Independent venues have been opening at a rate of knots in the Jewellery Quarter over the past couple of years. It’s become a firm favourite location for Friday evening drinking and dining with everyone we know. From The Pig & Tail to Ana Rocha, there’s something for everyone.
One of our go-to venues is ‘1000 Trades’, named after our second city’s Victorian nickname for being known as “the city of 1000 trades” where our residents worked industriously in tiny back-to-back houses making everything from chain to glass eyes, from teddy bears to bear traps.
Sharing that same building now, on its second floor, is Sam Boulton’s new offering, The Vanguard
meadery and cocktail bar. Sam has spent a decade in the drinks industry starting as a glass collector and working his way through to bar consultant. His new place, much of it hand built by him and his dad, will be where he gets to show off his acquired knowledge, and his love of interesting spirits, ingredients, and slightly odd obsession with the drink mead.
Mead is made from fermenting honey in water. It was drunk all over the ancient world, from Vikings to Diogenes era Greeks. They all certainly knew how to have a good time, and mead would definitely have been part of of their revelry. Sam will tell you that some modern producers are knocking out vodka with water and “honey flavour” as “mead”, unfashionable as the drink has been over the last thousand or so years no one has codified how it may be made, unlike the strict laws on so many libations, so be careful what you’re buying.
Sam sells several styles of mead from 4% – 14% alcohol, £4.50-£10. We tried the entry level Yore mead with strong honey and mint notes, and the quite weird Gosnell Citra sea mead, which had a mouthfeel like licking a nine volt battery – not one for me! The dry hopped mead was light and refreshing, and we really enjoyed it, perfect entry mead for beer drinkers. I’m sure they’d be wonderful as food matches but I don’t recall ever being offered any, perhaps it’ll be a trend over the next year or so.
As well as mead, The Vanguard offers a good selection of cocktails, listed by flavour profiles rather than base spirit to encourage you to move beyond your regular favourites. One uses Sam’s favoured digestif, Fernet Branca – a menthol, medicinal, put-hairs-on-your-chest, affair. While some people (including myself) enjoy a small Fernet after dinner, for many it’s too overpowering. Sam’s restrained use of it in the cocktail ‘The Barman’s Handshake’ gives a heady depth of flavour. We also sampled Branca Menta, a more menthol forward and lighter version of the syrupy drink.
The Vanguard compliments Jon & John’s offering downstairs at 1000 Trades. I look forward to spending an evening here between the two bars for aperitif, beers, dinner, wine, and digestifs.