Behind the bar, Matt is learning how to make cocktails from the waistcoat-clad Tom. “That’s the trick,” laughs Bristol Spirit co-owner Sam Espensen. “It’s all about the waistcoat.”
Sam makes her own flavoured vodkas, gins and whiskies at the recently launched Espensen Spirit. Her team uses fresh ingredients and makes it locally here in Redfield.
She lives around the corner from her new bar, so jumped at the chance when the space came up for sale. “You know when you have one of those crazy ideas you regret almost at once?
There is a choice of five cocktails, each with a tangible amount of care taken in the display as well as the taste. Cocktails are all £7 to £8 each and they’re good enough for Matt to deserve a waistcoat too.
The High Tea a mixture of pink grapefruit and raspberry vodka, sherbert and Absinthe, and gets the balance between sharp and sweet. Served with ice, it is refreshing.
The Genie 75, a blueberry twist on a French 75, has blueberry gin, blueberry syrup, lemon juice and Prosecco. The menu states that Gatsby himself would drink this.
Served in a tall curved glass, it certainly wouldn’t feel out of place sipping it as you watch fireworks a a grand party, glittering flapper dresses twinkling. The blueberry spills sweetly through the Prosecco. Trying each other’s drinks, my friend and I both prefer the Genie 75.
Resident cook and manager is Oliver Tidman, who previously owned Mathilda’s Chilli Bar on Haymarket Walk. Their menus will change seasonally, with the launch menu is Middle Eastern.
There are small vegetarian options such as chilli garlic olives (£3), broad bean falafel and tahni (£4.50) and halloumi and pomegranate molasses (£5.50). Meat plates include tavuk kanat (Turkish hot wings) (£5), merguez sausage and fennel (£6) and lamb kofta and harissa yoghurt (£6.50).
Flatbread and spicy hummus (£4) makes an excellent food to pick at and share. The lamb kofka too are delicious, though very light on the yoghurt; a drizzling rather than a suggested extra portion.
For something more substantial you’d need several dishes, though this might be a little pricy on top of the cocktails.
Little touches make the bar incredibly friendly. Rather than being gendered, toilets simply say ‘Whichever’, and placed on the sink are hand creams, a choice of lavender or orange blossom.
The whole space is welcoming, and bound to be popular for the pop-ups the team are planning on hosting which this week is from The Pub Grub Club on Thursday and Friday evening.
The scaffolding currently outside doesn’t continue the delicate feel of the decoration inside, though it does make for a handy bike rack only yards away from the Bristol & Bath Railway Path.
Bristol Spirit is currently open every Thursday and Friday from 6pm to 10pm and Saturday from midday to 4pm, with weekday morning openings from February for coffee, tea, cakes and pastries.
Waistcoats may not be compulsory but a sampling of the cocktails most definitely is. It’s still very early days but this crazy idea seems to have paid off.
Bristol Spirit, 86 Whitehall Road, Redfield, Bristol, BS5 9BQ
01179 393 552
Photos by Dominika Scheibinger