Be At One opened in Birmingham last week and I was there on the press night and the opening night to check it out. It's a massive chain, with 30 bars across the country. They have a giant cocktail menu- 140 cocktails I believe.
I looked at the menu online and was pleased to find some of my favourite cocktails in there- not just creamy frozen things. I heard that staff undergo weeks of training and have all the cocktails memorised. Everyone had positive things to say.
Equally, they seemed to be selling themselves as a party bar with cocktails, rather than a cocktail bar. So the focus is on the party rather than the drinks. The music is loud and cheesy, it's dark and there's some fun lights. It's like the 80's grew up.
I'd read a few reviews of Be At One in other cities and people had mentioned the extensive cocktails and the happy, friendly staff, who were happy to climb up the shelves to reach bottles.
So when I walked into the Birmingham branch to find staff doing the exact same thing I'm afraid my cynicism kicked in.
IF YOUR STAFF HAVE TO CLIMB UP THE COUNTERS TO REACH SOMETHING, MAKE YOUR SHELVES LESS HIGH GUYS.
I have worked in retail and bars and I very rarely had to climb onto anything unless we were doing a deep clean.
Perhaps because I've spent many years working in retail, I don't particularly need bar staff to be my best friend. Some people are naturally friendly and naturally great at customer service. I just found it weird that they all seemed to have the exact same *super*friendly*vibe*. I'm talking TGIs. They came across like they had been trained in bantering with each other.
Anyway I wasn't there for the service- I was there for the cocktails.
Edd and I made our way through a few as you can see.
I was underwhelmed by my Aviation- too lemony. And Laura of Full to the Brum wasn't happy with her over-strained Clover Club.
Edd and I both had Manhattans- it was good that they asked how we would like them ( we went for perfect, with equal parts dry and sweet vermouth) and what whiskey we preferred ( we went with the house as we aren't whiskey experts). These were not too bad but would have been better if not left to dilute in the mixing jug as the bartender took the next customer's order. This is what they are trained to do.
My favourite drink I tried was the Champagne Cocktail, made with champagne, cognac, bitters and a sugar cube. I tried a bit of the Killing Monica, a vodka and rhubarb based champagne drink and that was lovely too. Next time I go I will definitely be sticking to the fizz cocktails.
A massive selling point for Be At One (and what will take me back) is the app. You can have a random cocktail for £5 or choose your own 'appy hour' with two drinks for £10 which is a crazy bargain. I also like the cocktail wheel at the start of the menu, which is split into spirits and types of drink e.g. dry, sweet and so on. Very helpful for cocktail newbies.
I may not appreciate the over the top service and the drinks are not the best for their price (between £7 and £11) but if I adjust my expectations and think of it as a nightlife spot where I can get two champagne cocktails for £10 then it's not so bad.
Be At One
Photos by myself and Edd.
I had a couple of drinks for free and purchased the rest through the app.