London is awash with gin bars, from one serving 14,000 different gin and tonic combinations to another that lets you distill your own bottle of gin to take home, says Sam Rogg
Drink your way around London’s greatest gin bars, from the Holborn Dining Room’s Gin Bar to The Distillery.
Love gin? Then you’ve come to the right city. Since the Middle Ages, London has been distilling vast quantities of the spirit, which is derived from juniper berries. So much so that by the mid-18th century, the capital was said to be in the grip of a ‘gin craze’, forcing Parliament to pass Gin Acts and distillation bans. Thankfully, things have relaxed a lot since then and these days you’ll find craft distilleries and gin bars galore.
If you think all gin and tonics taste the same, you’ve clearly never been to Holborn Dining
Room’s Gin Bar, which boasts more than 400 varieties of the spirit and 30 different tonics. With more than 14,000 possible gin and tonic pairings, from well-known international brands through to small-batch local distillers, it can be overwhelming knowing where to start. Simply let the bartenders know what kind of herbs, spices, fruit or floral flavours you like, and they’ll be able to find the exact combination to suit your palate. Our favourite? The East India Company’s gin mixed with Ledger’s naturally sweetened tonic (252 High Holborn, WC1V 7EN).
For those who can’t face the journey from bar to bed, there’s The Distillery – a boutique gin hotel with three beautiful rooms that overlooks Portobello Road in Notting Hill. This is where the world-famous Portobello Road Gin is made. Downstairs, there’s a timeless cocktail bar called The Resting Room, but head upstairs and you’ll find GinTonica, a colourful tapas and gin bar inspired by Spain’s Basque region. Pull up a stool by the open kitchen or small corner bar and watch the expert chefs and bartenders whip up some of the best G&Ts and small plates in London. We recommend a G’Vine Nouaision cocktail or straight-up Kokoro gin from Japan, no ice, to really appreciate its earthy black pepper notes (186 Portobello Rd, W11 1LA).
You can see how some of the capital’s award-winning gin is made at the City of
London Distillery (C.O.L.D) in Blackfriars. Choose from a range of tours and experiences – we recommend the intriguing Evolution of Gin Tour to find out how the spirit has developed over the centuries. You’ll love its five-flight gin tasting. Or get hands-on at a Gin Lab Experience, which lets you design and distill your own bottle of gin to take home – the ultimate souvenir for any gin lover (22-24 Bride Lane, EC4Y 8DT).
This image: Holborn Dining Room’s Gin Bar Below: a cocktail at The Distillery