Eighteenth century London. The city was slum-ridden, the streets were crowded. Unlicensed gin production was legal, and the price of it in comparison to other spirits was extremely low. So low, in fact, that the poorest people in London could afford it, and turned to it in an attempt to escape the cold and hunger they faced on a daily basis.
Such was the popularity of gin at this time that it was estimated that of the 15,000 drinking establishments in London, over half were gin shops
But what were the effects of this period of time known as the ‘Gin Craze’? At the time, consumption of gin was blamed for the rise in crime, misery, death rates, and falling birth rates, and it wasn’t until 1736 when the Government started passing specific Acts to control who could sell gin and the price of grain went up after a few bad harvests that things started to improve.
In the 1820s, the column sill was invented, this lead to the distillation of neutral spirits becoming practical and lead on to London Dry Gin being created later that century. Since then, London Dry Gin has become one of the most popular forms of the spirit, and is enjoyed in bars and homes not just in London, but around the world. However, if you want to enjoy the best London Dry Gin around, then you could do worse that trying it in the city where it all started.
Nowadays, Londoner’s consumption of Gin is thankfully a little more sophisticated, and if it’s your tipple of choice you definitely won’t have a hard time finding somewhere to drink Gin in London.
Here are our pick of the best:
If you’re into gin and urban art then Graphic Bar, located in Golden Square near Soho, is the place for you. This bar is home to the UK’s largest selection of gin (currently at 305 according to the counter on their website) and they’re constantly adding new gins to their collection. Art-wise, you can expect to pieces from pop-art specialist Ben Allen, street artist Ben Eine, and Turner Prize winner Mark Wallinger.
Art and gin, what more could you want!
Graphic Bar, 4 Golden Square, London, W1F 9HT
Fancy learning a bit more about gin, then creating your very own bespoke bottle of gin to take home with you? You can, at The Ginstitute on Portobello Road! You’ll start your gin journey inside a re-creation of a Victorian gin palace where one of the resident gin instructors will show you their collection of vintage gin posters, and gin-related artifacts, then it’s time for a tutored tasting in The Still Room. This is also where you’ll make your bespoke bottle of Gin (the recipe of which will be kept on file so you can order it again in the future) before being presented with a bottle of Portobello Road No. 171 gin to take home with you as well. Sound good? Tickets can be purchased on their website for £100 per person.
The Ginstitute, The Portobello Star, 171 Portobello Road, Notting Hill, London, W11 2DY
Curious about how gin is actually made? Sipsmith are responsible for opening the first gin distillery to open in London in almost 200 years and offer regular tours of their Chiswick-based distillery. The Sipsmiths (as they call themselves) are a small team of gin-enthusiasts and have been independently producing their gin by hand in small batches since 2009.
So what can you expect from the tour? Well, on arrival you’ll be handed a Sipsmith G&T before learning about the history of gin and how it’s made, followed by a tutored tasting of their award winning gins. All for the bargain price of £15!
Sipsmith Distillery, 83 Cranbrook Road, Chiswick, W4 2LJ
If you’ve brought your glad rags with you to London you’ll definitely want to give this swish Mayfair bar a visit. This place was a regular haunt of James Bond author Ian Fleming and legend has is that the inspiration for the famous line ‘shaken, not stirred’ came from his visits to Dukes Bar.
But the real reason you need to visit this bar if you’re into your gin is because Dukes is internationally renowned for its famous martinis. Sure, it’ll set you back about £20, but sipping a quality martini in a bar where Ian Fleming used to drink is totally worth it, right?
Dukes Bar, St James’ Place, London, SW1A 1NY