A Gin Palace is the name originally used for a lavish bar selling gin, and this was later associated with late Victorian pubs designed in a similar style. In the 18th century, gin shops or 'dram shops' were small establishments that sold gin to take away or to drink standing up. It was only as the legislation changed that they became larger, and were licensed to sell ale or wine. In the late 1820’s the first ‘Gin Palaces' were built. Thompson and Fearon's was built at 94 Holborn Hill in 1831, and there was Weller's in Old Street. They were based on the new fashionable shops being built at the time, lit by gas lights and luxuriously decorated. Even though they were thought to be vulgar, they were hugely popular!
Gin has risen in popularity in the last few years, and gin bars are back! Whilst only a few of the first gin palaces still exist, we certainly are now spoilt for choice. Here are our ten favourites…
1. The Gin Bar, Holborn (Holborn Dining Room, 252 High Holborn, WC1V 7EN)
This is one of the newer bars on the list, with over 500 gins and 30 different tonics, (including its own), it’s very impressive! The bar is relaxed and stylish, and with more than 14,000 possible gin and tonic pairings, it the perfect place for a gin connoisseur.
2. C.O.L.D, Blackfriars (22-24 Bride Lane, EC4Y 8DT)
If you head here on a Saturday night, it’s always surprising to see how quiet the city is. Located in The City of London Distillery, this bar has a relaxed atmosphere. Just like a fancy living room, you can chill on leather seats whilst admiring the view of the copper stills. There is every gin you can think of behind the bar, and a great gin cocktail list. You can also book in for a number of ‘gin experiences’ from distillery tours to distilling your own gin.
3. Pedler, Peckham (58 Peckham Rye, SE15, 4JR)
This laid-back restaurant/bar has an amazing gin cocktail list, all made with Little Bird (the local gin). They even add gin to their sausages so head there for brunch, you won’t be disappointed.
4. Graveney Gin, Tooting (Tooting Market, 21-23 Tooting High Street, SW17 0SN)
Since Tooting has recently been named one of the "coolest places on earth”, it naturally demands a gin distillery and bar. Their gin is organic, handcrafted and is incredibly moorish! You can visit their cosy bar in Tooting market.
5. The Princess Louise (New Oxford Street & The Salisbury, St Martin’s Lane)
Whilst many original gin palaces do not exist any more, you can still visit some that have been lovingly restored. Whilst they may contain more than gin (and in some cases not a great range of gin), you certainly should visit a couple to get that historic “Gin Palace” experience. The Princess Louise, New Oxford Street and The Salisbury, St Martin’s Lane, are both fitted with fine wooden fittings, glittering mirror glass and tiles.
6. Mr. Fogg’s Gin Parlour, Covent Garden (1 New Row, WC2N 4EA)
Mr. Fogg’s is a cosy gin bar with an amazing gin collection! The interior is rather fancy and very comfortable. You can book onto a gin masterclass where you’ll get a bit of a history lesson, while sampling gins from all over the world.
7. The London Gin Club, Soho (The Star, 22 Great Chapel Street, W1F 8FR)
Don’t be fooled that this place is just any old London pub, as you walk inside you will enter gin heaven. There are over 300 different bottles and cocktails dating back to the 1800’s. Every effort goes into making sure you have the best gin drinking experience. Big copa glasses full of ice, and the tonic and garnishes are carefully paired with each gin too.
8. The Distillery, Notting Hill ( 186 Portobello Road, W11 1LA)
After the great success of The Portobello Star, home of Portobello Road gin, you can now pop over to London's first ever gin hotel. The four-storey venue has a 400-litre distillery in the basement, a visitor centre, pub, restaurant, Spanish gin lounge and a handful of hotel rooms at the top. You can even make your own gin at the Ginstitute, and they’ll save your recipe so you can reorder whenever you need a top up!
9. 214 Bermondsey (214 Bermondsey Street, SE1 3TQ)
You will find this secret gin bar under Antico restaurant in Bermondsey. The G&Ts are unique here as they make their own tonic. Their gin list is extensive and you can even test your taste buds with a blind gin flight of three different G&Ts. If you make it down on a Sunday, their weekly changing menu of gin tipples start from just £5.
10. Worship Street Whistling Shop, Shoreditch (63 Worship Street, EC2A 2DU)
If you fancy the experience of an old gin palace (but with the modern day menu), this is the place to go. It is a dark and atmospheric bar, lit by an indoor street lamp. The bar also has its own cocktail lab, which is used to create infused gin potions. The cocktails are incredible!