Looking for the best gin bars in the UK? Want to find the best gin in London? Here’s our list of the best gin bars to visit for perfect gin tonic, great martinis and more.
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 ten of our favourite places to get a great gin drink.
Here’s our guide to the best gins in the UK, along with how to make the perfect gin tonic for each gin.
Best gin bars in London
East London Liquor Company, London E3 (Victoria Park)
Bursting onto the London gin scene in summer 2014, ELLC produce three mega gins and import a bespoke rum from Guyana. 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.
Tonica, London EC1 (Exmouth Market)
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.
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.
Photograph by Claire Menary
City of London Distillery, London EC4 (City)
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)
Temper City, London EC2 (City)
Serving up curry, tandoori roasted meats and homemade paratha, temper City is a feast not only on the food front but for spirits, too. The 25-strong gin list, split into dry, sweeter, mineral and savoury can all be served in a G&T or martini with a unique garnish for each.
Merchant House, London EC4 (City)
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.
Ask for Janice, London EC1 (City)
Nestled between Barbican and Farringdon, this laid-back city bar focusses on local gins, with over 50 the choose from. Options include London’s East London Liquor Batch 1, City of London and Worship Street, each served with a perfect pairing, from fig and rosemary to lemon zest and cinnamon.
The American Bar at The Savoy, London WC2 (Strand)
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.
Dukes, London SW1 (Mayfair)
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.
Mother’s Ruin Gin Palace, London E17 (Walthamstow)
In the weekdays, Mother’s Ruin manufacturing unit is home to their liqueur making, but come the weekend the doors of their factory building are thrown open to host a small cocktail bar. Their collection of gins was 70 at the last count, including their own sloe, damson and Old Tom options.
London Gin Club at The Star, London W1 (Soho)
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.
Best gin bars across the UK
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.
Ba’Bar at Dustane Houses, Edinburgh
The bar at Edinburgh’s elegant boutique hotel, Dunstane Houses, takes its name from the traditional Orcadian street football game. The dark paintwork and mustard velvet chairs and backlit whisky cabinet give it a cosy vibe.
Ba’Bar’s 15 or so artisan gins are all Scottish bar one (Sipsmiths if you’re interested), including a bottle of the recently launched Old Tom Rhubarb Gin from the Orkney Gin company. Try one of the signature cocktails such as the refreshing Gin, Rhubarb and Pepper tonic made with rhubarb bitters and grated black pepper.
Check out our full review of Dustan Houses here…
Photo credit: Rita Platts
Tiroran House, Isle of Mull
Tucked between woods and sea on the Isle of Mull, Tiroran House is a country hotel that produces its own Whitetail Gin; made with foraged heather and sea kelp, it’s named after the white-tailed eagles that nest nearby. Buy it in the hotel’s shop-café to take away, or enjoy it as an aperitif before tucking into the likes of Inverlussa mussels and fillet of Highland longhorn beef at the hotel’s restaurant.
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.
Pleased to Meet You, Newcastle
Tucked away down High Bridge street near Newcastle’s Monument station, Pleased to Meet You is a swish bar specialising in gin and tonic. With a menu featuring over 60 gins, split into American, oak-aged, naval, sloe, fruit, vintage style and London, there’s a tipple to suit everyone’s tastes, from Sacred pink grapefruit to Monkey 47. Choose to pair your gin with one of the many tonics including Fever-Tree, Indi & Co. as well as more unusual ones like Original Yuzu before garnishing with everything from pink peppercorns to coffee beans.
If you’re unsure what to choose, pick from one of the 15-strong list which breaks down the flavours into gin botanicals, tonic profile and garnish. Go fruity with a Bloom and Thomas Henry cherry blossom tonic topped off with rose petals, or keep it spicy with the Opihr and Indi tonic served with star anise and orange.
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?
The Canary Gin Bar, Bath
Don’t miss Bath’s dedicated gin bar, which offers up to 200 gins to choose from, all served in proper goblets with tonics and garnishes especially chosen to bring out the botanicals of each gin. Try the new Bath Gin (£7) – it’s flavoured with 10 botanicals including burnt orange peel and cardamom, and Thornbury’s 6 O’Clock, mixers included.
The Feathers, Oxfordshire
Down south, in Oxfordshire, Woodstock’s The Feathers hotel is a charmingly rambling sort of place with colourful interiors and a gin bar stocked with 400 bottles (do explore its roster of gin flights, which take you through different flavour profiles).
Ginhaus Deli, Llandeilo
If you’re in Carmathenshire head to Ginhaus Deli in postcard-ready Llandeilo; as the name suggests it stocks some 400 gins, 10 of which are Welsh, plus locally made Coaltown Coffee, cheese and charcuterie.
Finding a home in the cultural quarter of Exeter’s high street, this bar in a Grade-II building is a perfect hideout for gin lovers, with plush green velvet antique chairs, dark wooden floors and shelves lined with vintage books.
Its speciality is artisan gin, with a particular focus on South West distilled varieties (Salcombe Start Point, Wicked Wolf, Barbican Botanics). Try the floral aviation with Cotswold Dry Gin, cherry liquor and crème de violette, or unwind with a classic negroni with Martin Miller’s Westbourne Strength Gin, sweet vermouth and Campari.
The Refectory Bar, Plymouth
This Grade-II listed building is home to a cosy gin-focused cocktail bar, complete with squishy sofas, a sleek wooden bar and a ceiling of atmospheric wooden beams.
Run by Plymouth Gin Distillery, the short menu always features four cocktails from the classic gimlet to the modern Gin Pennant and twists on the martini – Angostura bitters-laced The Pink Gin (deceivingly amber in colour), and The Marguerite that nods to Plymouth Gin’s role in the creation of the Dry Martini. There are then seasonal additions including CO2-charged pre-bottled negronis, and, of course, many gin and tonic variations.
The bar is reserved for members after 7pm on Fridays and Saturdays, but we’ve heard that if you visit midweek often enough, you can bag yourself a membership.