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Gin is having a great revival at the moment, and there is no place better to fall for its intoxicating charms than in its home of over 300 years – London. For decades gin, a classic British spirit, was dismissed as an old person’s drink. But now it has taken centre stage once again on some of the city’s most exciting cocktail menus. Whatever the occasion there will be a gin cocktail to match it, and here are some of the best bars to try them:

ON A DATE

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THE DONOVAN BAR AT BROWN’S HOTEL 30-34 Albemarle Street, London W1S 4BP

From the immaculate bartenders to the black and white Terence Donovan pictures lining the walls everything at The Donovan Bar is elegant and charming. Its citrusy, floral drinks include the delicious War of the Roses with Chase gin, rosebuds, lemon and syrup, which makes a refreshing aperitif before a heavy dinner at Hix Mayfair across the corridor. But the house tipple is undoubtedly the Donovan Martini – an intriguing mix of Tanqueray Ten, Kummel, pineapple, nettle cordial and a dash of tonic. With past clientele including Winston Churchill and Oscar Wilde, you’re in good company at this drinking hole.

WITH FRIENDS

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THE EAST LONDON LIQUOR COMPANY 221 Grove Rd, London E3 5SN

The ELLC – in suitably East London fashion – is housed in a former glue factory by Victoria Park. Playing up to its industrial chic aesthetic, the centrepiece is its beautiful burnished copper stills, which dominate the room. Unique in that it makes its own gin, the ELLC has tapped into London’s rich but neglected heritage of spirit production. There isn’t a dud among the cocktails on offer but highlights include their Martini made with rhubarb and sage and their Darjeeling Sour with bergamot bitters and Darjeeling liquor. Its relaxed atmosphere and deluxe cheese toasties make an ideal spot to hang out with friends. Best of all you can ask the bartenders to rustle up a bottle of your favourite cocktail to take home, or they can sell you a wonderful range of spirits from The Bottle Shop next door. Carrying on the party at your place after closing time is mandatory.

DURING THE DAYTIME

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MR FOGG’S 15 Bruton Lane, London W1J 6JD

Mr Fogg’s is the kind of place in which you can lose an afternoon – and much of an evening – if you’re not careful. Decorated as the fictional home of Phileas Fogg, in every nook and cranny a Victorian curiosity greets you. On Saturdays from 3PM onwards they offer their ‘Tipsy Tea’ with bottomless teapots of gin cocktails alongside pastries and sandwiches. The quaintly uniformed waiters serve delicate drinks such as the 1840 – Earl Grey infused Tanqueray Ten with Cointreau, crème de pêche and marmalade, while punters are asked to dress in informal but elegant attire. Mr Fogg’s certainly makes for a very cosy refuse on a blustery day.

WITH GOOD MUSIC

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DISCOUNT SUIT COMPANY 29A Wentworth St, London E1 7TB

Non-descript on the outside but plenty happening on the inside, the DSC is a London bar that really does the speakeasy vibe justice. Named after its former life as a tailor’s stockroom, it is now a basement full of offbeat design features. A favourite tipple for the winter is the Have a Heart – a warming concoction of gin, Swedish punsch, grenadine and lime. Eat their generous cheeseboard from Neal’s Yard Diary to soak up any of the excess alcohol. The DSC is a handy meeting place near Liverpool Street without resorting to a boring chain pub. Unsurprisingly though, it is very popular so prepare to compromise your elbow-room on the weekends.

WITH SPECIALIST DRINKS

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OSKAR’S BAR 39 Whitfield Street London W1T 2SF

Run by eponymous bartender Oskar Kinberg, this bar is a real gem for gin lovers and cocktail enthusiasts alike. The menu is a thoughtful mix of fun and sophistication with cocktails that invariably turn out to be impressive and well-balanced – however peculiar you think the ingredients sound. The big crowd-pleaser here is the Basil Fawlty – made from Beefeater, basil, meadowsweet, elderflower and apple, but don’t miss out on the appropriately named Another Day in Paradise – Martin Miller’s gin with virgin olive oil, bay leafs, vermouth and gin with their homemade tonic. This place is hard to beat for experimental cocktails that still – vitally – taste amazing.

TO FEEL COSY

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Le Fumoir at Claridge’s 49 Brook Street, London W1K 4HR

If you have yet to stop by Claridge’s diminutive drinking den then you are in for a treat. Discreetly hidden behind double doors in the foyer, Le Fumoir has the air of an elegant retreat of iniquity. It is ideal for long nights when you fancy an indulgent pick-me-up, and a bit of people watching. A must-try is the By Jove with Tanqueray, mint and Laurent Perrier while The Charlie Chaplin with Plymouth sloe gin, Grey Goose l’Orange, and orange bitters is an excellent way to round off the evening. Come the bleak midwinter, Le Fumoir with all its velvet and soft art-deco lighting is very hard to leave.

LATE AT NIGHT

The Shrub and Shutter
Shrub and Shutter

Shrub & Shutter 336 Coldharbour Lane, London, SW9 8QH

If you need another reason to start exploring south London, let the exuberant cocktails at the Shrub & Shutter be the one. An old takeaway that has been stylishly refurbished, this Brixton bar offers plenty of exciting variations on gin classics, and they do delectable dainty bar snacks. Their eponymous signature cocktail is typically complex – Whitley Neill gin, chartreuse, maraschino, fennel sugar, and chlorophyll bitters with a cucumber shrub. These certainly aren’t drinks that you could hope to rustle up at home yourself. Shrub & Shutter draws a young crowd who can stay drinking here until the early hours. It’s one of the coolest new places to drink in the city.

Words by Olivia Williams

Olivia Williams’ book Gin Glorious Gin: How Mother’s Ruin Became the Spirit of London

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