Perhaps the most iconic of London's gin brands, if no longer the trendiest. Beefeater got its distilling license in 1829, and having shuffled around London a fair bit, is now settled in Kennington, just opposite a Tesco. A two-and-a-half hour tour of the distillery is reasonably priced (£12), packed with history, and concludes with a big old G&T.
Beefeater London: The Home of Gin, 20 Montford Place, SE11 5DE
East London Liquor Company, Mile End
These guys have pulled out all the stops, producing their own gin, vodka, whisky and rum — in a former glue factory in Bow Wharf. Pop into the bottle shop, where they'll happily dole out tasters, or get them to mix you a cocktail at their bar, behind which sits the gleaming distillery itself.
East London Liquor Company, Unit GF1, Bow Wharf, 221 Grove Road, E3 5SN
We'll never forget these guys after they once sent us some ham and mustard gin in the post (it tasted awesome). Sipsmith aren't afraid to experiment; aside from their classic gins and vodkas, they produce a summer cup (think Pimm's but posher) and damson and sloe-steeped spirits. If you want to see the three stills, named Prudence, Patience and Constance, sign up for a weekday evening tour (these cost around £15) and properly whet your whistle.
Sipsmith Distillery, 83 Cranbrook Road, Chiswick, W4 2LJ
Ginstitute, Notting Hill
London's most immersive distillery furnishes you with endless helpings of mother's ruin, as you gen up on the history of gin, pick your own botanicals, and eventually craft and bottle your own liquor. If you're too squiffy to remember anything you've learned, at least you'll still have a souvenir to remind you of what you achieved. Courses cost £110, but people who've been assure us it's worth it.
Ginstitute, The Portobello Star, 171 Portobello Road, W11 2DY
Christian Jensen's approach to gin is a simple one, which is why this distillery, underneath the arches in Bermondsey, only makes two types of gin: London dry and Old Tom. Quaff one or both on a Saturday, when the distillery bar opens. Line your stomach with food from Maltby Street Market. Mix with Beer Mile brews at your peril.
Jensen's, 55 Stanworth Street, SE1 3NY
London Distillery Company, Battersea
Whereas most of London's distilleries specialise in gin, this one's bringing back whisky. Even better, you can come in and make it yourself — just be aware that it will cost you many hundreds of pounds, and you'll have to wait three years for it to officially become whisky. In the meantime, slake your thirst wit a bottle of Dodd's gin, named after Ralph Dodd — the great entrepreneur who unsuccessfully tried to build the first tunnel under the Thames.
The London Distillery Company, 33 Parkgate Road, SW11 4NP
Sacred Spirits Company, Highgate
You've got to respect a man who knocks up a microdistillery in his own kitchen. Kudos, then, to Ian Hart, who's done exactly that — concocting classic London dry gins, alongside edgier variations including pink grapefruit, cardamom and Christmas pudding. There are also negroni gift packs, featuring homemade gin, rosehip cup and spiced vermouth.
There's no distillery tour or bar as such (unless you get very friendly with Ian), so ask for it in good bars or buy bottles online.
City of London Distillery, Fleet Street
Our favourite fact about this place may actually be a myth: we have it on dubious authority that anyone barging into this distillery/speakeasy demanding 'The Most Expensive Gin You Have' gets exactly that (although it happens that 'The Most Expensive Gin' on the bartenders' list is also the roughest). If you've got manners, there's no need to worry; exceptional cocktails are mixed with the likes of Christopher Wren Gin and Square Mile London Dry. Ogle the stills, named Jennifer and Clarissa, as you sip.
City of London Distillery, 22-24 Bride Lane, EC4Y 8DT
Little Bird Gin, Peckham
There's only one incarnation of Little Bird gin, and it's hard to miss it, seeing as the label features a Vargas-esque redhead. This distillery's strictly not for visiting, but you can get your mitts on the grapefruity liquor at Maltby Street Market every Saturday, and at Pedler in Peckham every day of the week. You'll probably end up having it in a hip negroni or a hipper 'Peck'em', and why not.
Butler's Gin, Hackney Wick
You didn't think Hackney was going to miss out on the action, did you? Relative newcomers Butler's distill a fresh, crisp and light version of gin, with lemongrass and cardamom among the botanicals, You can't visit the distillery, but you can contact 'The Butler', who hosts private gin tastings at a secret east London location every Friday.
The Nicholas Culpeper, Gatwick Airport
Imagine our surprise and delight when, earlier this year, we discovered that Gatwick Airport has its own distillery/pub in the form of The Nicholas Culpeper. You can taste their small batch gin every day of the week (the still's called Judith and is tucked away behind bulletproof glass), and — even better — you don't need a boarding pass to access the junipery joy. Give your taste buds a holiday from the standard spirits.
The Nicholas Culpeper, 2nd Floor, Check-in Hall, North Terminal, Airport, Gatwick RH6 0NP
Our/London, Hackney Downs
"Not another 'filtered through diamond shards/purified with a melted Alaskan icecap' vodka", we're assured. Our/London is as urban as it comes — produced by a couple of mates in a couple of railway arches behind Hackney Downs station. The distillery is open Monday-Friday from noon-6pm, while special tours (£30) include a production tour, vodka tasting, a cocktail and a small bottle to take away. Otherwise get your fix from one of these stockists.
Our/London, Arch 435 & 436, Spurstowe Road, Hackney Downs E8 1LS
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