Focus On is a series of posts which, well, ‘focus on’ one particular thing from any number of genres or sectors. There are lists aplenty out there which order the ‘best’ entries in any given category, the intention of these posts are to highlight one of those and what makes it great.
This week I’m going to be focussing on a small chain of bars that I think are enjoyably different from many others in London while also being a cracking way of getting value for money while drinking cocktails!
What is B.Y.O.C?
That should really be ‘what are B.Y.O.C’. They are a small chain of bars – 2 in London and another in Brighton. From the sounds of that there’s nothing really to write home about but it’s the way in which it’s presented which makes it interesting.
The premise is pretty simple: bring a bottle of your favourite spirit (or spirits) and pay an entry fee. No more money involved. Once you’re in, a very charismatic mixologist will float around yours, and others, tables making cocktail after cocktail for you with the aforementioned booze. All the mixers are provided and the ladies and gents behind the bar really know their trade! You get a 2 hour slot for your money and in that time you can expect between 5-6 cocktails to be presented to you.
The decor is great, the Camden venue is very 1920’s casino-esque while the West End location is far smaller and more intimate. If you’re planning a group affair, Camden is far more buzzy while the Leicester Square equivalent would make an excellent 3rd date location. After all, booze + 3rd date = fun times all round.
Both are dimly lit but more in an atmospheric kind of way, rather than a ‘we can’t afford to pay the bills’ kind of way.
Entry and a bottle? Sounds kind of pricey…
Perhaps, but it isn’t really. Consider that the average cost for a cocktail in London is – let’s say – £10. Decimals are easy. Per person you’d therefore expect to pay about 50 quid for 5 cocktails. In B.Y.O.C, your upfront entry is £25. Tack on the cost of a smallish bottle of spirit each, let’s say about £12, and you’ve got a total of £37 – not too shabby.
It’s best to go with a couple of different spirits as the variety which your friendly alcohol dispenser will come out with will naturally be far greater. Take 2 smaller bottles rather than a single litre, for example.
Great even for non cocktail fans
Personally, I find cocktails to generally be fairly disappointing. Often full of sugar and syrup and therefore overly sweet, after one I’m pretty much done.
In B.Y.O.C however, this is not the case. On my last visit, our mixer-man extraordinaire, Murdy (I think that’s how you say it) produced 5 cocktails so differing in taste from one another that it was impressive. The cucumber/gin number which he produced might well be the finest cocktail I’ve ever had. Later on, we were served a Captain Morgan’s spiced cocktail – by far the spiciest thing I’ve ever drunk and absolutely delicious. None of the cocktails are named necessarily – there are no straight up Mojitos here – and everything is determined by what you’ve bought and what you say you like. And possibly allergies…
You might need to book it up early, they get pretty busy!
All in all, I would thoroughly recommend this as a nightspot to visit either with the other half or with a group of friends. Do yourselves a favour – eat first!
Image source: B.Y.O.C