World’s Most Imaginative Bartender UK – Dan Berger

Bar reviews, Cocktails, Events

Massive congratulations to this year’s UK winner of Bombay Sapphire‘s World’s Most Imaginative Bartender competition; Heddon Street Kitchen‘s Dan Berger.

I was lucky enough to be invited along on the day by Dan, one of the ten finalists in the UK, who got through to the top five with his take on a G&T; Portal to Exploration.

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On the eve of the world final, I caught up with Dan at Heddon Street Kitchen to talk cocktails and the competition. 

The small but carefully crafted cocktail list features 18 drinks – 10 of which are new, following the first menu change a few months after opening. Dan’s WMIBUK winning cocktail, Age of Discovery, also features. It’s a deliciously rich drink designed to enhance all the flavours of Bombay Sapphire. Featuring Darjeeling tea syrup, lemon, marjoram, Indian Dhania infused chestnut honey, and olive Oil, this drink is small, powerful and fragrant, which lasts on the tongue. 

 Age of Discovery features on Heddon Street Kitchen’s current cocktail menu, which recently changed for the first time since opening. N.B. They’ll give you a full one – I drank most of mine in eagerness before taking a picture. 

So what makes him a strong prospect for World’s Most Imaginative Bartender?  “I’ve always been good with flavours, but I really found a new creativity when I started working in bars”, says Dan. Clearly it runs in the family; his mum is a “great cook” and his sister a former chef. 

A huge part of this challenge (and ultimately, what every cocktail should be) is to create something innovative, something that showcases the spirit and ultimately looks good and tastes great. It’s clear that Dan has the eye, nose and, erm, taste to create pretty special (and now award-winning!) cocktails. 

Now get down to Heddon Street Kitchen and try one for yourself. 

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East London Liquor Company

Bar reviews, Ginvent

I was thrilled to discover recently that a new bar and distillery was opening on my doorstep. Housed on the canal near Victoria Park in an old glue factory, the East London Liquor Company produces a range of hand-crafted, small batch spirits, including a Dry Gin and two premium gins.

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The bar is overlooked by the two copper stills which produce all of the ELLC’s spirits (including their own-brand Vodka); a vision of shiny new copper.

Their ‘house’ is London Dry Gin (40% ABV); a bold flavoured gin made with cubeb berries, coriander and cardamom, amongst others. Herbal, refreshing and delicious. Distillery tours run regularly (but should be booked in advance). During my visit, a tour culminated in a tutored tasting of a number of gins – and not just their own brands. It’s refreshing to see a company giving kudos to competitors when it’s deserved.

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With everything under one roof, the ELLC is well worth a visit.

Distillery tours in London

Bar reviews, Events, Ginvent

The gin renaissance is big business; not only are there new styles of the spirit popping up regularly and ruining mothers, but there’s money to be made in seeing how it’s done, too.

One of the many lovely things about being lucky enough to live in London is the ease of access to the capital’s very own Dry Gin (don’t worry, fellow Northerners and countryside dwellers, there’ll be a round-up of the best distillery tours outside of London coming soon).

Here are the best places in London to see gin being made (and in some cases, to make your own).

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  1. The London Distillery Company

Based in Battersea, The London Distillery Company is home to Dodd’s Gin. A green, eco-friendly company which has designed a unique cooling water system to recover heat from its copper stills for use elsewhere. Tours are by appointment only and cost £15 per person.

2. Sipsmith Distillery Tours

Sipsmith opens its doors to the public every Tuesday and Wednesday from 6:30 – 8:15pm (but private tours are available). This Chiswick-based tour costs £15 per person and includes a gin and tonic on arrival and a tutored tasting on the Sipsmith spirits.

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3. City of London Distillery

The COLD tours take place every weekday at midday and last 45 minutes. The tour, which costs £10 per person, includes ‘meeting’ the stills, observing the bottling, labelling and sealing process, and a miniature of City of London Dry Gin to take away. Evening tours, which take place Monday – Wednesday and Saturday evenings from 6pm, also include a gin tasting. Evening sessions cost £25 per person and last 60 minutes.

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4. Beefeater London Distillery

Housed in an Edwardian building with a 1950s extension, the Beefeater Distillery features original Victorian pot stills. Tours are self-guided, running Monday – Saturday from 10am (last entry at 5pm), and culminate in a gin and tonic. Entry is £12 per person.

The City of London Distillery Bar

Bar reviews, Cocktails, Ginvent

The COLD Bar, situated just off Fleet Street and boasting over 200 gins, is yet another one of those speak-easy style cocktail bars which has been popping up around the capital for the past couple of years. Candles? Check. Quirky décor and antiques? Check. Impeccably dressed barmen? Check.

Don’t get me wrong, I like all of those things, but there are plenty of other places that fit the bill. But there’s a little extra something which sets the COLD bar apart; the massive fuck-off copper working still in the middle of the room.

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We sat at the bar, mainly to admire the number of gin bottles on the back bar, but also to watch the barmen at work. I tried their signature Martini, complete with grapefruit peel, which was strong, warming and delicious. Highly recommended. For an exceptional choice of gins (although their own-brand is worth a try, too) in the square mile, look no further.