An inconspicuous underground bar in the heart of Sheffield, Public has been serving obscure cocktails and winning awards since 2017. The former gent’s toilet lives below a Grade I Listed Victorian town hall and sits close to the Winter Gardens, making for a romantic stop-off on any city centre outing. Was I giving this one a try? You bet.
Although small in size, the space here still packs a lot of character, with gorgeous forest green details and velvet-covered seating. This secret spot feels like a luxury train carriage straight out of The Grand Budapest Hotel. Immediately welcomed by the most smiley staff I’ve ever seen on a Friday evening, we were then given menus that could have easily been mistaken for fancy coffee table books. And ‘book’ is no exaggeration, with it spanning over 25 pages. Yes, just for drinks.
After a second to scan it over, our lovely server was back to run us through the thought process behind each concoction. Every menu section had its own story - something that the staff were not only passionate about, but had clearly been involved in writing. First up was the 'Public Holiday' portion of the list, where the cocktails were designed to taste like going abroad and highlighted refreshing flavours. From here, my partner opted for Weekend Away (£9.50). Your usual summer spirit, Aperol, featured alongside Tanqueray 10 gin, Bigallet thyme liqueur, and Giffard Abricot du Roussillon. Although it sounds rather strong, the short drink was super airy and light. It was also topped with lemon and foaming bitters, which added sharpness. I could talk about the citrus foam alone for days.
Next, there was a collection of cocktails called 'Public Footpath' that focussed on a savoury flavour palate - an ode to the bar's relationship with local suppliers. Here my other half selected Drink Figuratively (£14); a highball boasting shortbread-washed Macallan 12-year-old double cask as the focal point. The whisky was added to a unique selection of fig liqueur, fig and honey balsamic shrub, and soda. A simply sweet and refreshing pick.
Thanks to a love of fun twists on classic cocktails, I had to try the bar's take on a bellini, which featured in the sustainability-focussed 'Public Awareness'. Peach To Their Own (£10) used the classic breakfast tipple as a starting point, but took it up a notch with alternatives like salted peach ferment instead of your typical juice. This was complemented by Tanqueray 10 gin, crème di peche, St Germain, tartaric acid and prosecco. The fizz brought out the spirit flavour, while also making the overall taste lighter and dangerously drinkable. As this section seemed to take my fancy most, I also went for Yellow Brick Road (£11). Reminding me instantly of the Arctic Monkeys track Old Yellow Bricks, each sip felt like a love letter to Sheffield. Made using leftover corn from Gatsby on Division Street, it hinted at cinema nostalgia too. While focused around a brown butter-washed Don Julio Reposado tequila, the base was then mixed with Nixta corn liqueur, burnt corn caramel and smoked salt.
Lastly came 'Public Liability'. Showing the extreme side of cocktails, these were designed for those who usually prefer their spirits neat. I had to go for Second Barr None (£14). As a rum lover, I thought it was a clever staff recommendation. Plus, I could have drank 10 more. Served long with a single ice cube running through the whole glass - avoiding any unnecessary melting into the taste of heaven - it was made up of Diplomatico Reserva Exclusiva rum, hazelnut-infused Tio Pepe sherry, tonka and Wray & Nephews bitters, sour pineapple cordial, and cream soda. This one was like an adult version of Dr Pepper - packed full of nuttiness with a sour cut that breaks away from its sweetness.
Our last choice was the infamous Million Dollar Bounty (£11). A muddle of coconut oil-washed Johnny Walker Black Label whisky and Koko Kanu rum, the heady combo was then paired with Giffard Crème de Cacao, miso demerara syrup and chocolate bitters. Deliciously creamy in flavour but thinner in texture, this drink was a chocoholic’s dream - without any sugar-induced stomach ache.
The DesignMyNight Digest
If you’re a fan of unique cocktails (who isn’t?), then the Public Sheffield menu is an absolute must. As the bar is a small space, it’s definitely best to book ahead. We watched many people, unfortunately, have to be turned away - don’t be like them. Friendly service, photogenic interiors and thoughtful drinks; what more could you want?
💰 The damage: Roughly £70, plus service charge.
📍 The location: Hidden below Surrey Street, S1 2LG.
👌 Perfect for: A romantic night - think anniversaries or a birthday date.
⭐ Need to know: You can buy bottles of Million Dollar Bounty and blueberry negroni to take home.
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