As you may have noticed, recently gin’s been making a big comeback in London. There are gin festivals, distilleries, gin hotels and even gin-based afternoon teas popping up all over town – even at the airport. London Gatwick has its own gin distillery, found at the North Terminal’s Nicholas Culpeper Pub & Dining Room. How many other airports can offer you spirits that have been distilled on-site while you wait for your flight? Not many, we bet.
With so many to choose from, and World Gin Day 2017 (10th June) coming up, we’ve put together this handy guide to the most exciting gin tasting experiences and best gin bars in London.
Can’t wait? See our selection of gin experiences here.
Junipalooza is a gin festival for people who take their spirits seriously. Over 50 distillers will be at Wapping’s Tobacco Dock over the World Gin Day weekend, showing off more than 100 of their best products. Pick up your tasting glass on arrival and take your pick. You can chat to the makers while you sample their drinks, and there’ll also be masterclasses from industry experts.
The Gin Festival
Later in the summer, the Tobacco Dock hosts another gin festival, and this one’s even bigger. The Gin Festival‘s summer edition takes place over the August Bank Holiday weekend. More than 100 gins are on offer, including several exclusive varieties that you won’t find anywhere else. While you’re sipping on your G&T, you can listen to live music, and eat gourmet food from the vendors.
To coincide with World Gin Day 2017, they’re also hosting a new festival in Newcastle Racecourse. Interested in checking it out? Take a look at our selection of Newcastle upon Tyne hotels.
And for more summer food inspiration, check out our guide to The Top London Food Festivals in 2017.
Gin Distillery Experiences
One of the most iconic names in London gins, Beefeater have been operating out of the same Kennington distillery since the 1800s. They offer tours of their distillery throughout the week. With interactive exhibits and information accessible via iPad, it’s perfect for experiencing a bit of London gin history. And they’ll be celebrating World Gin Day with a on-site party, featuring live music and other surprises.
A newer arrival on the London distillery scene, Hammersmith-based Sipsmith are committed to reviving traditional techniques. In 2009 they set up the first new copper distillery in London since 1820. And their commitment to small batch distilling has ensured that their gins are available in many of the city’s coolest bars. You can explore their process on their regular distillery tours.
They’ve also got something very special planned for World Gin Day 2017. A team-up with pop-up dining specialists Gingerline, Juniper Manor is a secretive, but sure to be spectacular immersive drinking experience.
City of London Distillery
Another key player in the gin revival is the City of London Distillery, who opened the first new distillery within the City’s square mile in almost 200 years. They’ve been producing fine quality gins since 2012, and have already picked up several international awards along the way. Visit their distillery and you can enjoy five different gin experiences. You can take a tour through gin’s history or distill your own. You can even compete with friends to see who can produce the best-tasting tipple.
New arrival on the London gin scene, 58 Gin is the work of one man – Australian-born Mark Marmont. Inspired by the cocktails at his local bar, Mark set about perfecting his own recipe. And perfect it he certainly did, as it’s stocked in some of the most exclusive bars and shops. You can even find it on the shelves of Fortnum and Mason.
With only room for 5 people at a time, his Hackney Downs distillery offers an intimate gin experience. You’ll be greeted with a 58 gin and tonic, then try several gin varieties to find your own preferred flavour. Based on this, you’ll be guided through making your very own variety.
During the 19th century, Camden Lock was home to several distilleries. And while they’re all sadly long gone, Half Hitch are now reviving the area’s gin tradition. Their micro-distillery uses modern techniques to produce an award-winning gin. They also run a regular Gin School. Each class involves a lesson in the history of gin (with several tastings along the way). Following this, you’ll be guided through making your own batch – you can even bring ingredients from home to create your own unique blend.
London Gin Club
The clue’s in the name at the London Gin Club. The bar has a carefully selected menu of more than 300 premium and super premium gins on offer. And they have several gin tasting menus to help you explore the selection. They’re even launching a new one to mark World Gin Day 2017, with eight exceptional gins from around the world.
For a little bit of the authentic Victorian London gin experience, head to the Viaduct Tavern near St Paul’s. This City of London mainstay is one of the few surviving 19th century Gin Palaces. And you can still see some of the original fixtures, including a booth where the landlady sold gin tokens to customers. The pub prides itself on its gin and tonic menu, with several varieties to choose from. (As it’s now a Fuller’s pub, the beer selection’s rather good too.)
