The Cocktail Experience press preview: Leeds set for a boozy treat

Spring is just around the corner, and what better way to celebrate than an evening at Aspire drinking the finest cocktails Leeds has to offer? Yes, The Cocktail Experience is back after a blistering sell-out event last October, and like all the best sequels, it promises to be bigger, better, bolder and boozier (think more The Godfather II  than The Phantom Menace).


Vice & Virtue: The King of the North

The Alchemist, Oracle, Jakes Bar, Be At One are just a handful of bars returning, alongside a few new kids on the block, such as Chida Cantina and 53 Degrees North.


Oracle: The Fairground

I dropped into the press preview, where 10 of the 18 featured bars were showcasing cocktails they’ve crafted especially for the event, and in a nutshell – you’re in for a treat come Friday 3rd March.

Here are some of the highlights to whet your appetite for the main event.

53 Degrees North: The Marigold


53 Degrees North: The Marigold

I only discovered this joint over the Christmas break and loved it immediately. Not only do they have a great bar team, but the décor is awesome and the drink selection is first-class.

They blended Jinzu Gin with white rioja, quince, pink grapefruit and pineapple to create a zesty little number named ‘The Marigold.’ And yeah, it’s fairly girly (esp. as it’s topped with a gigantic purple flower) but incredibly refreshing and moreish.

Chida Cantina: Chida Fizz


Chida Cantina: The Chida Fizz

You may not have heard of Chida Cantina just yet, but they are bringing their Mexican vibes to the old Sandinista site in a few weeks so look out for them. Tequila isn’t for everyone, but trust me, the Chida Fizz may just turn you.

Concocted from Don Julio Blanco Tequila, Cocchi Rosa, lemon, cucumber and hibiscus cordial and soda, it ended up being my favourite drink of the night. It was topped with a cucumber roll, pickled radish and a white flower, which sounds like some lame, hipsters wet dream, but looked cool as a… Well a cucumber I guess.

Malmaison: My Caramel Romance


Malmaison: My Caramel Romance

Drake’s hotel of choice stepped up to the table with an absolute belter of a cocktail, which will appeal to anyone that loves an espresso Martini. They have teamed up with Kahlua Salted Caramel and mixed it up with espresso, cream and milk to create ‘My Caramel Romance’ which for me would be the perfect after dinner tipple.

The Botanist: The Botanist


The Botanist present… The Botanist

The Botanist were so impressed with their new creation, they named it after themselves and as you’d expect, it was packed with weird and wonderful ingredients. Blending Belvedere Vodka with elderflower liqueur, lime juice, jasmine syrup, lemonade and mint, it was topped with red amaranth, which had a mild beetroot flavour to it.

I hate beetroot, but still enjoyed this drink immensely – it was another pallet cleanser just made for the spring/summer months ahead.

Pintura: Clara


Pintura: Deaths Door Gin makes up the Clara.

You’ll struggle to find a bar in Leeds as passionate about gin as Pintura; they currently stock over 100 variants in their downstairs bar and counting. For the Clara, they paired Death’s Door Gin with Pamplemousses liqueur, lemon and grapefruit juice a splash of beer and a salt rim.

Tasting unlike anything I’ve tried before, it was pure class in a glass and another drink I could sip all night. Kudos to Pintura for pushing the envelope yet again.

If you haven’t yet booked a ticket, there are still a few left online, as well as details of all the bars, brands, and entertainment. I’ve already got my ticket sorted, and can’t wait to see the best of the rest.