Brighton’s biggest cocktail week took place over ten days (18–28th May) as a part of Brighton & Hove Food and Drink Festival. Just under 30 bars and restaurants each had a special cocktail menu for Brighton Cocktail Week for wristband holders to enjoy for just £5. Each menu had five cocktails using Absolut vodka, Blackdown Artisan Spirits gin, Cazcabel tequila, Havana Club rum and Jim Beam bourbon as well as Fentimans tonics. The menus were based on classics, with each bar offering its own twist.
Two of the participating venues were hosting special masterclasses or a tasting session. I would have liked to see more events and offers as I think the point of these events should be to educate drinkers on new flavours, tell them more about these cocktail creations and give the wristband holders more options than just to go and drink a cocktail.
One of the masterclasses was really interesting as you were educated on how to infuse and create seasonal flavours using different techniques. You could also try all five cocktails, including a banana Negroni and strawberry and basil Old Fashioned! The cost was £40, which was more than most cocktail masterclasses hosted around Brighton. It would have been a good idea to host more tasting sessions with a smaller fee – first come, first serve-type of mini education sessions on different rums or the perfect serves of gin, for example.
The cocktail menus had some interesting (not necessarily in a good way) takes on some of the classics. For example, a very lemony take on Daiquiri at Du Vin just didn’t do it for me, but the Honey Nut Caipirinha at Twisted Lemon was very surprising, yet I really enjoyed it. It was such an unusual flavour in a cocktail for me, but they really nailed it.
Just to entertain myself, I also had a secret Margarita competition between two of the venues, and, oh boy, were they different! A Cazcabel Margarita at Du Vin was very odd, as they used pomegranate and Port Charlotte (a heavily peated whisky) with tequila. I really didn’t enjoy that cocktail because it had a very confusing flavour balance as the Port Charlotte was too overpowering. A blood-orange chilli Margarita at Twisted Lemon had a lovely subtle heat coming through, and you could really taste the blood orange. A bit too much salt on the rim to my liking, but otherwise it was definitely the winner.
At the Windmill pub, they served their take on Tom Collins with a side of a cucumber sandwich. Both were pretty tasty and hit the spot.
One of my favourite cocktail menus was at Salt Room. There was no way you could go wrong with tequila and roasted watermelon or their Complex Cuban (Havana Club 3yo, sesame & pineapple falernum, tropical candy and citrus)! Falernum is a sweet syrup commonly used in tropical cocktails. I hope to see these cocktails on the menu even after the cocktail week.
I am a big believer and supporter of these kind of events, even if some of the drinks weren’t the most enjoyable. I did make a point of going to some of the venues I don’t visit that often or haven’t been to for a cocktail before, just to be able to compare my experiences in other bars in the past. I feel there is still a bit of work to be done for the future cocktail weeks, but it was nice to see so many bars and restaurants participating.
Did you have a wristband? Which of the many cocktails did you enjoy the most?