Gin Joints

Drink here: The Viaduct Tavern, EC1

As the last Victorian Gin Palace standing in London,we couldn’t resist investigating and imbibing the gins on offer at The Viaduct Tavern. Located near St. Paul’s, in the heart of the City, this glorious pub is perfectly placed for an after-work or lunchtime gin.
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Image copyright to The Viaduct Tavern (kindly borrowed from their website)

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Image copyright to The Viaduct Tavern (kindly borrowed from their website)

With a range of craft gins available at the bar, served in delicate coppa glasses with exquisitely chosen garnishes and hand chipped ice that disappears in your drink, Fever Tree tonic… Well, there is little more a gin-lover can ask for of a gin joint.
The venue itself is steeped in history – formerly a jail, the historic pub still has five cells in the basement (so no fighting over the gin, then!). With original features throughout including scalloped chandeliers, ruby red relief ceilings and rich, copper tables – it lives up to its “gin palace” status without a sniff of pretentiousness.
The ambiance is laid back and intimate – the absence of pop music and bright lights making it a refined choice for a meet-up with old friends, colleagues or a relaxed date.
A handy booklet/ menu takes you through a gin flavour wheel, signature serves and the tasting menus – comprehensively compiled, but far less engaging than the wonderful bar staff who are ready with well informed, polite suggestions, when asked.
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Monkey47 and lemon twist. Image copyright The Gin Club.

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Hoxton gin with red grapefruit. Image copyright The Gin Club.

Alongside the house GinFusion, which was No. 3 infused with apple and pear, we also enjoyed several fantastic gins,
including:
  • Martin Miller’s
  • Chase Williams
  • Hoxton
  • Bath Tub Navy Strength
  • Monkey47
  • Hayman’s Old Tom
  • Gin Mare
  • Bloom
  • No. 3
  • Distillery 209
…as well as all the usual gin suspects and other spirits and alcohol for any in the party not drinking Gods good nectar.
The favourite of the night was difficult to choose (so many of our favourites were on the menu!) however the Martin Miller‘s garnished with coriander and cherry tomato made for a refreshing serve, whilst the Hoxton served with red grapefruit was suprising – our first try of the coconut and perfumed aromas and flavours in this unusual gin.
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Left to right: Bloom & Strawberry, Old Tom & pear, Gin Mare with basil & tomato, Chase Williams with pear.

The only crying shame of it all was last orders around were at 11pm when the bar became noticeably empty – the giant ice block had disappeared, the homemade ginfusion drunk and a fresh batch prepared for the next day.
All in all, we loved The Viaduct Tavern and look forward to our next visit. Highly recommended, 4 junipers out of 5!
If you’ve been, we’d love to hear what you thought – tweet us.
Follow The Viaduct Tavern on Twitter.
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Oh so sloe-ly: how to make sloe gin.

There is little more satisfying than sitting fireside in December and pouring a rich, fruity, sweet, sloe gin made by your own fair hands. Sloe gin is easy and enjoyable to make, makes great gifts for friends and family and quintessentially English.

You need to start making sloe gin at least 2 months before Christmas, so now is the perfect time to get started. The heavy rains and drop in temperature this year means that there is a healthy slug of sloes about in Surrey and I enjoy nothing more than foraging the hedgerows near my home to find these glorious berries. This weekend I went out with official Gin Club mascot, Charlie Noodle dog, to hunt out some sloes and we came home very happy with a solid crop.

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What if you can’t find any sloe’s near you? Easy. Pop onto ebay and a lovely kind farmer will send them to you! If you live near London, try using The Fruit Map (although bear in mind most foragers don’t like sharing where the top spots are!).

It’s so simple… Rinse your sloes well, score or freeze the sloes to break the skin and add them to a glass bottle or jar. They should be added until almost half full. Top up with gin. Taste before bottling and add a simple sugar syrup to taste.

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The recipe

  • Ripe sloe berries (enough to fill 1/3 – 1/2 of the bottle you are making the sloe gin in)
  • A good quality gin
  • Sugar (I use muscovado sugar as I prefer the flavour – the above shows my two types of sloe gin – the one on the left has sugar, the one on the right has none as I will sweeten that one to taste)

Added extra: A vanilla pod or a crushed, raw almond.

Method:

  • Score sloes and add to bottle or Kilner lock top jar – fill 1/3 the way up (warning: sometimes using tapered neck bottles can be a pain as getting the sloes out can be painful, but it’s up to you)
  • Add vanilla pod & almond
  • Add sugar (now, two schools of thought here – some add sugar upfront, some prefer to add it at the end, to taste. If it’s your first time, try both methods and see which you prefer).
  • Pour gin in to the top – fill as high as you can
  • Leave for at least 2 months out of direct sunlight, turning the jar every couple of days
  • Bottle just before Xmas (Read our guide to filtering and bottling your sloe gin here)

Here are 3 top tips to really make a good sloe gin:

1. Ripe Sloe’s

If when you press the sloe between your finger and thumb, it gives and feels like it might burst, it’s ripe. If you use unripened sloes, you will have a very bitter sloe gin on your hands.

2. Freeze or score the sloe’s

The sloes need to have their skin scored slightly to let the gin in and the flavour out. There are a few ways of doing this, but by far the best is to freeze the sloes overnight so the skin bursts. This replicates the first autumn freeze if it hasn’t been yet.

Some prefer to prick the skin with a clean pin or, as legend would have you believe, it should be done with a thorn from the same bush you collected the sloes from. Some score the skin gently with a knife – but be careful – fingers are vulnerable!

3. Use a good gin

It doesn’t have to be a craft, boutique, top shelf gin, but it really shouldn’t be a supermarket own name brand. Sloe’s are wonderful things, but they can’t disguise poor quality gin. The better the gin you start with, the better your sloe gin, of course. We used Bombay London dry here, which was just fine, but do try a bottle of two of top shelf gin once you get more experienced!

And that’s it. Enjoy making your sloe gin! For those who don’t feel like making their own, my favourite is Sipsmith Sloe Gin.

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