In my mind it was The Victoria who brought cocktails out of the bars and into the pubs of Birmingham and I love them for it. So when I heard their new menu was taking a new direction, I was a bit worried. But having worked his magic over at Island Bar, the Vic’s new general manager Ed Shawcross has gotten his hands dirty and stirred things up creating a new menu which combines seasonal ingredients with some of the Vic’s best kept secrets. To celebrate they held a showcase for some of their most loyal customers – and I managed to snag an invite too!
The Victoria’s new menu has four distinct sections; seasonal cocktails, Victoria classics, Boilermakers and autumnal whiskies, as well as information on their wine lists (that last bit you’ll have to check out yourself, I’m all about the cocktails in this post). They’ve always been good at cocktails, we’ve all come to expect that, but this new menu is also bringing out two things the Vic has been doing well but not shouting about as much – whisky and beer. The new cocktails have also become a little more daring, using seasonal ingredients and twisting up classics and well-known favourites. There’s no Strawberry Woo Woos in this mix, thankfully.
It’s the Vic’s seasonal cocktail section takes well-known and loved drinks and gives them a bit of a twist. The Autumn Mary is, as the name suggests, an autumnal twist on a Bloody Mary with wild mushroom syrup, watercress, tomato and and spices. One of the drinks being sampled that evening, the Espresso Martini #2, uses Jim Beam honey bourbon shaken with fresh espresso, chestnut syrup and topped with wheat beer. I tried the Espresso Martini #2, which had the same coffee aroma as the standard variety, but the wheat beer was an unusual combination, although sadly I missed the creamy sweetness of the original. I loved another one of the samples going round though, the Quince Punch was fruity and refreshing!
Another stall hosted a selection of their Boilermakers – a traditional British drink which doesn’t get nearly the credit it deserves. It’s basically whisky and beer, but whether you have them combined or sip them alternately, it’s up to you. Pairing whiskies with complementary beers, there were knowledgable bar staff on hand to explain why they were a perfect match.
During the evening they were also showcasing their Christmas buffet menu, with turkey & stuffing wraps, smoked salmon & spinach roulade, roasted squash & chestnut roast, thyme & rosemary roast potatoes and brie, red onion & cranberry tartlets…and more! The smoked salmon roulade was lovely and used fish fresh from the Birmingham indoor market, and unusually the vegetarian option of squash & chestnut roast got lots of comments from non-veggies. Another particularly favourite, was the brie, red onion and cranberry tartlets which were creamy and sweet – just delightful!
I liked the previous incarnation of The Victoria’s cocktail menu, but it was nice to see it trying something new. Although I wasn’t a fan of all of the twists on classics, it was good to see them step up and challenge their customers expectations, something which I think the city really needs. The boilermakers are a great way to combine two of the things the Vic does well but doesn’t get nearly enough credit for – whisky and beer. For years, the Vic has been known as a place that does great cocktails, but it’s nice to see it stepping up and bringing something a bit different to the city. Kudos Ed and the rest of the team at the Vic.
Disclosure: I was invited down to the cocktail and Christmas menu and given complimentary samples. I wasn’t required to say anything nice. The photos used in this blogpost are my own, please don’t use them without permission.