A new golden age of gin has hit London writes Kaye Holland Blame Don Draper – Mad Men’s mysterious protagonist – if you will but gin is enjoying a revival. Yes ahead (tissues at the ready) of the seventh and final season of Mad Men, which airs on 13 April, the juniper based spirit is back in the spotlight.
And it doesn’t matter which London tribe you belong to: gin is the drink du jour for Sloane Rangers, Notting Hillbillies and Hoxton hipsters alike.
The classic gin and tonic cocktail – or G&T as it is affectionately known – was created, almost by accident, back in the 18th century by the British army in India. The British troops were forced to take tonic water – with its malaria-fighting quinine extract – on a daily basis while stationed in the subcontinent. To disguise the tonic water’s bitter taste, the soldiers added a generous dose of gin and a slice of lemon and low and behold: the humble gin and tonic was born.
The British Raj were so taken with their creation, that they brought it back home with them where it quickly acquired a cult status in boardrooms and golf clubs across the country.
It lost a little of its fashionability in the noughties when – thanks to the success Sex and the City – Londoners developed a love affair with showy, sexy cocktails (here’s looking at you the Cosmopolitan, Pina colada and Sex on the beach).
However fast forward to the present and the pendulum has swung back: in London 2014 the emphasis is once again on classic gin-based cocktails. Londoners are a discerning bunch and we’re seeking out cocktails that possess both style and substance. The message? Wave goodbye to whisky, vodka and rum and make gin your tipple of choice.
The capital leads the way – natch – when it comes to bijoux bars dedicated to gin but below you’ll find our pick of the places to raise your glass and welcome the return of Don, Roger and the rest of Sterling Cooper & Partners crew.
Haute Living loves…
City of London Distillery (Blackfriars) At this working distillery, customers can learn the art of gin making and produce and personalise a bottle of your very own gin.
Gin & Jazz at The InterContinental (Park Lane) Twice a month the Intercontinental hotel on Park Lane hosts a gin and jazz party: sample from a list of around 35 gins while enjoying live jazz.
The Ginstitute (Notting Hill) Located above the Portobello Star, punters can make their own cocktail or if that sounds too much like hard work, order one created by Jake Burger – aka the ginstructor.
Mishkin’s (Covent Garden) The drinks menu at Russell Norman’s Jewish-style deli pays homage to gin: expect to find around 20 varieties of gin and eight gin based cocktails.