Celebrate New Year in one of the innovative venues springing up around the British coast, where foraged ingredients and craft-made spirits are mixed together with style. Words: Alex Reece
1. FOR A PORT TAVERN
The Tippling House, Aberdeen
Since opening in 2012, The Tippling House – brainchild of award-winning bartender Adrian Gomes – has won praise for its original approach to casual dining and cocktails. ‘We try to create all infusions, syrups and tinctures in-house,’ says Gomes, whose team, headed by current Scottish mixologist of the year Andy Stewart (right), does its own foraging, preserving and fermenting. Maritime lighting, cosy booths and an open kitchen create an intimate port tavern atmosphere. Book ahead and order a £7.50 Dopo Cena: Disaronno, kirschwasser, maraschino liqueur, fresh lemon juice, bitters and sugar. 4 Belmont St, Aberdeen, AB10 1JE (email@example.com; thetipplinghouse.com).
2. FOR INVENTIVE IMBIBING
Tigermilk at The Duke, Plymouth, Devon
Inspired by American speakeasies of the 1920s, Tigermilk, near Plymouth’s waterfront, is deliberately hard to find but the vibe inside is convivial and upbeat. Founders Eric Chan and Mark Smalley keep punters entertained with imaginatively styled drinks: the signature cocktail, the Sacrilege (sherry-aged Speyside Scotch, Kentucky bourbon, Angostura bitters, grapefruit peel) is served smoked in a treasure chest. Book ahead at weekends. 28 Citadel Rd, Plymouth, PL1 3BA (01752 275858, tigermilkbars.com).
3. FOR THE UNEXPECTED
Jam Jar, Dundee
In keeping with Dundee’s innovative spirit, Jam Jar has a creative energy about its cocktail offering – from bell jar-covered drinks steeped in cherrywood smoke to concoctions served in ceramic skulls with 3ft-high flames. It’s also known for its ‘barmalade’, which, as manager AJ McMenemy says, ‘uses all the skinned and juiced citrus fruits that are wasted daily in cocktail bars across the world’. A firm favourite here is the Jam Jar: a strawberry symphony in a jam jar with a gingham top, a strawberry and a dusting of icing sugar. 2b Whitehall Crescent, Dundee DD1 4AU (01382 225023, see Facebook for details).
4. FOR DAY AND NIGHT
A day/night bar in the Uplands area of Swansea, BrewStone sets itself apart by creating most of the components of its cocktails itself, including vermouth, aromatic bitters and limoncello. ‘I even make jelly using rosé wine and rosewater,’ says head bartender/mixologist Andrea Lorusso. ‘The jelly’s placed at the bottom of the glass so the customer can eat it when the drink is finished.’ Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, the industrial space is warmed up by textural feature walls and banquette seating. 33 Uplands Crescent, Swansea, SA2 0MP (01792 470480, brewstone.co.uk).
5. FOR OLD-SCHOOL GLAMOUR
The Cocktail Bar, The Merchant Hotel, Belfast
A Guinness World Record holder for the most expensive Mai Tai (costing £750 back in 2007), The Merchant Hotel has established a reputation for drinks made with ultra-rare ingredients and consummate attention to detail. The Cocktail Bar is currently offering the oldest Old Fashioned in the world – made with 50-year-old rum – but its top sellers are more accessible at £9.95. As the former headquarters of Ulster Bank, the interior is opulent, with elaborate Victorian plasterwork and velvet soft furnishings. Expect attentive table service on arrival, with olives, bread sticks and water served straight away, while you peruse the 112-page cocktail menu. 16 Skipper St, Belfast, BT1 2DZ (028 90234888, themerchanthotel.com).
6. FOR FORAGED INGREDIENTS
The Cocktail Bar, Bedruthan Hotel & Spa, Mawgan Porth, Cornwall
Overlooking the beach, this Scandi-meets-Cornish-style bar bears the hallmark of in-house mixologist George Hochsmann, who has created a range of bespoke cocktails for the hotel. Staff forage for seasonal ingredients, including lavender, blackberries and mint, to make the syrups and cordials they use. A coast favourite is Parental Guidance – a blend of spiced rum, vanilla liquor, chocolate bitters and homemade popcorn syrup served with a cup of popcorn. The bar is open to non-residents, except on New Year’s Eve, when
it’s residents only. Mawgan Porth, Cornwall, TR8 4BU (01637 860860, bedruthan.com).
7. FOR VICTORIANA-ON-SEA
The Plotting Parlour, Brighton, East Sussex
This bar in Kemptown has atmosphere aplenty, with Victorian-style decor and reclaimed furnishings. The drinks are packed with interest, too. ‘We make a ton of our own ingredients,’ says manager Luke Loddo, ‘including sugar snap pea-infused cachaça, and felernum, which is a clove and lime liqueur.’ Presentation is fun and often has a food element: dehydrated apples and strawberry crisps feature in this award-winning drinking den’s Something Like Pimm’s. 6 Steine St, Brighton, BN2 1TE (01273 621238, see Facebook for details).
8. FOR A HIDDEN DELIGHT
The Venner Bar, The Bull Hotel, Bridport, Dorset
A visit to the bar at this boutique hotel near Dorset’s Jurassic Coast has an added frisson of excitement, given it’s hidden behind a secret door at the end of the ballroom. Once inside, join the cocktail cognoscenti at a copper bar. The Venner specialises in elevated classics using locally produced drinks and homemade syrups. The White Russian has Black Cow Vodka – a spirit made, incredibly, from fresh whole milk by a farmer on the Dorset coast. Non-residents are also welcome. 34 East St, Bridport, DT6 3LF (Wed-Sat, 01308 422878, thebullhotel.co.uk).
9. FOR A SECRET SPEAKEASY
Berry & Rye, Liverpool
Head to Europe’s oldest Chinatown and you’ll see cocktail hunters looking confused at a blacked-out shopfront with no sign – indeed, no sign of life. But those who take the plunge are treated to Berry & Rye, a characterful saloon with vintage crate shelving behind the bar, exposed brick walls and low lighting. A playlist of jazz and blues sets the mood for expertly made drinks. These range from the classic (Hemingway Daiquiri, Mint Julep) to the inventive: try Smoke, Blood & Sand, the bar’s twist on the original Blood & Sand cocktail named after the 1922 Rudolph Valentino film. 48 Berry St, Liverpool, L1 4JQ (@berry_and_rye on Twitter). Photo: Colin Finn
10. FOR A SEAFRONT PANORAMA
Buoy & Oyster, Margate, Kent
Housed in a Grade II-listed building on Margate seafront is restaurant and cocktail bar Buoy & Oyster. Husband-and-wife team Simon and Nadine Morriss, who are in their twenties, run the business together with their parents, and pride themselves on using premium spirits for their cocktails along with fresh fruit and herbs from local suppliers. ‘Our Bloody Buoy Mary is very popular,’ Nadine says. ‘It has smoky bacon and an oyster on it.’ Stop by on New Year’s Day for a Boozy Brunch – for which popular breakfast choices will be paired with a Champagne cocktail or a Bloody Mary. 44 High St, Margate, CT9 1DS (01843 446631, buoyandoyster.com).