If you’re the type of person who's "done" all the various cool hangouts in London and has even learned to make some cocktails for yourself — what’s left? How about making your own hooch? There's a wide range of opportunities in the capital, and we're not talking about using your best mate's bath tub.
We've been on a dizzying (in more ways than one) tour of the best DIY booze classes and discovered that whether you're into beer or gin, or something more exotic still, you'll be able to find something to suit.
One thing we learned on our travels — it’s considered bad luck to not name your ‘still’ for distilling spirits. It would appear drinks peeps are a superstitious lot. Like sailors. And actors. And journalists. Possibly.
London Beer Lab (Beer)
Descend upon the railways arches of Brixton for a workshop on beer brewing, hosted every Saturday and Sunday, and has been a regular feature for the past year, due to its soaring popularity (and is vast becoming a Father’s Day gift staple). There's a workshop for groups of up to four people, where a unique recipe is worked out, with guidance. A few weeks later, the pay-off is about 60 bottles of brew to take home. Alternatively, you can sign up on your own, and spend the afternoon getting to grips with four or five pre-set recipes, with a few bottles of each to add to your collection.
What more? They also organise beer tasting events, sell supplies for home brewing, and even host a club for aficionados.
London Bar Lab, Arch 41 Nursery Road, SW9 8BP
Cost: £75 per person, group workshops are £150
Bump Caves (Gin)
Besides having quite possibly the most fun name ever, this ’60s psychedelic scene-inspired dive bar is also a craft spirit distiller, situated on Tower Bridge Road — and it proclaims the speakeasy and twee teapots are dead. Experimental mixologist Max Chater, pioneer of The Beer & the Bump pairings (the bump being house-distilled and rectified spirits), hosts a Distil Your Own Gin event. Students create their own recipe from base neutral grain spirit and 10 (yes, 10) botanicals while nibbling on cheese and charcuterie, resulting in a unique bespoke gin.
Want more? you can also sign up for their vermouth evening (£19.75 per person) or the Gin Night (£24.75pp) for some cocktail shaking.
Bump Caves, 206-208 Tower Bridge Road, SE1 2UP
Cost: £95 per person including three drinks, cheese board with charcuterie, a bottle of your own gin, plus a bottle of the Bump Caves’s Victory Gin.
City of London Distillery (Gin)
If you want to get really hands-on, measure out your chosen ingredients and whack them into your own miniature copper still, venture to Ludgate Circus near St Paul’s, where you can get familiar with the composition of gin — and learn some bits of trivia along the way from the knowledgable team. There’s a drink on arrival, a thorough talk through the botanicals, followed by a stint in the distilling room with your own hand-made mix. After this you’re welcome to prop up the bar with a sample of your newly-crafted gin infant, no doubt beaming like a proud new parent. Only this won’t last 18 years.
City of London Distillery, 22-24 Bride Lane, EC4Y 8DT
Cost: £125 per person, or £75 +VAT for corporate groups of eight people or more. Classes run Monday-Wednesday, with two-hour slots at both 2pm and 6pm.
Ginstitute at the Portobello Star (Gin)
The Ginstitute at the Portobello Star — birthplace of Portobello Road Gin — presents an insightful, informal talk in an intimate space upstairs from the main bar, where ostentatious hand-crafted mirrors and wood panel interiors form an affectionate homage to the fabled gin palaces. Here consumers can get a basic, yet solid understanding of the history of gin as Jake F Burger glides through the background of this much loved — and at times infamous — spirit, with his expert knowledge and humour. Tasty gin-based cocktails are provided throughout — including quite possibly the best G&T we have ever imbibed. Then, it’s time to get familiar with the botanicals and create your own blend from a range of pre-distillate, including some more unusual vials of asparagus and Yorkshire Tea.
Ginstitute at the Portobello Star, 171 Portobello Road, W11 2DY
Cost: £100 per person, includes cocktails, a bottle of your own gin, plus a bottle of Portobello Road Gin to take home. Your recipe is kept on file and can be reordered, and posted out to you, at any time.
The London Distillery Company (Gin/Whisky)
It’s official - we’re making whisky again. Oh yes. There are a limited number of places at the London Distillery Company so it’s best to get in quick, and make sure you have a sizeable budget, as it can easily top the 1K mark depending on size of cask/group. In addition the Gin School runs on Saturday afternoons, manned by a team of passionate, experienced individuals. The jaunt comprises of a distillery tour, blending class and the chance to produce it in the same 140 litre copper pot still used to make their very own Dodd’s Gin. Her name is Christina, by the way.
The London Distillery Company, 33 Parkgate Road, SW11 4NP
For information on the classes, check out the website or get in touch with them for more details.
Mele e Pere (Vermouth)
If you want to get better acquainted with this famous Italian fortified wine, the beautifully sleek copper-topped vermouth bar at Mele e Pere is a cracking place to start. Led by expert ‘vermouthier’ Edward Scothern, you’ll taste their home-made offerings and sip on some cocktails before having a go at blending your own hearty glass, which you can then enjoy at your leisure (we recommend having it on the rocks). If you’ve not yet paid a visit to the restaurant proper to experience the delectable dishes here, you’ll get a brief insight to what they do - and they do it damn well - as some stomach lining is provided in the form of calamari, fried olives (Mmmm. Sinful.) and other such comforting foodstuffs.
Mele e Pere, 46 Brewer Street, W1F 9TF
Cost: £15 per person, including drinks and sharing plates. Currently fully-booked, although classes will resume in the new year.
Shochu Lounge @ Roka (Shochu)
Roka on Charlotte street is vast becoming a hub of activity - with the ground floor serving high-end Japanese fare, and the stylish Shochu lounge downstairs doubling up as a buzzing ramen ‘canteen’ during the workday lunch rush, and a chic cocktail hangout by night. Behind the scenes however, you can become a shochu master and infuse your own Asian spirit. They have seasonal ingredients, plus a couple of delightful curve balls, such as coffee and vanilla. Once the process is under way, it takes a whole day to be produced, and you’re welcome to pop by the bar to drink from your own tagged and named jar — as is the Japanese custom of the ‘keep bottle’.
Roka, 37 Charlotte Street, W1T 1RR
Cost: £280 for 4.3 litre bottle, contact them for more details.