Disclosure: I bought my own wristband for Cocktail Weekend, although I did also get an invite from the PR to attend. I paid for all my cocktails. All words, images and opinions are my own. Read my full disclosure policy here.
Birmingham Cocktail Weekend is a real highlight on a Brummie drunk’s calendar. You buy yourself a wristband (£10), and set off around the city on a grand cocktail tour. Each participating venue creates a cocktail just for the weekend, which can be yours for just £4. It’s a great way to explore new-to-you venues without spending a fortune on pricey drinks. On Sunday, the Coven gathered and we set off to try some cocktails.
We started off in Churchills, which is canalside at the Mailbox. I confess, I’m not a regular visitor here, and in fact on my last visit, the bar tender asked me how much Sprite I wanted in my Old Fashioned; a crime for which I have never quite forgiven them. However, their cocktail weekend offering of a Banoffee Pie was surprisingly pleasant. The base of the drink tasted of banana without tipping into foam sweet territory, and had a little background sour note that stopped it from being too sickly. The meringue on top was fun, if too sweet for me. Great if you do have a sweet tooth though.
Gas Street Social
We moved next door to Gas Street Social where they were offering a Sink the Pink, which combined pink gin with fraise de bois, black pepper syrup, lemon, fresh mint and cider. An unusual combo that made a fruity, fresh, summery drink. It was very enjoyable, and I made short work of mine.
Marco Pierre White’s
Next, it was into The Cube and up in the lift to Marco Pierre White’s. Home to some of the best views in the city, for me the main selling point of MPW’s is the terrace. We settled out there to try their cocktail, which was a mix of Chambord, lemon and soda. Frankly, this was very, very dull. I was shocked to see the Chambord poured in wasn’t even a full measure, and the drink just tasted like weak squash. Very boring, lazy, and a poor show from a high-end venue. They also opted to put the roof on the terrace part way through our visit, ending our enjoyable lounge in the sunshine, so we drank up and left.
The canal house
We weaved our way along the canal to check out The Canal House, managing to bag the last table with some shade in the beer garden. Their Man Goes to the Canal was rum, mango syrup, lychee and lime juice. A little sweet for my taste, but enjoyable. It was a fun, fruity option to enjoy in the sunshine.
Our next stop was The Victoria. The Highland Cobbler sounded strange, with a combo of whisky, raspberry syrup, fresh lemon, Sauvignon Blanc, and a dusting of Angel Delight powder. It actually ended up being one of my favourites of the day. It tasted strongly of whisky (excellent), and was sharp, boozy and delicious. After a parade of pleasant, but unimaginative options, this was a great creative twist and I loved it.
This is the first year Radisson Blu have taken part in Cocktail Weekend, and it was also my first time visiting their bar. The bar is small, but chic, and seems like a nice spot for a relaxed drink. Their Chase Strawberry Sour was one of the prettiest drinks of the day, and was served by some truly bonkers bartenders, which is always a plus. The drink was full of creamy fruit flavours, but again, a touch sweet for me.
chung ying central
Chung Ying Central were offering up a Hachiko cocktail. It reminded me of the sort of cocktails you’d get at brunch, with a good pink grapefruit punch. This was in my top drinks of the day too, mostly because it was a little different to anything else we’d had. Gastronomic Gorman and I also shared a selection of the food they had on offer too (although I was apparently so ravenous I didn’t photograph it). I can confirm though that the gyoza in particular are amazing.
Onto Gusto, who were serving up the teeniest drink of the day, which was also one of the most divisive. On our travels, we kept being told by other weekenders that Gusto’s Fresco offering was either the best, or the worst of the day, with nothing in between. The small size was disappointing; it might be a much cheaper cocktail than their usual, but the idea is not to serve a half sized version of a drink. At first sip, the drink was all sour apple, which was oddly familiar. My second sip made me realise it tasted exactly like a shot of that student union staple, Apple Sourz. Not quite what you’d expect from a venue like Gusto.
We moved onto Gaucho, where we served by a very rude bar tender who was clearly sick to death of Cocktail Weekend customers. Their cocktail was barely a cocktail at all; gin, lemon and soda water. Dull, unimaginative and lazy. I can add cordial and soda water to gin at home; it is not a cocktail and it’s not good enough for an event meant to showcase Birmingham cocktails.
Hotel du vin
Our final stop was Hotel Du Vin. Their Hemingway Daiquiri was another highlight of the day, strong and sharp, with notes of citrus. It was well crafted, and a perfect end to our cocktail tour.
I had a great time, and enjoyed some excellent beverages. I think the effort put in to cocktail weekend says a lot about the venue, and their general interest in pleasing customers. Chung Ying Central and Hotel Du Vin always deliver on quality and service, and their creations for the weekend were no different. I was surprised by how good The Victoria was, and it shows they’re trying to be creative and interesting with their drinks menu. Worst of the day is a tie between Gaucho and Marco‘s, for lazy, boring options. This rather suggests to me they find Cocktail Weekend customers a nuisance, rather than a potential new regular. I won’t be bothering with their regular cocktail menus either after a dull experience.