It’s a gin thing | Revival
London’s renewed love affair with gin shows no sign of slowing down and the spirit is now flowing from Clerkenwell bar taps, says Katy Salter…
Mother’s Ruin is back on the menu. But you probably knew that already. These days it’s practically impossible to set foot in a London bar that doesn’t have a row of artisan gins in stylish bottles lined up behind the counter. “Gin rules on the London scene right now,” says Geraldine Coates, editor of Gintime.com and author of The Mixellany Guide to Gin.
The Barbican’s new bar, Gin Joint, which opened in late 2013, takes the trend to its logical conclusion by serving gin on tap. Somewhere in west London, William Hogarth is spinning in his grave (see page 18). So why is gin so popular right now and when exactly did it change its image from boozer’s choice to sophisticate’s spirit?
The gin revival has been gathering pace for a while. According to Coates, the current craze has its roots in the early noughties, a time when designer vodkas ruled the roost. “The launch of Hendrick’s Gin in 2000 was a real catalyst,” she says. “Its new flavours and fun approach to marketing inspired new brands like Martin Miller’s. At the same time, established brands like Tanqueray launched lighter style expressions designed especially for cocktails, and brands like Beefeater began to invest in bar training and brand ambassadors. It all gradually built momentum to totally change the perception of gin for a new audience.”
This burgeoning gin revival opened the door for a new wave of “small-batch, craftsman-made spirits,” says Shannon McCoy of bar blog Barchick.com. “Sipsmith launched its Hammersmith distillery in 2009, the first to open in London in over 200 years. When the legendary Dukes hotel bar in Mayfair started serving Sacred gin, made by Ian Hart in his kitchen in Highgate, it was clear that gin was officially making its comeback.
The City of London Distillery (COLD) followed suit in 2012. Hidden down Bride Lane, just off Farringdon Street, the distillery is the brainchild of Jonathan Clark, who already owned the licensed premises but wanted to reinvent his business. “While sitting in the garden one summer evening sipping a G&T, I started wondering about the possibility of putting in a micro gin distillery,” he says. Clark installed copper stills and hired Jamie Baxter, the former distiller at Chase in Hereford.
“The last distillery in the City closed 187 years ago, so we’re proud to bring gin-making back in a much more refined way than it was done in the notorious gin houses in the area 200 years ago,” says Clark.
COLD is open for distillery tours and a Gin Lab Experience, where you have the chance to design and distil your very own gin. Also on site is C.O.L.D Bar, which stocks a staggering 175 different gins, including, of course, COLD’s own London Dry Gin. It’s one of several bars dotted around the capital that now specialise in the spirit. ‘The last distillery in the City closed 187 years ago, so we’re proud to bring gin-making back’ Surely the apotheosis of this trend, Gin Joint at the Barbican is not only named for the spirit but also has chilled Broker’s gin flowing from its taps. “The opening of Gin Joint provides proof than gin stands apart from all other spirits in popularity,” says McCoy.
“Although we serve a full range of other drinks, about 50 per cent of our drinks sold are gin-based,” adds Jack Bowles, Gin Joint’s head bartender. According to Bowles, Beefeater 24, No.3, Whitley Neill, Jensen’s Bermondsey and Tanqueray Rangpur are all popular with customers, who often follow the recommendations of the bartenders during the Gin Democracy between 5pm and 8pm each evening, when all the gins are the same price. Classic and lavender martinis are also proving popular.
Elsewhere in the neighbourhood, Clerkenwell-based jeweller Hannah Martin has designed a limited edition hip flask for Hendrick’s, made from blown glass, leather and pewter. Chic hip flasks, lavender martinis and small-batch distilleries? The streets of London (and Clerkenwell) may be awash with Mother’s Ruin once more, but it’s all a world away from Gin Lane.
Although gin is usually seen as a summer drink the juniper, is a star during the crisp cold winter days, says Leon T Dalloway (pictured, left), who provides gin tours and masterclasses.
THE LONDON NEGRONI
This is The London Bar Consultants’ twist on a classic Italian aperitif, served at the C.O.L.D. Bar. The lovely creamy gin works superbly alongside the slightly bitter yet spiced Kamm & Sons, which is then balanced with the intensely herby vermouth.
35ml City of London Dry Gin
35ml Sacred London Vermouth
35ml Kamm & Sons ginseng spirit
Mix all the liquid contents together with ice. Stir. Add orange peel to decorate.
HANS OFF MY DAUGHTER
Here’s one of mine – a winter drink that tastes like you’re in the best Belgian beer house. Sloane’s Gin is named after Sir Hans Sloane, founder of the British Museum, a great explorer and apparently father to a promiscuous daughter!
50ml Sloane’s Gin
5ml Chestnut liqueur
5ml Chocolate liqueur
50ml Mulled stout (mulled with juniper,
vanilla, coriander seeds, orange, lemon,
2 dashes Jerry Thomas bitters
5ml Honey water
1 Egg White
Shake all ingredients with ice, then shake again without the ice to create a frothy texture. Serve in a chilled beer mug over fresh ice and dust with cocoa.
GIN WITH MINT TEA AND LAVENDER
A really simple drink to make in big batches, so you can serve it at a party. Brew up some peppermint tea and add lavender. Leave it to sit for three minutes and then strain out the tea. Add gin and whatever citrus zest you fancy. Serve in a gorgeous (safe) glass with a mint leaf and you’ll have an amazing fresh and delicate hot drink. A dash of a berry liqueur works well with this one too.