Wednesday, January 07, 2015

BYOC Camden - A 1920s speakeasy without the hangovers...

Back in October my trusty drinking sidekick and I ventured out one wet Thursday evening to try a new cocktail bar. I have been meaning to write this up for some time, but as she has a better knowledge of dive bars and drinking establishments on the sound side (that will be you America) of the Atlantic she beat me to the punch and has written up her thoughts already.

For this guest post, I say thank you Bailey, I'm just staggered she could remember enough of the night! What is weird is that she has also written with the voices in her head in brackets - I worry for her sanity at times....

Bailey's thoughts on BYOC Camden

Calling itself 'an escape from the modern world' BYOC (Bring Your Own Cocktail) Camden is a basement cocktail bar in Camden High Street with a 1920s theme. What makes it different from other cocktail bars is its concept that you book a two hour slot, pay £25 and bring along a bottle of your favourite spirit and the expert bartenders create unlimited cocktails with said bottle of spirits.
So should you bother booking ahead and going to the trouble of taking a bottle of spirits out with you? On the evidence of our visit in October, not long after their opening, the answer is a definite yes. Clearly styled on a Prohibition era USA illegal drinking den, it pretty much nails that seedy but sexy vibe without venturing into theme park territory.
Following a trend originating in New York for speakeasy style bars that are deliberately hard to find, we failed at first, ringing the doorbell of a clearly annoyed flat resident nearby but eventually locating the unmarked entrance door.  So not exactly on the scale of a phone box in a fast food joint (hello PDT, New York, still attracting Japanese tourists 10 years after it was fashionable), but still adding to the exclusive feel.

Money and training has obviously gone on getting together a crew of bartenders who are knowledgeable but without the pretension that can sometimes come with the job at certain fashionable bars where the wealthy hang out.  The staff are friendly and take the time to ask about your preferences so that they can craft the drinks to suit individual tastes.  The only problem comes that after a couple of the delicious but strong drinks it can be a challenge to stay on your stool, let alone remember the name of your cocktail and its ingredients.

A vast array of fresh herbs, syrups, mixers and unusual ingredients are visible and on offer, we were most impressed by a home made pepper marmalade stuff that came in a jar which the barman was happy to give us a taste of. These are drinks that don't compare with ones that you could ever make at home, although you can pick up tips and advice. What they did promise at the start of the night was no hangovers and hey presto, the morning after, and even after a considerable amount we both felt fit as fiddle - Stephen did however look better!

Dive bars are great but usually the darkness is to hide the dirty toilets and sell by date on the crisps; at BYOC the low-level lighting makes the customers look more attractive and the cocktails less lethal.  And that can only be a great thing. The bars themselves are poker and blackjack tables, adding to the feeling that you're in Vegas not Camden.

So not the place to drop in for a quick drink on a whim, but if you want great cocktails and a great time this place can't be beaten.  If you can find it that is!   

9-11, Basement Camden High Street North London

Beautykinguk's recommended spirits to take to BYoC Camden are:

  • Hendricks Gin
  • Grey Goose Vodka
  • Johnny Walker Black Label

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