Cancel your plans this week and pick up your £10 wristband immediately – Bristol Cocktail Week is about to begin!
This week we were kindly invited by Destination Bristol to one of the city’s coolest cocktail dens, the swanky Milk Thistle, to find out what’s on this week and why Bristol’s cocktails bring all the boys (and girls) to the yard…
Bristol’s Speakeasy Bars
The Milk Thistle, for those that haven’t had the pleasure, is one of a handful of speakeasy bars around Bristol, hidden from the outside world. An unmarked door in the city centre, marked only by a stained glass thistle perched above the entrance, reveals four floors of decadent interior decor – think chandeliers, taxidermy, leather sofas and rich, dark wood. It looks like the set of a Made in Chelsea photo shoot – just the sort of place that classy people get shit-faced.
We were greeted by a refreshing gin collins, mixed by Danny Walker of Psychopomp Micro Distillery, accompanied by a fascinating talk on the history and methodology of creating fine cocktails. From the notorious era of Prohibition which showed just how far a generally law-abiding citizen will go for a drink (4 miles off the coast to international waters apparently, before it was upped to 12 miles by huffy officials), to bartenders like Jerry Thomas who enjoyed the sort of popularity usually reserved for rockstars and allegedly travelled with gold cocktail making equipment – the history of cocktails is peppered with entertaining stories. Stories that Danny served up with style, along with a tasty round of delicious daiquiris, one of my favourite drinks.
Cocktails – it’s just science (bitch)
We also learned a few new tips for creating classy cocktails at home – always a plus for a girl that has only really worked in bars that have ended up closing down (RIP Leicester Charlotte and Bristol Prom!).
1. Remember that cocktails are built on foundations of specific components – strong, sweet and bitter (no, not quite how I like my men).
2. Try swapping one part of your Bloody Mary tomato juice mixer with beetroot juice.
3. Always buy high quality spirits (it really makes a difference).
4. Should you decide a classic punch might be a good idea for your next party, remember this nifty rhyme: 1 part sour, 2 parts sweet, 3 parts strong, 4 parts weak – and some spice to make it nice! We got to taste a flavoursome tequila punch and trust us, the formula works.
What to do in Bristol Cocktail Week
So, what kind of events does Bristol Cocktail Week 2015 have in store for us?
Highlights include theatrical performances from The Thinking Drinkers, fresh from the Edinburgh Fringe; a chance to play judge and jury at Bristol Bar Wars on Wednesday as the rival Bristol bar factions – the classy speak-easy bars and the party tikki bars – go head-to-head to win your vote; a Masquerade Ball next Saturday with live music, street food and a speakeasy bar, hidden in the crypt below the stunning hall at St. George’s; and the event that caught our eye – Cocktails Through the Ages at the Milk Thistle on Friday, where every hour sees a different era of cocktails and music featured, from Victorian times, through the swinging 20s, kitsch 50s and up to the present day – call ahead to book a table to ensure you get a spot on the night.
Bristol Cocktail Week is a not-for-profit organisation run by a team of volunteers – show your support and get yourself a wristband for a tenner here for free entry to all the non-ticketed events and £10 off any ticketed performances. Runs Monday 19th-Sunday 25th October.
Image 4 by Sophie Saint, all other photographs courtesy of The Milk Thistle.