Whether your choice of tipple is a Sex on the Beach, Long Island Iced Tea, or a Mojito, there’s bound to be a cocktail with your name on it. We can always rely on the traditionally tried and tested cocktail recipes, but I’m always up to try something a little more extravagant.
From unusual ingredients like hibiscus to popping candy complementing my alcoholic concoctions to experiencing all the elements from cocktails emerging from dry ice mystical fogs, to cocktails alight with flames in my glass, it elevates my drinking experience and tantalizes my taste buds.
Two of my favourite cocktail bars in London creatively craft fantastical cocktails straight out of a magical wonderland. These are the type of drinks you would get if there was a speakeasy in Narnia or Hogwarts, and they’re far more tempting than even Turkish delight is to Edmund Pevensie.
Whilst both The Alchemist and The Gibson offer indulgent artistic cocktails, the atmospheres of both are markedly dissimilar. Read below to find out where you’d rather spend your next happy hour.
Location: The Alchemist
You don’t have to be a Londoner to come here, as this theatrical cocktail bar has branches across 12 cities in the UK from Newcastle to Nottingham. With five in London itself, you’re spoilt for choice on where to go for an after work drink. I have gone to the Bevis Marks one which is a large venue, complete with lots of seating in the bar area and a restaurant at the back. The five London branches are located in Bevis Marks, Canary Wharf, Embassy Gardens, Old Street and St Martins Lane.
Location: The Gibson
Located at 44 Old St, London EC1V 9AQ, (closest station – Old Street) The Gibson is perfectly placed between the trendy areas of Farringdon and Shoreditch. This makes it an ideal place to come to for a classy drink on a Friday night, before dancing the night away in one of the cool clubs of Shoreditch. You might forget the rest of the night, but you’ll still remember the cocktails!
Price: The Alchemist
Ranging from bargain prices of £8.75 (yes, this is my skewed perception of an affordable cocktail as I am a born Londoner) to the higher end of £13.50, you don’t necessarily need to splash the cash for a drink here, more than you would at any other establishment. If you really want to get your money’s worth, come here in the morning for the disco brunch and have 3 drinks with a brunch dish for £30!
Price: The Gibson
With no cocktails, besides the low/no alcohol options outside of the £12-£14 bracket, you might be wondering why one cocktail is costing more than your dinner here, until you see the sheer amount of ingredients in each unique beverage. They don’t skimp on their alcohol measures either as you can taste how much of a punch your drink packs. Some of them do include a delectable sweet snack to accompany it which helps soften the blow to your card when you come here.
Decor: The Alchemist
A scientists dream, as molecular madness and alchemy has taken over to delight your senses with astounding opulence. The beakers bubbling over and periodic table backgrounds will have you reminiscent of science class, albeit a more exciting version. The contrasting throwback to the medieval period where alchemists reigned generates a magical atmosphere and this place may just inspire you to create the elixir of life just so you can keep visiting again and again.
Decor: The Gibson
A self-proclaimed Edwardian Tardis, you’ll step back a century in time in this cosy, tucked away institution. The Gibson has a pub like feel as it is unfussy, relatively small and aside from various art-deco style nick nacks surrounding the bar, there is no pretentious gimmicky you’d see from this age. It’s a tranquil place free from the flower walls and neon signs of Instagram, yet retains a charmed old world presence.
Vibe: The Alchemist
I have come here for birthdays, nights out, and after works drinks with friends. Every single time I have been here, whether a Saturday night of Thursday at 6pm, it is so packed, that you feel as lucky as a leprechaun to find a seat or have your order taken within ten minutes of trying to get a bartenders attention. It is a popular place for much of the after work crowd as you’ll see suits lined up around the bar on any given weekday, but also a brilliant place to let your hair down without pesky 18 year olds running around.
Vibe: The Gibson
The Gibson’s more subdued, serene atmosphere allows this delightfully charming bar to be the perfect place to catch up with friends, family or take a date to. There’s no need to fight for the bartenders attention here, as they’ll attend to you like royalty, and provide table service, complete with table water to hydrate you in between cocktails. Come here if you want to engage in relaxed conversation with your company, without feeling rushed to leave.
The Cocktails!: The Alchemist
Visually stunning displays of dry ice and flames atop your drinks will captivate you. Colour changing and flavour changing concoctions will shock your unsuspecting taste buds as to what you’ll taste next. Whether your go for a frothy bubble bath or a mad hatter’s tea, the display will bewitch you, the aromas will intrigue you and the taste will satisfy you.
There is a vast array of choice from more traditional Old Fashioned options to curious ones where you may just have your own eureka Lightbulb moment. You don’t have to be Filthy Rich to try their 24 carat gold cocktail either. The mixologists ensure flavours are blended well together and combinations of apple with cinnamon or chocolate orange are familiar enough to appeal to the numerous drinkers in search of a well-made tipple.
The Cocktails!: The Gibson
Personally, these are some of the best cocktails I have tried anywhere, not just London and its seems to be that the experts agree with me as The Gibson has been named as one of the world’s 50 best bars. With a menu arranged by month, this bar attempts some Dr Who magic by taking you to a different season with each drink, allowing you to transport yourself to a whisky filled winter or a more tropical July where rum rules with ocean vibes.
The presentation of each cocktail is as unique as the drink itself and may be adorned with edible sweets. The ingredients of each cocktail may be less common than you’re used to and you may question whether lobster broth will work with horseradish squid ink and if you should be drinking this with alcohol. You may feel the urge to google what shikakai is or question what business a banana chutney has doing in your drink. But after consuming a sip, you will forget your questions as you taste the marvellously adorned creation in front of you and let out a satisfied ‘mmmh’.
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