Cocktail Bars in Birmingham: A History

Birmingham’s nightlife is incredible, with some of the most creative, inspiring, and downright unique cocktail bars in the world… impressive, considering Birmingham could easily have become a dry city!

One of the Midland’s most famous families — the Cadbury’s — were known for abstaining from alcohol in line with their Quaker beliefs, and, while Central Birmingham was spared a dry future, the village of Bournville was only permitted to begin selling alcohol in 2015! And the move wasn’t too well received by locals, who claimed that the history and culture of Bournville was being completely erased.

Fortunately, in Central Birmingham, things were different, and we can trace the origins of today’s cocktail bars all the way back to the 1300s, when the Old Crown in Digbeth opened its doors. While patrons of the Old Crown (including Queen Elizabeth I) were probably drinking brandy and gin, rather than a Sex on the Beach, this 650 year old pub certainly paved the way for the Birmingham nightlife we know and love.

Rebirth & Regeneration

As you may have already noticed, Birmingham’s modern cocktail bars are jaw dropping, especially those located in the Central Business District around the Colmore Row area. Post war industrial decline hit Birmingham hard, with many businesses closing for good. But regeneration is here, and many of the stunning listed buildings have been transformed into trendy cocktail bars. Take the Grade II listed Birmingham Joint Stock Bank, for example, built in 1862 on Temple Row West… it’s now a wine bar!

However, in the last few years there has been a notable shift. Birmingham is moving away from appearances and aesthetics, and is instead borrowing a page from its namesake’s book. Birmingham, Alabama, is well known for its prohibition history, and that’s a concept that we can see today in Birmingham, UK’s newest cocktail bars. Secret bars are popping up all across the city; underground hideaways that require a password to get in. Exclusivity is the city’s hottest trend right now.

So what exactly is on the menu at Birmingham’s cocktail bars? Well, with Cadbury’s chocolate being one of Birmingham’s biggest exports historically, it’s not surprising that many of the city’s signature cocktails are chocolate-based. It doesn’t have to be Easter to enjoy a good ‘choctail’ in Birmingham, with modern cocktail bars serving up creamy concoctions such as mudslides, chocotinis, and Brandy Alexanders.

And while we’re on the subject of history, let’s finish with a look ahead. What does the future hold for Birmingham’s cocktail bars? Well, quite a lot, actually. What we can expect in the coming years is a greater focus on craft cocktails and the concept of mixology; something that we’re already starting to see in many bars around the city. We can also expect more in the way of international flavours, with themed bars serving up a little something different; authentic tastes from all around the world. We’re not talking mojitos and Long Island Ice Teas here, we’re talking Chinese lychee flavours in the Red Lotus and Nicaraguan guava in the Macua. Expect fruits, flair, and flamboyance in the future of the cocktail bar!


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