About a year ago, I was taken to BYOC (which stands for Bring Your Own Cocktail) on a first date. It’s the ideal venue, dim lighting, trendy exposed brick walls, small enough to not get distracted by other drinkers and big enough to have an atmosphere.
BYOC is unique in that it’s guests are invited to bring their favourite spirits along with them for the skilled bartenders to create cocktails tailored perfectly to their taste. In essence, BYOC is a cocktail bar with no drinks menu and no alcohol to buy on the premises.
Cocktails are prepared and served right in front of you from an antique drinking trolley containing an encyclopedic selection of accompaniments. Now if that doesn’t provide much of an icebreaker for a first date, then I don’t know what does.
Image Source: Design My Night
For my second visit to BYOC (and if you were wondering, I was joined by the same date I went with a year ago) we took a bottle of vodka and a bottle of dark rum. Bottles must be unopened, and guests are required to pay a £25 fee for a reservation period of two hours. During that time, the talented mixologists will create you as many drinks that your bottle(s) will serve.
BYOC have a trolley full of fresh syrups, pressed fruit and vegetable juices, spices, herbs, salts, seasonal fruits, homemade cordials and bitters ready to make whatever cocktail you so desire. Tonights mixologist introduced himself to us as Nathan and proceeded by telling us that he will be taking us through a journey of flavours.
Image Source: Design My Night
The first drink we received was a ‘palate cleanser’ made with vodka, cucumber and zest. Due to the lack of menus at BYOC you’re going to have to excuse the level of detail I’m able to provide you for all the drinks we tried! Hopefully you’ll still get a feel for the ‘bring your own cocktail’ experience.
Following the refreshing ‘green machine’ cocktail, we were served a rum cocktail made with cinnamon, cloves and vanilla. It was spicy and warming, a nice wintery drink. Whilst we sipped our second drink we giggled at the guests who were coming to the end of their two hour slot at BYOC – all were very merry, chatting and laughing across the room to fellow tidily guests.
Next up, we requested a longer drink to which Nathan (our expert cocktail maker) suggested a Jamaican punch! He mixed dark rum and vodka (ouch!) to create a fruity drink with lime, sugar and juices – garnished with a physalis it looked beautiful! Nathan told us that the name of the drink ‘punch’ comes from the Hindi word ‘paanch’ for ‘five’, as in 5 ingredients; alcohol, lime, sugar, water and spices.
Having guzzled away our glasses of punch, we decided it was time to make a few personal request. My date asked for a peanut butter and jam cocktail which our mixologist made using the dark rum, it was incredibly nutty and could have done with a tad more jam. BYOC invites you to give feedback and suggestions for all drinks, so after a friendly chat the peanut butter cocktail became peanut butter & jam again.
I requested something with elderflower and lycée. This resulted in my favourite cocktail of the night, garnished with a sprig of rosemary, a vodka lycée martini style cocktail. It was very strong, presented in a wee vintage champagne coupe.
Next up we asked for a passionfruit cocktail similar to the flaming Brixton Riot served at the London Cocktail Club. Nathan combined exactly that, adding mango and elderflower. It was delicious.
By this point, we were also pretty tidily. Our two hour slot was almost up and those who had just arrived were looking at us the same way we looked at others earlier in the evening. Luckily there were no more bookings after our slot so Nathan offered us one final cocktail in the form of his speciality expresso martini…
We were having such a great time at BYOC, we’d become best pals with a couple of Canadian girls who were sat next to us. We shared their left over champagne and asked Nathan to create us shots with our left over spirits. Now, I do not condone getting this tidily in this short amount of time, but on the odd occasion it’s bloody good fun and if you’re gonna do it, it better be at BYOC.
What was that I was saying about it being small enough to not get distracted by other drinkers…?
ADDRESS: Underneath The Juice People, 28 Bedfordbury, London WC2N 4RB
CONTACT: 020 7240 7810
OPENING HOURS: 6pm – Midnight Tuesday to Saturday, closed Sundays and Mondays