Sometimes you need a stiff drink. After enduring a modern train journey (always disappointing after watching old films or a bit of Poirot) my Beloved and I arrived in the beautiful city of Bath on a particularly cold day, looking for something to warm our cockles. Let this tale steer you away from establishments serving sub-standard cocktails.
First stop was Opa, a Greek themed bar and restaurant that is underground, with a river-side terrace that’s rather lovely in the summer. Being winter, we stayed in by the open fire. On the website this place looked very promising – the menu listed some very decent cocktails including a Sapphire Martini. In reality, we were met with a plastic-coated sticky menu half its size, with the first cocktail on the list being the ‘Zombie’. My instinct was to decamp elsewhere immediately, but my other half thought I was judging harshly and prematurely. I wasn't. Clientele were loud, rugby types. The stalls in the ladies’ were too small to accommodate a 1950’s petticoat.
Price: Cocktails were £5.95 but 2 for 1 until 7pm
Cocktail rating: 1 out of 5
A spirit plus mixer does not equal a cocktail.
Next was Garfunkels, in a beautiful building near the Abbey. I went for a Cosmopolitan and my other half a Long Island Iced Tea. They served my Cosmo in a Martini glass, and the Long Island Iced Tea in a Pina Colada glass. Warm glasses. Small measures of booze. I knew there and then at the bar watching this series of wrong steps that I was going to be sorely disappointed. I couldn't taste the alcohol until the very last sip.
Price: £5.95 each. Not worth it.
Cocktail rating: 2 out of 5
It’s not a cocktail if you can’t taste the alcohol
Above: A Cosmo in a Margarita glass? I ask you!
Browns was the last stop - being next door to Garfunkels I was determined to take as few steps as possible before actually getting some alcohol. It's a popular place and was very busy, but I could spy a decent range of spirits and a barman who seemed to be chilling glasses and I knew a stiff drink was a mere sniff away. I do love a Martini, but it doesn't seem as popular these days, with people generally having a sweet-tooth when it comes to cocktails. It was the first cocktail on the menu and I jumped at the chance to have one. Inside I was squealing with anticipation as I watched the barman stir my vodka for a minute to make sure it was chilled enough. He knows what he's doing, I thought. The first sip was like opening a Christmas present. Hurrah! I have to say that it was my first dirty martini – a dash of olive brine is added – and I don’t think I’ll ever go back to a normal one! Thank you again to the barman who saved me that evening by producing the best vodka martini I have ever had. At last, a stiff drink was found in Bath.
Price: £7.95 and worth every penny
Cocktail rating: 5 out of 5
They train their staff well in how to do the classic cocktails.
Above: The Dirty Martini that saved me
Well there you have it - two places to avoid, and one to make a beeline for in Bath in pursuit of decent cocktails! The nice well-trained Browns barman reliably informed us that for a good cocktail in Bath, other than Browns, to try:
"The Liquid Alchemist's Lounge" is how it is described on their website - I like the sound of that! They seem to specialise in the unusual, such as 'The Japanese Garden', made with Hendrick's Gin, lychee, cucumber and lime (£7).
Another underground bar, this one also looks very promising from the website. Cocktails seem to be around the £7.95 mark, with a mix of the classic (Whiskey Sour), the faddy (Espresso Martini), and the odd-sounding (Jam Snapper?).
After all that running about Bath we headed to the Assembly Rooms for the wedding reception of my friend Debbie and he new husband Duncan. I sank a couple of glasses of nice prosecco, no cocktails to be found there. Amazing venue though, and doesn't Debbie look gorgeous in her Stephanie Allin 'Riviera' dress?