Filling in for Chris while he bounds around the US and Europe is Alexandra Kalinowski, who recently enjoyed previewing cocktail menu at The Cocktail Trading Co.
Full disclosure, I’ve got a soft spot for The Cocktail Trading Co. You see, my day job is pretty glamorous. I’m often out and about drinking with bartenders as I interview them for a gin bar blog series. It’s safe to assume I’ve jotted down plenty of stories and have a feel for how each bar operates. But there are two in bars in particular that have stood out. CTC is one of them.
When I arrived a few months ago outside of trading hours, I had a quick fire with Elliot Ball. He’s one of the three owners although all staff own shares. He was focused (admirable given his heavy night prior a drinks awards ceremony), and ran around prepping, doing dishes and whatever other bits and bobs needed accomplishing. He walked me through the idea for the new menu, their fourth which would launch as one of their signature pocket books like its predecessors.
I was impressed. But moreby his firm philosophy to treat his staff well as he showcased how each person in the business does every job from cleaning to cocktail creation. Every bartender (once screened for egos) is taken through an intense training before they’re plopped on the main floor. Their role is to build a relationship with the customers. The drinks, those are pure muscle memory.
The bar was bustling as I walked in Wednesday night for the launch of ‘Tales of a Wicked Past.’ I settled on the backbench overlooking the live band and bar before diving straight into the shelled peanuts, a little reminder of baseball games back home. The menu takes time, but that’s to be expected given it’s a book. We read the poems, songs and manifestos that described each drink before looking at the sketch, reading the ingredients and ogling at the cocktails that appeared on the tables just to our left and right. I abandoned my original cocktail I’d chosen to suit my tastes just because the Scofflaw looked more interesting. Who doesn’t love a magnifying glass, large paper clip and picture of the Kray Brothers hanging off their drink? Needless to say I should have stuck with what the menu is designed to do instead of following my greedy eye. But the bartenders were quick to make the drink more tart when my ‘it’s interesting’ smile didn’t convince them I was in love. That was in response to being told the drink should make me feel as though I’d been punched in the face. At least they don’t lie.
A few more cocktails hit the table, Coquetier whose liquid was encased in an egg shell that needed to be cracked, a hot air balloon named Blue Moon and Bosom Caresser which no doubt is a delicious mockery of Donald Trump. There are cocktails you can drink out of apples, planets and tissue boxes, and others that lie completely horizontal. No creativity was left behind when piecing it all together.
And don’t be ashamed to head in solo as the menu provides 30 minutes of reading material. Or if you ever find yourself on an iffy first date, there are plenty of conversation starters surrounding you. But really, just head in for an enjoyable evening with the guys who work behind the bar. They’ll create a drinks experience that’s Instagram-worthy, but memorable even minus the photography.
The Cocktail Trading Co is located at 68 Bethnal Green Road, E1 6GQ. Find out more at thecocktailtradingco.co.uk.