By Nicole Quy, Co-Editor-in-Chief of the Croft and Mark Ross, Co-Editor-in-Chief of Epigram
NQ: If you own an Instagram account, you’ll likely have stumbled across a photo of Dirty Martini without knowing it. Home to the famous ‘get your halo dirty’ angel wings photo spot, the bar chain has numerous locations across the UK and have now landed, unmissable, on Corn Street.
Though slightly apprehensive about the authenticity of the drinks belonging to a chain, Mark and I set off to discover just what was on offer, and to find out whether we’d scouted a soon-to-be top drinking spot amongst Bristol students .
If we were to go off the exterior alone, a bold fonted name, backlit with a warm glow sends the message that this is the place to be. We headed inside.
MR: The dim, neon-lit interior felt a shade classier than a standard bar. We sat down, or rather jumped up onto, a set of high chairs which gave us a good view of the unpopulated (understandably so, for a Wednesday) bar area.
The glowing angel wings, pop art and marble finish were slightly ‘follow these steps to make your bar instagrammable’, yet I was still willing to believe that this was an independent venue, not a chain.
NQ: Indeed, the aesthetics of the bar have, impressively so, clearly been cultivated to encourage photo-taking, but this does not detract from the impact of its inviting atmosphere.
Fairly underdressed in an oversized denim jacket and white t-shirt, I nevertheless felt comfortable amongst those who seized the opportunity to dress up, with a warm welcome from staff and no signs of snobbery when we repeatedly struggled to make a timely decision on what to order.
MR: We picked from the new cocktail ‘Summer Menu’, which features fresh, seasonal ingredients. My ‘Summer Storm’ arrived but tasted only of soda water - until Nicole reminded me that I needed to mix the ingredients together.
A venue to prolong that summer feeling
The nectarine, apricot and peach soda combined forces to make the Jamieson Whisky undetectable which I, as a rare whisky-disliking Scot, thanked them for. Instead of the anticipated peaty punch I sipped on a citrusy and agreeably mellow fizz. Tasty and refreshing, although I’m not sure I would pay £7 for a flavour I could find in a Lipton’s ice tea. More wacky flavours needed!
NQ: Tempted I’ll admit by the somewhat alluring nature of its name and less by its actual description, I opted for the ‘Strawberry Kiss’. Elegant and mellow, but distinctively reminiscent of strawberry laces, this would be a great option for anyone who prefers a lighter, sweeter cocktail.
The coconut water was a subtle but great addition, giving the drink a slight tropical twist to secure its place in a summer menu. If you’re looking for a venue to prolong that summer feeling for as long as possible, I think I know a contender.
MR: Next up were ‘Shot Tails’, a longer, diluted shot. This novel format seemed perfect for those looking to cut down on alcohol while still indulging in the occasional ‘shot,shot,shot’ chorus.
Dirty Martini has the drink choice and unpretentious vibe to be a fun night out
And mine was delicious, too. The ‘Blue Monday’ - Curacao, Absolut Vodka and pineapple - was like a burst of blue raspberry millions, placing ‘Shot Tails’ in a New Order above their traditional counterparts in my mind.
NQ: Agreed. These sized-down cocktails offered less volume without compromising on taste. The ‘Bad Habit’, as I fear it might become, was essentially a compressed pornstar martini, consisting of Passoa, vodka, passionfruit and lime juice. Exceptionally easy to get down. And, as someone who can only handle so much sweetness, I truly see the appeal of this.
Not too much to shake you, but just enough to stir you, the Shot Tails offer a classier and tastier alternative to straight white spirits. Could you really ask for more from your shot?
MR: Despite our free drinks tokens running out, we decided to stay for another. My ‘Shiso fine’ (gin, vermouth, blueberry puree, apple, shiso and citrus) was a slushy of fun flavour and (almost) made the £9 price tag worth it.
NQ: Allowing Mark to indulge in the delight of the pun of his drink's name, I opted for less wit and more grit with a no-frills, classic Negroni, to get a taste for how well Dirty Martini can execute its classics. Although difficult to do badly, I was nonetheless pleasantly surprised by just how good this was.
Utilising the boldness of Sipsmith, an award winning London Dry gin, to compete with the boldness of Campari, there was that undeniable taste which reminds you, as Mark rather perfectly put it, “That’s a Negroni”.
With the faultless combination of citrus, bitterness, and an earthy herbaceous undertone, I would confidently say that this one was a great success for Dirty Martini’s mixologists.
MR: The price of cocktails and its central location mean that Dirty Martini inevitably draws an older crowd. But with the right timing (happy hour), students could feasibly enjoy a classier alternative to the W.G Grace, and still be able to afford the Voi home.
Although its commercial chain roots occasionally shine through in the artificial, identikit decor, Dirty Martini has the drink choice and unpretentious vibe to be a fun night out, whatever the day.
NQ: Indeed, with something for both cocktail connoisseur and aperitif amateur, Dirty Martini offers itself as a classy yet accessible spot for all, as is epitomised in its well organised menu, illustrating the tasting notes and overall effect of each of its cocktails.
It’s clear that Dirty Martini wants to offer a glamorous experience for all, and that type of positivity is something I will never have qualms with. I was pleasantly surprised by the innovation on display at the bar, and, whilst its pop playlist and slightly bells and whistle approach to drinks give it a very different atmosphere to some of Bristol’s speak-easy inspired independent bars, I would not be at all upset if I were to find myself getting my halo dirty with a stack of shot tails.
MR: I’m not hurrying back, but I wouldn't be surprised if I find myself, at the end of the night, between a pair of angel wings,‘Shiso fine’ in hand, posing for my next insta post.
To find out more about Dirty Martini's offerings, head to their website!