We have been saving up our trips to cocktail bars around Brixton, so this list is not a hangover-inducing single night out. They were spread across several weeks, often on a bleak Friday night after a very long week. Brixton as a cocktail destination is becoming a bit of a thing, with proper restaurants finding life a bit of a struggle, most notably shown by the sad closure of Nanban.
ABV Brixton – Pop Brixton
First trip was to a bar in Pop Brixton, ABV, sister to Wood and Water in Coldharbour Lane. It is only open Wed to Saturday but they do have happy hour 5.00pm to 7.00pm. Slide into the dark shipping container and sit at a dinky table to escape from the loud crowds deciding whether to watch football, eat a hot dog or just mooch. It is a lovely haven with the hum of conversation to allow a slow unwind. Cocktails are named eclectically with no clue to the array of ingredients, but the waiters are really helpful so you don’t jump at one that would definitely challenge the palate.
Our two choices – a philosopher and an Alphonse – came in lovely little delicate glasses – a glass heavy or light makes all the difference to the taste. the drinks were around £11-£12 and we lingered over ours. The bill was £25.31 with service and we will definitely return again to try some of the other amazing cocktails that were on neighbouring tables.
Hacha – Market Row
Escape to Tulum is a bar you reach by some very steep steps. It is Mexican-themed bar (Agaveria) so expect a lot of tequila and mescal. It has a bar with tall stools with tall tables which are challenging at the best of times but definitely after one or two cocktails. But thankfully it also has comfy sofas. Rattan and metal are the main material with a sprinkling of plants and for some reason a full-length painting of the back of stark naked women. Not really to my taste – they should have gone for an adornment with a more vibrant Mexican theme. We booked (a necessity) and soon filled our little coffee table with drinks and food as the service is swift.
We ordered Mirror Margheritas – the house specialty has won awards including being voted 7th in the world by Timeout and the top cocktail in 2020 by CLASS Bar Awards. We chose a classic which has Patron Silver Tequila, Hacha sour mix, cane syrup and grapefruit zest and the Mescal Mirror Margherita which has the same ingredients except for The Lost Explorer Mezcal, kaffir lime, salt and eucalyptus. There is a reason why the classic won the awards and we will stick to that one in the future as it was our favourite.
We were a bit peckish, so we also ordered guacamole and elotitos (sweet corn served with cream and cheese). The sweetcorn was hot and went down well although requires a lot of finger licking. The guacamole was smooth and made a good lining for our next round of drinks – a Mole espresso Martini and Yucatan Sunset. Both were sweet and the martini was weird as of course it had a dose of bitter chocolate and enough sugar and caffeine to keep you going all night. The sunset was much more delicate although again very sweet. Take our advice before you order the second drink – the first should definitely be their Mirror Margherita and the second could be one of their other award-winning drinks like the Midas which has coconut infused Vivir Silver Tequila.
Drinks are around £10.00. Our bill with service was £63.00 so a dent at the beginning of a Friday night. We will go back with friends to introduce them to our favourite tipple, but perhaps only one.
Sea Garden – Market Row: visit 1
Sea Garden is in Market Row and we have visited twice and both times had something to eat. The first is reviewed here when we sat down to eat a hearty meal but got thirsty waiting. So we ordered two drinks that came with a slice of dried fruit and an oyster. On the left is a Spiced Pineapple Margherita which is based on El Tequiuleno Blanco and a secret pineapple reduction topped with dried pineapple. The one on the right is a Sea Dog Martini – described as a dry Tarquins martini, stirred with Vermouth & complimented with an oyster and citrus – and that was exactly what it was. Both came with dry ice and in darkness that provided added mystery and sparked our taste buds. See the previous review for the bill.
Sea Garden – Market Row: visit 2
Our second visit to Sea Garden was because we hadn’t booked anything and all the ones we tried on a Friday evening were full. Luckily Sea Garden have a bar as well as a restaurant so we sat in the other half and watched the chef at the grill …..and didn’t regret a second visit. We ordered two gin and tonics that came with straws which was very lucky as they were hefty critters and required hands-free drinking.
The difference you might ask – we honestly cannot remember that far back (or it might be one of those amnesia-producing infusions). We do remember the names “Gin Mare” and “Manly Sea and T”, but except that one was saltier than the other and had some samphire ……… Both were delicious, refreshing, long and icy – what more could you want from a G&T. We also got a bit peckish and despite not intending to eat so early (6.30 pm-ish) we ordered some anchovies and bread. The bill came to £35.44 and there was a 20% service charge. So again this was a place for a treat.
Three Eight Four – 384 Coldharbour Lane
We hit 384 at about 7.00 and promised not to spend more than 30 minutes – who were we kidding! They did move us from our bar table as we waited for the rain to stop – it never did so we kept drinking. Another Margherita, a Roku Gin Martini (Japanese Gin which appears more and more frequently and whose virtues are extolled by bartenders). The options for cocktails are totally dependent on the bartender who asks about the type of spirit and your tastes – ours were for salt around and in everything. The dried lemon in the Margherita we thought was a waste of space, but we were told to let it stew for a bit and then twist and break it to release a sharp tang to the drink and your tongue. Otherwise, it is just like a piece of floating bark. Not satisfied with these drinks we moved tables and order two more – a Vesper just as James Bond would have made it (you do get a choice of Vermouth, but Lillet is the classic) and a Buffalo Trace Old Fashioned.
We did get peckish, very peckish when we saw the menu. We ordered Houmous (with homemade rose harissa, pimenton roasted chickpeas & pickled courgette), warm flatbread (with garlic & fenugreek oil, nigella seeds & parsley), and finally a bowl of really tasty aubergine fries with pomegranate molasses, soy yoghurt, mint & pomegranate. This was not a small amount despite being all on the starter menu. We demolished all this with our second drink and wound down for the weekend.
384 also sponsor good deeds and charities, and celebrate significant events with signature cocktails – I wonder what the Coronation will be like? In March and April, they are raising funds for Bloody Good Period and IMECE Women’s Centre with 50p from each cocktail going towards these charities. They are also celebrating women for International Women’s Day with three cocktails where they highlight a marketer, a whisky blender and a distillery owner and manager – all women. Cocktails are about £12.50 each (less before 8.00pm). So despite the bill coming to £77.06 (12.5% service and that was well worth it), we felt good about the evening having contributed to a good cause while sitting in the convivial company of the bartenders and in the warm and dry. Do book if you are thinking of joining them – we were just very lucky.