Thursday-Saturday every week (starting one day before Hawker House on November 7th). The setting sounds magical with canopies, warm lighting and planted trees, and the space will also house a WWII bunker hosting "weekly live visual art and a series of interactive exhibitions". There is more than enough room in London for two excellent night markets, and I look forward to going to both of them! If you can't wait til next week, there is also Kerb's Halloween Hellraiser event this Friday (1st November), 6-11pm in King's Cross.
Anyway, I digress! Maggie and I decided to grab one more drink elsewhere since we were far from home, so we walked for a few minutes to get to Far Rockaway on Curtain Road, a Queens NY inspired bar and diner covered head to toe in urban art. We stuck to Camden beer (pale ale this time) and had a wander around. The arty bartenders were keen to show us their favourite pieces, which is a good way to break yourself in when there is so much to see. It is a big site so it could have ended up looking a bit tacky, but they have carried off confidently, and as a result it's a fascinating place to drink.
There are lovely little touches all around, including security cameras dressed as vultures, skateboards lining the ceiling, and bottles adorned with faces looking out at the street. If you ask nicely, they will show you in to the private room which is full of some pretty risqué art from Saki & Bitches which you can see on Wilkes blog here - NSFW warning!
There are some interesting bottled beers, though they are fairly pricey so you might want to stick to draught. Food-wise there is plenty to choose from, including 18" pizzas, burgers and sandwiches. You should be able to find a table as it is huge, though I can imagine it will get crazy busy here at the weekends.
There is one particularly cosy section that feels more like a café, with a wall of comic books for you to pick and choose from. It looks like they have a vast collection, though I'm not an authority so I can't really comment any further than that. I highly recommend paying Far Rockaway a visit, but don't expect to sit still! It might be best to go during the afternoon on a Saturday or Sunday for a drink and a good look around, or perhaps some quiet time with one of their 4000 comics.
Thanks to Su-Lin Ong for the CoLD Bar invite, and to London Bar Consultants and Tweat Up for the complimentary drinks. The two prairie oysters from Nate were possibly a tad unnecessary after all the blood shots! Who knows how many more they had after I left. Taro picks up just 1 point (but a very fun one), and Maggie gets a speedy 2.