Truly a hidden gem!
Attending Imbibe Live at the beginning of July 2018 re-ignited my interest in cocktails, so when I heard of an innovative new bar opening in Birmingham, knowing that I was due to visit the City I decided to give it a try.
18/81 is definitely not your typical Cocktail Bar. Firstly, its location is listed as “Thorp Street, ring the doorbell“. I’m not going to spoil their fun by giving away any more detailed directions because being “in the know“ is half the fun.
My first offering consisted of a base of Panamanian Rum with an ovenproof Rum; a combination of Jamaican, Barbadian and Trinidadian rums intended to replicate the British Royal Navy’s Rum from the era when every sailor received his daily “tot” (sadly a discontinued tradition as the high-tech Navy needs its sailors to have all of their faculties intact). The blend has been honed to 69.5% Proof to replicate the intensity of Navy Rum; any more and it would be prohibitively expensive!
The staff chat happily with the patrons, who can only be described as aficionados - Cocktails are taken seriously here but not at all in a po-faced way. Perfect strangers at adjoining tables are all say “try this” so I did. The Nelson’s Blood (Navy Rum, Sloe Gin and Port Wine) and a Whoopsy Daisy (Local Vodka, Rosehip, Rhubarb and Hibiscus). Then you get chatting and suddenly you have made four new friend. Turns out it’s Jo and Dean’s wedding anniversary and so we joined them in a not-so traditional Martini, finished with a spray of lemon oil. Interrupting my Painkiller No. 2 but needs must...
The philosophy of 18/81 is totally different from the usual cocktail It’s all about the finest ingredients with provenance.
Even the gigantic ice cubes are the clearest you have ever seen.