I’m sure there many women out there that don’t like fancy cocktails, but I sure as hell haven’t met any of them in my 32 years. Whatever your tipple of choice, there’s something quite special about the art of mixology, and when made with care, passion and attention to detail – both aesthetically and in terms of taste – a good cocktail can be a wonderful, uplifting experience.
With that in mind, this week I was invited to my own private cocktail experience at Bourne & Co which opened quietly in February last year. Nestled next to the longstanding cocktail institution that is Island Bar (I remember going to open mic nights there 10 years ago when it was a much cooler place than it is now) this new bar has a New York speakeasy vibe, playing on the theme of prohibition in the USA.
Having been on my ever-growing list of places to try for a while now *jeeez, that list is now really long* I was delighted to be offered a private showcase of what the bar has to offer. Taking my friend (and future bridesmaid, she’s a top gal) Alison along for the ride back in time to the 1920’s, we arrived at Bourne & Co at 7pm and met two charming bartenders called Matt and Joey who were to look after us.
First impressions of the ‘drinking den’ (as the website calls it) itself are very good, and whilst it’s not as large as some of the other nearby bars it’s a great use of space. The furniture is minimal, and long benches are combined with high tables and stools. As you may expect from a bar based on the prohibition era, it’s dimly lit – as all cocktail bars should be in my opinion – with the exception of some fairy lights and the bar which glows from the back wall.
Thanks to the lighting and dark wood it manages to feel cosy despite being quite stark, and I imagine it would be an ideal date setting with all the dark corners for dark deeds (like old Snobs had, but with less sticky floors and gin that doesn’t strip the skin from your mouth).
A quick glance at the drinks menu shows 15 vintage cocktails to choose from (prices start from £8) as well as a host of varieties of Old Fashioneds. Beers, ciders and a pretty extensive seletion of wines are also available.
Bartender Matt – a lovely chap and a credit to the venue – sat us at our reserved spot at the bar and our personal cocktail taster session began. We were told 4 ‘courses’ of drinks were to be delivered during the evening, starting with an elderflower liquor mixed with sparkling wine. I’m a massive fan of all things elderflower, and very much enjoyed this light, refreshing cocktail.
Next up was a bramble style cocktail – a gin based drink – that’s both vibrant and tasty. I could have drank 100 of them to be honest (and no doubt been on the floor in ten minutes) thanks to their fruity taste and delicate flavourings.
The next drink was a variation of an old fashioned – small but mighty, this little fella – and Matt explained the variations between the whisky and rum versions of this icon drink. The amount of care and attention that goes into these drinks is admirable, it has to be said.
Lastly we were treated to a delightful mini espresso martini style cocktail, served in a cup and saucer. Speaking of the glassware, it was wonderful to hear how the owner had personally sourced many of the glasses, apparently only available for use to the select few, to give the bar some authenticity.
The bar staff all spoke genuinely and enthusiastically about the venue and how much attention to detail had gone in to creating the bar’s brand, which was lovely to hear. Having visited some venues in recent months that seem have a workforce that resents the very bones of where they work, it was refreshing to meet two passionate people and hear their praise for the bar and its guests. As 10pm hit a steady stream of people came through the (fairly well hidden) entrance and the bar team knew nearly all of them; if that’s not a sign of a loyal and repeat client base I don’t know what is.
Deciding to test the skills of the bartenders, we then chose to ask for off menu drinks. Loving herbal and botanical flavours, I asked Matt to create me a bespoke cocktail including some of the flavours I’d enjoyed earlier. He didn’t disappoint, mixing a long cocktail specifically including many of the flavours I’d spoken of during the evening.
Enjoying the bar so much, we decided to stay on and enjoy the atmosphere and chose some drinks from the menu to try. I opted for the Bees Knees (£8) which was a gin, honey and lemon mix with a hint of lavender. Absolutely bloody delicious (mega love to Joey for making that beauty for me) and Alison agreed her Dark & Stormy (£8) was equally wonderful – and strong.
I really, really enjoyed my experience at Bourne and Co, with fabulous drinks and bartenders that genuinely seem to not only have the skills and knowledge to make you a mega drink, but also the passion to ensure you feels their love in every glass. There’s a reason people keep raving about this place, and you’ll just ‘get it’ as soon as you speak to the staff.
Also, I love that this place is independently owned and is part of the Indepedent Birmingham club which, as anyone that follows my blog knows, I bang on about all the time. *Like seriously, I should really be on the PR team for those guys.. call me*
If you have an IB card you can get 10% off the total bill or the cocktail of the month for just £5. Cheaper booze for you and support for a local Brummy business – winner/winner. You’re ruddy welcome!
Note: Bourne & Co is only open in the evenings and I was advised booking ahead is recommended, especially for groups of 6 or more on the weekend. You can view the full Bourne & Co cocktail menu here, although a revised menu is coming to the venue on May 26th. It sounded very exciting, keep your eyes peeled!
Bourne & Co, 7-8 Suffolk St, Queensway, Birmingham, B1 1LT
*Disclosure: I was privately invited to Bourne & Co to review their cocktails and therefore did not pay for all of the drinks. All views are however still my own*