The Botanist

Before he was a household name with a passion for undertaking impossible missions, Tom Cruise starred in 1988 film Cocktail. In it, Cruise plays a bartender who goes on an adventure of self-discovery or something like that. To be honest, the storyline is somewhat overshadowed by its perfect 80s time-capsule soundtrack and costume.

Anyway, just like Tom Cruise’s character Brain Flanagan, I love cocktails.

Since I was a little boy I’ve enjoyed mixing up drinks, creating overly sweet concoctions of fruit juice and cordial and occasionally milk. But the less said about milky juice drinks, the better.

Not long ago, a branch of the plant-loving cocktail bar The Botanist opened in York where I live, and I got a chance to head down and try it out with a good friend. It used to be part of the same group that owned The Alchemist – its potion themed sibling – but they have recently parted ways.

Deriving its name from the profession of studying plants (or basically gardening), The Botanist has a passion for drinks that involve herbage in interesting ways.

Walking in, the decor was understandably rustic and earthy, given its theme. It felt a little like I’d stumbled upon an 18th century florist. I quite enjoyed the little details like the mismatched wood panelling and the pewter-effect taps, as well as the big details like the upstairs courtyard/greenhouse/function room.

We ordered a pitcher of an apricot gin cocktail garnished with basil. Yes, basil. It was great watching our brace-clad bartender whip it up, mixing the drink and adding fresh basil to our cups, before pouring it into its watering can. They’re really serious about the whole gardening thing

I’ve had cocktails in teapots and the like before and I love a fun gimmick as much as the next man, but I couldn’t help but think of We Want Plates – a campaign for food and drink to be served in regular vessels that never fails to make me smile.

While sufficiently quirky and aesthetically pleasing, the can’s long spout didn’t make for good pouring (especially the first few pours when it was full) and I managed to spill it everywhere, though that probably says more about me than it does the drink’s container.

Like I said, our cups (and by “cups” I mean tiny chrome buckets) were garnished with generous helpings of fresh basil. It sounds quite odd but it actually adds a great layer of smell to the drinking experience as you raise the cup to your mouth, as well as enhancing the taste. Hipster pretension does have its benefits.

If you haven’t already, now’s definitely a great time to try out The Botanist as, this month, they are having their “Ginuary Sale” with half price gin (I assume in all branches).

Plus I’m pretty sure a visit counts as a couple of your 5-a-day.




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