Gin has come a long way since Hogarth’s day, when people swilled it by the pint before collapsing in the gutter. Now it’s gone all artisan and premium, with a new breed of craft distillers and mixologists marking its coming of age with some terrific cocktails, tours and experiences.
Of all the gin joints, in all the towns, in all the world that you could walk into this Saturday for World Gin Day, choose one of these.
Oh my this is special: a choice of four gin-tasting menus, each one giving you a taste of three gins, beautifully presented on a tray carrying a mini ice-bucket, a balloon glass and 12 of the most common botanicals, including red pepper, juniper and star anise, for you to taste.
Your G&Ts are prepared for you by the Chesterfield’s knowledgeable and delightful mixologists, who’ll talk you through each gin and its accompanying tonic and garnishes.
Did you know, for instance, that Martin Miller’s works best with Mediterranean Fever Tree tonic and garnished with strawberries and crushed pepper? Or that the best way to enjoy the spicy Monkey 47, so named because it’s infused with 47 botanicals, is with 1724 tonic, made using quinine harvested from the cinchona trees, 1,724m up in the Andes? Fabulous. Tasting menus £20–£25
“A G&T at the Feathers is one of life’s sublime experiences,” states the hotel’s website proudly, and indeed it is. The spirit is something of an obsession at the hotel, which for many years held the Guinness World Record for serving the greatest number of gins; it would take you the best part of a year to work your way through its menu of more than 280 varieties.
It all started with the discovery of a couple of bottles of Suntory Dry 95 in the cellar, and went on from there, says manager Dominic Bishop. The most frequently ordered drink is the Ultimate G&T, made with Blackwood’s 2012 60% Vintage Dry, infused with wild water mint, sea pink and meadowsweet flowers, coriander and angelica root, all picked on Shetland, served with 1724 tonic and Blenheim Palace Water ice cubes.
Fancy cocktails on the terrace, m’dear? Then head to the Hendrick’s Botanical Garden at the wonderfully eccentric, quirky and downright fun Mr Fogg’s. The terrace, a lovely wrought-iron affair with shutters and rows of terracotta pots filled with herbs, is an intimate little spot, just perfect for liaisons d’amour.
Take your seat among the verdant, lush foliage and order one of the truly spectacular teapot cocktails. I can thoroughly recommend the Symphony of Peculiar Deliciousness – a perfect harmony of Hendrick’s gin, jasmine tea syrup, rose and bergamot liquers, and lychee and lime juices – that will continue to play on your palate and tease your tastebuds beyond the last drop. Teapots, £48
For high tea with a difference, try Circo Bar’s G&Tea. You’ll get the usual sandwiches, pastries and cakes (gin and tonic cupcakes, for example) but you’ll work your way through five premium gins instead of pots of Earl Grey. What could be better than that? Oh I know – you’ll get to make your own gin too. £35 a person
What a splendid way to spend an evening: sipping cocktails while listening to jazz. The twice-monthly events at the Intercontinental celebrate the golden era of music and mirth; the high-kicking, high-living age of the 1920s and 30s.
Among the forthcoming acts are The Swing Ninjas, playing New Orleans swing and Parisian jazz, and Benoit Viellefon, a regular at vintage festivals throughout the UK and Europe. Best enjoyed with a Mayfair Hop, made with Martin Miller’s gin, Martini bianco, champagne and fresh mint. Table reservations essential.
All aboard for Shake Rattle and Stir’s latest gin experience, a voyage on Disco Volante, quite possibly the first legal floating distillery in the world. What can I say, other than go, go, go. Guests board Volante, a 12-berth cruiser, at King’s Cross and float down London’s canals for three hours while enjoying cocktail after cocktail after cocktail – six in all.
Leon Dalloway, whose baby this is, is an award-winning bartender, expert mixologist and ranconteur, who’ll fill you with knowledge as well as gin. And the best part? Watching gin being distilled and then taking away a little bottle of it.
If you’d prefer to stay on terra firma, the company’s Gin Journey chauffeurs guests to some of London’s best gin bars. Gin Voyage, £70; Gin Journey, £60