The 6th-12th October saw my favourite time of the year arrive. Here's what happened when a thirsty group of six were given wristbands for £4 cocktails and let loose across the city.
As a first-time visitor to Bluebird, I was eager to do a quick, yet casual scan of the room to scope out the cast of Made in Chelsea. Alas, no one familiar was in sight. But it was fine because I was in a fancy bar that I've seen on TV a lot. Either our posh attire for the evening did the job at attracting the staff's attention, or he just admired us for trying so hard to look fancy, because we were quickly greeted and shown to a table with gorrrgeous large sink-in chairs, which compelled us to adopt a pose of the most regal, queen-like description for no particular reason.
Of course the bar was GOLD and so shiny you could touch up your lippy whilst waiting for your cocktail. I'd expect nothing less of Spencer Matthews' fave South-West hang-out. The cocktail we had was a 'Cointreau Fizz', which was made with Cointreau, lime juice and sparkling water. Having never tried this before, I was unsure what to expect, but I likened the taste to 'drinking orangina after brushing your teeth, but in a good way'. Overall I gave it a 5/10 as it was a tad bitter for my liking.
Pros: Good staff and shiny things everywhere
Cons: Service charge booooo
Cocktail: Cointreau Fizz: An elegant yet simple cocktail - with only three ingredients, Cointreau, fresh lime juice and sparkling water.
Midday is definitely an acceptable time to start drinking cocktails right? Yes, yes it is, and don't let anyone ever tell you elsewise. We had to reassure ourselves of this when arriving at Village East in Bermondsey, to find the place buzzing with late brunchers and families with young children.
After admiring the shabby-chic style surroundings at the empty bar for 15ish minutes, we were finally able to enjoy our 'Village Fountain' cocktails. Interestingly, all the cocktails here seemed to be on tap. I was torn between finding this awesome (cocktail made in seconds, HELLO), but also disappointing. Afterall, it's nice to see the barperson take their time over expertly swizzling that slice of orange peel when you're paying a bit more for a drink. That aside, it was a nice enough fizzy cocktail, with a gingery warm aftertaste, which I gave a 6/10.
Pros: Nice décor with lots of pretty things to look at
Cons: The child that stared at me from across the bar for the duration of my cocktail.
Cocktail: Village Fountain: A carbonated cocktail on tap - Tanqueray Gin, pineapple syrup and fresh basil.
When I heard about a secret bar with a spinning wheel that included the chance for the whole bar to win free shots, it's needless to say I HAD to go and see it for myself. So at precisely 3pm (bar opening time), I coyly asked the waitress at Breakfast Club, London Bridge, if the bar was open (it's not like I'd recorded the precise time on a map I'd made especially or anything...ahem). A couple of minutes later we were led through the restaurant, through a swipecard-access only door, down a flight of stairs and through the back of kitchen into a dim basement bar. 'THIS IS SO EXCITING' we all whispered, whilst trying to pretend that this is precisely the type of cool activity we do every Saturday.
Bear in mind that this is a place that doesn't really kick off until 7pm, and regular people don't get this excited about a 1 in 10 chance to win one single free shot, so naturally we were the only people in there. After feeling a little that we'd crashed a staff meeting, we ordered our cocktail, 'Lucky Ducky', which included Bathtub Gin and various fruits. It was a refreshing combo with a nice kick, which was perfect to start off the day's festivities. And for those who are interested (WHICH SHOULD BE EVERYBODY), the bar staff explained that the wheel spinning commences every hour on the hour from about 7pm onwards.
Pros: SHOTS SHOT SH SH SH SHOTS
Cons: Having to tell the waitress 'I'm here to get lucky' (awks) to gain entry (although, I chickened out)
Cocktail: Lucky Ducky: Bathtub Gin, pear, blackberries, coconut water and fresh grapefruit and apple juices. Served from a punch bowl.
This place was crazy posh and we made our best effort to put on our we-can-totally-afford-to-drink-here faces when a suited man showed us to our booth. Everything was very clean and we made sure to assess any precarious ornaments that were close by in order to avoid any expensive drunken accidents.
