A bumper wheat crop, a reduction in grain tax and an obvious public health emergency led to Brits changing their drinking habits almost overnight and before long there was said to be a gin still in every fourth house in London. The first hard alcohol – also recorded as the second ever medical patent – was created in 1712 in the form of Staughton’s Elixir, an alcohol-based medicinal bitters. While taxes were later levied to help curb the subsequent ethanol-soaked epidemic, the love affair with heady tipples was already well alight.
We have those tipsy trailblazers to thank for modern mixology, which can now experienced at Bitters & Sweets, the city’s newest artisan cocktail bar. Located on Wellington Street and dedicated to that vital ingredient in so many timeless classic, Bitters & Sweets makes its own namesake, as well as house-infused spirits, to create a host of innovative, striking cocktails. More a contemporary shrine to mixology than a happening cocktail dive, Bitters & Sweets is hidden away in a commercial tower with interiors akin to an avant garde restaurant (although you could sit at the bar top where all the action is). However, there’s crisp, well-informed service and a beautifully-curated collection of libations; the Smokey Joe isn’t just beautiful to behold but is also a brilliantly balanced blend of house-infused coffee bourbon, sweet chestnut syrup, chocolate bitters and cherry wood smoke. It looks manly, tastes like an alcoholic desert and comes served in a glass dome so you can control the smoke. For something a little zestier, the vibrantly-hued Coriander is a marriage of ginger, herbal goodness and God-sent tequila; while the Marmalade features cognac, vanilla Earl Grey syrup, and orange bitters, served in a rustic jam jar. It’s not just the drinks that come with plenty of imagination; the Spam Fries with sriracha mayo are addictive, while the s’mores, served in an iron skillet, are sure to seal any nocturnal deal you might be working on. Not every drink is a bull’s eye to be sure, and it ain’t cheap, but at least this bar instills the sense of innovation and imagination that will help propel the local cocktail scene to new heights.
“Here's to alcohol, the rose colored glasses of life.” ― F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Beautiful and Damned
Bitters & Sweets
1/F Somptueux Central, 52-54 Wellington Street, Central; 2788 0103