Visiting a gin bar is one of the cooler things to do in London. And the spirit, historically dubbed mother’s ruin, has recently undergone a renaissance. From small craft gin museums to rooftop bars selling locally produced gins, London is home to a plethora of new-found enthusiasts. Even if you’re not up on your botanicals, you’ll still be allowed in for a sip.
You decide you’re in the mood for a tipple in a setting that’s quintessentially British. So you and your partner stop at The Perkin Reveller beside the historic St Katharine’s Dock. Inside, you make a beeline for the beautiful zinc bar that sits within an antique church pulpit. You study the menu of gin-based cocktails, and your friend opts for the 1894, named after the year Tower Bridge was built. The bartender takes great care mixing local gin, apple, cranberry, and lemon juice with egg white, gomme, and rhubarb bitters. He pours it into a traditional coupette glass and decorates it with cranberries. You were admiring the church-like windows, but your attention is brought back by the aroma of the Rhubarb & Custard cocktail, which he’s now making for you, mixing gin, homemade rhubarb syrup, and apple juice with rhubarb liqueurs. Your delightful drink is served with a mini pot of rhubarb and custard ice cream on the side. You smile at the novelty factor before taking your impressive drinks to the roof terrace, just in time for sunset. It makes your day when you see a real-life Beefeater wearing the traditional red and black uniform. This is as British as it gets.
The Portobello Star
Amidst the bustling Portobello Road, the Portobello Star is one of Notting Hill’s best gin gems. That’s because, in the two floors above this petite pub, you’ll find the Ginstitute, London’s second smallest museum and artisan gin distillery. The clientele in this gin bar is a mix of Notting Hill locals sipping pints and gin connoisseurs looking for the most inspired botanicals. You both order a glass of their Portobello Road No 171 with a bottle of tonic on the side. The bartender tells you it was created by gin enthusiasts Ged Feltham, Jake Burger, and Paul Lane. As he prepares your drinks, he tells you this signature gin has been crafted from eight different botanicals alongside the obligatory juniper berries. As you get comfortable in the banquette seating, you sip your drink and discuss the flavours. From liquorice root and nutmeg to coriander seeds and lemon peel, you find it unique and delicious.
Bermondsey is upping its game as a realms with cool places to drink. And that includes its own boutique gin bar, 214 Bermondsey, where you and your gin-curious friend pop into one Sunday. You perch up on the red leather bar stools and you could sit here all night, trying to pick one of their 80 different gins, hailing from Scotland, the US, the Mediterranean, and all corners of the UK. But you’ve heard that this gin bar has an innovative way in for gin-novices. You choose from one of their four 214 Bermondsey’s Flight Options, an exercise in blind gin tasting, which seems like the perfect way to start. You take the Flight Option dubbed “Tour of London” to your table and go on a taste bud tour of the capital, with splashes of their artisan tonic. You taste hints of tea and citrus and breathe in the malty aromas. With your taste buds well and truly warmed up, you’re keen to explore more of the menu. You chatter the night away with a new-found confidence that you’re as gin savvy as the connoisseurs around you. Which botanicals will you go for next? With so many to pick from, you know this isn’t your last time in a gin bar.