Gin has risen like a phoenix from the ashes. During the second half of the 20th century it was in the doldrums, it’s only existence seemed to lie in a dirty half pint glass with a slimy piece of lemon, ice cubes which had melted by the time the bartender dropped the gin in and drowned it with a plastic flavoured tonic water. Well things have changed. Gin is soaring, the world is once again enamoured with the juniper flavoured elixir and small-batch distilleries are crafting new products all across the globe. The G&T is seeing a new lease of life, being served up in stunning glassware, with big ice and sexy fruit. Bartenders are now treating it like the classy lady it is, and the classic gin-based cocktails have come roaring back into fashion. With gin’s resurgence, we’ve seen a plethora of new ‘gin palaces’ arrive on the scene ready to serve you up the perfect bevy. Here are 10 of my favourite places to get a great gin drink.
East London Liquor Company
Bursting onto the London gin scene in summer 2014, ELLC are relative newcomers. They produce three mega gins, import a bespoke rum from Guyana, and in three years will have their own London rye whisky on the shelves. While you sip away on the brink of Victoria Park you have their two beautiful stills looking over you from behind the bar. A true gin lover’s nirvana.
City of London Distillery
The first distillery to be launched in the square mile for over 150 years, CoLD have brought gin back to the area where it led to so much social destruction during the Hogarth’s Gin Lane era. Walk down the stairs into this hidden gem and you’re faced with a wall of gins from every corner of the globe. They produce three gins on site in their stills (Clarissa and Jennifer), and they even have a gin lab where you can create your own gin. (pictured top)
Merchant House, London
These guys believe they have the biggest selection of premium gin and rum anywhere in the world – the seams are bursting. They’ve focused on the history that brought these two great spirits together and created something quite special. What you get with Merchant House is amazing booze and an education to go with it – they know the story behind every bottle they stock. Don’t believe me? Get down and test them out.
The American Bar at The Savoy, London
So esteemed is this bar, that since it’s 1893 conception the role of head bartender has been filled by just 10 people. One of them was Harry Craddock, author of The Savoy Cocktail Book and the flavour-maker who got visitors drinking the headline drink of the times, the gin martini. What better surroundings to quaff gin than a room where Churchill used to whisper the word ‘vermouth’ to his bone dry martinis.
Peg + Patriot, London
The team and Peg + Patriot, headed by the ever-influential Matt Whiley, will bend your preconceptions of what to expect from a drink. They produce three gins on site in their tiny vacuum stills, and distil everything from Tunnocks Tea Cakes to Pho Soup. At P + P they are pushing the boundaries on what you can to do with gin and making it super tasty. Welcome to the future.
Come on, this is where Ian Fleming came up with 007’s famous ‘shaken not stirred’ (not the way to drink them) line – it’s a must for any martini fan. They have weekly Martini masterclasses to show you how to mix one to perfection, and their head bartender Alessandro Palazzi is widely regarded as the king of martinis.
London Gin Club (at The Star)
Formerly a cafe in the heart of Soho and now a gin paradise, The London Gin Club have offer a vast array of gins and a sizable selection of tonics to go with it. Want a G&T served Spanish style? Look no further. The London Gin Club serve it right, and trust me, they’ll garnish your tipple with the perfect botanical match.
Heads and Tales, Edinburgh
Think of Scotland and along with haggis and bagpipes, you’ll probably think of whisky. Well, now you can think gin as well. Scotland has a rich gin heritage and Heads and Tales in Edinburgh have kicked things back off with a gin emporium in the heart of the ancient city. They produce Edinburgh gin on site too, so there’s some sexy copper stills to look at while you sip.
Gorilla (the Gin Parlour), Manchester
One of the liveliest music venues in the North has got a little secret. It has a mezzanine gin parlour dishing out juniper lead beauties to the thirsty public. Once you’re up, there be cheeky and ask the bartender to take you through the secret door to the music hall, tell them Leon sent you.
The Old Bell Inn, Lancashire
No list of gin bars is complete without a world record. The Old Bell is an unassuming 18th century village pub in Saddleworth, Lancashire, but it has the most gins on the planet – 404 gins to be precise – that’s a Guinness World Record. Head down and see the certificate hanging proudly on the back bar. Come on, who doesn’t love a world record?
To book yourself on one of Leon’s Gin Journeys, visit Shake, Rattle and Stir. Highlights include Leon’s talk on the colourful history of gin, and plenty of opportunities to sip expertly-crafted gin cocktails in some of London’s best-loved establishments. Leon also now runs Gin Voyages, a three hour journey down London’s canal network discovering how they played a crucial role in the history of gin. You’ll enjoy a few tipples along the way and even get the chance to distill your very own gin.
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