Please note, this branch of The Cocktail Trading Company is now closed. Time Out Food & Drink editors, Jan 2016.
The Cocktail Trading Company is hard to find. Wait, don’t stop reading! This isn’t hard to find as in fake-speakeasy/private-bar. It’s hard to find because it’s located in the basement of a differently named restaurant/bar, and the CTC signage is around the size of a cocktail napkin.
The search is worth the effort. Descend the steep staircase and you’re in a diminutive room, moodily lit and eclectically decorated: showbiz caricatures, album covers and a huge portrait of Winston Churchill all feature. Each table (all twos and fours) has a beer mug full of shell-on peanuts sitting in an ashtray: a nice touch, as is the glass of London Tap that they bring unbidden. There are also bar snacks from the restaurant upstairs.
Another feature of the décor is a cabinet full of trophies that the owners have won in cocktail competitions. The three of them have CVs that include some top-rung places, and it shows in CTC’s consummate professionalism. Service was prompt even with a full room, and exceptionally friendly. They bent over backwards to find a table for me, even though I was on my own.
And the cocktails? Oh lord, the cocktails. I started out by requesting something non-alcoholic. They asked about my preferences, listened to the answer, and came back with one of the best drinks I’ve ever tasted – a complex concoction including apple juice, ginger and citrus. At £4, it cost less than a takeaway glass of juice from Pure.
I then asked for a martini, ‘dry but not too dry’, made with a certain brand of gin; this is my benchmark for assessing cocktail-making skill. The waiter came back saying they didn’t have that brand yet. But the bartender was going to make me a drink using his own bottle of Beefeater Crown Jewel, a gin that isn’t produced any more. It’s extremely rare and costly, and the martini (a bargain at £9) was exquisite. Reader, I’m marrying the bartender.
I was at CTC during London Beer Week, which the waiter said accounted for a good chunk of the heaving crowd. They were mostly young or medium-young, many sipping drinks served in very cool vessels and/or garnished with (not a joke) candy floss. I’ll bet they’re good, like everything else in this reasonably priced dream of a West End bar. Let’s drink to a glorious future for CTC.