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Top 10 London pop-ups

If you want something new that’s never going to get old, pop-ups are the best option, writes db reader Ross Kerslake.

Many brands use pop-ups as an opportunity to engage with the consumer base and showcase what they have to offer, which hopefully convinces the consumers to go out and buy the said product(s).

Some like Sipsmith are not only promoting the brand, but also celebrating the past and the history of its products.

If you are interested in heading to a pop-up, the easiest way to find out about them is to follow all the drinks brands you can think of on social media and you’ll be in the know.

10 – Chase and Country Tails Terrace @ Harvey Nichols

To kick off last summer, Chase Vodka came to Harvey Nichols, with their Country Tails Terrace. It was a great experience with drinks created by bar manager Dom Jacobs, as well as fake grass and booths made from potato storage boxes.

The one drink that really stuck with me was the Tipping Point, a twist on the Negroni. It was a smooth mix of Chase marmalade vodka, Kamm and Sons ginseng spirit and Punt-a-Mes – I found it playful and refreshing.

9 – Burlington Social Club by Pret a Diner @ The Royal Academy

This was by far the most fascinating pop-up I’ve ever been to. It was set up in the impressive Burlington House of the Royal Academy, from September 13th – November 16th.

The interior was as you’d expect from the Royal Academy: elegant, with Pret a Diner making a bar and seating out of scaffolding and a central lounge area using a four-poster bed as a sofa.

The drinks included a Smoked Truffle Old Fashioned, using Bourbon, truffle oil, thyme, bitters and smoke. It was a bit weak on the truffle for my tastes but considering how good it was, it certainly wasn’t the end of the world. Another drink called the Rocket Symphony was made from a sumptuous mix of vodka, rocket, coconut, almond and passion fruit. You don’t see salad used in drinks much; let’s hope it inspires more creations.

Pret a Diner will be back in London later in 2013.

8 – Bacardi 150th bar @ Heathrow T5

In 2012 Bacardi celebrated their 150th anniversary and part of the celebrations included a bar at Heathrow T5.

It screamed out loud with a 1920/30’s art deco style bar as a tribute to Edificio Bacardi’s own bar. This free pop-up gave out very reasonably sized, free miniatures of either the Original Bacardi Daiquiri or the Authentic Bacardi Mojito. What a great idea!

As well as free drinks next to the bar was a nostalgia wall with images and history about Bacardi and Edificio.

7 – Rekorderlig Winter Forest @ Truman Brewery

I’ve never been to a Swedish forest, but after the Rekorderlig pop up in late 2012, I feel like I have.

Set up inside the Truman Brewery the bark floor covering, tall pines and mist made you forget about the hustle and bustle of London. It was a dark setting, but there was one shinning beacon in all of this; the bar that was also an art piece, decorated with bottles of Rekorderlig.

The drinks on offer included the limited edition Rekorderlig Winter Cider, which was served warm and helped me forget the cold outside. All other Rekorderlig flavours were also on offer and were served in cocktails.

6 – Buffalo Bourbon Empire @ Covent Garden

Buffalo Bourbon Empire in Covent Garden was about more than just selling bourbon. It was a chance to showcase Bourbon to those who didn’t know much about it, and teach others about the variety of Bourbon available, like Old Dog, an un-aged Buffalo Trace.

Many of the Bourbons on offer I had never heard of, let alone tried. Also on offer was Pickleback, which is a shot of Bourbon followed by a shot of pickle juice), it may sound vile and all sorts of disgusting, but you’d be surprised.

Following the success of Covent Garden, another Empire popped up in Hove from January 24th to February 9th, another success so I hear.

5 – Sipsmith Gin Palace @ The Langham

Sipsmith gin is made in Hammersmith, in a distillery named Prudence using 10 botanicals and Thames water, from the stream in Wiltshire where it starts.

For just over two months The Palm Court at The Langham hotel was transformed from a place one would usually have afternoon tea to palace for gin, celebrating its unique history. The history in-fact is what structured the drinks, leading you on an adventure through time from 1690 when the first gin was born up to the 1793 and the invention of the first gin and tonic.

With a host of drinks and food pairings designed by mixologist Alex Kratena and Sipsmith’s master distiller Jared Brown, this was a truly marvellous pop-up, if not the most elegant.

4 – Portside Parlour @ Off Broadway, Broadway Market

When I arrived at ‘Off Broadway’ and got directed downstairs, I found it had an element of cosiness without being too claustrophobic. The drinks on offer included Rum Old Fashioned’s and Mai-Tai’s, but what really pandered to my palate were the El Presidenté and Sweet Palmetto, both made from barrel-aged rum.

The El Presidenté was a blend of Appleton Estate VX, Pierre Ferrand Dry Curaçao, Dolin dry vermouth & a dash of home-made grenadine, aged for a minimum of one month in an American white oak barrel. The Sweet Palmetto was a combination of Appleton Estate 8-year-old, Antica Formula (sweet vermouth) & orange bitters, aged in a Madeira barrel.

What I really enjoyed about these drinks was that they were very reminiscent of classic drinks, like a Manhattan or old Fashioned. It’s open for the next two months and I’ve been told it may be extended.

3 – Bombay Sapphire Blue Room @ Zenna Bar

Kicking off on June 9 in honour of world gin day, Bombay Sapphire’s Blue Room pop up provided a wide range of drinking options including Bombay Sapphire Martini’s and the Jubilee Punch created by Eric Lorincz from The American Bar at The Savoy.

The punch in honour of the diamond jubilee, was a smooth, tangy and sweet mix of Bombay, orange and grapefruit sherbet, orgeat, lemon juice and an Earl Grey tea infusion topped up with champagne.

Zenna bar was a great choice for a pop-up; the drinks and the surroundings combined with the back bar covered in Bombay bottles and some fantastic glasses from Nicole Farhi made this possibly 2012’s best pop up.

2 – Vestal Vaults @ The Forge

Hidden away from the hustle and bustle of London’s west-end came the Vestal Vaults from Vestal vodka. The sign at the entrance to this pop-up read: “Cocktails first, questions later”, a great mantra for all cocktail bars. My favourites cocktails served here were the Vestal Bloody Mary (Vestal rye infused with Dill and Cabbage, with other ingredients including horseradish sauce, Umami paste and beetroot juice) and the Cocchi Horror Picture Show, which included tequila and Vestal Amber.

Vestal Voyages, a floating pop up will set sail from King’s Cross to Angel this April. Not much is known but I’ve already seen photos of a hammer and porthole. This should be exciting.

1 – Patrón Cafe XO Noir @ Bureau/Naughty and Nice @ House of Wolf

The Patrón Cafe XO Noir, promoted the intriguing Patrón Cafe XO, which works for both straight drinking and for mixing in cocktails.

The mini cocktail masterclasses offered lessons in how to make a Tommy’s Margarita, using agave syrup and also the Patron cocktails served at the bar.

Patrón also opened another experience at House of Wolf, called Naughty and Nice. Arriving at the venue, it was determined if you been naughty or nice, then taken to either the Angelic Attic or Victorian Apothecary bar. Depending you how you’d behaved, you would be served either Patrón Silver cocktails or dark side cocktails made from the Patrón Cafe XO. The party lasting from 7pm to 4am each night, and anyone who partied unti 3am was served breakfast and Bloody Maria’s.

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