Bubbles float up glass tumblers like some kind of glacial-rivered moon surface. One of the icons of the British summertime – alongside green meadows and deck chairs and tennis whites – if gin and tonic were a brand its motifs would be rolled lawns, golf courses and afternoon teas. Cool, crisp, sharp and no-nonsense, it is a gentleman's classic and also the power woman's preference: the considered aficionado's choice.
Currently, this old master is all the vogue. Enthusiasts and novices frolic in popup botanical gin gardens and palaces hosted by tastemakers such as The Langham, Marcus Wareing and Tate, and stalk experiences and tastings in London, gin's spiritual and historical heartland, where a number of artisanal micro-distilleries have launched over the past couple of years...
Made by distilling alcohol with botanicals including juniper berries, orris root, coriander, angelica, citrus notes, herbs, fruits or dried flowers, order with tonic or, most fashionably, in a Negroni or classic Martini.
© East London Liquor Company
A brief history of gin
It's said that gin began its lifelong love affair with the English palate in the 17th century via the British troops serving in the Thirty Years War. On the battlefields of Holland soldiers downed the drink to soothe their nerves, crowning the term ‘Dutch Courage.’ They brought mementos back with them and soon the spirit became widely produced throughout England, its particular attraction for females earning the nickname ‘Mother's Ruin.’
George IV closed down the City of London's hundreds of distilleries but the gin palaces raved on, and the discovery of quinine as an anti-malarial ensured that the first lady of English spirits found a bedfellow in tonic. Post 2012, London has seen a gin renaissance not witnessed since Dickensian times, with artisanal micro-distilleries opened by enthusiasts and aficionados looking to revive this age-old spirit.
GIN DISTILLERY TOURS
City of London Distillery
From gin's ancestral heartland, the City of London Distillery (aka COLD) runs a range of tours, tastings and experiences each day. To really get hands on with the spirit, embark on the Gin Lab Experience, where you'll be given a tour of the distillery, be tutored on botanicals then have the opportunity to create your own blend courtesy of seven mini-stills named after each of the seven dwarves. You'll even get to name, seal and bottle your tincture to take home afterwards.
© East London Liquor Company
Opening the first copper gin distillery in London in nearly 200 years, Sipsmith founders Sam Galworthy and Fairfax Hall spearheaded the trend and are on hand to introduce you to Constance, Patience and Prudence, the gleaming stills that produce their sublime gins. Welcomed with a cool measure of homegrown gin and tonic, you are guided through the history of the spirit in London and the Sipsmith story, before enjoying a tutored tasting of their award-winning blends.
Shake, Rattle and Stir
Keep your Saturday agenda open for Shake, Rattle and Stir's chauffeur-driven tours of the capital. Saturday afternoons see The London Gin Experience taking in the Beefeater Distillery followed by a visit across the water to Sipsmith, or for a more hedonistic outing, cruise some of London's liveliest late night spots for a lesson in the history of the spirit and samplings of awe-inducing cocktails via the Gin Journey. Setting the bar high or bar fly? You decide...