On a dreary London evening after a hard day’s yakka, with horizontal rain lashing at my face and my palate yearning for a pick-me-up, I make my way to one of my favourite areas of London to size up the new Brick Lane bar by one of London’s most exciting bar brands, The Cocktail Trading Co. (CTC).
After huge success at their temporary site in Soho, they have now taken up permanent residency directly opposite Brewdog in Shoreditch – an excellent location on Bethnal Green road just a 5 minute walk from Shoreditch High Street station. This is the latest project from award winning bartenders Andy Mil, Olly Brading and Elliot Ball; the cocktail masterminds behind CTC Smithfield and Her Majesty’s Secret Service in Bristol – both equally successful and both worth checking out. Their combined experience on the bar scene is beyond impressive, comprising world class competition wins, consulting, setting up bars for big names and even a PhD in science which is applied in the understanding of flavours. Remarkable. The Cocktail Trading Co. is a cooperatively run bar company, with a quarter of the company belonging to the staff that run and work in the bars. Nice.
The modest black storefront and wooden-blinded windows draw you in for a closer peek, and once you get a glimpse of the warm and inviting interior you’d be hard-pressed not to want to explore further. The perfect vibe for a chilly rain-soaked evening such as the one we were experiencing, the bar is small, intimate, and downright sexy. It isn’t a huge space, but for me that is part of its appeal. You feel almost privileged to have nabbed a spot in such a gorgeous little venue. Seating around 80 people, the dim lighting and mixture of urban and luxury décor create the perfect atmosphere to hunker down and peruse this incredibly inventive menu.
The bar at CTC Brick Lane is 400 strong and focuses on quirky and rare spirits from around the world (including a bottle of 1800’s gin!). They’ve also gone next-level with an in-house distillery in place, which allows production of their own custom-made spirits to integrate into their cocktails. Each drink has been thoughtfully designed to generate a sense of nostalgia; focusing on some of life’s touchstone moments, bringing about a sense of magic, whimsy and glee to the consumer. It’s incredibly hard to choose from, as they all sound awesome – the selection is extensive, fun and complex.
The menu is set out in booklet packed full of recipes and instructions for each cocktail, games and adlibs. My favourite detail is that each item is accompanied by a gorgeous illustration of the drink itself. I myself am a wannabe-Illustrator, and it made the experience that much more magical and alluring. My friend and I agreed that, surely, the pictures were merely a take or an interpretation on what the drink was going to look like – that we weren’t going to be served the Eggsperimental Cocktail Cup in an actual eggcup! And surely there’s no way there’ll be a whole egg (shell & all) in the cocktail. While waiting excitedly for it to arrive, we discussed how it might be eggsecuted (oh. no. she. didn’t.), placing bets with our table-neighbours and trying to out-think & out-guess each other – but low and behold, it came out in a damn egg-cup adorned with a real eggshell filled with vanilla panna cotta. We were like kids on Christmas! No way man! No way! Aside from the amazing aesthetics of the beverage, it tasted divine: a combo of breakfast brandy, peach, bloody orange, tarragon and sparkling wine and topped with cheerio brittle, the warming brandy combined with the acidic blood orange and the refreshing sparkling was a pleasure to drink.
The Tom & Jerry was served on a mousetrap. Yes folks, a real mousetrap, complete with a side of delicious cheddar cheese. A concoction of rich bourbon, bitter curacao, spiced syrup, salted chestnut gelato and egg yolk (in the form of French meringue) – the flavours melded perfectly and you feel like you’re really spoiling yourself with it’s decadence. As the menu states: “Enjoy. You work hard; you deserve this”. Yes boys, yes I bloody well do.
Other highlights were: the Royal-mail-aged Air Mail, served in an envelope (who doesn’t love a bit of post!?) and consisting of aged rum, lime juice, honey & sparkling wine. The Handy Nightcap – a bold and hearty drink served on a bed of grass complete with white-chocolate golf ball – it combines bourbon, cold drip coffee, sweet vermouth, chartreuse and Terry’s Chocolate-Orange Bitters. The Eight Foot Fizz was beautifully easy and nice’n’fruity, comprising belvedere vodka, kiwi sherbet, milk, egg white & club soda. I’m a sucker for an espresso martini, so I couldn’t look past the Pharmaceutical Stimulant; Vodka, espresso and coffee liqueur – this simple combination was somehow one of the finest espresso cocktails I have ever imbibed. It was rich, almost caramel-like – incredibly smooth, perfectly invigorating and thoroughly satiating, I’d say it was my favourite of the evening.
The team at The Cocktail Trading Company are a bartending force to be reckoned with. They are passionate, they’re clever, and they have talent and knowledge of their art in fruitful abundance. It’s no surprise that they are going from strength to strength and that their success is booming. It was such an incredible pleasure to help them celebrate the opening of their new Brick Lane bar.
Contact: The Cocktail Trading Company – 68 Bethnal Greek Rd, London E1 6GQ. Ph. 020 7427 6097. Website.
Lucy grew up in Wellington, New Zealand, moved to Melbourne in 2010, and moved to London in 2015. When she’s not busy travelling, she indulges in her other favourite pastime: exploring this amazing city, one restaurant or bar at a time. Always keen to hunt out delicious cuisine at a good price, unique hidden gems and of course, a touch of decadence for those days when you just gotta treat yo’self. Weaknesses include, but are not limited to: Pinot Noir, dark chocolate, IPA & blue cheese.