Londoners are drinking gin like it’s going out of fashion. Which it did for a bit, around the 1980s. But now it’s back with a vengeance. The spirit has a long history, much of it disreputable, and some of the best bars in London are having fun rummaging in the vintage dressing-up box, finding design inspiration from New York speakeasies, Parisian jazz bars and, increasingly, the sort of low-lit Victorian drinking establishment where you might have rubbed velvet-clad shoulders with Whistler or Wilde.
The original London gin palaces offered passers-by a quick fix of the drink in flamboyant surroundings. They were early adopters of new technology such as plate-glass and gas lighting, and according to Alex Werner of the Museum of London, ‘there was nothing else like them at the time. With their huge windows and gas lighting, they would have been the big new thing of their era – a little like the Apple Store on Regent Street today. All classes would have gone, apart from the higher echelons; although they probably attracted a few adventurous gentlemen in search of a lady.’
Here Rick Jordan susses out London’s best gin bars right now.