Apart from the smell of bergamot in Earl Grey tea and the exhaust fumes of black cabs, the smell that will always shock my memories back to London is juniper. That’s because I love Gin & Tonic; and, juniper is the key botanical in London Dry Gin. I do not see the point in drinking bad wine. Unless I am in a specialised wine bar or restaurant with a good wine list, when I am out call me Madame Geneva.
The story of London is the story of Gin. But a man can lose himself in London… In the mid 18th century, Gin was the vice of choice and for a while encouraged by Parliament to curb imported booze. It’s popularity amongst the working classes caused what is called The Gin Craze, which culminated in the 1751 Gin Act preventing ‘bathtub’ gins made with disturbing ingredients and is still in force today.
The more things change… My favourite G&T at the moment is Sipsmith Gin, made in a garage in Hammersmith, West London. Yet even a 21st century Gin had to jump hoops to satisfy the 18th century Gin Act ensuring the quantities are low.
Sort it out
To my mind, all Gins can be placed somewhere on an XY axis: between the traditional and experimental (X) and between the juniper and the floral/fruit (Y).
A traditional and juniper-dominant gin is Beefeater; a neutral gin is Bombay Sapphire; and a floral and experimental gin is Hendrick’s Gin from Scotland (rose petals and cucumber). Tanqueray 10 is very fruit-dominant but traditional (even though the distillation method is modern).
Sipsmith Gin is a soft, traditional and juniper-dominant gin.
It is closer to Beefeater but less overpowering and old-school. Imagine the Queen’s Guards’ red and black uniform and then imagine the same outfit redesigned by Stella McCartney. It’s a deconstructed classic.
Just don’t drink it with bog-standard Schweppes. Fever Tree tonic is the one and only tonic water for top-quality gin. Fever Tree hails from Chelsea; together with Sipsmith Gin from Hammersmith – well, ’nuff said.
Sipsmith Gin’s ten botanicals: Macedonian juniper, Bulgarian coriander, French angelica root, Spanish liquorice root, Italian orris root, Spanish ground almond, Chinese cassia bark, Madagascan cinnamon, Sevillian orange peel and Spanish lemon peel. More video: “A Man Could Get Lost” – 80s London super-8 shot in Soho Thanks to Douglas Blyde for inspiration