London Cocktail Week roundup: top picks

Cocktails, Events

London Cocktail Week, run by DrinkUp.London, takes place from 5 – 11 October 2015.

Here are my top picks for the things you mustn’t miss.

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The Tanqueray Art Deco Bar

If this is anything like last year’s pop-up, it’ll be a cracking place to sit back, enjoy a brilliant G&T or fancy LCW cocktail, and soak up the atmosphere. This year, it’s situated in the World Class London Cocktail Week Hub in the heart of Soho.

Gin Mare and Oysters

Gin Mare team up with the Wright Brothers of Spitalfields for an evening masterclass of gin and oyster pairings. True decadence, and you’re right next to the Spitalfields LCW hub, so check out the goings on there afterwards. Tickets include 4 cocktails and 6 oysters.

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East Meets West

Expert Bartender Jackie Lo, from Shanghai, explores an oriental take on Dodd’s Gin, which is lovingly crafted in Battersea. Ticket price includes cocktails, distillery open house, and a copy of Ian Buxton’s book 101 Gins to Try Before You Die. Tickets available here.

Literature & Liquor

Head to Mussel Men on Kingsland Road on Saturday for the second Oyster & Gin thing we’re loving this week. Be entertained with the literature of Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Ian Fleming, Dickens and more, coupled with 4 Edinburgh Gin cocktails, and an Edinburgh Gin Oyster Garden. Fancy.

New London Craft Gins

A session with author of 101 Gins To Try Before You Buy, Ian Buxton, and the lovely team from Merchant House. Ticket includes a cocktail and a copy of Ian’s book. The only way to spend your Tuesday lunchtime.

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World Gin Day 2015

Events

World Gin Day – a blatant excuse to drink lots and celebrate – falls this year on Saturday 13 June. Here are my top ways to celebrate in the capital.

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Junipalooza
Hosted by the chaps at Gin Foundry, Junipalooza is sure to be a fun-filled, gin-packed weekend, which sees 24 makers from across the world come together for tastings, masterclasses and Martinis. It’s a sure thing for every gin lover, and we couldn’t NOT include it in this list. See here for more info.

Update: This is a ticketed event which has now sold out. 

Merchant House Masterclass
The super knowledgeable people at Merchant House will take you through gin’s rich history, with four different gins to wash it down. Classes run at 2pm, 4pm and 6pm. Tickets are a snip at just £20. Book yours here.

Shake, Rattle and Stir’s Gin Voyage
Want to make your very own gin, on a boat, floating around London, sipping on cocktails? Of course you do. There are very limited spaces left for this one, which costs £70pp, and guests receive six cocktails and two samples of gin. Find out more and buy tickets here.

Go your own way
Keep it simple, and stock up on gin (Majestic Wines are doing free tastings all day on Saturday, so it’s the perfect excuse to try before you buy, FYI). Invite a few friends round, pour a few G&Ts, and sit back, relax, and revel in the majesty of gin. Cheers!

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. 

The best places in London to make your own gin

Events, Ginspiration

Gin is booming in the capital and we’ve come a long way since Hogarth’s Gin Lane. Gin tours are the new pub crawl, independent distilleries are popping up all over the city, and it’s now possible for gin lovers to perfect their own blend.

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Here’s my pick of the best places to make your own gin in London:

City of London Distillery – this super cool gin joint, just off Fleet Street, is already famed for its own brand gin and bar (resplendent with copper still on display), but it also features a Gin Lab. For £125, the Distillery Team will talk you through botanicals and help you create your very own special gin. Visitors take home a 70cl bottle and the experience includes a distillery tour and G&T.

Bump Caves – Part of the Draft House chain, this dive bar boasts a rotary evaporator which creates a vacuum, meaning the gin-making process can be done at a lower temperature, opening up a wider range of flavours for your tipple. Master Distiller Max Chater will guide you through the process and help you create a 70cl bottle of your very own gin to take away. The £95 ticket price also includes three cocktails, a 70cl bottle of Bump Cave’s own ‘Victory Gin’, and a meat and cheese board. Events run regularly.

Ginstitute at The Portobello Star – ‘Ginterns’ will learn about the history of London Dry Gin before creating their own. The Ginstitute will keep your recipe on file, so you can re-order at any time. Tickets cost £100 and include a cocktail reception, the history bit, a 70cl bottle of Portobello Road No. 171 gin, your own 70cl bottle of gin, and a Martini for good measure.

Bespoke Bombay Sapphire bottles

Events

Exciting news for those of you still struggling for Christmas present ideas; this weekend (12 and 13 December), Bombay Sapphire is offering bespoke engraving on their bottles of gin.

Pop into Selfridges between midday and 8pm, and for the price of a bottle of gin (£29.99), they’ll engrave a personalised message while you finish your shopping. Tempted to get one for myself and have them put ‘NOT YOURS’ on it in big letters.

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Langley’s No. 8

Events, Ginvent, Tasting notes

Langley’s No.8 (41.7%) is an English grain spirit made with a blend of eight secret botanicals.

One could be forgiven for assuming that the drink gets its name from these eight botanicals – in fact, the number refers to the batch that was deemed the best during tasting and consumer research when the product was in development.

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A well-balanced flavour with sweet, aromatic notes is bold, punchy and has a rich, spicy dryness. Works wonderfully in a martini, and tastes just as good in a G&T (try it with juniper berries as a garnish).

But don’t take my word for it, pop along to Langley’s Yard above the Crown & Shuttle pub in Shoreditch, where you can try one of their signature cocktails.