Cocktail Trading Co, Smithfield
Ladies and gentlemen come this way, we have some treats in store for you this evening. A drink you say? I’ll make you the best damn drink you’ve ever seen!
One cannot help thinking that male competitive spirit has fueled the ideas of The Cocktail Trading Co’s founders. Three men with a lifelong passion for bar tending and numerous mixology awards in the bag, Andy Milz, Olly Brading and Elliot Ball have outdone each other to create elaborate concept drinks, each one more individual than the last. Their playground is a cosy 50-seater basement bar, sprinkled with a titillating taste for Victoriana. Relaxed drinkers lean conspiratorially over candlelight, deciphering the menu’s fantastical tipples. Churchill beams smugly from his portrait on the wall, yet the soundtrack is pleasingly on-point: sexy old school and hip hop classics. This bar puts fun first, and if you want ice-breaker drinks in an unpretentious setting, you’d do well to book a spot.
This is the Bake Off of drinks. An edible tray of gherkin, fries and ketchup houses a smoky Jim Beam mix with ginger, lemon and chilli & peach jam – handy if you’re peckish as I was. The bestseller, ‘Brasso’, blends Stoli Vodka with lime and ginger & orange brew – promising to “shine your soul” it comes in a real tin of polish (clean). Charming details like custom-made labels on tequila bottles that you squeeze into your own Sunrise, a Sesame Street-inspired drink in a trash can and a cocktail in a snow globe make these drinks a real talking-point. Yes, those ornaments that you shake to make it snow. Seeing is believing.
For those who prefer their cocktails classic, firm favorites like Old Fashioned, Pina Colada and French 75 prop up the whimsical menu.
For a fuss-free first date, meet at Barbican or Farringdon and stroll through Clerkenwell to Smithfields Market. Impress your date with your insider knowledge as you lead them through Ask for Janice (the trendy eatery upstairs) into the den of debauchery below.
Choose flirty bar stools or low tables to work your way through the menu, swapping sips with your invité. Confident daters can bring something to trade – in the spirit of the market opposite, on some nights the owners will swap drinks for your trinkets – though they better be good.
Once suitably pickled, soldier on to a late night supper. Hop round the market to Iberico for greed-inducing tapas in a sexy setting. Or take a 15 minute stroll to Exmouth Market, where Moro, Blackfoot and Bourne & Hollingsworth provide ample options to gaze over delicious plates.
You’ll be so eager to see if the cocktails are as elaborate as their illustrations in the menu (a pamphlet of fun) that you’ll want to try everything. Good job that alcohol and dating get on like a house on fire.
4. The lighting is low, the soundtrack lilting and the drinks can’t fail to lower your inhibitions. Winner.