Holborn Dining Room
There’s more classic ambience at the nearby Holborn Dining Room‘s Gin Bar. Its got a fancy, elegant decor, and claims to have the largest gin menu in London, with more than 400 to choose from. This summer it’s also hosting a dedicated pop-up gin bar on its terrace. Run in association with GQ magazine, it’s sure to be one of the most stylish gin spots.
Prefer something a bit more modern? No problem. Soho’s Graphic Bar is a brand new take on the Gin Palace. One which also claims to have not just the widest gin selection in London, but in the whole of the UK. Not only will you find hundreds of gin varieties, but the bar’s mixologists are able to create a truly dizzying amount of drinks. These include authentic, historic cocktail recipes and kitsch classics from the 70s, 80s and 90s. The bar also offers a signature range of contemporary drinks, including ‘paint tin punches’, designed to be a perfect party centrepiece.
Gin Tasting Tours
If you can’t decide on just the one bar or distillery, try a guided tour. Gin Journey started as the one-man Shake Rattle and Stir tour in 2013, and is now an acclaimed award-winning gin experience. Its tours take place not just in London, but now Liverpool, Edinburgh and Manchester as well. Book in for a Gin Journey tour, and you’ll be chauffeured around some of the city’s best spots by your expert Gin Guardian, with 5 gin samples and 5 cocktails along the way.
And this summer, they’re also launching a new London tour, exploring Notting Hill’s best gin spots.
Notting Hill’s status in London’s gin scene could largely be down to the success of one brand – Portobello Road Gin. And their headquarters are a one-stop shop for gin lovers. Their original home at 171 Portobello Road – the Portobello Star Bar is a charming drinking spot, with hundreds of years of history and an extensive drinks menu.
With the brand’s success, they’ve had to expand their distillery, so operations have moved from the upstairs of the bar to a new location, just down the street at The Distillery. Found at 186 Portobello Road, these new premises offer several bars and a few boutique hotel-style rooms.
They’re also home to The Ginstitute, a 3-hour gin experience where you are guided through the drink’s history by master distiller Jake F. Burger and his team. You’ll get to learn all about the distilling process and even get to create your own batch. It’s been enjoyed by more than 15,000 gin lovers since it started in 2011.
To mark World Gin Day 2017, Jake has recreated an original 19th century gin recipe. Bottles of the ‘Old Tom’ blend will be available to buy in The Distillery’s off-licence. You can also try it in the on-site Resting Room bar.
The Distillery Bankside
If 5-star luxury’s more your thing, check out The Distillery Bankside (no relation). The Hilton London Bankside‘s on-site gin bar pays homage to the 19th century building’s former life as an essence factory. The bar has more than 50 gins on the menu – including several artisan varieties from nearby distillers in Southwark and Bermondsey. The bartenders really know their stuff too, and will be happy to talk you through the menu’s flavours.
Intercontinental Park Lane
Like your gin served with a bit of glitz and glamour? The Intercontinental Park Lane has the soiree for you. Twice a month the grand Mayfair hotel throws a Gin & Jazz night in its Arch Bar. Celebrating the style of the roaring ’20s, you can enjoy live jazz and dancing, as well as both classic and contemporary cocktails, crafted from a selection of 40 gins.
Gin Afternoon Teas
If there’s anything London loves as much as its gin, it’s an afternoon tea. But why choose between them? Mr Fogg’s Gin Parlour offers a selection of Afternoon Tea menus with gin and tonic or gin cocktail options. You can have cream cakes and cocktails or gin and tonics paired with Victorian delicacies. On Saturdays things get seriously decadent with a bottomless G & Tea offer. And, with its characterful Victorian-style decor, the Covent Garden-based parlour’s also a great place to go just for a drink. There are more than 300 gins, 25 tonics and 40 botanicals on the menu. Which adds up to more than 9,000,000 potential G&T combinations. You can get the expert bar staff’s help to find your own unique recipe with the parlour’s Gin and Tonic tasting experience.
Mr Fogg’s Afternoon Teas are just one of several gin-based treats available in our experiences section.
And if you want to make a night of it – check out our range of London hotel rooms.
Do you have a gin joint or cocktail den that’s close to your heart? Please feel free to share your tips in the comments section.