Venue Review: London Cocktail Club
How to describe London Cocktail Club (LCC)? The chain’s venues are brash, full of life, energy-driven and extroverted, and the staff have created a culture where you are immediately drawn in and made to feel to welcome. LCC has several venues across London: Covent Garden, Goodge Street, Shaftesbury Avenue, Oxford Circus, Shoreditch and Islington. We attended the latter.
LCC is not your normal contemporary, trendy cocktail bar with dark, moody lighting and music so loud you can’t hear what anyone is saying. Each location has a different theme – the Islington branch has a pharmaceutical shop front, while Shaftesbury Avenue has a pirate theme – which means it’s not like your average chain-type venue and each bar is unique. It’s also a serious cocktail bar; everything that you drink is expertly crafted by LCC’s multi-award-winning mixologists/bartenders.
We were lucky enough to have been given a private masterclass on our visit to LCC Islington. All of LCC’s branches offer the masterclasses, which consist of group sessions or more private and personalised experiences. The set-up of the classes is very informal and casual so you don’t need to feel any pressure if, like us, your experience of home cocktail making consists of opening a can of pre-mixed supermarket G&T.
The focus of the masterclass is on having fun, learning a thing or two about cocktail mixology and of course having a few drinks in the process. The classes cost £40 for 2–25 people and run for about an hour and a half.
Our masterclass barman, Nash, made us feel right at home from the start despite our lack of knowledge and skill. We started off with a welcome drink: a shot of tequila, best described as a livener, to get us in the mood. This was accompanied by some knowledge on tequila and the plant from which it’s made. Basically, we learned that the best tequila doesn’t leave Mexico, but LCC has found a way to get some of it out.
Nash then moved on to making and explaining the LCC classic peach and thyme Bellini. It was a nice, simple beginning, and with his careful explanation I felt like I could easily attempt this drink at home – definitely one for impressing guests. We learned that the Prosecco is really good for opening up the palate and the rosemary is good for making you feel hungry, so it’s a great way to start a dinner party. Our Bellinis went down extremely well while Nash asked us about what kind of spirits and flavours we would usually go for when picking from a cocktail menu, to allow him to decide the best cocktails to make during our session.
As I’m a rum lover with a sweet tooth, Nash decided that a daiquiri would be the best choice for my first attempt behind the bar. Luckily this was also a relatively simple affair, and with expert guidance I produced one of the best daiquiris I have tasted! Feeling proud, I let my date take his turn, and he proceeded to conjure up a spectacular mojito with all the flavours balanced perfectly. Nash even let us in on some insider tips so we could create these drinks at home, such as scrunching the mint leaves to release their flavour. What’s great about these two drinks is that they can be made out of the same ingredients – rum, lime, mint and a bit of sugar and ice – so they’re easy to make at home and won’t break the bank.
We then moved on to some slightly more complex concoctions like the Pornstar Martini and the Brixton Riot, which included setting fire to some rum – not one to be recreated at home, but great fun to make. We also made a remarkable Bacon and Egg Martini and then went on to some whiskey-based drinks, including an old fashioned, which is my favourite, so by this point I was very happy.
This is a very interactive event – the truly excellent staff will have you standing behind the bar, pouring, mixing, shaking, stirring, and of course drinking. I’m now definitely planning to invest in a cocktail set so I can practise my new skills at home.
The concept also provides an excellent date idea for anyone who enjoys an alcoholic beverage or two. The cocktails are the perfect ice breaker and the class requires a lot of interaction, ensuring that you and your date will become better acquainted throughout the session. We were enjoying ourselves so much that, despite already feeling somewhat wobbly, we decided to order more cocktails after the session – we just had to take advantage of one of the best happy hours in London. It’s such a great venue for a Saturday night out that you’re certain to have fun whatever the occasion. I now can’t wait to visit the other branches and work my way through the rest of LCC’s amazing cocktail menu.