Nothing like a licensing hurdle to help launch a fresh bar concept.
London’s BYOC (Bring Your Own Cocktail) was born after its owners found the perfect venue, with one small hitch: The space didn’t come with a liquor license. So they improvised, creating a bar where guests come packing their own booze-of-choice. It’s like a potluck—but one where everyone wins.
The first BYOC opened in London’s Covent Garden in February 2013. The Brighton location on England’s South Coast debuted in October of that year and the brand new Camden branch just launched a few days ago on October 10. All locations charge customers £20 (approximately $32) per person for two hours of liquid indolence.
The bars range in size: Covent Garden is the smallest at just 18 seats; Brighton accommodates 24 guests; and the Camden location—which features Roulette and Black Jack tables—is a 55-person capacity venue.
No plans are currently in the works to open any bars with liquor licenses at this point—but director Nathaniel Shenton makes no promises.
How It Works
Vintage cocktail trolleys, laden with homemade ingredients and juices, roll up to guests during service. “Vodka, gin and rum are by far the most popular types of spirits that people bring,” says Nathaniel Shenton. Though, of course, the bars’ management encourages experimentation and harbors love for boutique brands.
Menus are not part of the BYOC experience: The aim is to provide an immersive atmosphere. No printed cocktail menus mean the bartenders’ imaginations run free. Bonus: A lack of documentation allows guests to be closely involved in their own cocktail creation.
Flavors of the Moment
Small Dansom and Greengage plums are currently pairing beautifully with rum and salted muscovado caramel syrup, according to Shenton. Some recent favorite in-house pairings include raspberry and yellow pepper with tequila and pineapple, and lavender mixed with Scotch. Flavors and garnishes change weekly, and local fruits and botanicals come from a farm in Sussex owned by a brother-in-law of one of the bartenders.
What do you think about the idea of a bar with bring-your-own booze?
Liza Zimmerman has been writing and consulting about drinks for two decades. She is the principal of the San Francisco–based Liza the Wine Chick consulting firm and regularly contributes to publications such as Wine Business Monthly, DrinkUpNY and the SOMM Journal.