The Alchemist: smoke and mirrors and cocktails review

I’d been intrigued by the dark façade of the Alchemist – one of Birmingham’s most popular cocktail bars, which is situated on Colmore Row – for quite some time. So, I decided it was time to venture inside and see, well taste, what it had to offer…

I was handed a copy of the new menu, emblazoned with the bar’s signature logo, a golden symbol of alchemy, hinting at their mystical interpretations of classic cocktails. Opening it up, I discovered a periodic table style assortment of drinks, from ‘Beyond the Kale’ and ‘Russian Spring Punch’ to ‘Smokey Old Fashioned’. At the Alchemist, the drinks are organised by style, rather than spirit, including: ‘fresh, light summer drinks’, ‘fruity’, ‘serious spirits’ and ‘spirit led’ to encourage people to try spirits they wouldn’t normally consider. I asked the barman to choose for me…

What I was handed was an Alchemist twist on the summer Pimms drink, called the ‘Lightbulb Moment’. I say handed; in fact, the barman allowed a canonical container to overflow with steaming dry ice, producing a moment of theatre in front of my eyes. From this alchemy was created my cocktail with substance to match its style: a kick of ginger beer and gin added a superb twist to the popular Pimms we British love. I sat amongst a growing crowd of smart, city bankers and business men and women, heading for a post-work drink, the atmosphere buzzing.

The Alchemist prove that rum cocktails can be contemporary and sophisticated.

Following this drink, I asked if I could see the infamous ‘Lab’ downstairs. I wasn’t disappointed. Down a flight of stairs, and I discovered a high-ceilinged room, dressed with taxidermy, including a two-headed chick, and vials behind glass cabinets. Tall mirrors, low lighting and glass jars positioned behind a well-stocked bar created a laboratory feel mixed with elegance and glamour. This speakeasy allows for weekend drinking in a darkened, atmospheric bar. I imagine it would be perfect for a date, or partying with friends.

Returning to a seat in the restaurant, I tried another cocktail: the ‘Battenburg’. This pretty pink cocktail certainly packed a punch: two types of rum, lime, pineapple, and dressed with an almond-infused air foam – I was a happy customer indeed.  The Alchemist prove that rum cocktails can be contemporary and sophisticated. This cocktail will be included in their selection of drinks sold at the Colmore Food Festival this summer, which takes place on 30 June and 1st July in Birmingham city centre. You’ll find me there, for sure.

The Alchemist also offers a range Tasting Events and Cocktail Masterclasses. Upcoming are:

  • Ketel One Tasting – Wednesday 17th May, 6:30pm to 8:30pm
  • Bombay Sapphire Tasting – Wednesday 14th June, 6pm to 8pm

Both events are only £15 per person and typically include a welcome cocktail, tasting samples and signature cocktail (subject to change).

The Cocktail Masterclass is available for groups of 6 to 16 people, with two packages available priced at £30pp or £35pp with bar snacks.

*For non-alcoholic drinkers, the bar has a wide selection of mocktails including the dessert-styled ‘Mango Shake’, combining white chocolate cream foam, orange, apple, lemon and passionfruit – delicious. They also serve tapas-style plates and bar snacks to accompany your cocktails.

To find out more, see the menu or book onto an event, you can visit the website here

Review by Ruth Millington for Grapevine Birmingham