Suddenly, gin is cool. Whereas, not so long ago, a G&T was found only on stiff upper lips, today it’s the bright young things who are sipping gin in the trendiest bars, choosing from a cornucopia of brands and styles, each offering its own modern take on the traditional spirit.
While juniper, the berry from which gin takes its name, invariably defines the flavour, all manner of exotic botanicals (those ingredients giving gin its flavour) also play their part, from coriander to cinnamon and orris root to cassia bark.
Portobello Road is a more recent addition to the scene, with its origins in the explosion of interest in gin we’ve seen in the last few years.
It was created in 2011 by Jake Burger, bartender and one of the world’s leading authorities on gin, at his pub, the Portobello Star, in London’s fashionable Notting Hill, where he has not only installed a small distillery, but also a gin museum and training school, known as the Ginstitute.
After testing different recipes, he came up with a spice-led gin, in which a ‘good slug of juniper’ is backed by cassia bark, liquorice and, most prominently, nutmeg.
It’s designated ‘London dry’ which, while not a legal definition, indicates that it’s made in the traditional way, using whole botanicals macerated in a neutral grain spirit – and not flavour essences.
It’s caught on fast, has outgrown the Portobello Star distillery and is now made by Charles Maxwell, an eighth generation gin-distiller who can trace his links to the spirit back to the 18th-century gin craze.
“Portobello Road is designed to work well in a lot of different cocktails, as well as in a gin and tonic,” said
Dion Rowntree, who distributes the brand in the UK through spirits specialist Mangrove.
“Mostly, it’s found in five-star hotels and cocktail bars, but I think that it has a wider appeal than that. It’s a gin which a lot of people will enjoy.”
And now they can, thanks to the Wetherspoon gin palace.