As the second annual instalment in the Welsh capital approaches, Joanna Turner talks to the Cardiff Cocktail Week founder about what's in store
Brands are clamouring for space and excitement is growing as Cardiff’s cocktail week returns for a second year.
Last year’s debut was born out of a maturing cocktail scene and a touch of serendipity, CCW founder and The Dead Canary general manager, Mark Holmes, explains. 'We had three events in the Dead Canary which all happened to fall on a certain week. I got together with a few other guys and said, "Let’s make a thing of it!"'
Holmes has seen a phenomenal difference in the standard of Cardiff’s cocktail offering since he moved from Birmingham six years ago, and with a swathe of new bars opening in the first quarter of 2017 alone, says it shows no signs of slowing down. 'The time was right to jump on and start doing it,' he adds.
While CCW may be small compared to the slick behemoth that is London Cocktail Week, this and similar grassroots cocktail weeks popping up around the country are helping to democratise cocktail culture
The consumer offering is being pushed this year but there is no shortage of treats for the industry. The geeky 'Cocktail Mastermind' – venue TBC – will see contestants choose a specialist subject and answer brand-specific questions, and imbibers can get a taste of Cardiff’s heritage in the form of The Dead Canary’s upcoming menu, themed around Welsh folklore and bang on this year’s storytelling trend. A presence from some emerging brands and products (hello, Elephant Gin Navy Strength) offers seasoned drinkers the chance to try something new.
While CCW may be small compared to the slick behemoth that is London Cocktail Week, Holmes says this and similar grassroots cocktail weeks popping up around the country are helping to democratise cocktail culture. 'Cocktail weeks are a bit like gin, they’re popping up everywhere now and everyone wants to get on board. It’s a good way to raise the profile of certain bars which aren’t in London,' he says.
'Up and coming bartenders lacking the time and resources to travel to London benefit hugely from such events,' adds Holmes. Myriad tastings and trainings provide great educational opportunities while takeovers and competitions allow the next generation to participate in a slice of the city’s cocktail culture and showcase their talent to visiting industry buffs.
Participating bars will offer an exclusive serve for £5 all week, and as the last few venues weigh in, Holmes hopes to beat last year’s total of 22. He says we can expect great quality drinks, fun and inclusivity.
'I think what’s nice about the Welsh scene is how accommodating all the bartenders are here. It’s a real community in Cardiff, which I think is really nice and I’m hoping that comes through when people come to visit.'
Oh, and did we mention everything is within easy walking distance of the city centre? Tidy!
CCW is taking place from 17-23 April.
Monday 17 April: Moonshine at Lab 22
An evening of prohibition cocktails from 5pm, accompanied by a live Jazz band. Visit http://www.lab22cardiff.com/reservations/ to make a booking.
Wednesday 19 April: Nightjar takeover at The Dead Canary
Nightjar’s Cian Phillips will be guest bartending in The Dead Canary from 7pm with a selection of signatures brought to you by Bacardi Brown-Forman. To book visit http://www.thedeadcanary.co.uk/booking/.
Thursday 20 April: Patrón education session at Lab 22
Tequila fans can head to Lab 22 for Patrón training from 2pm and flex their muscles in the competition which will follow straight after.
Friday 21 April: Early times Bourbon party at Bootlegger
Head to one of Cardiff’s newest venues – the second outpost of Bristol-based speakeasy Bootlegger – from 5pm, to enjoy bourbon ‘without fear of incarceration or fine’.
Sunday 23 April: Ultimate bartender championship with Monkey Shoulder at 10 Mill Lane
Watch home-grown talent battle it out from 1pm for the chance to be the pride of CCW, before heading to end-of-week parties and after parties around Cardiff’s Sunday night industry hangout, Mill Lane.