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23 Birmingham Bars You Must Drink In Before You Die

'Must', meaning non-optional.

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1. Cheval Blanc

chevalblancbar.co.uk / Via chevalblancbar.co.uk

Easily Birmingham's best wine bar and slowly becoming my favourite bar — full stop — expect wine glasses big enough to fit a full grown mallard in and the sort of grape knowledge you'd expect from London. Without, you know, the attitude.

2. Smultronställe

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The Swedish name means, to sum up, your own little hidey-hole. A secret place you're not for telling anyone else about. Sadly I'm telling millions of Buzzfeed readers. Pronounced smul-tron-stella, it's buried deep beneath City Arcade and you'll need to book weeks in advance. This is fine-dining in a glass. Expect taste-bending potions, each coming in one of the 30 receptacles deemed worthy of the tiny ten-seater bar.

3. Bourne & Co

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If you're wondering where the GMs of every city centre bar worth hitting finish their weekends, there's a three word answer. A couple of doors down from Island Bar, the laid-back lounge was built by hand by the owner and we don't mean figuratively. All the classic cocktails are great.

4. Purecraft Bar & Kitchen

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You'll struggle to find a better brewery in Britain than Purity and their Birmingham HQ is Purecraft. Longhorn, their IPA, is my go-to, but everything they produce is first-rate including the food. Nose-hurting volumes of English mustard are encouraged on most things.

5. 40 St Paul's

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If there were a book called Where Bartenders Drink, I'd bet you a gazillion pounds that 40 St Paul's would be in it. The small but perfectly formed bar is not signposted and, even more confusingly, is to be found at 40 Cox Street (on the corner of St Paul's Square). Add 120 carefully curated gins, table service and one of the best damn Espresso Martinis you'll ever taste (FACT) and let's assume you'll need to book. If they're all booked up don't despair – many of their gins are rather excellently available on Deliveroo.

6. Downstairs

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Open on the odd occasion only, keep a close eye on their Facebook page to avoid disappointment. One of the most engaging interiors in any Brum bar it's hidden away under a tiny Jewellery Quarter coffee shop, and in a world where seemingly everyone calls every bar a "speakeasy", this is as close as you will actually get to one.

7. Gingers

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Famed for their Scorched Lemon and Vanilla Cinnamon Margarita (pictured) I personally would rather steer you towards the best gin martini in the entire city. Ask Gary to make it. It'll come sludgy with delicious olive juice and is better than any gin martini I had in 13 years living in the capital. And I had my fair share.

8. The Church

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Do-no-wrong Soul Food superstars and cocktail kings The Church are so often the energy-filled answer to a night that has prematurely slowed. Beautiful interiors are complimented by ace drinks and universally lovely bar staff.

9. Ana Rocha

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Straight from the "did I dream that bar or did it actually happen" school of design, this place is see it to believe it stuff. Glug back good grog surrounded by bizarre works of art, sculptures and retro odds and sods. This is never going to be "your local" but it will wow out-of-towners.

10. The Jekyll & Hyde

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Maybe not one for the "We Want Plates" brigade, the Jekyll is a superb gin parlour with cocktails coming in, well, mini bath tubs if you so please. And obviously, you please.

11. The Wolf

thewolfbirmingham.co.uk / Via thewolfbirmingham.co.uk

Birmingham's newest craft beerery, the ornate beastly pump handles are worth the visit alone, and so is RainbowCop. The beers are changed with such regularity that pointers seem almost pointless, but if they happen to have Wild Beer and Magic Rock's The Men Who Stare At Oats (a 6% American IPA), buy it by the flagon full.

12. Davenports Bulls Head

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The saviours of Broad Street. If you catch yourself on the notorious strip of bars and, frankly, need to get to the nearest, best pub, head directly here. Davenports' beers are knockout but there's also a well stocked fridge of further flung faves like Beavertown's Gamma Ray. Pro tip: Lashford sausage hot dogs with crispy masala onions. It'll get you right in the feels.

14. Saint Pauls House

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An immaculate fit out of this hotel-cum-bar-cum-restaurant on Brum's most beautiful leafy square, there's a seriously strong wine game and an even better conservatory allowing in oodles of natural light. The conservatory takes on a wonderfully atmospheric quality when it's raining hard and your indoors with a giant glass of full-bodied Passori Rosso. Or four.

16. The Edgbaston

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Home (not literally) to some of the best bartenders in the city, Head Bartender, James Bowker was recently up for Class Magazine's Bartender of the Year. The Edgbaston has launched an entire cocktail menu inspired by Birmingham, which is a classy touch, but the Smoke & Mirrors (pictured) has been an ever present from day one and rightly so.

17. The Hare & Hounds

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Kings Heath High Street. A strip of God-awful pubs singlehandedly salvaged by the Hare, a beacon of brilliance. Incredible live music (awards coming out of their beer pumps), ace street-food pop-ups, excellent street closures and a happy and original feel throughout. Never close, Hare & Hounds. EVER.

18. Hotel Du Vin

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Yep, lots of cities have Hotel Du Vins, but Brum's outpost is perfectly positioned, with just the right opening hours for a misjudged nightcap. If you're visiting Birmingham and want a hotel with a perfect location, by the way, here's your answer. Great brunch n'all.

19. Island Bar

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Nothing about this place takes itself too seriously, which is just as well because the clientele don't take themselves too seriously either. That's not to say the cocktails aren't good. They're great. They'll be served strong, with pizzazz and, more often than not, with some sort of flame thrower.

22. Bar Opus

baropus.co.uk / Via baropus.co.uk

Every Saturday, 12pm to 6pm, this is a sumptuous afternoon tea experience marrying Bar Opus's love of traditional British cuisine with, in a word, gin.

There's three choices of junipery cocktails, which change monthly, served in Hendrick’s vintage teapots. They come with an assortment of homemade quiches, sandwiches, scones, macaroons, lemon drizzle and a coffee & walnut cake. Booking is essential.

23. Bodega

bodegacantina.co.uk / Via bodegacantina.co.uk

The must-attend bar for Brum's tequila enthusiasts; if a salty-rimmed margarita is your slurp of choice then there's no better. If you're a tequila purist, mind, then try the1800 Añejo. Named after the first year tequila was produced, it's aged between eight and twelve years, with a minimum of fourteen months in French oak barrels. It's a total waste to drink this anything but neat.

Tom Cullen is the founder of “I Choose Birmingham”, a free weekly email about the best things to do in Brum. Subscribe here.

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