With World Gin Day just round the corner, how better to celebrate than with an original gin cocktail?
As head bartender at Gillray’s – the gin bar next to the Thames, housed within the newly-renovated Marriott London County Hall hotel and named for 18th century political cartoonist James Gillray ‒ gin connoisseur and brand ambassador for Cotswolds Dry Gin, Sam Mitchell, shows us how to create the fresh and summery Jubilee cocktail.
While you can never go wrong with a classic, Mitchell suggests there’s much more to botanicals than the basic G&T.
The botanical boom
Gin – once derided as a ruinous, low-quality liquor until the government’s Gin Act way back in 1751 – has recently undergone a much-publicised revival in recent years.
Sales of the classically-British spirit in restaurants, pubs and bars are set to exceed an incredible £1bn by 2017, with gin sales reaching over half a billion pounds in the sector last year, according to the Wine and Spirit Association. Since 2014, over 50 new distilleries have opened, and gin sales have risen by 35% in the past six years.
Younger people are especially loving it, with a study from late last year (Mintel’s White Spirits and RTDs Drinkers UK 2015 report) showing that 42% of 18-34 year olds had drunk gin in the past two months, compared to just 27% of the over 45s.
Little wonder that many other bars are also seeking to capitalise on the botanical boom.
In London, April saw Des McDonald’s Holborn Dining Room open a 400-strong gin bar (with 27 different tonics to boot), while founder of the Portobello Road Gin distillery, Ged Feltham, is set to open what he claims to be the city’s first ‘gin hotel’ in November, including a distillery on-site.
As Mitchell says: “We’re seeing it a lot more...I believe that people have a trend when they have more variety and more choice. So with more gin products, people will find a gin that they are comfortable with.
“Gin is a cool spirit in London now. It’s a national spirit, and people are really enjoying it. It’s a year-round spirit…and very easy to manipulate and use in different drinks…it has far more botanicals. If you want to use gin in a Negroni, it’s much more fun, you have many more different flavours to play with.”
Bars and restaurants can capitalise on events such as World Gin Day by taking the classic G&T, and mixing it up, Mitchell says.
He explains: “The best thing to do for World Gin Day is just to celebrate the best gin and tonic. And to find your own gin and tonic, to have it with lavender, or something really fun…that you can talk about. We sell hundreds of gin and tonics here daily...it’s a really good drink in itself.”
Of course, G must have its T, of which Mitchell says: “Find a really good tonic that you want to use, be it just a regular tonic water, or even with elderflower, grapefruit; even with bitter lemon is fantastic. To have that, without having much knowledge but then being able to pair it with different tonic waters, is a really good way to activate gin and be known as a gin bar.”
Gillray’s Steakhouse & Bar: Where old and new collide
Perched inside the actual Marriott London County Hall building overlooking London’s River Thames, Gillray’s is the boozy yet sophisticated arm of the high-end steakhouse of the same name, with a new cocktail menu featuring such lyrical creations as Drawing Out A Batch of New Kings, Light Expelling Darkness, and Very Slippery Weather.
With nearly every drink named after a provocative cartoon from the bar’s namesake, 18th century political caricaturist James Gillray (some of whose cartoons are displayed around the bar), each offers a surprisingly-modern nod to gin’s historical pedigree.
Having first joined the bar in 2015, head bartender Mitchell previously helped open the G&T Lounge in the West Indian Quay Marriott hotel, and at his team’s fresh approach at County Hall has helped push Gillray’s selected number of gins to more than 100 available today.
Video music credit: BenSound.com