3 great places to try cocktails in Hampshire
PUBLISHED: 00:00 14 February 2020
Dry January is over! Raise a cocktail (or two) at some of Hampshire’s coolest drinking establishments, says Natalie French
Why go? Located on the ground floor of a Grade I listed building in Winchester, Incognito is a cocktail bar with a theatrical flourish. Far removed from its previous life as a hospital with a history dating back to the 10th century, the eccentric décor includes a mix of leather Chesterfields, Tiffany lamps and far-flung travel mementos.
"The idea came from a desire to create a completely new kind of cocktail venue," explains Nick Robinson, who created the bar along with his wife, Hayley. "A multi-sensual, immersive, cocktail experience that returned customers to a bygone era - where customers are greeted with the sight of stunning chandeliers above the subtle glow of candle light and to the back drop of jazz, gently being played on our grand piano, in a stunning all seating table service-only environment." Shortly after moving to Winchester in January 2018 with their two girls, Nick and Hayley decided they wanted to create a place where friends and family can gather to enjoy magical creations and make memories. "Everything we do at Incognito is designed with the customer's experience at heart, from the moment you are sat at your table and given an array of vintage top hats and military hats that add to the fun and make great photo opportunities," says Nick.
"You will be guided through our menu by our expert storytellers and served cocktails more theatrical than you could ever imagine. Our Rubber Dub Dub is served in a bathtub, topped with edible bubbles and an edible duck. And our Great Escape is served in a hot air balloon complete with clouds. Even a trip to the loo is an experience, where you can enjoy your time surrounded by a jungle and to the soothing sounds of Sir David Attenborough narrating the Big Cat Diaries!"
The response has been extraordinary. Incognito has won the Muddy Stilettos Best Bar in Hampshire Award both years and can be fully booked eight weeks in advance.
Don't miss… "Our signature cocktail: Holy Grail - a tropical blend of Bumbu Rum, Clement Rhum, apricot brandy, lime, pineapple, passion fruit, falernum, green chartreuse and orgeat, served in an chalice that is set on fire at the table," says Nick. "We have an amazing menu launching in February, that will take everything we have done to the next level - think arcade games and diver's helmets. And we are looking to open a new site in May!"
Take me there: St John's House, The Broadway, Winchester SO23 9BE. 01962 807277; incognitowinchester.co.uk
Bring & Mix
Why go? Bring a bottle (or two) of your favourite spirit, along with your favourite people, and escape to the prohibition days of the swinging 1920s. You'll need a password to get into this secret establishment (by reserving a table online), but the Art Deco décor, live music and intimate, immersive atmosphere are a big draw.
What's more, there'll be no queuing at the bar or scanning an uninspiring drinks menu - the talented mixologists will recreate your favourite cocktails; or shake you out of your cocktail comfort zone - it's up to you!
Bring and Mix use fresh fruit and vegetable juices, homemade syrups, herbs and spices, and a variety of cordials, bitters, sodas and jams to make the perfect tipple.
Don't miss… If you're looking for a unique venue for a special birthday, Bring & Mix is available for private hire bookings throughout the week.
They will also be offering Valentine's themed drinks on 14 February.
Take me there: 36 Upper Bannister Street, Southampton, SO15 2EF; bringandmix.com
Why go? Now a much-loved Winchester establishment - Cabinet Rooms, founded by Gary Whiter and Marcus Roe in 2014, is the perfect place to quaff a few Martinis and soak up the intimate, neighbourhood atmosphere.
"At Cabinet Rooms, we focus on classic cocktails with a long history of tantalising taste buds," says Gary.
"As we're now living in the 20s ourselves, it seems quite fitting to be enjoying drinks that were stirred up in the best bars of Europe in the 1920s. We're mixing up iconic drinks like the French 75 and the Champagne Cocktail (both of which we make with Hampshire sparkling wine Raimes Classic), Martinis and Sidecars. For us the pleasure in cocktails is the balance of flavour and the quality of the ingredients. We have our own creations on the menu too that offer riffs on old favourites for cocktail connoisseurs. One of our top selling drinks is our Cabinet Rooms Café Martini, made with a reposado tequila and Cointreau Noir, which bring delicious nutty, citrus and smoky notes to complement the rich and dark espresso coffee."
Don't miss… "We'll soon be coming up with our signature cocktail for Winchester Cocktail Week on 8-14 June. We're excited for this summer edition which marks the fifth anniversary of the festival."
Take me there: Cabinet Rooms, Jewry Street, Winchester, SO23 8SA; cabinetrooms.com