I’m starting to wonder why I even bother leaving Tooting these days. My favourite burger joint is round the corner, there are at least three decent pubs within stumbling distance, there’s a wine bar, a sushi bar, plenty of nail bars, and more curry houses than I can shake a stick at. And now… now, it seems the cocktail crews are coming in droves – there are four cocktail bars at my last count and the best part is, one of them is literally at the end of my street! Brick & Liquor is all sorts of trendy with its exposed brick walls, moody lighting, copper cocktail shakers, and pretty glasses… but looks will only get you so far, someone bring me a cocktail, pronto, and let me judge it properly!
My cocktail choices are fairly predictable; a cosmo from the classics or something fun and fruity from the fancier selections will do me just fine so the Clover Club seemed like a safe place to start. This combination of vanilla-infused Beefeater gin, lemon juice, egg white, and their own homemade raspberry syrup was absolutely the kind of thing I order all the time, and that was even before I saw how it was presented… stencilling the Brick & Liquor logo onto a cocktail screams the kind of attention to detail I like in my bars. Cocktails are generally expensive and I, like most, want to know that they have made with care. They’ve proved this point.
Pity that didn’t stop me guzzling it down in a shamefully speedy fashion, while a certain someone was still enjoying his Chilli and Chill at a very relaxed pace. Calle 23 Reposado tequila, Aperol, lime juice, grapefruit juice, elderflower cordial and homemade chilli sea salt paste were shaken together to make this distinctly warming cocktail, which can have its spice levels turned up a notch if you prefer it spicier. A sip of that convinced me to be a little more adventurous, and so to the ever-helpful cocktail guide I turned – the chart shows you where on the scale of refreshing, comforting, adventurous, and strong, the cocktails sit to help you make a more informed decision. It led me to the Mexican Wave made with Olmeca Altos Plata Tequila, Disaronno, lime juice, grapefruit juice, and Crème de Muir, which sat just on the right side of adventurous and refreshing.
The amaretto flavour of the Disaronno was strong and I thought it might be too overpowering for our nibbles, but they actually paired perfectly with the subtle hints of sweetness and spice in our food. A generous chunk of focaccia was still warm from the oven when it arrived, making it an ideal vessel for the creamy homemade hummus, and ingenious nduja mayonnaise. We also smeared copious amounts of it onto the piping hot chorizo and mozzarella arancini, as if they weren’t already oozing with decadence. We also made light work of the fried pork belly bites coated in a sticky sweet chilli and sesame glaze; these were tasty enough but dare I admit that it was the tangy pickled vegetables that won me over!
Still hungry, and wanting to be responsible drinkers, we decided to order a couple more dishes. The teriyaki steak skewers sounded promising, but they turned out to be my least favourite thing of the evening – the sweet soy flavour was nice but the super lean slices of steak were just a little too dry and chewy. No such disappointment with the panko crumbed fish goujons, fries and tartare sauce, though I did stay well away from the dreaded minted pea puree. Brick & Liquor have been smart with their food choices; everything is perfect for picking at in between sips of your drink, but still substantial enough to feel satisfied.
I washed all this down with a Pisco Fever, one of the most savoury cocktails I have ever had. I’ll admit that this basil-twist on the classic got an eyebrow raise from me, but it was an ideal accompaniment to our dinner, and Brick & Liquor owner David Layton was so enthusiastic about it, I couldn’t refuse! It was obvious that he and his partners are passionate about the business of cocktails, and this business in particular; finding and creating this site sounded like a real labour of love. But they’re reaping the rewards now as the bar was absolutely buzzing and a little bird tells me they might be looking to spread the Brick & Liquor love to our South London neighbours…
But back in Tooting, I was fed, watered, and happy to call it a night, when the persuasive David convinced me to embrace their Thursday night Cocktail Club. All guests are invited to get behind the bar to make their own cocktail; I like that there’s no need to plan or book it, just jump up if the mood strikes! I’ve had many a run-in with the cocktail shaker, sometimes with disastrous results, but I’m happy to report that the classic daiquiri I shook up that night was delicious, nothing to do with the fact I was already three cocktails down! So, the drinks are great, the food is tasty, the staff are friendly and helpful, the bar just feels cool… and that, my friends, is yet another reason why I’m always rootin’ for Tooting!
Do you love your neighbourhood as much as I love mine? What’s your favourite spot there?
Thanks to Brick & Liquor for mixing up cocktails so dangerously close to my flat, but as always, all opinions are mine and mine alone!
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