“I think I snogged that bloke over there at prom,” said Carla, as she plonked herself down at the table. And thus began our nostalgic evening out at Clekenwell & Social, not just because Carla spent the evening trying to suss out whether the ginger bloke about three feet away was indeed one of her past conquests, but also because Farringdon’s newest cocktail bar is inspired by Clerkenwell’s rich literary past. Also, I have an English degree that has so far served me very little purpose, so it was nice to have a chance to wave it around.
It was this that allowed me to order the ‘Much Ado About Rum’ while remarking smugly that it’s inspired by my favourite Shakespeare play. (Our charming waiter probably thought I was a a total dick, but sod it, I spent £18,000 on that degree.) I’m late in discovering the wonderful world of rum cocktails, especially those concocted around the dark, spicy varieties, and this one was a doozy: sweet and sour with tamarind juice, molasses and lemon juice. It came in a squat little flowerpot dressed in banana leaves, not the most ladylike of vessels, but at least not a bloody teacup. Carla chose the ‘I See Lychee’, a candyfloss pink, fruity drink with a powerful chili kick, also delicious. We were off to a flying start.
Our second round was less successful – I chose ‘The Oscar Wilde’ because, well. Oscar Wilde. Sadly I think old Ozzer might have been a little disappointed with his cocktail – it wasn’t flamboyant or unique or memorable; it was, effectively, a Bucks Fizz. Carla chose ‘The Clerkenwell Tales’, a good-looking long drink that was refreshing but forgettable.
The third round was our favourite; I ordered the ‘Breaking Good’ on the recommendation of our waiter, who looked a bit like a Mediterranean version of Chris O’Dowd. It was a chilified (totally a word. Did I mention I have an English degree?) version of a Pisco Sour, tart and frothy with a spicy afterwarmth. (Also a real word.) It was my favourite of the night; the only disappointing thing about it is the name; I get that there aren’t a whole lot of English classics set in South America, but how you could not name a pisco-based drink after Paddington Bear (from deepest, darkest Peru)!?
Carla chose ‘Love is a Smoke’, inspired by a monologue from Romeo & Juliet. It tasted of liquid bonfire with its rich, complex flavours of bourbon and applewood smoked chips; a step up from the standard lapsang notes of traditional smoky cocktails, which although delicious, are a bit predictable nowadays.
C&S also does pizzas to combat the munchies that might otherwise sweep drinkers into Granger & Co, Grain Store, Modern Pantry or any of the countless restaurants on its doorstep. A canny move, especially when they’re so reasonably-priced. Feeling adventurous, I opted for an aubergine pizza (£10.90 with extra blue cheese); Carla chose a generously topped mushroom creation (£10.50).
It was nearly time to go home, but first we had to explore C&S’s well-stocked top shelf of home-made spirits, each labeled with a handwritten tag. It looked like Professor Snape’s supplies cupboard, if P. Snape had been a wildly adventurous alcoholic.
We tried a lot of shots, which for some reason aren’t advertised in the drinks list. They do a fantastic deal where you get eight homemade shots for £20 which is definitely worth a try, especially with boozy creations like coffee rum, apricot brandy and mustard vodka on offer.
Less adventurous? They do a butt-load of locally produced gins too. (Including the stuff from the fabulous East London Liquor Co, who I visited a couple of weeks ago. Post coming soon!)
If you live and/or work in the area – or even if you don’t – I strongly suggest you make a beeline for Clerkenwell & Social because it’s only just opened and its drinks offers are insane, especially considering how ludicrously expensive Farringdon can be. I was comped this first trip for review purposes (though I have been back since!), but the cocktails are just £8.95 each, with 241 offers until 8pm EVERY WEEKNIGHT (including Friday!) In the words of the great American novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald, “Here’s to alcohol, the rose colored glasses of life.” Hurrah!
Clerkenwell & Social, 2-5 St John’s Square, London, EC1M 4DE
Author: Emily Gibson
Emily is an urban adventurer, blogger and
glutton foodie on an epic quest to uncover the best things to eat, drink and do in London. She lives in Islington and loves ceviche, cycling and magic shows. Lifelong nemeses include beetroot, beards and wine served in tumblers.