Thirsty Thursday: London Gin 101

by  Anne Roderique-Jones | May 9, 2013
Big Ben in London, England
Big Ben in London, England / sborisov/iStock

Gin: A spirit of the past is now the hottest ingredient in cocktail creations. In fact, here in New York City, there are cocktail dens exclusively peddling this fine booze, with house-made tonic taps and gin-centric speakeasies.

I wanted to dig deeper into this fresh-tasting spirit, and had the pleasure of doing so on a recent trip to England. My mission was to delve into London gin – the mother of all gins – to understand its true beauty. 

What is London gin? The definition can get technical very quickly, but unlike gin and distilled gin (there are differences!), London gin uses all natural flavorings, and nothing can be added after the distillation except for more neutral spirits (non-flavored alcohol), water, and a less than 0.1 grams of sweetener per liter of the final product. Strangely enough, it doesn't have to be distilled in London. Enjoy the liquor on one of these two tours and other activities!

The Tour: Plan your visit to London this year to sample the most iconic (and my personal favorite) of all London gins: Beefeater. Their gin distillery in Kennington, will open later in 2013, offering visitors a chance to learn about the esteemed history of the spirit. You'll get an insiders look at the unique process by which their gin is still being made (using founder James Burrough's original recipe!).

After: After the distillery tour, keep the party going at the famed Mark's Bar at Hix. This refined cocktail lounge serves up a bevy of London gin tipples, including the Hanky Panky, a highly drinkable cocktail made with Beefeater 24 London Dry gin, Antica Formula vermouth, and Fernet Branca bitters.

The Tour: Now, get out of town to see the oldest working distillery in England. Located just three hours outside of London, Plymouth offers tours and the opportunity to sample their product (with a blind taste test!), made according to their original 1793 recipe. I highly recommend the experience of making your own gin on the Master Distiller's Private Tour. After your special recipe has been created and you've named your bottle, a cocktail at The Refectory cocktail lounge is the only way to cap off the tour (with more booze, naturally).

After: Finally, you'll need something to soak up the sauce. Saunter down the road for fish and chips at Platters – the quintessential local fish, chips, and peas will set you back less than 10 pounds and is the perfect way to end a boozy, gin-filled day.

What is your favorite gin? What about your favorite thing to do in London?

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