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Gin has had a rollercoaster history in London. Once the favoured drink of London’s poorest (and nicknamed ‘Mother’s ruin’), it gradually improved in quality and by the mid-19th century was enjoyed by well-heeled punters in ornate gin palaces.
Later, younger generations began to turn their noses up at what was seen as an old-fashioned spirit – until a recent gin revival made it the hottest drink in town. Get on the bandwagon at these top London gin attractions.
The London Gin Club
Every night (except Sunday and Monday), family-run Soho bar The Star At Night plays host to The London Gin Club. Step into this tiny bar and you’ll find more than 70 gins to choose from, including a new, limited stock of vintage gins from the 1950s, 60s and 70s. There’s also an experimental Ginventor menu and Gin Tasting Menus – complete with balloon glasses, hand-cracked ice, paired garnishes and Fever-Tree tonic.
Martini Masterclass at Dukes Bar
James Bond author Ian Fleming was a regular at the Dukes Bar, and it’s said that the inspiration for the classic catchphrase ‘Shaken, not stirred’ came from here. Today you can learn the tricks of the trade directly from Dukes’ expert barman on a Martini Masterclass. You’ll make the bar’s signature martini and other classic cocktails, learn the history behind each and then, of course, taste your handiwork with some tasty canapés.
Gin Joint at the Barbican
Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world… you have to walk into this one. Located on the second floor of the Barbican Centre, The Gin Joint is a slick, smart brasserie and bar (from Searcy’s) serving only London dry gin or varieties distilled in the same style. Choose from gin with a mixer, gin on tap (a first in the city, it claims) and six signature gin cocktails. Head along from 5-8pm to enjoy any G&T for £7.50.
The London Distillery Company Tour
As the popularity of gin has grown in recent years, so has the number of people distilling right here in the capital – putting the London back in ‘London Dry Gin’ (the term refers to the distilling process not its geographical origins). The London Distillery Company has gone one step further and opened its Battersea home to (pre-booked) tours. You’ll learn about gin and the distilling process, find out about TLDC’s own gins (Dodd’s Gin and the TESTBED Anglo-American range) and naturally partake in some sampling.
Bourne & Hollingsworth
Cosy prohibition-style bar Bourne & Hollingsworth is known for its retro parlour décor and cocktails served in teacups. Gin favourites on the menu include Gardener’s Tea Break with Hendricks gin and green tea syrup; Hollingsworth fizz with egg white and soda; and the wonderfully named The Wibble, mixing gin and sloe gin.
A stylish, design-led alternative to London’s traditional gin palace-style bars (such as The Worship Street Whistling Shop and The Viaduct Tavern), Graphic showcases work by contemporary artists such as Ben Allen, Eine and Turner Prize winner Mark Wallinger. But gin is no sideline here, with an incredible 180 gins on the menu – the most extensive gin collection in the UK. Opt for the ‘Gold’ Paint Tin Punch and it will come delivered with a blast of Spandau Ballet’s hit record of the same name.
Gin & Jazz at Inter Continental London Park Lane
Flapper dresses, gin cocktails, vintage jazz… every month the Intercontinental London Park Lane Hotel revives the golden 1920s with a night of Gin & Jazz. On the menu you’ll find 40 different gins, sharing plates and a veritable cocktail of music from the likes of The Swing Ninjas and The FB Pocket. It’s the cat’s meow.