London: The City of Gin

Summers in London are incomplete without the city’s home spirit.  
London: The City of Gin
The Rivoli Bar at The Ritz Hotel in London serves gin infused cocktails with vintage ingredients, first used in the 1950s and 1960s. Photo by: Chris Ware / Stringer/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Today, Gin represents Britain in a way few things can represent a culture. The history of the juniper enriched alcohol dates back to 17th century London, when William of Orange came to occupy Hampton Court Palace. He liberalised gin distillation, setting off a chain of events in history that has culminated today—an entire four centuries later—in what is dubbed as ‘ginaissance.’

London is central to gin. It is where the spirit was centrally brewed, drunk (often too much and with disastrous results), popularised on a global level and experimented with, to see breakthroughs in sophistication, nuance, and wide-spread appeal. The classic modern English gin, the London Dry, is brewed in a copper till and is very different from Dutch spirit genever, where its roots began.

Today, you can interact with gin in many ways in London. You can get a classic G&T, find it in a cocktail, go through guided pub tastings, or even visit the Beefeater Gin Distillery, one of the last few classic gin distilleries left in London. Here’s where you can get started on the sipping:

 

American Bar (The Savoy, Strand)

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Classic cocktails invented at The Savoy’s American Bar were named in honour of royalty. Photo by: Paul Hackett/Contributor /Corbis News/Getty Images

With a history that ties back to the Second World War, this bar is self-aware, elegant, and innovative. Cocktails invented here include classics such as the Blushing Monarch and Windsor Romance which were named in honour of royalty—and enjoyed by them too. With jazz playing each night of the week, it’s the perfect place for special occasions. Make sure to dress up for an elegant night. (www.fairmont.com)

 

The Bar (The Dorchester Hotel, 53 Park Lane)

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Touted as London’s most glamorous haunt, The Bar at The Dorchester Hotel is known to reinvent and rediscover cocktails. Photo by: Andreas von Einsiedel/Corbis Documentary/Getty Images

One of the first bars in London to open its arms to Fever Tree tonic and Sipsmith gin, it is helmed by veteran barmen Giuliano Morandin and Simon Rowe. For decades The Dorchester has been known as London’s most glamorous haunt, and shaking up a good cocktail is a hallmark of its haloed bar. The Bar is known to reinvent and rediscover cocktails—well-known and those created by passionate bartenders years ago. (www.dorchestercollection.com)

 

The Rivoli Bar (The Ritz, 150 Piccadilly)

The Ritz’s no-jeans dress code has been relaxed for this prized section of the iconic hotel. But nonetheless, this bar that’s continuously cementing its name afresh in the cocktail circuit, is usually one reserved for celebrations. Gin cocktails like Ramos Fizz use the London dry Tanqueray No. 10 and the drinks are presented beautifully, without resorting to smoke or umbrellas. Drop in to try cocktails with vintage ingredients, first used in the 1950s and 1960s. (www.theritzlondon.com)

 

The Star at Night (22 Great Chapel Street)

Located close to the street depicted in the notorious print Gin Lane, which shows gin-crazed Londoners of the 18th century, this bar offers 50 gins (and counting). So many choices mean it is the ideal spot to keep yourself updated with the gin world, and experiment with barmen recommended G&T permutations. (www.thestaratnight.com)

 

The Beefeater Gin Distillery (20 Montford Place)

After moving around London three times, The Beefeater Gin Distillery opened to public visits about five years ago. Housed near in a 1950s-Edwardian building near The Oval, it is part of a by-gone era. A visit to the only large-scale distillery of the signature London Dry gives you a chance to peek into the deceptively simple-looking factory. Reward yourself with the Beefeater London Garden, a special edition bottle only available at the shop. (beefeaterdistillery.com)

 

Gin Journey

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Also popular is Leon Dalloway’s pub crawl event, making stops at five London gin destinations. Photo by: Andrew Aitchison/Contributor/Corbis News/Getty Images

Different each time, this well-paced bar crawl event, originally started under the moniker Shake Rattle & Stir, is conducted by Leon Dalloway, a local gin connoisseur. The “Gin-bus” drives you to five stops to try five cocktails and five gins. Priced at the sweet spot of 60 pounds, you will visit bars personally picked by Dalloway while the gin masters, your hosts for the tours, fill you in about the storied history of Britain’s famous drink. (www.ginjourney.com)

  • Sarvesh Talreja edits a food website. He travels to be underwater, unless he’s already travelling or is underwater.

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