Scotland is known for its whisky: but London is better known for its gin. In the spirit of further investigation, we set off with Shake Rattle and Stir on its fantastic Gin Journey, under the guiding hand of animated and informative guide and founder Leon Dalloway.
The night would draw us into the fascinating history of this juniper-flavoured tipple, the fruits of independent gin distilleries and a collection of the city’s most atmospheric bars.
1st stop: City of London Distillery
Gin: Martin Miller’s
Cocktail: ‘Lois Lane’ – Martin Miller’s gin, peach, elderflower, lemon, egg white.
The centrepiece of the spacious City of London Distillery has to be the impressive copper gin still opposite the bar.
It was in front of this that we sat as Leon talked us through the process of making and flavouring gin, and we were given our first taste of Martin Miller’s, both in the form of the delicious cocktail above, and for the purists, neat.
The air was friendly and sociable: us tour-goers all sharing a table, discussing gins and flavours, and asking questions which were answered colourfully and well.
2nd stop: Talented Mr Fox @ One Leicester St.
Martini: 3 options – Sipsmith Wet Martini- TMF Burnt Orange and Black Pepper Vermouth. Sipsmith Dry – TMF Lemon Vermouth. Sipsmith Extra Dry – Death Valley Tincture (aluminium oxidised)
As we were chauffeur driven from the Strand to Soho to visit our next bar, Leon took us through a bit of gin history. We were told how it developed from the Dutch drink Jenever; about the first London stills and the days before and after regulation.
Seeing gin interwoven with the history and spirit (if you’ll pardon the pun) of Britain gave us a renewed sense of purpose on our journey to taste more of it.
At the next bar, the cosy and compact Talented Mr Fox at 1 Leicester Street, we were introduced to Sipsmith Gin by one of its founders, Sam Galsworthy. He invited us to sample a selection of different Martinis, each containing a different type of gin, before talking us through the particular distilling tricks that go to make Sipsmith’s gin and the effect of different botanicals.
Before we left he introduced us to a rare and extremely ‘junipery’ gin, as a special treat.
3rd Stop- Opium, Chinatown
Cocktail: Bramble Bulldogged – Bulldog, lemon, Mure, Pernod, Anise, juniper and dry ice filling the room with aroma
Climbing wooden stairs into the lesser-known Opium, we entered our most atmospheric bar yet. Bare beams above our heads, moody red-lanterns and the bustle of Chinatown below left us with a feeling we’d discovered some precious London secret – a hidden bar up in the rafters of Soho.
We sat while Leon talked us through the next gin, and gave us a bit of background on the bar itself – while he did, the barman mixed our next cocktail, as dry ice billowing from the bar brought with it extra atmosphere and delicious aromas.
4th Stop- Perkin Reveller
Cocktail: Autumn Revival – pear infused Beefeater, pomegranate and rum syrup, blue cheese and rolled dehydrated pear
Probably as close to Tower Bridge as you can get without physically climbing it, the entrance to Perkin Reveller lies just beside St. Katharine’s Dock and opposite the Tower of London. One evening, Leon tells us, he came through the entry gate to find a Beefeater (that’s Yeoman Warder to the initiated) locking up for the night – that’s how near to the Tower we are.
Well-kempt, spacious and with great views of the bridge, we sampled Beefeater gin here and a deliciously sweet gin and rum cocktail. We also tucked into a selection of top-quality food, from cold meats and cheese to croquettes and squid (not included as part of the tour cost).
5th Stop- Worship St Whistling Shop
Cocktail: G&T – Dodd’s Gin with a choice of tonics made only for the Gin Journey, lavender & honey or black cardamom, rose and kaffir lime.
The final bar of the evening was Worship St Whistling Shop. Perched on a quiet side-street where the City becomes Shoreditch, it’s lively, dim-lit and extremely comfortable – good, big sofas. It’s the perfect bar to conclude an evening of substantial gin… research.
Here we were treated to Dodd’s gin with a selection of carefully crafted tonic waters, each with a distinct flavour. Altogether, the Gin Journey was a fun and engaging trip through atmospheric bars, empassioned speakers and gin experts, clever cocktails, ingenious ingredients and flavours, expertly stage-managed by Leon Dalloway himself.
The Gin Journey is a tour available from Shake, Rattle and Stir