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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
THE DISTILLERY 186 Portobello Rd, London W11 1LA
Far from a mere watering hole with a lengthy list of G&Ts, The Distillery is four whole floors of juniper-infused revelry, encompassing a gin-focused hotel, bar and restaurant. While it may not be the place for a first date (the boutique guest rooms might seem a little presumptuous), an evening spent sampling gins from around the world in The Resting Room downstairs before a feast of Spanish tapas in Gintonica will leave you intoxicated in more ways than one. And for those who consider themselves connoisseurs, the gin menu is far from ordinary, featuring everything from familiar Beefeaters to Xolato chocolate gin expertly paired with cranberry tonic water.
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.
TO FEEL COSY
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.
FOR AN EXPERIENCE
PORTOBELLO STAR 171 Portobello Rd, Notting Hill, London, W11 2DY
For those who aren’t content with just picking cocktails off a menu, this Victorian gin palace will have you simultaneously learning history, refining your palate and even blending your own batch of bespoke gin. Serving intoxicated Londoners since 1740, the bar is a far cry from the traditional British boozer it used to be, having been given new life (and a much better stocked bar) when it reopened in 2008. The cocktail names here are worth a visit in themselves, with tipples like the “Alpaca with All the Trimmings” and “The Queen Mother Cocktail”,’ which will purportedly help you live to 101 years old…
LATE AT NIGHT
MARTELLO HALL 137 Mare St, London Field, E8 3RH
Frankly, we think the swoon-worthy Martello Hall is an all-day hotspot, not to mention an interior designer’s dream, but with their delicious pizza menu available until close (which means 3AM on weekends) it’s definitely the place to take yourself if you’re likely to get hangry after a few too many G&Ts. As you munch on crisp slices of dough topped with smoked pancetta, potato, truffle taleggio and mozzarella, sip on gin aged in the bar’s very own still, affectionately named Nicola.
DURING THE DAY
MOTHER’S RUIN GIN PALACE Unit 18, Ravenswood Industrial Estate, Shernhall St, Walthamstow, E17 9HQ
Some might say the end of the Victoria Line is too far to go for a tipple, but we say those people clearly aren’t true gin devotees. Crafting unique gins in an airy World War I munitions factory, Mother’s Ruin throws open their doors every weekend to host a tiny cocktail bar overflowing with local and adventurous gin lovers alike. Find yourself a sunny spot outside and attempt to drink your way through the 70-strong line up of boutique gins, including some made on the premises using homegrown and foraged ingredients. Probably best not to sample more than a dozen or so though – you’ve got a long tube ride home, after all.
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