Cute cartoon owls on cocktail menus, a Churchill portrait on the wall, pink umbrellas in your drink, monkey nuts served on the side. We’re not sure what it all means, but somehow Cocktail Trading Company works. It’s probably because CTC Smithfield (underneath another bar, Ask for Janice) never overthinks things; like the original in Soho, it’s dark, petite and serious about fun. And drinks.
These tipples are affordable (mostly £9), full of flavour and a bit of a hoot (is that what the owls are about?). Sip from a snow globe? Sure! Or try a bin-shaped vessel for the Sesame Peat, a tequila and apricot brandy creation with Elmo’s face peeking through the lid. The Chocolate Flip – a popular choice – comes with a homemade truffle on top and is liquid silk.
Surprisingly, they go all restrained with a retro classic, the piña colada – surely this one’s begging for a garish garnish? Maybe that’s so you focus on the flavour. We were told it’s modelled on ‘the world’s best piña colada’ sampled when they were travelling in Cuba. With coconut sorbet added for a tropical kick, this one seems to be up there with the best of them.
These drinks are good and strong, so you may want to order a snack from upstairs to take the edge off. Find a cosy table for more civilised sipping under Churchill’s watchful gaze, or, like us, park yourself at the bar. Chat flows with this experienced team of bar staff, and if it’s too busy for small talk, ’90s hits on the stereo will keep you on the CTC party train.