I’ve often had a moan about the lack of truly quality cocktail bars around the City. And then, like a cunning boxer, the City rose up and hit me with the ol’ one-two punch: the Barbican’s Gin Joint and the City of London Distillery (COLD) bar. Gin Joint is on the agenda for Thursday this week, but this post is all about COLD bar.
It’s a classy place with a deep brown and green colour scheme that looks more like the library from Clue than any modern bar. While it’s rammed on Thursday/Friday, the start of the week finds it comfortably occupied with customers spread among the leather couches and armchairs enjoying cocktails and conversations. COLD bar would be a great place to bring a date or catch up with a good friend but be warned, it’s far too easy to while away the evening tasting just a few of the 217 gins on offer. Cocktails will run you around £9-10 while the flavoured shots ring in at just under £4.
A bit of background to start…
The City of London Distillery is one of the few distilleries operating within London and I daresay it’s the only one in the City. The man with a plan, Jamie, designed the still himself and manages each part of the distillation with a very hands on approach (he peels the citrus rind himself). You can find him propping up the bar (the still is in a glass-walled room which takes up one side of the bar) during the week and if you’re lucky, he’ll come around with some samples of his newest concoction to get some on the spot feedback. The COLD gin on offer is a light smooth take on gin which is full of citrusy notes making it an excellent choice in a G&T.
The current incarnation of the COLD bar is the brainchild of the London Bar Consultants: Nate and Lewis. Both have a number of years in the trade (Nate was a bartender for over a decade) and it was a natural move into advising bars on how to remake themselves to appeal to a changing crowd. COLD bar was initially another consulting project, but when the opportunity came to take an ownership stake it turned out to be too good to pass up. The COLD bar has been operating for about 10 months and proving to be a hit with all who pass through its doors – and to be fair it’s easy to see why.
…before we talk about some drinks…
Thanks to Alex S (aka the Great Shebar of Yelp London), I joined @BSFMag, @matthew1hickman, and @Wilkes888 for run through of The Horrors of Gin Lane – COLD bar’s Halloween special menu. There are 5 cocktails on the menu as well as a quartet of flavoured shots and we’ll do quick rundown of them in a minute. But first, grab one of the top class bartenders and order a Poison Apple to start. A citrusy cocktail garnished with a mini-toffee apple, it starts of sweet and juicy but gradually you get the feeling that there is something else. A slow warming burn, reminiscent of clove-studded ginger in mulled wine, builds on the back of your tongue. While the touch of “poison” may be slightly disconcerting, it captures the idea of the Poison Apple perfectly and I wonder if there will be a old crone handing out some treats on the night.
Alright, a quick word on the rest of the menu. The Black Cat, a sort of gin espresso martini, is a playful way to wake up, particularly if you enjoy the curling strand of liquorice which acts as the tail. See if you can spot the original cool cat keeping watch from the corner of the bar. Tom Collins’s Cadaver is a fruity concoction with muddled raspberries giving it the appearance of preserved guts suspended in formaldehyde with blood slowly diffusing through the glass. A garnish of gummy maggots completes the colourful and strangely appealing yet decomposing look. And for a potent drink, try the Eye-ball Martini which features an “eye” made from a blueberry stuffed Lychee that seems to watch you take every sip…
The Blood Bath is a dealer’s choice drink where you pick either “trick” or “treat” and let the bartender make you what he will. The drinks are similar and I won’t reveal the secret ingredient that differentiates the trick other than to say it packs one hell of a (non-alcoholic) punch. Finally, the Witches’ Brew is a murky green concoction served up in a glass bottle with a straw. My favourite after the Poison Apple, it’s sweet and spicy and conjures up memories of potions from every magical movie you’ve ever seen – just be glad Professor Snape isn’t the one mixing it up at the back!
Shots-wise, you can choose your blood at A, B, AB, and O which B being my favourite – it’s plum flavoured and made with COLD gin – a combination that goes done smoothly and far too easily.
…and buy a bottle or join the Connoisseurs’ Collective!
COLD bar offers a special deal where you can buy a bottle of gin and keep it behind the bar for your drinking pleasure. Simple mixers (ie tonic) and garnishes are provided free of charge as well as the skills of the bartender to mix up your drink. You can also opt for cocktails but a small charge to cover the cost of ingredients will be levied – still with cocktails being just under £10 a pop and approximately 14-15 drinks per bottle, you would save £40-50 if you bought a bottle of COLD gin for £100 and kept it at the bar. Not a bad deal…
You can also join the Connoisseur’ Collective (£50 membership fee) which gives you a range of benefits from discounted prices on bar bottles, gin served both ways (order a cocktail and you get a shot of the gin in it as well), 50% off all food, invites to exclusive quarterly events, and 10% off the total bill on Mondays. Check it out at www.wearetheCC.com.
Find City of London Distillery Bar here
24 Bride Lane, London, EC4Y 8DT
020 7936 3636