Now in its 8th year, London Cocktail Week; a vibrant celebration of the capital’s bar scene, is going from strength to strength. It started quite simply, as a selection of bars in London offering a signature cocktail for £5 to purchasers of a special wristband. It was a great way for new bars to get on the map, and for more established bars to showcase what they could do to new potential customers. The formula proved to be a success and the festival’s popularity has increased each year, and what you’ll find now is a buzzing scene of over 200 bars, a dedicated Cocktail Village housed in Spitalfields market, and more events to attend across the city than anyone could possibly hope to get to; although we gave it a good go. The bars have really upped their game in terms of innovation and effort this year and we’ve picked our favourites from #LCW17.
Schweppes Alchemy Bar
Entering this small pop up located in classy Covent Garden, we were instantly transported back some 250 years to what we liked to imagine original alchemist Jacob Schweppes’ living room looked like. Steampunk inspired brass fixtures, books, candles and scraps of papers adorn the walls, ceiling and tables; bringing a real feeling of class with a touch of chaos to the whole experience. Those wishing to delve deeper into the world of the original tonic water creator, could pay £10 to uncover Jacob Schweppe’s laboratory, and were treated to an eccentric and whimsical introduction to the art of bottling bubbles, as well as other mixology staples, expertly guided. The activation was also repeated on a smaller, but no less impressive, scale, in the Spitalfields Cocktail Village, ensuring maximum coverage for the brand.
Prior to this experience, we would have forgiven, and even agreed with you that the Schweppes brand has become dull and predictable- the standard tonic water favoured by your grandma; but the ingenious ‘big reveal’ came to those who had paid to uncover the secrets of the lab, from behind a secret door cleverly disguised as a book case, where we were treated to a tasting of Schweppes brand new premium 1783 range- refined- featuring refreshing and challenging flavour profiles which will be hitting the shelves of Waitrose later this month; we’ll be right at the front of the queue to buy them when they do.
Bulleit Bourbon & Ketel One at the Cocktail Village
Diageo sensibly opted to house 2 of their most popular premium brands: Bulleit Bourbon and Ketel One in on double-decker stand at the Cocktail Village. The footprint and height of their stand made it visible throughout the entire cocktail village and dominated the skyline of the pop up’s. Cocktails were served on tap, quickly and easily and while many would worry that this is not the way to serve up a refined cocktail, they managed to achieve pre-mised perfection, potentially paving the way for faster service across the board in future.
Our very favourite part was the Bulleit ‘Woody’ Trailer, where an expert brand ambassador dished out useful information in the hands-on workshop, teaching small groups how to make the perfect old fashioned- the ultimate skill for all wannabe bar tenders and whisky fans alike to master. On the first floor of the structure, punters were treated to the Ketel One Kitchen – a warm and hospitable spot with table service and master classes, delivering 325 years of distilling expertise to those wanting to learn. The elevated position made it a prime spot to people watch and really soak up the atmosphere of the Cocktail Village. As speed of service and visibility are key to a successful bar experience, this activation really hit the spot!
Sailor Jerry Free Tattoos
Back in 2013, we remember being presented with a variety of transfer tattoos alongside our Sailor Jerry cocktails. There is photographic evidence of our hearts, swallows and MUM transfers on our wrists and forearms if you cared to look far enough back on our facebook uploads; and while it’s certainly questionable whether or not it’s a good idea to mix cocktails and free, very much real, definitely not a transfer, tattoos, we really can’t fault Sailor Jerry for sticking to their guns and staying true to their bold and smooth brand ideals. This year, they’ve teamed up with a local Shoreditch tattoo parlour to offer a range of designs inspired by Norman ‘Sailor Jerry’ Collins, to London Cocktail Week pass holders, for free! The designs featured Collins’ unique flash-art style and started a movement which can be seen in many modern tattooists designs to this day. It’s entirely possible that there may have been some regrets following this activation, but hundreds of fans now have a permanent reminder of their time with Sailor Jerry indelibly inked on their skin; we’re not sure if you can achieve better campaign longevity than this!
Tanqueray Garden at the Cocktail Village
In partnership with one of the most exclusive bars in the city, Aqua Shard; Tanqueray brought a refreshing taste of summer to the Cocktail Village. Astroturf, winding ivy and oranges adorned the trellis roof, taking us back to our time activating the Pimm’s partnership at Wimbledon over the summer! Gin is highly fashionable at the moment, and Tanqueray had tapped into this, by offering simple cocktails which were highly customisable. If you ordered a simple G&T you were asked what garnish you wanted, and if you didn’t know, you were quizzed on your personal tastes, and educated on what would make the complex flavour profiles of Tanqueray dance. The partnership with Aqua Shard was heavily advertised, giving the whole area a feel of a sleek, exclusive garden party that we’d been fortunate enough to be invited to.