LuxeGetaways Magazine – Fall/Winter 2017 | Gin has enjoyed a colorful history. Holland is the homeland of gin, where the term “Dutch Courage” was derived from the practice of Dutch sailors taking a sip of gin before battle. Thanks to this courage, it was often said that it was difficult to find a cabin boy sober enough to climb a mast.
Gin became widely adopted in England during the time of England’s King William III, who banned French spirit imports during the Nine Years’ War. During the 1800’s, critics blamed gin drinking for most of England’s social problems, ranging from crime and lawlessness to blind intoxication. During this time, British sailors spread their love of gin to the rest of the world. The British East India Company combined the spirit with quinine. Thus the Gin & Tonic was born as the worlds best tasting anti-malaria medicine.
Since then, the Roaring 20’s brought us bathtub gin. James Bond told us, “Shaken, not stirred.” MadMen TV brought back the two-martini lunch.
The new Renaissance of gin has brought about brand growth to both historic labels like Bombay and Beefeater, and the new boutique and craft gins like Portobello Road Gin. Historically, the dominant botanical used to flavor gin was juniper, but botanicals from 6 categories are used now in gin. These include ingredients like rose hips and cucumbers found in the popular Hendricks gin.
London’s Gin Distilleries and historic bars present an opportunity to trace the Gin Trail and truly appreciate the booming “Gin Scene” around London.
1. DUKES Bar
Author, Ian Fleming was said to frequent DUKES Bar at Dukes London, a boutique London hotel. He was said to get his inspiration for James Bond’s famous line, “Shaken, not stirred” here. Ask for the “Ian Fleming’s Classic Vesper,” the bar’s signature Bond Drink named after Bond girl, Vesper Lynd.
The Beefeater Distillery and museum tour brings gin’s history to life. Gin Lane, William Hogarth’s famous 1751 painting depicting the evils of drinking gin adorns one wall. A replica of a Hogarthian street brings to life the days of the 18th century gin-drinking era. Beefeater Gin was named after the Yeoman guards of the Tower of London, and the company still throws a large Christmas party for the guards each year. The recipe for Beefeater Gin is a closely guarded secret by Desmond Payne, Master Distiller, and one of the most experienced Ginsmiths in the world. You are invited to complete the Beefeater tour with a complementary Beefeater Gin & Tonic.
The London Gin Club, one of Soho’s oldest establishments, boasts a “Ginventory” of over 300 premium and super-premium gins. They pride themselves on their Gin & Tonic served in a Copa glass over cracked ice, and then garnished to individual tastes with unusual garnishes like strawberry, rosemary and other distinct flavors.
In 2009, two childhood friends set up the first traditional copper distillery since 1820. The small stills are named Prudence (the 1st), Constance, and Patience – the three copper ladies. Small batches are handcrafted to create a V.J.O.P (a Very Junipery Over-Proof gin). The swan motif on the Sipsmith mark is a reference to the “swan’s neck” pipe where the spirit vapors turn above the still.
Portobello Road Gin is leading the current “ginaissance” with a multi-botanical juniper-forward profile. This gin was originally developed at The Ginstitute above the Portobello Star Pub in London on London’s world-famous Portobello Road. The Ginstitute houses a unique collection of gin related memorabilia; and it hosts history classes on gin, where “Ginterns” develop their own bespoke gin and walk away with a full size bottle of their signature gin. The custom recipe is even retained for future reorders.
Premium gins now have the potential to gain a cult following similar to the cult following of single malt Scotch. Today’s ambitious and skilled bartenders admire the complex flavors and bouquets of gin. With the cocktail culture expanding, this is the Golden Age for gin. The Gin Guild estimates there are now 233 gin distilleries in the United Kingdom, and you too can discover your favorites on the London Gin Trail.
Wine and Spirit Trade Association http://www.wsta.co.uk