You know what’s worse than being poorly-sick? Being poorly-sick, but well enough to leave your sofa/sick bed, but not well enough to eat or drink anything interesting…AND the city simultaneously hosting a vegan beer festival AND the second Birmingham Cocktail Weekend.
However, I did manage to get to some of the Birmingham Cocktail Weekend before I was back to not being able to consume anything more exciting than flat cola, soya lattes and beige foods. I started by picking up my wrist band at the Jim Beam hub hosted by Island Bar and said a quick hello to Joe and Luke who were there from Jim Beam. Sadly I had to decline trying the Jim Beam Apple because I definitely wasn’t up for neat spirits. Someone tell me what it’s like, because apple isn’t something I’d immediately think of with whisky and so I’m really curious.
My first stop as a Birmingham Cocktail Weekender was actually to something that I’m not convinced was officially part of BCW as it wasn’t taking part in the £4 cocktails, but was no doubt popping up for the occasion. The yet-to-be-named Langley’s Gin bar which is coming to the Great Western Arcade sometime soon held a pop up bar outside the build works for their new venue – something we’ve all been looking forward to for some time (hence why the boards read “Birmingham’s worst kept secret”). I had some gin, naturally, because it’s medicinal right? My friends and I then headed to Bistro 1847 and had their signature serve for the BCW, but I figured better pace myself.
Next up a bunch of us headed to Lost & Found to the not-so-secret bar behind the bookcase. Gin is ridiculously popular at the moment, there’s no doubting that, and Lost & Found seemed to be doing something with Sipsmith, although for me (and checked with others in case my tastebuds were still home poorly) this just tasted of sweet lemon to me. Which for a lot of people would probably have be fine, I just like a bit more nuance to my cocktails.
Our plan was to head to Bureau next to try out their Birmingham Cocktail Weekend signature drink, but apparently their doorman is still living in the 90s and refused us entry because several of the group were wearing trainers – kinda ridiculous considering how many offices in the Colmore area now operate a dress-down Friday policy. And in case you think it’s just that I hang around with a bunch of deviants (I do), we bumped into a group of 12 who were also denied entry for the same reason. Oh well, Bureau’s loss was Chung Ying Central’s gain.
Our final stop of the night then was at Chung Ying Central, who’s cocktail was another gin one; Flamingo Island, again sweet but with enough watermelon kick that it contrasted well with the salt and chilli chicken wings that I had there for dinner. Sadly, after a few drinks on Friday, whatever had struck me down for the rest of the week returned and I decided to call it a night on the rest of the Birmingham Cocktail Weekend.
With somewhere in the region of 3000 wristbands sold and thirty venues taking part, Birmingham Cocktail Weekend is an impressive undertaking and the organisers should be proud; organising a multi-site event with lots of potential logistical nightmares is not easy, I know, and I’m really pleased to see the continuation of the festival for a second year – and hopefully a third, fourth etc. There are some problems which do need ironing out, like the lack of mention of dress codes for certain establishments and some notable names missing from the list, but overall BCW seems to achieve what it sets out to do – showcase cocktails to the Birmingham masses.
If there is to be another Birmingham Cocktail Weekend, I hope there will be a continued, if not heavier, focus on the things that make up a great cocktail – the ingredients, the brands, the expertise, the bartenders, the stories and mythologies. Some bars seemed to revel in the challenge of a signature £4 cocktail, whilst others played it safe – and by safe I mean overly sweet. £4 cocktails tend to be the low cost, knock them out quickly sort of drink and with a heightened exposure like BCW then it’s easy to see why some bars go for this option, but next year can we have less sugar syrup and a bit more imagination please? It would also be nice to see some events for bars and venues who don’t generally serve high-volumes of drinks, perhaps in the form of some fringe events.
Either way, I’m looking forward to seeing Birmingham Cocktail Weekend 2017!
Disclosure: I was given a complimentary wristband but paid for all food and drink myself…as ever all views remain my own. Not the germs though, they’re free to whoever wants them.