Golden tonic and sealed envelopes – a G&T at 214 Bermondsey is a little out of the ordinary
The UK’s gin craze has entered new territory.
Bars with a huge selection of brands are ten a penny these days. Bars that have a house gin made for them are not that uncommon, either. But how about a bar that makes its own tonic water?
214 Bermondsey, the cosy gin joint beneath Antico, an Italian restaurant a short stroll from our office, has perfected a tonic that’s so good, they reckon, a slice of lemon (or cucumber, or apple, or whatever’s the must-have addition of the month) is superfluous.
What’s more, they say, their tart, citrussy concoction lets the flavours of the gin cut through, never dominating or clashing.
I had to try it.
I went along after work and was presented with a G&T made with Martin Miller’s gin and the bar’s rapidly-becoming-famous tonic.
The friendly barman showed me a vast jar, like something out of an old-fashioned pharmacy, of a yellowy syrup, the secret recipe they use as the base for their tonic, adding water and the magic of – what else? – a SodaStream.
He wouldn’t reveal the recipe but he did admit it was “a bit of a nightmare” trying to get hold of the quinine.
In the glass with gin, the tonic retains its golden hue. It’s indeed the least sweet tonic I’ve ever had, with tart, herby flavours, and the gin’s flavour rings through it. Ten out of ten.
But do I really know what I’m talking about when it comes to gin? To prove their tonic lets the gin’s flavours shine, the bar offers a ‘gin flight’ of three different, mystery gins.
Time to put my mouth where my money is.
The barman tells me what the three gins are, but a sealed envelope hides the secret of which is which.
I sniff. I sip. I sniff again. I sip again. I roll the G&Ts around my mouth with a ruminative expression on my face. I sniff yet again. I roll again. I can’t be accused of not taking this seriously.
They certainly all taste very different, and I feel a bit silly about the fact that, not so long ago, I used to say: “What does it matter what kind of gin goes in a gin and tonic? Gin is gin…”
I compare the tasting notes in the booklet with the flavours I’m getting, then convince myself I’ve cracked it.
The middle one is The Botanist with its cavalcade of 31 botanicals, the one on the left is the cardamom-esque Junipero from the USA and the one on the right is the herby Gin Mare. No brainer. I open the envelope.
I’ve got them all wrong.
“That’s statistically harder to do than getting one right,” says the barman helpfully.
Oh well. There’s always next time, I think, scanning the menu. In the meantime, how about a gin cocktail…?