The biggest ever Birmingham Cocktail Weekend is bowling towards us and, if you're looking for a wristband bargain, now is absolutely the time to rally the troops. With 45 venues involved and the festival spanning into Edgbaston for the first time ever, the three-day celebration of mixology includes a £5 signature drink at each participating venue. A total steal when you're only paying £10 (plus booking fee) for your wristband, rising to £15 when the celebrations kick off on July the 8th. And though the drinks are the heroes — of course — a number of spots have looped in some lovely looking food offers too. We asked organiser Alex Nicholson-Evans about just five of the 45 creations that feature in 2022...
Koshu at Ikigai Ingredients: Haku vodka, bell pepper cordial, green chilli liquor, pear brandy, salt and a chilli oil garnish Alex says: "A savoury number here from a team who won 'Newcomer of the Year' at this year's Top 50 UK Bars awards. Innovative use of bell pepper cordial and Haku vodka to recreate the texture and mouthwatering sweetness of a bell pepper. A compelling drink that is bound to get you talking long after it's all gone."
Watermelon Sugar at Gas Street Social Ingredients: Fresh watermelon, chilli, lime, tequila garnished with watermelon and a watermelon sugar rim Alex says: "One of just four tequila cocktails in this year’s Birmingham Cocktail Weekend line up. This one is fabulously fruity but with a fantastic kick from the tequila and chilli. One for fans of a margarita and, if the sun's out — which it will be — a must try outdoors!"
Level 25 Punch at MPW in the Cube Ingredients: Lime vodka, vanilla syrup, rhubarb syrup, pineapple juice, apple juice, cranberry juice, garnished with passion fruit and a mint spring. Alex says: "This light and refreshing summer drink was absolutely designed to be sipped at sunset with those classic Birmingham views that Marco Pierre White’s Steakhouse Bar & Grill serve up so well. Phones at the ready, as it's an Instagrammable delight."
Jasmine and Jack at Chapter Ingredients: Jack Daniel’s Apple, crème de peche, jasmine tea, homemade apple syrup, flower garnish Alex says: "The signature cocktail at this Edgbaston beaut was created with the support of Head Chef Nathan. The innovative bar team worked with him to perfect their drink. The secret in this refreshing and well balanced number is a homemade apple syrup that enhances the unique flavour of Jack Daniel's Tennessee Apple."
Junebug at Jungle Bird Ingredients: Midori, Brugal Blanco rum, coconut, pineapple, lime Alex says: "Cool, refreshing, tropical and exotic are the order of the day when it comes to the Junebug at Brum's new all-vegan Jungle Bird. Fun and fruity with lashings of Brugal rum, Midori, coconut, banana and pineapple for a cocktail perfect for any summer day! If you like piña colada and getting caught in (potential) rain, you'll like this. It's served as a Slushy with a banana dolphin garnish"
As tie-ups go, they don't get much better than Symphonic Sessions. One of the world’s best orchestras "doing bits", as the youngsters say, in the city's coolest venue. If ever I were to suggest you take a £10 punt on a Thursday night of entertainment, it's when the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra play Hockley Social Club.
Pairing up roughly every two months, a full string orchestra of CBSO-ers will take the stage, surrounded, unusually for them, by street food and pints, as they throw energy and viv into classical bangers. "It's like rockstar orchestra," said one attendee at the last gig, between mouthfuls of beef massaman from brilliant Thai trader, Buddha Belly.
The next get-together, on July 7, centres around contemporary classical composer Max Richter’s iconic re-imagining of Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons. It's an album that topped the classical charts in 22 countries when it was released in 2012. It's going to be an ideal chillout soundtrack for a summer evening, and it'll pair nicely with a cocktail from the lengthy bar or a bottle of chilled rosé from the neighbouring Café Artum.
It's a fascinating dynamic, the entire night. The musicians are shown a respectful quiet that you wouldn't associate with a standard street food knees-up, but at no point does it feel stuffy. It was interesting, I found, to let my gaze wander around the converted warehouse venue where the acoustics somehow hold up to the performance. It seems to appeal to a real mix of types, from all walks of Brum life, a gleeful casserole of seasoned CBSO regulars trading symphony hall for street food, and the much younger crowd pushing themselves perhaps a little out of their comfort zone to give one of our city's finest assets a chance to wow them. At times, pint-pulling staffers and busy trader chefs would be stood in awe at what was taking place on stage.
