Charlie Thomas, manager of Amoeba Bar in Clifton Village, inventor of the Thai Daiquiri and all round good egg puts pen to paper to tell us why Bristol's cocktail scene is one of the best in the UK.
I’ve been challenged, for my first article for Wriggle, with trying to put my finger on why it is exactly that the City of Bristol is regarded quite so highly on the bar and drinks scene. We all know Bristol is a foodie’s paradise, you can barely move for the sheer volume of bloggers enthusiastically showering praise upon an already glowing industry, but many people are unaware of just how lucky they are when it comes to the pharmacopoeia of watering holes strewn throughout the city centre, and beyond.
Picture courtesy of Hyde and Co
Is it that Bristol has developed such a great attitude to being eco-friendly, with bars right, left and centre ditching the straw and adopting a more ecological approach to bartending as a whole, even going so far as to re-writing their menus so that straws are no longer necessary and each bars waste is significantly reduced? Or is it that in virtually every national cocktail competition (those are a real thing by the way) it’s more than a little saturated with budding talent from the South West’s largest city? Or perhaps it the sheer diversity of experiences on offer to both those that live here, and those that are visiting who are in the know?
Well it’s all of these and more; from the conceptual menus of the likes of Hyde and Co. and its peers, to the ridiculous beer selections on offer on King Street, to the full-on, floral assault of Bristol’s newest bar on Park Street (The Florist, obviously), the city is abuzz with opportunities to sit back and unwind in a massive array of incredible venues, run and staffed by incredible people. And I think I know why...
Picture courtesy of Amoeba Bar
A long time ago, in a city far, far away, I started bartending. By which I mean I hashed up just about every single thing I was asked to do and was utterly hopeless at it. But I loved it. Like many others around me I was having a whale of a time, the bars became our second homes, our bosses almost surrogate (if lousy) parents, and our colleagues our extended family. But then it all became very real, as I graduated to full time bartending. And its then I started to realise this not just a part-time job or a stop-gap, but a fulfilling and lengthy career, with industry specialists, heroes and masters of the craft at every level the world over.
No longer is the trade regarded as something that people do while they don’t know what they want from life, no longer are we seen as potential layabouts or vagabonds. Due to the tireless efforts of many before us, we are now a respected and valued workforce; trained, ready and extremely proud of what we do.
Picture courtesy of H.M.S.S
I’ve never seen that idea gather more traction (outside of capital cities) than in Bristol. Each and every one of those that serve us delicious libations and sumptuous snacks, ridiculous concoctions and curious nibbles, has taken the opportunity to become part of the largest industries in the U.K. and what’s more, be respected for it. Bristol boasts an enormous well of talent from around the globe, with our European cousins, the obvious and mandatory smattering of smiling Aussies, and many, many more helping to create a professional, diverse and ultimately bad-assed crew of bartenders, waiting staff, chefs, managers and everyone else that has helped to forge the Bristol Scene.
Picture courtesy of Red Light
It’s because of this incredible diversity, borne of the city’s welcoming approach to everyone, that Bristol has so many influences, and therefore styles, in its drinks scene. Where else would you find the likes of Her Majesty’s Secret Service, The Rummer Hotel, and Red Light in such close proximity? Each brilliant in its own, unique manner, and each perfectly representing the differing styles of the city. From the laid back Pipe & Slippers to the hideaway that is The Christmas steps, and from The Lansdown to the new Faraway Cocktail Club, we are happily bombarded with not only many differing types of drinking den, but the career professionals to make each and every night amazing.
And so it is to why I think Bristol has such an incredible drinks scene; the people. Both those that have moved here, and those that welcomed them with open arms. Those that strove to create legitimacy for our trade, and every single person who respected us while they did. The welcoming nature of this fine city has ensured that a wonderful group of people wanted to move here over the last decade or so, and more importantly brought their influences and knowledge with them. Bristol is a celebration of diversity and I, for one, feel privileged to be a part of it.