Saturday 23 May 2020

Best of Brum: Bars & Booze

The sunny weather we are experiencing in the UK right now is making me want nothing more than to be back in Birmingham sipping on a delicious cocktail. I have seen a lot of people building back garden bars and developing their own 'quarantinis', but making my own cocktails is something I have yet to try. This could be quite a long post, so I'm going to cut to it. Here's the run down of my favourite bars in Birmingham.


- Pricing: average of £7-£9 for a cocktail
- Location: very central; close to many other bars, restaurants, and hotels. Near to the bullring shopping centre, new street, and new street train station. An attractive and bustling area of central Birmingham.

My number one bar is one I only discovered at the end of January this year, and, having left Birmingham two months later due to coronavirus, I have not yet been back. I look forward to when I can again!

As you can see from the name and the photos above, The Botanist themes a lot of their drinks around plants, from the ingredients within the cocktails, to the garnishes and decorations that complete them. The quirky glasses are similar to those you would find at a bar like The Alchemist in terms of the sciencey-laboratory image. This trend is really popular right now, and though it does often come with a price tag, it's a nice touch and will make your visit feel that little bit extra. The Botanist is definitely cheaper than similar competitors if you are looking for a bar of this sort of style.

My friends and I went on a Thursday night having submitted our post-Christmas essays, and it was really busy. There aren't many places you can go on a Thursday night in central Birmingham and not find a lively, busy atmosphere. Even in January!

The only thing I would change about this bar is perhaps the addition of a Happy Hour; you'll see as my list continues that Happy Hour is a fairly common feature among other bars. Having said that, the drinks were at the cheaper end of the scale, so I didn't mind too much.


- Pricing: Dropshot offer a range of drinks packages, which you can view on their website, linked above. Drinks can also be bought individually, though I cannot be sure on pricing as I visited the bar with my university netball club and we were kindly provided with discounts and deals for the night. Information about booking is also provided on the website.
- Location: Digbeth, a less attractive area of Birmingham, but one that is developing and has a lot to offer. Digbeth hosts a thriving night life, and is home to the Custard Factory, the O2 Institute, Digbeth Dining Club, and a range of bars and clubs - some of which are situated in transformed warehouses and railway arches.

Unfortunately I have no pictures to show, but this was a really cool bar, and unlike anything I have seen before. This bar is less about the drinks (I believe they did sell cocktails, though none of these really caught my eye, so I opted for vodka and mixer), and more about the entertainment. Dropshot holds about four full size table tennis tables, table football, table curling, and a large TV displaying live sport. The idea is that you get involved with all of the entertainment and games they have to offer, whilst drinking. They also serve pizzas and chips, which I think is a great idea for satisfying the alcohol munchies. 

This bar was so much fun, and I felt it to be really unique having never seen a concept like this before. I'd really recommend Dropshot if you're looking for something a bit different to change up your usual night out.


- Pricing: average of £9-£11 for a cocktail, BUT Happy Hour means you can get two of the same cocktails for the price of one.
- Location: Brindleyplace is a beautiful area of Birmingham that holds many different bars and restaurants at a range of prices and styles. Brindleyplace sits next to the Mailbox on the canal side, and backs on to Centenary Square, which is a very attractive and regenerated part of the city centre home to the Main Library, The Rep Theatre, hotels, and businesses. I have also been to the Slug & Lettuce in Harborne, though I would recommend Brindleyplace for its appearance and its comparatively central location.

A lot of people label Slug & Lettuce as a 'nice' Wetherspoons, but I think this does the chain a disservice. I really like this bar, and I think it's a brilliant one if you are looking for a wide variety of alcoholic drinks, including yummy, flavoursome cocktails. The inclusion of Happy Hour(s) also gets extra points from me.

Slug & Lettuce is a fairly big chain with bars in many different towns and cities, so it may not necessarily be the first bar you want to visit if you are coming to Birmingham. But I would argue that it's a worthwhile choice! In particular, the location is a reason to come to Slug & Lettuce; Brindleyplace is one of my favourite parts of Birmingham (pictured in the last two photos above), and is absolutely gorgeous in the summer time.

Slug & Lettuce is always busy due to its popularity, so if you're going from Thursday-Saturday, you probably won't manage to get a table unless you're there before 8/9pm at the latest. However, that may not be so important to you if you are going for the fact that it turns into a mini club with a dance floor as the night draws on.


- Pricing: average of £9-£10 for a cocktail, BUT like Slug & Lettuce, Happy Hour is normally much more than an hour, and means you can get two (any two, I think) cocktails for the price of one with the cheapest being free. The last time I went to this Dirty Martini, Happy Hour was also the entirety of Sunday. 
- Location: Virtually round the corner from The Botanist. 

I have been to Dirty Martini on a few times now, and it's definitely a firm favourite. The drinks menu is huge, and offers a variety of colourful cocktails with all sorts of interesting ingredients, not just the classic martini. There is guaranteed a drink for every taste-bud, as there is a helpful grid in the drinks menu informing you of the drinks that are fruity or spirited, and sweet or sour, as well as where they lie on the spectrum. I particularly like the dragonfruit and pomegranate martini, which is described as 'tropical and tart'.

Dirty Martini is famous for it's neon wings, which have become a popular backdrop for a photo in order to mark your visit. Other than the wings, the interiors of this bar are also gorgeous. With dim lighting and intricate wall designs, stepping into Dirty Martini feels like stepping into a 1920s Gatsby party.

I have never been to Dirty Martini on a Thursday, Friday or Saturday night - only Sunday or early in the week. It's been fairly quiet whenever I have been, except for when a function was taking place in the upstairs mezzanine. 


- Pricing: average of £9-£12 for a cocktail
- Location: Beautiful Brindleyplace. There is also one overlooking St Philip's cathedral, near The Botanist and Dirty Martini, though I haven't been.

You can't go to the Alchemist without ordering 'the colour changing one'. Unfortunately I have no photos, but it is a cocktail that bubbles and smokes, and, yes you guessed it, changes colour. It also has a delicious apple flavour, so it's as much about the taste as the aesthetic! 

With a place like The Alchemist, you are certainly paying those couple of extra pounds for the experience of colour changing drinks, smoking drinks, and drinks that arrive in fancy bottles, test tubes, and beakers. For that reason, it's not a place I would go to regularly or for just any old night out, but it is a really lovely place to go for a special occasion, or if you have not yet experienced the novelty. The food served is also delicious!

I have only been to The Alchemist at dinner time on a Wednesday evening. It was quiet, though I imagine it's busier at night, and particularly so at the weekends.

So that concludes the best for bars and booze in Brum! There are so many other bars in Birmingham that I haven't been to, but that I would love to soon in a post-coronavirus world. These include Cosy ClubAlunaBe At OnePitcher & Piano, and The Lost and Found. What are your favourite bars in Birmingham, or anywhere in the UK for that matter?

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