Our cocktails were brought to us and presented with some super pretty roses on top. I took my first sip, and...WAIT, what is that?? A live harpist playing the Harry Potter theme music?? Do my ears deceive me?? A quick lean-forward revealed this excellent harpist to be a more mature, white-haired lady wearing a plain, conservative cardigan. She then preceded to blow the roof off with renditions of Twilight and Game of Thrones. I wanted to fist-bump her so bad, but I remembered where I was and held back.
Anyway, back to cocktail land – this was the strongest so far and I enjoyed the sweetness of it. A solid 7/10 and a good place to take your mum for afternoon tea.
Pros: Harp lady, the stained glass ceiling and free snacks
Cons: The toilets weren't as nice as we thought they'd be
Cocktail: Ellie Rose: The Ellie Rose cocktail (named after the bar manager's daughter) is a delicate blend of London Dry Gin, elderflower liqueur, rose water and lemon juice.
Down a flight of metal stairs in Covent Garden, we found a little bar called Joe's. It was very busy and had an interesting vibe to it. There was a DJ to suggest super fun party times, cushty seats to suggest sit-down relaxed drinks, and people eating main meals at the full bar, that all sums up to the conclusion that in Joes, anything goes. And luckily for me, that also rhymes.
We were all very excited about this cocktail, mainly because it was served in a milk bottle, and after all, us girls are suckers for a bit of novelty. At first I hated the 'Devil's Frappe' cocktail. The others loved it. Then the more I drank it the more I liked it too. I have since come to the understanding that this reaction was the result of 'getting more drunk'.
But drunkenness aside, I was assured that the cocktail was indeed a very good alcoholic frappe. Sober me gives it 5/10. Drunk me gives it 8/10.
Pros: The nice family at the bar that let us have their seats
Cons: Tasty-looking burger that was being served to the man sitting next to us (I wanted it)
Cocktail: Devils Frappe: Coffee infused Jim Beam, chocolate cookie syrup, shot of espresso, double cream and milk.
As my first trip to Adventure Bar involved Jenga, party-boying a random man and eating a cricket, I had high hopes for it this time around. Inside it was busy as always, but being only two cocktails into our day, we weren't quite at cricket-eating level just yet.
They sure know how to make a good cocktail here though, and ours didn't disappoint with its strong fruity rum flavour. In true AB style, it also came with a novelty fortune cookie (mine simply said 'run'), which I munched down straight away. Gotta love a good drinking snack.
If you're looking for fun, Adventure Bar is definitely the place to go to with its loud classic tunes and fun cocktails. If on the other hand, you're looking for a few quite bevs, this is a probably a place to leave until later on in the night.
Pros: Edible crickets, cocktails on fire
Cons: Finding stools to sit on
Cocktail: The Appleton Dreamcatcher Appleton Estate Rum, black raspberry liqueur, vanilla, apple and passion fruit refreshingly served over ice with a fortune cookie on the side.
The whole concept of Swingers made me so full of glee that I wanted to jump up and down on the spot making high-pitched squealing noises. Thankfully for the people I was with, I didn't. Or maybe I did a little. Anyway, none of that is important because I was still just as mental about the whole idea when I walked in as I was upon hearing about it.
Housed in a large warehouse somewhere in Shoreditch, Swingers was divided lengthways in two – half for two bars, some perching space, food stalls and a dancefloor, and half for indoor minigolf.
We all know there's nothing better in life than a drunken group activity, and Swingers gives us party-goers exactly what we want – banging tunes alongside competitive sport. And even better still, you're allowed to lose and have a complete foot-stamping, shouting, unbearable strop about it, because in the morning you can just say those beautiful five words that get you out of so much trouble - 'sorry guys, I was drunk'.
There was a special 'Freixenet Terrace' for LCW, where we collected our 'Soho Spritz', which was a little disappointing as it tasted a bit like watery fizz.
Pros: Food, drink, tunes and mini golf all at the SAME TIME
Cons: £10 to play golf, and it's only open until 12.30
Cocktail: Soho Spritz – Freixenet & Soda