If we were asked to nominate a spirit of the moment, it’d be an easy choice: gin has, over the past few years, experienced a massive resurgence in London. From artisanal, copper pot gin distilleries like Sipsmith and Sacred to a rash of new gin bars and parlours, there’s no doubt that London’s gone mad for gin (though, happily, not to the extent that it did in the 18th century – see William Hogarth’s infamous ‘Gin Lane’).
For lovers of all things juniper (and cardamom and coriander and angelica . . .), we’ve put together a list of the 10 best gin bars in London. Whether you’re looking for a perfect gin and tonic, a Pre-Prohibition drink, or a cutting-edge cocktail, these bars will have you sipping in style.
Taking inspiration from the Victorian watering holes and gin palaces of yore, Worship Street Whistling Shop is a sumptuously appointed and darkness-cloaked cocktail den, where drinks are treated with no small degree of reverence. A long list of gin and genever (gin’s Dutch ancestor) bottles is complemented by tipples like the exceptional Bread of Heaven, which blends Bols Genever with wheat beer, banana and clove vinegar, and egg white for a spiced and frothy concoction.
Worship Street Whistling Shop, 63 Worship Street, London EC2A 2DU
+44 (0)20 7247 0015, www.whistlingshop.com
It’s right there in the name – Gin Joint is a wonderfully reliable new destination for gin lovers (and those seeking to convert their vodka-swilling brethren). Situated on Level 2 of the Barbican Centre, Gin Joint is one of the city’s first bars to offer gin on tap, and pours dozens of distillations, from the major players to the up-and-coming artisans. G&T drinkers can specify their tonic preference, whilst cocktail fiends can sip on subtly tweaked iterations of the French 75, Bramble, and other classic choices.
Gin Joint, Barbican Centre (Level 2), Silk Street, London EC2Y 8DS
+44 (0)20 7588, 3008, http://searcys.co.uk/venues/gin-joint
Not only is City of London Distillery one of London’s most exciting new copper pot gin distilleries, producing a spiced and grapefruit-redolent spirit, but it’s also one of our favourite gin bars. Stocking over 170 gins and 10 tonics, not to mention a drinks list of Square Mile-devoted cocktails (the London Negroni blends the house gin with Kamm and Sons ginseng liqueur), this is a gin drinker’s paradise.
City of London Distillery Bar, 24 Bride Street, EC4Y 8DT
+44 (0)20 7936 3636, http://cityoflondondistillery.com
Situated within the Marriott County Hall, Gillray’s steakhouse and bar is a testament to all things British. As such, its cocktail list is one to beat: boasting over 40 gins, the opulently decorated lounge also serves some quintessentially English concoctions. Try the Wife & No Wife, which blends Hendrick’s Gin, English breakfast tea tincture, elderflower liqueur and cucumber.
Gillray’s Steakhouse & Bar, London Marriott Hotel County Hall, Westminster Bridge Road, London SE1 7PB
+44 (0)20 7902 8000, http://gillrays.com
Mayfair’s Duke’s Bar claims to serve the world’s best Martini and well, we wouldn’t argue with them. Helmed by legendary cocktail maestro Alessandro Palazzi, the bar famously inspired author Ian Fleming to write James Bond’s “shaken, not stirred” quip. Today it draws in elegant crowds, all clamouring for cocktail perfection. Palazzi is even known to mix white truffle in with his Martinis.
Duke’s Hotel, St. James’s Place, London SW1A 1NY
+44 (0)207 491 4840, Dukes Hotel Bar
The, well, graphically designed Graphic Bar in Soho currently claims to host the largest gin collection in the UK, with over 180 different bottles in stock, including everything from boutique brands to gin-based liqueurs. If you’re coming as a group, be sure to try one of the “paint tin punches,” each colour-coded and featuring a different gin and array of mixers. As a bonus for arty types, the bar regularly collaborates with contemporary artists to put together temporary installations.
Graphic Bar, 4 Golden Square, London W1F 9hT
+44 (0)207 287 9241, www.graphicbar.com
This quirky outpost in the revitalised area around King’s Cross draws in young and impeccably styled crowds with its shop front and off-beat craft-making classes. But squirreled away in Drink, Shop & Do’s lower level is a cosy bar area with dozens of gin bottles lining the rafters. Look out for the cocktails that employ Boudier’s saffron gin – it lends a warming and exotic edge to classic drinks like the Aviation.
Drink, Shop & Do, 9 Caledonian Road, Kings Cross, N1 9DX
+44 (0)207 278 4335, www.drinkshopdo.com
It might seem like a tricky task to find a throwback Jewish deli, whose menu is stuffed with comfort food staples like reuben on rye and mackerel latkes, with an exemplary gin list. And yet this is London, where global cuisines and a healthy gin lust seamlessly blend. At Mishkin’s, you can sup on rib-sticking fare while browsing the sizeable gin menu. We like their Spiced Negroni, which mixes Sipsmith gin, Campari, sweet vermouth, orange zest, cinnamon and clove.
Mishkin’s, 25 Catherine Street, London WC2B 5JS
+44 (0)20 7240 2078, www.mishkins.co.uk
Amusingly self-proclaimed as “London’s second smallest museum,” The Ginstitute consists of a re-created Victorian gin palace, complete with assorted antiques and artefacts. Punters can sign up to distil their very own London dry gin batches and learn more about the spirit, while those looking for a casual evening out can head to the Portobello Star’s ground floor bar for a Portobello Road Martini.
The Ginstitute at the Portobello Star, 171 Portobello Road, London W11 2DY
+44 (0)20 722 98016, http://portobellostarbar.co.uk/ginstitutelondon
The Rib Room Bar
History buffs and old-school cocktail enthusiasts should make their way to the Rib Room Bar in Knightsbridge. Conceived of as an homage to London, and boasting different menus that in turn honour Charles Dickens, London dandies, and Blighty-inspired drinks, the bar will transport punters to a different era (or several).
The Rib Room Bar, Jumeirah Carlton Tower, Cadogan Place, London SW1X 9PY
+44 (0)20 7858 7250, www.theribroom.co.uk
Feature image © Alex Saberi, 2013. Used under licence from Shutterstock.com
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