Looking for gin bars in London? Read our review of Tonica by The Distillery, a chilled-out gin bar in Exmouth Market.
In a nutshell: The Distillery (home of Portobello Road Gin) has opened up a bar and restaurant in Exmouth Market serving Spanish small plates and souped-up G&Ts.
Where is it? Clerkenwell, a 12-minute walk from Farringdon underground station.
What’s the vibe? Tonica is chilled out – colourful artworks hang on the white walls, there’s Spanish-style tiling on the floor, skylights fill the space with light and hanging plants trail green foliage. There’s also an on-site distillery – products of which you’ll find on the drinks menu.
What’s the drinks menu like? Gin, unsurprisingly, is the star, specifically the roster of ‘Gin & Tonic Plus’ drinks, which blur the line between a classic G&T and a cocktail – Nordés Atlantic Galician Gin, for example, is served with hibiscus liqueur and ginger bitters, Merchant’s Heart hibiscus tonic, orange, stem ginger and edible flowers, while Portobello Road Gin 171 is matched with pamplemousse liqueur, grapefruit marmalade, Nordic Blue Mist tonic water, grapefruit, juniper berries and hops. Click here for some of our favourite unusual gins to try.
Also of note on the menu are the Spanish-themed cocktails, from the Sherry Cobbler (manzanilla sherry, pineapple, lemon, maple, Abbott’s Bitters) to the Vespertine Negroni (The Distillery Smoky Gin, Campari, Pedro Ximénez) and a mostly Spanish wine list (with plenty of sherries, naturally). Check out our sherry guide here.
Which cocktails to order? The G&T Plus cocktails lived up to their hype, served Spanish style in enormous copa de balón glasses. Our favourite saw Rives Special Gin mixed with Lacuesta dry vermouth, olive bitters, Fever-Tree Mediterranean tonic, dehydrated orange, olive and rosemary. Refreshing, aromatic and savoury, it was the perfect foil for the tapas-style plates served alongside our drinks. After dinner, the Isabel I – Dubonnet, amontillado sherry, bitters and cava – was an elegantly simple, grown-up cocktail, with lovely dried fruit notes from the sherry.
Is there any food? As Tonica is more of a bar/restaurant hybrid, there’s lots to explore on the food menu – from platters of charcuterie and cheese to tapas dishes. We especially enjoyed tender smoked pork belly with pickled Granny Smith apple, juicily soft grilled chicken with chorizo dressing and chickpea purée, blackened leeks with vermouth vinaigrette and bread that came with a wonderful smoked olive oil. For more tapas restaurants click here.
Where else to go nearby for dinner: There’s plenty of choice on Exmouth Market, but to continue the Mediterranean vibe head a few doors down to Berber & Q’s shawarma bar.
Price: Cocktails start at £7.95.
Words by Hannah Guinness