Surviving London Cocktail Week
We’re usually content with a round of beers at the pub, a low-key hang out with friends or catching up on the week passed. Then, there’s always Friday night on the town, complete with margaritas, mojitos or classy standbys that evoke Mad Men-esque imagery.
But London Cocktail Week? If you’re lucky enough to snag a pass, you’ll be sipping on crazy cocktails for seven days straight, drinking your way through London’s very best cocktail bars, clubs and pubs.
What Is London Cocktail Week?
So, what, exactly, is London Cocktail week? If you haven’t heard about one of London’s hottest attractions, listen up. For seven straight days in October, cocktails of all stripes take the city by storm, and bartenders really get a chance to shine during this drink-centric celebration. London’s top 250+ bars each offer their own signature cocktails for just £6 a piece. You’ll need to get a wristband to unlock all these sweet deals, but it’ll pay for itself after a couple rounds. As far as cocktails go, old, tired barroom staples like cranberry-vodkas and rum and cokes can sit this one out.
Created in response to the exciting wave of bar crawls sweeping the US, London Cocktail Week began with the goal of attracting those in restaurant and bar industry for training, competition and a general celebration of the craft of the elevated drink. However, given the fact that this event is a week devoted to drinking and sampling different alcoholic drinks from an extensive lineup of the best bars in town, “normal people” caught wind and bought the bulk of the passes.
Sounds like a good time, right? If you’re in, there are a few things you’ll need to know. We’ve put together a guide to help you survive the marathon of drinking the best cocktails in London, as well as some of the places you just can’t miss.
When Does London Cocktail Week Start?
Here are a few things to know about the when and where:
- Where it’s located: You’ll find the bulk of the action at: Old Spitalfields Market Horner Square, Spitalfields, London E1 6EW, United Kingdom
- When the event runs: It runs from October 2nd through 8th, 2017
Get Your Festival Passes ASAP for London Cocktail Week
As we mentioned, London Cocktail Week — biggest drink festival in the UK — is truly a celebration of the city’s cocktail culture. Not to mention, it’s a great way to taste your way through the capital, finding new favorite watering holes to hang with friends or to bring a date sometime down the road. All drinks will cost only £6 a pop, meaning, if your tolerance allows, you can try just about every flavor under the sun.
There’s no question you’ll need that festival pass, though, and you’ll want to get it locked down as soon as possible. Each pass costs only £10 and you can purchase them online from the comfort of your home or smartphone. You will absolutely want to purchase your wristband before the week kicks off, too, as the lines to get into the village are bound to be out of control.
Your wristband grants you unlimited entry to the Old Spitalfields Market — home of the London Cocktail Week Village. In the village, you’ll pay just £6 for craft cocktails from 250+ local bars for the entire week, and you can come and go as you please. It’s kind of like a key to the city, but with drinks. While the week is devoted to all things cocktail, there will be plenty of bites to eat — food trucks, bikes and vans will be serving artisanal treats and classic pub fare throughout the village.
In addition to your pass to the cocktail village (sounds like a dream, right?) you’ll get a guidebook to the best bars in London, all serving cocktails at the discounted rate. This is especially helpful, due to the abundance of bars serving top-shelf options.
The event is unique, allowing London to really showcase its inner party animal, with pop-up parties as well as some friendly competition between bartenders.
The Best Bars in the Lineup – London Cocktail Week Bar List
Okay, pretty much all of the 250+ bars participating in London Cocktail Week are of top-shelf caliber. Know that wherever you end up, you’ll be treated to a whole onslaught of the best cocktails from the best bars the city has to offer. You definitely won’t be disappointed.
In any case, here’s a list of some crowd-pleasing establishments sure to whip up something truly special:
1. City Social
Located in London’s Tower 42, City Social is the perfect place to sip and enjoy
an expertly prepared cocktail while taking in the city’s breathtaking skyline. While classics like the Dry Martini or the Old Fashioned tend to rule the bar in this establishment, open your mind to some of the clever (and cleverly named) twists on the mid-century standbys.
Don’t skip out on this high-end destination. City Social is sure to dazzle your pants off at London Cocktail Week, whatever their signature cocktail offerings may be — whether that’s traditional or a modern classic.
2. Apples & Pears
Perhaps some of the most unique cocktails you’ll find during cocktail week, or anywhere else for that matter, Apples & Pears features colorful cocktails
that look like dessert — yet they are far more nuanced than the usual sweet-toothed guilty pleasure drinks you’ll find at any mid-priced chain restaurant.
Art is everywhere, too, from the walls right down to the garnishes on each drink. Even the drinks themselves are almost too pretty to drink — boasting colorful flavors that complement the décor as well as the eclectic tunes playing in the background.
3. Cocktail Trading Company
The Cocktail Trading Company means business when it comes to serving up drinks. Their minimalistic menu features a lengthy lineup of cocktails with short, succinct descriptions — take the “Tom & Jerry” for example, “spiced, creamy, scandalous.” Enough said. CTC has some pretty unusual drinks on the list
, too. With names like “Pept-Abysmal” and “A Bag o’ Chips,” you’re sure to find something with a flavor combo you never thought possible.