If you'd like a little taster of what to expect, music-wise, give track one from this Spotify playlist a whirl — it may well ring bells for Bridgerton fans. On the night two CBSO sets will be joined by a DJ set from Jayson Wynters at the halfway mark. It promises to be a real humdinger, again. Book
THE TIME HAS COME TO (PUSH THE BUTTON)
Like the exact opposite of the nuclear button, the 'Press for Champagne' button in the Edwardian Tearooms brings nothing but pure joy. Inside Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery's immaculate tearooms, each private booth has its own buzzer and, after one press, your server will appear like a fully-dressed genie to guide you through the Piper-Heidsieck menu — the favoured bubbles of Marilyn Monroe. Cuvées on offer from the most-awarded Champagne house in Champagne (and by default, then, the world) include, the Brut NV which embodies the house style, and the virtuosic, Vintage 2008.
It pairs particularly well — I mean of course it does — with Afternoon Tea which is available from £19.95 a head, rising to £29.95 when paired with a glass of Piper. Speaking from experience the Cornish clotted cream is a particular cracker and there is no more historic spot in the city for sconeage and finger sangers. The Edwardian Tearooms are only open until December when they will close with the rest of BMAG for maintenance work, returning in 2024. So the time has come to... push the button, World.
50% OFF FOOD AT VINOTECA
(AND A FREE GLASS OF BUBBLES)
The long wait for the arrival of wine nirvana Vinoteca is almost over and they've reserved three pre-opening dates purely for I Choose Birmingham readers. If you book a table on July 5th, 6th or 7th — almost two weeks before general opening — then all food is 50% off and a free glass of sparkling rosé goes to every guest, on arrival. Bloody hell we're good to you. Are we good to you?
Vinoteca first opened in 2005 in Farringdon, followed by new wine bars in Chiswick, King’s Cross, the City and Borough. So far, so very London. But the big, plush, Brum venue in the Paradise development — their first outside the capital — opens its doors to the public on July 18.
You though, you are not the public. You're an I Choose Birmingham reader and you get to book a table from this link and receive that half price food offer and those glasses of organic Portuguese bubbly for you and all your guests.
Located at Two Chamberlain Square, so overlooking the Chamberlain Memorial, its fountain, the Museum and Town Hall, the massive venue will be Brum's largest wine bar, with 150 covers set across a ground and mezzanine floor, 40 seats on the outdoor terrace, and an on-site wine shop. Alongside a wine list of more than 200 bins, which features 60 organic and biodynamic options, is a menu of bar snacks, sharers, small plates and seasonal British mains.
Inside expect a relaxed Mediterranean feel, brought to life by neon signs and a hand-painted mural that's unique to Brum, while that external terrace is likely to become one of the best seats in town. Private wine tastings, parties, corporate functions and all that jazz are options, if you're after them.
But, frankly speaking, you shouldn't still be reading this, because bookings for our three-day special will already be going. Chop-chop. Book
ON YOUR MARKS, GET SET, SHOW!
Tchaikovsky's Sleeping Beauty was four hours long, not including interval, and I bet you the entire opening night audience were very 'pub-ready' the minute that curtain fell. That's assuming they had pubs in 1890s St Petersburg.
The reason why Birmingham Royal Ballet's triple bills are the best way to take in a spot of toe-dancing is because they come at you hard and fast, proper stage-pummelling barnstormers lasting about 30-mins each maximum and, if one's not your cup of tea, you can rest assured that a complete change of pace is more than likely on its way. World-beating, wallet-friendly ballet.
Next up on their calendar of treble-headers, and starting tonight as part of Birmingham 2022 Festival, is On Your Marks!, which includes a world premiere, no less. Interlinked by Brazilian choreographer, Juliano Nunes, is a wholly original piece of choreographic work, with a newly commissioned orchestral score, that goes big on lighting. Inspired by themes of unity, the piece explores the influences that we have on each other’s lives and how the energy that we exude bounces from one person to the next, in a never-ending circle.
Also on the bill is 24 which, again mercifully, isn't all 192 episodes of increasingly ludicrous Kiefer Sutherland guff. Instead it's an adaptation of Jorge Crecis's piece 12, bringing together dancers from Birmingham Royal Ballet and Acosta Danza (Carlos Acosta's Cuban troupe) on stage for the very first time. Featuring 12 dancers from each outfit, it's a dynamic and wallopingly energetic performance. If that brief summary has piqued your interest then have a quick look at this action-spliced interview with creator, Jorge Crecis, in which people seem to be hurling bottles of water at each other across the stage. My sort of madness.
