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A London Gin Journey

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A London Gin Journey

Everything in moderation, including moderation. ~ Oscar Wilde

Gin is enjoying a resurgence – its moment in the sun – but this spirit is hardly new. Genever, the original form of gin, appeared in writings as early as the 13th century, with its roots attributed to the Dutch. It is thought to have gained popularity in Britain when William of Orange, leader of the Dutch Republic, occupied the thrones of Great Britain.

After a particularly big night out, it may ease your conscience to know that gin was once sold in pharmacies as medicine and used in the treatment of kidney and stomach ailments, gallstones and gout, lending credence to the act of taking a nip of the “hair of the dog that bit you” for relief of hangovers.

Moving away from its medicinal roots, it became a significant economic driver in England when the government permitted unlicensed gin production and public consumption skyrocketed. It would forever after be associated with Great Britain, the consummate drink of the Empire.

But what is gin exactly and how does it become the spirit we know and love?

Gin is defined as “a colorless alcoholic beverage made from distilled or redistilled neutral grain spirits flavored with juniper berries and aromatics.” There are three ways to make it:

Pot distilled was the earliest method, traditionally produced by pot distilling a fermented grain mash from barley or other grain, then redistilling it with flavoring botanicals to extract the aromatic compounds. Double gin means it has been redistilled using additional botanicals to give it flavour.

Column distilled gin is produced using Coffey and Column stills. It can use grains, as with the pot stilled method, but it can also employ other base products such as sugar beets, grapes and potatoes. It would be redistilled with the hot alcohol vapours pressing through the botanicals, which can be suspended in a basket. This results in a lighter flavor than pot-distilled.

Compound gin is made by flavoring neutral spirits without redistillation.

The widely-varying combinations and concentrations of these botanicals – which can include frankincense, lime peel, licorice root, coriander, lavender and almost anything else you can imagine – are responsible for the end taste and the variations can be nearly endless.

But talking about gin and tasting gin are quite different things. Here are a few of London’s most creative gin bars to help round out one’s “education”:

The London Gin Club
Soho Neighborhood
As dedicated gin drinkers, founders of The London Gin Club invite fellow gin-o-philes to explore more than 270 exceptional gins from the world’s finest established, micro-distilleries and small batch producers.

The London Gin Club resides in The Star, one of the oldest family-run businesses in Soho, which retains much of its original charm.

The Gin Bar at Holborn Dining Room
Covent Garden neighborhood
Relaxed and stylish, the copper-topped Gin Bar at Holborn Dining Room offers London’s largest collection of Gin, featuring over 400 Gins and 30 tonics. Gin lovers can savour more than 14,000 possible Gin and tonic pairings from well-known international brands to small-batch and local distillers. The bar menu includes new gin cocktails and much-loved classics, as well as a selection of spirits, fine wines and craft beers.

The Ginstitute/Gintonica
Notting Hill neighborhood
The bar/restaurant Gintonica features 100 gins from around the world which have been matched with complementary mixers and garnishes. Portobello Road Gin is their house brand, which is made on-site. An additional cocktail menu and Spanish-centric food pairings unite traditional ingredients, flavors and methods from around Spain.

The Ginstitute, a clever name for their production facilities, pairs clients with a Ginstructor for a multi-hour education and tasting opportunity that explores the history of gin and its modern production methods. Guests leave with some enviable swag: a bottle of personally-blended gin.

214 Bermondsey Gin & Cocktail Bar
Southwark neighborhood
Tucked away at the end of Bermondsey Street underneath Antico Restaurant, 214 Bermondsey is described as “high on creativity.” It serves more than 80 gins, carefully created cocktails and their own BTW Tonic Water, which has been developed to enhance the gins as opposed to masking them with synthetics and sweeteners.  Every Sunday is a Sunday Social, with weekly drink specials and food pairings.

A huge plus are its ‘flight’ options: a group of three mini G&T’s grouped according to thematics like The Great British Gin-Off, Tour of London and Orient Express, offering taste tests that explore the varied botanicals and types of gin.

A London Gin Journey

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