Dens is an immersive cocktail experience that delves into the city’s history, writes Sammy Milton
Bristol is a city that does many things very well. We have award-winning restaurants, historic pubs and bars that keep people talking long after last orders. Another thing we’re good at is cocktails.
There are plenty of place to enjoy a tipple around the city, but perhaps the best is Hyde & Co. Tucked away up an alley just off the Clifton Triangle, this speakeasy-style bar is one of the most illicit places to have a drink, and features exciting and unique menus that change throughout the year. So when we were invited to try their new cocktail selection a couple of weeks ago, naturally we jumped at the chance.
Despite the bright sunlight, we were eager to get ourselves in the cool dark to try these drinks, so we knocked on the door at 6 o’clock on the dot – it never stops being thrilling that you have to knock to enter. Ushered inside, we were seated in a comfortable booth, and bar manager Dan Bovey bustled over to give us the lowdown on the menu.
Dubbed ‘Dens’, this particular menu brings everything back to a Bristol focus. Inspired by Bristol’s past and the drinking establishments which have paved the way for the cocktail bars of present day, Dens features 19 carefully created cocktails each dedicated to a different drinking spot in the city. The physical menu itself was beautiful – each page depicted a different venue’s nightclub, and included a short history and the chosen ingredients, accompanied by a striking, hand-drawn illustration.
To kick things off, we went for a Dugout. Named after the famous, and sadly deceased, Bristol club that was spiritual home for many artists, including The Wild Bunch and Roni Size, it seemed only right to start off with a banger. A tall glass, dusky pink in colour and shimmering with beads of condensation, arrived at the table for each of us. A heady concoction of Tapatio Blanco (tequila to me and you), Strega (an Italian herb liquor), hops, peach and tonic, it was surprisingly light and refreshing, garnished with a slice of pink grapefruit, and – dare I say it – the perfect summer cocktail.
Next up, we tried a Coronation Tap each. For those who don’t know, this particular establishment is famed for its ridiculously strong cider, served only in half pints to those who can hack it, so we knew we were in for a treat. We weren’t disappointed – another long cocktail, it was a mixture of Hennessey VS, pomegranate and Granny Smith soda topped with a delicate piece of dried apple. This one really packed a punch – the cognac was strong and aromatic, mingling beautifully on the tongue with the tart apple-flavoured soda, whilst the pomegranate gave it a much-needed sweetness.
A real delight.
To finish off, we decided to go for something completely different – a Hole in the Wall. If you’re not familiar, it’s a large and lively pub just off Queen Square with a lovely front garden – well worth a visit on a sunny day. Much like the venue, the cocktail itself was very special. Served as a short, it contained a powerful mix of Pusser’s Gunpowder Proof, Ardberg 10, Campari, passion fruit and lime. Dark and smoky, the rum made an impression straight away with a real kick, followed by fruity sweetness, all topped off with a tart foam. This one was a grower on me, and whilst I wasn’t sure on the first sip, by the end I wanted more.
We stuck to three (it was a Wednesday after all), but I could happily keep coming back here to make my way through this impressive menu. This is one for locals and visitors alike, with the beautiful city of Bristol at its heart.
For more information, visit Hyde & Co.