The final fixture in the trilogy is an ecstatic ode to the power of nature and the glory of movement. Birmingham-born Will Tuckett’s Lazuli Sky is set to John Adams’s Shaker Loops composition, which achieved cult status thanks to 1987 Charles Bukowski semi-autobiographical movie Barfly, starring Mickey Rourke. This one goes big and bold on costume. Expect fantastical flowing skirts, for example (above), which were originally designed into the piece to help fill voids left by social distancing, back before even bubbles were "a thing" and the performers had to rehearse in a grid system to keep legally apart.
On Your Marks! costs £16 and runs at Birmingham Hippodrome from today (June 23) until Saturday (June 25).
GO BIG ON BIRMINGHAM 2022
Whether your company's entertainment budget is burning a hole in your pocket after two years of lockdown, or you're simply considering going big on a once in a lifetime sporting event on your doorstep, Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games hospitality package, Club 22, is a lot more affordable than you might think.
Packages are available at key preliminary and medal sessions, as well as the Opening and Closing Ceremonies, so whatever you may have missed out on, from £199 you can still get there... and in style. In keeping with the inclusive vision of the Games, the attractively priced packages will provide a more relaxed and informal atmosphere than if a city, erm, further South was on hosting duties. The starting price of £199 includes your digital ticket, all-in food and drink plus free public travel. As there is no minimum number of guests for a booking, you can fly solo if you can't twist anyone else's arm, or if you JUST WANT SOME PEACE AND QUIET FOR THE LOVE OF GOD. Woah, sorry... Not sure what happened there.
Tickets are available at the Alexander Stadium if you're into running, chucking and jumping, Sandwell Aquatics Centre for splash fans and Smithfield for beachiness, ballgames and basketball. If boxing (remember the name... Delicious Orie), badders or table tennis are your bag then NEC options are available while Arena Birmingham has gymnastics sewn up. In fact they've got eleven sports across eight venues and, as mentioned, both opening and closing shindigs. The food and drink offer will reflect Birmingham’s diverse culinary landscape too, and I have it on good authority is absolute *chef's kiss*. More
It's local derby time in the Vitality T20 Blast as The Bears face the Worcestershire Rapids, tomorrow (June 24). Don't miss it — secure your seats in the Edgbaston sunshine here. —
Fancy a portion of Mother Hubbard's fish & chips for just 45p? At the new Erdington venue, Saturday (June 25). More —
Guests booking on to GoBoat for trips for today until Sunday (June 26) can save 15% by using the code TEDDYBEAR at the checkout. That brings a punchy £95 for an hour of weekend sailing down to a slightly more manageable £80.75. The £135 price-tag for two hours is down to £114.75. It's to mark national picnic week, hence the code. They still have 20% off throughout June for midweek boating, too. More —
A project that's been three years in the making launches this October. Solihull's first immersive horror attraction, The Forbidden Circus, will be at Tudor Grange Park October 24 to 30. "DARE YOU ENTER?" screams the marketing material. In a word, no. More —
Aussie comedy-dining concept, Karen's Diner, a pop-up burger joint with intentionally rude staff/actors is coming to Grand Central. This promo vid will do most of the explaining. It launches Sept 2 with no set plans, it seems, on how long it will stay. Likely to be months not days. Book —
The opening night at Redditch's first ever comedy club sold out licketysplit, and tickets are now on sale for the follow up, on August 20. £10 —
Chung Ying are offering 50% off certain items when ordering takeaway for collection. The choices will change weekly but here's your options for tonight and tomorrow. —
Pop-up round-up: Fantasy Parmo are at Cork & Cage (Stirchley) on June 27, Tutto Aposto are bringing a slow-cooked n'duja lamb shoulder lasagne to at Arch 13 (JQ) July 22 and Kilder (Digbeth) will be hosting a Superbad screening this Sunday, with phallic foods in honour of Seth. Oh do grow up, Kilder. —
Not a year passed (except the two we don't talk about) where I didn't taken advantage of the Opus Restaurant lobster offer and, now it's moved with the owners to Chapter, I can finally take advantage of it in the sunshiiyiiiine! £35 —
And here's a rare opportunity to view the interior of both Warstone Lane Cemetery and Key Hill Catacombs, July 23 at the Jewellery Quarter Festival. Pre-booking essential. Places are limited. £6.84
WORDS: Tom Cullen
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