REVIEW: Cocktails And Curiosities Fuse At The Alchemist
On Thursday evening I was given the particularly special opportunity of attending The Alchemist VIP night, before it’s grand opening to the public on Monday, and I thought I’d bring along an alcohol connoisseur and good friend of mine, George Bandy.
While dark and mysterious on the exterior The Alchemist hides a bright and vibrant cocktail bar within.
The moment you enter you are greeted with bright copper, brass and leather visuals reminiscent of a steampunk utopia.
Looking around, the walls are lined with antique bottles and vials that would have held tinctures, philters, unguents and oils long past.
Cupboards of occult curiosities and industrial metal window grates lead to the restaurant section that seats 54 and then further toward the secret stairway, down toward the by-reservation-only VIP ‘under-lounge’. The descent downward leads through a bright copper corridor into one of the most fascinating venues this city has to offer. The low leather seating looks up at walls adorned with black and gold murals and occult symbolism. Cabinets filled with yet more historical bottles.
The centre-piece of the back right wall is a mounted fox head keeping careful watch, silently snarling, frozen in time. The far left presents a façade of small drawers evocative of the shop floor of a certain wandsmith in Diagon Alley.
But the interior aesthetics of the venue is only the start of the spectacle. The real thaumaturgy happens behind the bar where magic and mixology are combined. The mixology menu arrayed like the periodic table of elements groups cocktails by flavour and texture.
So as the time-old saying goes, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do, when in a cocktail bar… get hammered?” Or at least Tickle Me Pink, which is a gin, lime and elderflower mix served over crushed ice with a mint leaf with a side syringe of “nettle stings”. This peculiar tingling experience gives the main cocktail a unique texture and isn’t for the faint-hearted. If you’re feeling less adventurous, why not try the Strawberry Daiquiri?
George’s verdict: “A classic done classically. Little of the signature Alchemist twist, but enjoyable nonetheless”.
If you’re looking for something a little darker then why not try Smokey Old Fashioned or it’s spiritual successor Smokey № 2? The former a classic bourbon cocktail with maple syrup and literal smoke, served in a conical flask and poured over a dram containing a sphere of ice, the latter a 23 year aged rum mixed with apple, cinnamon and winter-gum, hard to put down and not just because it’s served in a round bottom flask!
Perhaps you’re looking to share with friends? The Bison’s Brew has you covered! The lightness of apple, lemon and breakfast tea infused with the earthy flavours of Zubrowska vodka served in a giant smoking volumetric flask and poured into tea strainers over fine china. Recommended serving size is between 4 and 6 but it also serves one, if you’re greedy enough.
But for personal favourites, George plumped for the Screwball. An explosion of raspberry and bubblegum with whipped cream and the – both literal and proverbial – cherry on top. I, however, went for the 3.5 oz of Happiness. A gin, raspberry, vermouth and citrus mix on the rocks with an orange peel. Plus you get to keep the flask it comes in!
Overall, The Alchemist is set to be the next cult sensation in cocktail bars, quirky but thoroughly unique. Although a little more pricey than your local, you get for the magic and the quality you pay for and that is a step above anything else in Birmingham.
The Alchemist is open for morning coffee, brunch, lunch and dinner offering everything Living Ventures are renowned for – excellent service, innovative cocktails and great food.