It’s Cocktail Week again!
Last year we ran a post on London Cocktail Week in which we made our top ten recommendations for cocktail bars in London. This year we’re back with ten more highly accessible and trendy bars taking part in this year’s festivities. Thanks to the £4 cocktail tour, this week is a once in a year opportunity to sample some of London’s best cocktails without your bank account taking too big a hit. You pay £15 up front for a wristband and then you can try out each bar’s four pound cocktail, tailor-made for Cocktail Week, at all 200 bars taking part.
Many of the city’s finest bars take part in Cocktail Week (and none of the naff ones are invited) with each tailor making their own specialist cocktail to show off. We absolutely love a cocktail and looking through the list of participating bars, we see we’ve reviewed around 40 of them for accessibility. Some of last year’s list aren’t involved this year, so we thought it especially necessary to update for 2014 with ten new bars to try and ten new £4 drinks to taste:
1901 - The Secret Temple: Vodka, Limoncello, fresh passion fruit, grapefruit and pineapple juices garnished with caramelized grapefruit.
One of the best bars and restaurants in the City. In our experience 1901 has never failed to impress with its elegant but modern style. The access is a perfect 3 BBS Ticks quality – something we seldom give out. There is a lift at the front entrance at pavement level and a disabled toilet in the foyer which is “snug but very clean”. The 1901’s Wine Bar will also be transformed into a Pop-Up Cocktail Bar for the week, featuring a live DJ from internationally recognised Scratch Music Group, a special cocktail and sweet snack pairings and a bespoke bar snacks menu. The bar is closed on Sunday.
The Avenue - Old Victorian: A British take on the Mojito. Fino Sherry mixed with elderflower liqueur, lemon, peach puree and mint – a cocktail to keep the summer alive!
The bar at the Avenue restaurant is a D & D venue so it has that Conran style with a very sophisticated look that encapsulates the vibe of a Manhattan bar and restaurant. It was recently refurbished with a contemporary new look and the low lighting can be a blessing after a couple of cocktails! There’s a step at the entrance but they have a portable ramp if needed. There are low seats near the bar and the disabled toilet is on the same level. We gave the Avenue 2.5 BBS Ticks.
Benares - Mumbai Martini: A spicy mix of vodka shaken over muddled curry leaves, fresh root ginger, fresh lemon juice and sugar syrup.
Benares is a Michelin starred Indian restaurant with a dark and plush bar to visit this week. The Indian influence travels from the food to the cocktail menu and the Mumbai Martini, with a blend of curry leaves and ginger, sounds like an unusual and interesting experience. Definitely something worth trying out if you feel like a different and slightly spicy libation. Benares is in Berkeley Square and is accessible via a lift. There is a disabled toilet inside too. We gave them 2.5 BBS Ticks.
The Hoxton Hotel – Cocktail Unknown
The Hoxton is the perfect level of Shoreditch cool, with trendy, casual and efficient style, without going over the edge into ironic hipsterish territory. One of our favourite venues, we gave the Hoxton 3 BBS Ticks and declared it the most disabled aware place we’ve ever visited. The access is step free and the disabled toilet is on the ground floor. The whole hotel is accessible and, although that’s not particularly relevant here, it highlights that disability is accommodated at the Hoxton without compromising on style and ‘inclusion’ is the norm!
Kopapa - Lychee Cosmo: Element 29 vodka, lychee liqueur, pomegranate, fresh lemon juice and sugar served in a Martini glass.
Seven Dials is one of the hubs of London Cocktail Week and Kopapa is one of the area’s finest bars. It’s a casual all day eatery but you can visit for a drink. The small plates, from Peter Gordon’s kitchen, are superb if you feel like grabbing a bite at the same time but no pressure. Access-wise it has flat access, bar a small trip-up lip at the door, and one of the most well equipped disabled toilet you’ll see for a long time – a whopping 5 grab rails no less. Koappa is a 2.5 BBS Tick venue.
Northbank - Jasmine & Hedegrow Punch: Beefeater Gin, Creme de Mure, Velvet Falernum, lemon juice, mixed berries and Rare Tea Company jasmine tea.
The North Bank is where our editor sits when he goes to watch Arsenal at the Emirates but Northbank is the name of a stylish modern restaurant and bar tucked under the Millennium Bridge. It’s a stand out choice for anyone who wants to enjoy a cocktail looking out at outstanding Thameside views. It really is in a perfect location. We gave Northbank 2.5 BBS Ticks so we can vouch for the fact that the accessibility and facilities will live up to the rest of this stylish bar.
Old Bengal Bar
Old Bengal Bar - Gin Spot Sour: The Botanist Gin, lemon juice and fresh egg white, shaken with fresh passion fruit and sugar syrup. Served short on the rocks
Another D &D joint, between the City and Shoreditch, the Old Bengal Bar is a chic and atmospheric cocktail bar set in a historic 18th century warehouse – the oldest surviving warehouse in town apparently. It’s therefore to their credit that this bar is fully accessible. With a refurbished layout, lift to get in from street level and an adapted toilet. The lift was broken when we went, but a team of staff to help people in and a generous reduction on the bill meant we gave them 2.5 BBS Ticks.
Bluebird - Cointreau Fizz: An elegant yet simple cocktail – with only three ingredients, Cointreau, fresh lime juice and sparkling water, it is easy to make at home and has endless twisting possibilities with fresh fruit and berries.
The glamorous Bluebird is found in Chelsea in the old Art Deco garage built for the Bluebird Motor Company. It’s a bright and spacious bar which we’ve enjoyed visiting many times. The building is Grade II Listed, so again we give them a lot of credit for finding imaginative ways to incorporate disabled facilities. We originally gave the 3 BBS Ticks but we eventually knocked them down to 2.5 BBS Ticks. They have a lift to get inside and an accessible toilet. The only concern may be that there are cobbles on the way in. Bluebird is also one of London Cocktail Week’s wristband collection hubs, so you may as well have a drink while you’re there.
Smiths of Smithfield
Smith’s of Smithfield - Smoking Gun: Chivas Regal 12yo, Tequila Ocho and chilli-infused agave syrup
Another awesome bar in another listed building. It shows that the age of a building is only an obstacle to accessibility if you want it to be. The bar is on the first floor, with a lift to get to it. They have a disabled toilet on the same floor, but there is a really small step at the entrance. We gave Smith’s a max 3 BBS Ticks. A very trendy bar with a buzzy, lively atmosphere. The second floor’s for the restaurant and the ground floor may be a little too lively and buzzy (i.e. loud), especially during this week, but the first floor cocktail bar is just right.
Union Street Bar
Union Street Bar – Time: Bacardi Superior Yellow Chartreuse, lime & grapefruit juices, basil toped with Dandelion & Burdock Bitters.
This is a bar with a funky warmth, from Gordon Ramsay, in Southwark. Given the high culinary standards of the owner, the fact that the bar has been more warmly welcomed than the restaurant upstairs suggests that this a very fine bar indeed. There’s flat access and the bar downstairs is accessed via a lift. This is where the adapted toilet resides with all the grab rails needed. It’s one of the best options south of the river, but we should warn you that, if you’ve heard the rumours about David Beckham being involved with this bar, he’s not and he won’t be walking in. We still gave the ‘sans Beckham’ Union Street Bar 2.5 BBS Ticks though.