*Updated Jan 2017*
We all have times when we’re in need of a night out to make us feel a bit special, or wanting to find a place that feels a bit more quiet and hidden away.
Bristol has become famous for its variety of speakeasies and secret bars, all of which offer something a bit different, without being pretentious or too exclusive. With that in mind, here are some places where you can imbibe the finest cocktail concoctions in Bristol…
Bristol’s original intimate cocktail bar – this cosy, sexy bar is situated underneath the Rajpoot restaurant, opposite Clifton Down. The cocktail menu is paired back and relies mainly on classics done to a very high standard.
What to drink: A Martini – they’re allegedly the best in town.
Hyde & Co
A dark and atmospheric speakeasy near the Triangle – this tiny bar is great for small groups wanting a bit of sophistication. Their sharing cocktails are particularly exciting, especially ‘Under the Clouds’ which comes with Pina Colada smoke!
What to drink: A Long Walk Home – an ode to the West Country, including Somerset cider brandy and Harvey’s sherry. The braver among you may try a Rhum Conference – 4 types of rum, mixed with sugar and bitters. A punch to the face in cocktail form if ever there was one.
Just off Park Street – find the sleazy-looking entrance, lift the payphone and wait to be greeted. You’ll then descend down the stairs into an opulent cavern bar, with some of the best drinks (and wallpaper) in Bristol.
What to drink: The Bristol Connection – Appleton 8, Dubonnet, cider syrup & orange bitters.
Spread across 3 floors in a gorgeous old Bank building, this cocktail bar is a nod to the Gentlemen’s clubs of old; think wood panelling, taxidermy, leather sofas, etc. As well as offering a fine cocktail menu, the bar also hosts a multitude of events, and its upper floors are available to reserve for larger groups, or even dinner parties! You’d also do well to try its cousins; bar-restaurant The Ox if you like your cocktails with a fine steak, or Pata Negra if you’re more of the tapas persuasion.
What to drink: The Milk Thistle Daisy – Tanqueray Export Gin, lemon juice, spiced pear syrup, topped with fizz.
Flipside Cocktail Club
Housed in what used to be Papaji’s on Whiteladies Road, this snazzy bar still specialises in tea-infused cocktails, all of which are as tasty as they are quirky. The music here is a bit livelier than some of the other bars – so it’s a good place to start (or indeed, end) a night out.
What to drink: The Earl Grey Sour – Plymouth gin infused with Earl Grey Blue Star tea.
Her Majesty’s Secret Service
This small bar next to Clifton Down station has gone through more incarnations than (allegedly) your average Buddhist, and as much as I miss the lovely vibe of Charlie’s Bar, I’m already won over by the amazing presentation (cocktails come served in array of vessels including Wellington boots, owl mugs and even a miniature toilet), the Bond-inspired decor (including a gun cage) and the lovely staff. However these cocktails go beyond mere gimmicks – they’re damn tasty too.
What to drink: ‘Welcome to Kentucky, Have a Nice Day’ – a blend of Jim Beam, ginger & plum infusion, yuzu juice and matcha tea, served in a Chinese takeaway box with crispy noodles sprinkled on top.
Lively cocktails, dancing and craft beer fun times in Clifton Village – upstairs for seating and supping of some strong beverages, downstairs for boodying on into the night (or reserving for your own private cocktail-tastic party).
What to drink: Anything strong, the stronger the better in their eyes. Failing that, their House Martini (Blackwoods Gin, Lillet Blanc and lemon bitters) is a sure-fire winner.
The Rummer Hotel
Quite possibly the most extensive drinks selection in Bristol (they have over 500 spirits behind the bar), this comfortable and historic venue in St Nicholas Market is definitely one to bring someone you want to impress – sit up by the bar and watch the mixing in action, or lounge on a sofa by the fireplace for a cosier experience. The food here is also top notch, and the bar have recently introduced gift cards for their signature cocktails – so start dropping hints for Christmas now!
What to drink: A Somerset Swizzle – Somerset cider brandy, Pisco, lime, celery bitters and pineapple syrup.
A gin distillery with its very own bar? Yes you heard right – head to St Michael’s Hill and there’s quite the reward waiting for you at the top. The Negronis are first rate, or you can go for a simpler G&T. Tasting sessions are also available. For those south of the river, Psychopomp also have a mini pop-up bar in the lush Old Bookshop on North St.
Other great places to try are New York style speakeasy The Bootlegger on Gloucester Road, or The Doghouse on St Stephen’s Street in the centre – great if you’re in the mood for a dance as well as a tasty beverage. Fun and friendly speakeasy Manos also serves some lush cocktails as well as having excellent music on the go – you can also find them on the Triangle.
Drink and Dine
Alternatively, if you’re wanting to line your stomach whilst sampling some well made cocktails, some of the best establishments for combining your food & cocktailing pleasure are tapas maestros Poco, or cool lounge bar & restaurant The Gallimaufry on Gloucester Road.
I’ve also had some of the finest cocktails in Bristol at vegetarian restaurant Flow in Haymarket Walk next to the Bearpit, and surprisingly at the fun coffee house (they have boardgames AND SWINGS) Playground in the city centre.
MIY – Mix It Yourself
Finally, if you’re more in the mood for trying your hand at making cocktails at home, the best shops in town for spirits are Weber & Tring’s on Christmas Steps, Grape & Grind on Gloucester Road, or Corks in Cotham or North Street. If you happen to find yourself in Bath you can also rely on Independent Spirit for some fine quality alcohols.
Where do you rate for cocktails in Bristol? And are you more of a Daiquiri devotee, a Sour supporter, or a Cosmopolitan connoisseur?
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