Birmingham city centre isn’t short on cocktail bars, but as you really can’t have too many in my book, I was excited to hear that we were getting a branch of The Alchemist, a chain of bars in the same group as The Botanist and Gusto. I was invited down to the launch night to see the new place on Colmore Row (which will hopefully take some of the weekend load off other nearby bars!) and try a few drinks. The theme of the alchemist is theatrical cocktails, luxurious decor and a low lit bar with hints of rose gold (sound familiar?). The cynic in me guessed that there may be more style than substance going on, but I decided to go with an open mind and hope that I would be proved wrong…
This didn’t get off to a good start when I asked the bartender for some help in choosing and he immediately asked if I wanted something flashy. I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt that it was because I was there with my camera, and theatrics do lend themselves well to photographs, but I tend to prefer my recommendations based on what the drink actually tastes like. Even so, I went with his suggestion of a Lady Marmalade, a strong short drink made with vermouth and citrus flavours. The drink had a nice depth to it and the citrus flavours held it from being too sweet.
Speaking of sweetness, though it is often the downfall of many cocktails, I’m all for it if it’s in the form of a dessert cocktail – anything creamy and indulgent is a-ok with me, even if too much sugar syrup in my mojitos winds me up no end. Hence the next cocktail I went for was the key lime pie, made with rum, midori, koko kanu, apple and lime, topped with vanilla meringue foam. First of all, I was very pleased to receive a small spoon with which to eat the meringue, as I’ve had a similar cocktail before that caused severe merigue-tash – not a great look in a bar. Once past the meringue, the silky lime drink beneath was just like the classic dessert, and went down a treat.
The next cocktail I tried was by far my favourite, a Lightbulb Moment made with lots of dry ice, gin, ginger beer, raspberry, lemon and mint. This was a really light, summery drink but the ginger beer gave it a little heat at the end. The presentation of a light-bulb shaped glass was a nice twist, without verging into over the top!
Finally, I went for the malt-teaser, another of their sweet dessert-style drinks. The base of this drink was rum, with white chocolate liqueur and apparently, according to the menu, apple, though I couldn’t taste this whatsoever. I wasn’t overly impressed with this drink – it was a bit like a milkshake, and had none of the carefully balanced flavour combinations that you expect in a cocktail.
Though the drinks were hit and miss, the setting in which you can enjoy them is certainly a selling point. As well as upstairs, there is also a ‘secret’ bar with table service and a limited number of seats – so an ideal place to get away from the crowds. I have no doubt that the Alchemist will be a very popular bar, but I suspect those who are seriously into their cocktails will go elsewhere – #Snob. I will definitely be back to try a couple more drinks in the gorgeous downstairs bar, as well as seeing what the food is like in the dining area. Thank you to The Alchemist for having me, see you soon!