4. Discount Suit Company
Already situated up against Spitalfields Market, this trendy cocktail bar focuses on cocktails made the old-fashioned way
, as well as bringing back forgotten drinks from the past. This laid-back bar is outfitted in dark wood in what used to be a discount suit warehouse — hence the name. Don’t skip Discount Suit Company at London Cocktail week, either, because their signature cocktails won’t disappoint. Perhaps you’ll try something old that’s new to you.
5. Trailer Happiness
Located in a basement on bustling Portobello Road, Trailer Happiness calls itself a tiki bar
, but it looks a more like a mashup of midcentury suburban Americana — 60’s tweed couches and all. The psychedelic kitch is all part of the experience, but hilarity aside, they really make some mean tropical cocktails.
The tiki roots of this bar, though not obvious upon entry, come into play through their signature cocktails, which really settle the longing for warm weather — that many Londoners experience regularly. Trailer Happiness also celebrates the spirit of sharing with group serve options available for both the “Trailer Colada” and the “Don Zombie.”
Of course, these are just a few suggestions to get you started — the tip of the London cocktail iceberg. There’s a whole week of drinks and fun ahead, so keep an open mind. The official website has yet to note the featured London Cocktail Week events and bars, but they should be available sometime in the near future. Stay tuned, though — the week will feature an exciting lineup of master classes, tastings, parties, pop ups and a whole lot more.
LCW Survival Tips
Alright, this is the part where we may start to sound a bit like a buzzkill — but, hear us out. A week-long drinking adventure is sure to take its toll, especially for those past the early twenties invincibility phase in life. However, there are a few other things you can do to fight the laws of biology.
Here are some of the basics:
- Water. We know. It’s obvious, but few of us remember to drink the requisite six to eight glasses of water even on a day we aren’t sampling a variety of tasty cocktails. Drinking enough water is especially important when consuming alcohol, and you’ll probably need larger than normal quantities. A good rule of thumb is to drink as many glasses of water as you do cocktails. Your body will thank you in the hours to come.
- Food. Carbs, healthy fats and plenty of fresh fruits and veggies will keep you fueled throughout the day, as well as the entire week. It can be tempting to inhale all the decadent street food as you make your way through the cocktail village, but try to limit yourself to a few bites here and there of the overly-cheesed or bacon-ed bar food you’re sure to encounter.
Loading up on salt, sugar and fat, in addition to alcohol will lead to a hangover like no other. Stick to whole grains, lean proteins and maybe a green juice or two, and you’ll be in much better shape.
- A good night’s rest. All that drinking and walking around town will wear you out, no matter how old or in shape you are. That is just a fact. Be sure to allow yourself enough time to squeeze in a full eight hours of sleep after each day you spend reveling at London Cocktail Week.
Now, here are some tips that may be a little less obvious:
- Plan ahead. Look for bars you’ve never tried before. While it might be tempting to go with what you already know and love, the point of London Cocktail Week is to expand your drink horizons, experience different flavors and maybe even find a new favorite weekend hangout spot. Do a little research — your guide will be a big help here so you can map out your absolute must-try locations.
- Wait in the longest lines. This seems a little counterintuitive, but there’s a reason certain places are bound to be more popular — they have the best provisions or something truly unique. Another upside to being patient is you’ll have time to let the buzz wear off. Spacing out your cocktail intake is sure to help make the next morning a little less terrible.
- Try a virgin cocktail here and there. Sure, the virgin cocktail has less allure than its alcoholic cousin, but London Cocktail week features a whole lineup of flavors you won’t want to miss because you’ve accidentally drank a few too many.
Plan Your Recovery
After a long night (or seven) of excessive drinking (hey, you have to try everything, right?), your body will be screaming for water. Cocktail week means you’ll likely be mixing alcohols from rum and gin to vodka, whiskey and maybe even something new, which typically leads to the kind of hangovers nightmares are made of.
Fortunately, there’s a few things you can do to recover:
- Drink plenty of water before you head out. Drink tons of water before you start out on your escapade. Ideally, you’ll also be drinking water the entire time you are enjoying cocktails, but you might not get to it. Water, however, lessens fatigue, helps fight nausea and rehydrates the body, so even if you are well hydrated, you’ll be in much better shape.
- Drink more water after you’re done. If possible, remember to drink a big glass or two before you roll into bed after the big event. You’ll notice a big improvement in the morning, with drastically reduced symptoms like headaches, nausea, confusion and dehydration.
- Stock up on electrolytes, too. Get those electrolytes back into your system ASAP. Pick up some coconut water or enhanced water at the market before you head out to cocktail week. They’ll help you hydrate faster than plain old water.
- Eat up. While you may be inclined to order a big greasy plate of eggs and waffles after a big night out, stick to something a little more wholesome. Carbs will help alleviate that dreaded nausea and fatigue, and you’ll just feel better in general. Stick to whole food ingredients like food and whole grains, and you’ll be on the mend in no time.
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