February 7, 2014
Paris is famous for its wine, New York for its Manhattans and Munich for its frosty litres. And London? Well, you can rightly consider London a gin Mecca.
The capital has had a long, sometimes sordid, love affair with the spirit. Though gin technically originated from the Netherlands, where its ancestor, genever, was thought to have medicinal properties, it migrated south in the late 17th century. The juniper-rich spirit soon caused quite a stir: known as the Gin Craze, the first half of the 1700s saw a huge increase in the number of distilleries and gin consumption in the capital. Parliament eventually saw to take the debauchery down a few levels, but London has never fully abandoned its love affair with gin.
These days, Londoners can be found enjoying a refreshing gin and tonic, a warming dram of sloe gin, or a creative, craft gin cocktail in one of the city’s many gin bars. Whether you’re looking to sample your first real taste of London Dry Gin, or are hoping for something a little more innovative, here’s where you’ll find the best gin bars in London.
For truly excellent gin in the capital, it’s best to start right at the source. A new generation of micro-distilleries have set up shop in recent years. Sipsmith, based in west London, is leading a new generation of artisanal gin producers. Their distillery tours (samples included!) are hugely popular, so booking in advanced is definitely advised. City of London Distillery, a new upstart just off of Fleet Street, is another must-visit. While its distilling facilities are small enough to fit in a room the size of a walk-in closet, the gin is bold and bursting with juicy grapefruit flavours. And to do a taste comparison, its on-site bar stocks an incredible 175 different gins.
If sheer plenitude of choices is your thing, you’ll also want to stop by the quirky Graphic Bar in Soho. The destination claims to stock more gins than any other bar in the UK, which is reason enough to pay a visit – as are its cheeky paint tin punches, which play on the venue’s graphic arts theme and serve up special pours in uncommon receptacles. The London Gin Club is another worthy Soho venture. The venue, which offers membership perks and also hosts gin events around London, is renowned for its G&T expertise.
Speaking of expertise: no London gin tour would be complete without a stop-off at the world-renowned Dukes Hotel in Mayfair. Inside, the Dukes Bar makes what has been called the best Martini. . .ever. The capable Alessandro Palazzi heads up the operation, and true Martini aficionados can even sign up for a masterclass to learn the secrets behind the drink.
London also has no shortage of reputable cocktail bars, with heaps of gin-based cocktails, both traditional and contemporary, on offer. Purl has gone above and beyond the classic Martini with their molecular mixology version of the drink, which chills the gin to an exceptional degree with the help of liquid nitrogen. For a more old-fashioned gin cocktail, visit 214 Bermondsey, a dimly-lit South London speakeasy hidden beneath sister restaurant Antico. Novices can order a gin flight to sample and compare several gins at once, while a gin and tonic order is also advised – particularly as the bar makes their own tonic with specially imported quinine.
Whether you’re a true connoisseur, or whether you’re just looking for a great night out in the Big Smoke, a gin bar crawl is the perfect way to feel like a real Londoner.
Have you visited any of these London gin bars? Which is your favourite? Let us know in the comments section below.
Written by Claire Bullen