Those newly minted gin converts have an increasing variety of venues in which to get their fix. London boasts any number of places — hotels such as Dukes, the Langham and the Savoy — where you can enjoy a martini or a gin and tonic in a refined environment. But the key trend of recent years has been the democratization of gin. Far better, then, to head for the likes of the magnificently named Worship Street Whistling Shop, whose grapefruit-tinged Mother’s Ruin cocktail pays warped tribute to gin’s old nickname, or Purl, where classic cocktails are the theme (indeed, the name itself refers to an old English drink containing warm ale, wormwood, spices and, of course, gin).
Best of all, perhaps, is Graphic, a bright modern bar on Golden Square in Soho. This exotically decorated venue (check out the paintbrushes hanging from the ceiling) boasts record decks, modern art and more than 170 brands of gin. On arrival, you’re handed two intimidatingly thick black books (the covers bearing Hogarth’s famous image and its companion piece, Beer Street, a much happier scene; Galsworthy, a smile playing on his lips, told me that Hogarth may have been in the pay of the brewers) from which to make your selection. One lists British gins, the other foreign offerings.
The latter, by the way, demonstrated just how international gin-distilling has become: American gins such as Death’s Door, Leopold’s, Aviation and Zephyr are listed alongside concoctions from Spain (modern gin’s real heartland, I’m told), France and New Zealand.
I went for a martini made with Sipsmith London Dry and Noilly Prat Dry Vermouth. Served in a tall cocktail glass, it was ice-cold, crisp and just bitter enough. A traditional gin from a new distiller, drunk in profoundly untraditional surroundings: the perfect way, I thought, to toast London’s distilling renaissance.