Birmingham Cocktail Weekend

Jonathan Bryce
Projects Maker

It’s no secret that Colmore Business District is home to some fantastic bars. We bring them to the public eye each year at the Colmore Food Festival. Birmingham Cocktail Weekend, now in its second year, aims to showcase the fantastic cocktail offering across the city, including many of the bars in Colmore Business District.

The way Birmingham Cocktail Weekend works is simple. Each participating venue crafts a special cocktail for the weekend. Customers buy a wristband for £6. Showing your wristband allows you to purchase a venue’s exclusive cocktail for just £4. It also gets you exclusive access to various related events, some of which are free, and some of which you pay extra for. This means that, for the price of a wrist band, you can do as much exploring of Birmingham’s cocktail scene as you like, whether it’s trying a few new places, or, like some people I met, trying to do all 30 venues in three days!

I decided to take the opportunity to take a closer look at bars in Colmore Business District who were participating in this fantastic event, which raises the profile of both our District and our city.

My first stop was Chung Ying Central. The little sister of the Chung Ying Family has been making its own mark over the last couple of years. We all know about its lunch time Dim Sum and classic Chung Ying cuisine, but it has also made cocktails an important part of its offering.

The Flamingo Island was as delightfully garish as you might expect. Home made, bright pink watermelon cordial was diluted with soda water and a healthy dash of Star of Bombay Gin, making for a sharp and refreshing cocktail on what had turned out to be a pretty warm day! Chung Ying Central also hosted an exclusive vodka tasting with Goral vodka, a new high-end vodka coming out of Slovakia. Clean, creamy and with a nice little kick, this added a little seriousness to an extremely fun and enjoyable opening cocktail.

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Next stop was The Bureau. On offer was their take on an iced tea. It’s time to come clean. I’m not a tea drinker and, quite frankly, I find iced tea to be one of those strange fads that I really don’t understand. This sweet infusion, however, is something I could quite happily sip all summer long. Strong with peach and citrus, but with an adult background of Earl Grey, this cocktail packed a sneaky vodka punch right at the end.

The Bureau

For me, there was the added treat of seeing The Bureau’s downstairs bar. It has a more corporate feel than the Art Deco upstairs but it still retains that classic ‘Bureau’ style and atmosphere. A quick chat with the staff and I learnt that, during July, the terrace was being converted into a Mai Tai bar, featuring my favourite rum, Chairman’s Reserve. By the time I sat down to enjoy my drink, I was already planning my return journey to soak up the sun, and the rum!

The Edwardian Tea Rooms is another of those hidden gems in the district. Located inside Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, it provides an excellent location for an afternoon tea; not only do you get great food, you’re surrounded by the history and culture of our city.

It was no surprise that this classical venue served up a classic cocktail; the Pina Colada. There were no frills and twists here; just a classic cocktail done well. Creamy, but not heavy, with a strong taste of pineapple, the flavour, combined with the impressive presentation made this a great pit stop on my tour.

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Sticking with the dessert theme, I made my way to Hotel du Vin. I love cake and a Lemon Tart is one of my favourites. It was with great excitement that I ordered the Tarte au Citron from the hotel’s Bubble Lounge.

This cocktail was seriously impressive; an array of lemon based syrups and alcohol made up this fantastic rendition of the classic pudding, combined with just enough cream to make it rich, but not too heavy. Finished with lemon peel, strawberry, and biscuit crumb, this cocktail couldn’t have been closer to the dessert if you’d subjected one to a blender.

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The Jekyll and Hyde has, for a long time, been one of me favourite bars in the city. I love it’s quirky style, it has an excellent selection of cocktails, and it is currently doing some fantastic food offers throughout the week. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to visit during their opening hours over the weekend, but I’ll be grabbing a cocktail from their usual menu again very soon!

We’re lucky to have such a fantastic cocktail scene in the city at the moment. I visited a number of venues over the course of the weekend. From outside of the District, I felt Rofuto at Park Regis and Marmalade at The Rep stood out. I also attended a fantastic tour of Japanese Whisky organised by The Food and Drink Events Company and Birmingham Whisky Club. If this round up has whet your appetite to explore the city, I’d thoroughly recommend it, but be sure to start with the fantastic venues on your doorstep, where every weekend is a showcase of skill and mixology.

Rofuto copy