I found myself at London’s Gin Festival a few weeks ago, on a relatively chilly day in August. I was all booked for their afternoon session at Tobacco Dock. Realistically, I wasn’t the Gin Festival’s target market for this event for one quite important reason – I don’t like gin. In fact, I do quite a lot to actively avoid it. Plus, my favourite “spirit” is a Malibu. My biggest choice when getting a Malibu and Coke is whether I want the Pineapple version or not. The answer, by the way, is always no. But, I have a fear of missing out and that’s how I found myself drinking gin all Sunday.
When you arrive, you buy a number of tokens. We chose four each. You get a free glass to carry around with you so when you choose a gin, you just hand them the glass to fill up for you. I really liked that because I’ve been to these festival events before and they always run out of glasses and make you wait for ages while they run around finding clean ones for you. You also get a little booklet to pick which gin you want, and it corresponds to a bar. There were four bars to help organise the gins. Once you’ve picked, they recommend a tonic, which are all free and easy to pick up from a different table. You can also get gin cocktails, but they were double the price at two tokens.
Would I usually have drunk four gin and tonic’s in the space of an hour and a half? Nope.
Did I actually enjoy doing so? Yep.
I got myself into a bit of a fluster ordering my first gin and blurted out to the woman behind the bar that I had no idea what to get. She asked me what gin I usually get. I said I usually didn’t. Weirdly, she then asked me if I liked Malibu and recommended me a gin based on that (Hoxton Gin, apparently). It was pretty impressive that the people behind the bars could remember which tonic was supposed to go with which gin, and could also make recommendations based on those gins. There were literally hundreds there.
I also managed to find a gin which I loved – even though it was unsurprisingly a gin liqueur more than a proper gin. I’ve already plastered this gin all over my social media, but I have genuinely fallen in love with it and will probably be regularly buying it. Zymurgorium make a “sweetly crafted violet gin liqueur” – basically it’s a gin that tastes like parma violets. Reliving your childhood while drinking gin – perfect.
I later found out my colleague didn’t know what parma violets were. I hope she’s the only one.
If I had any complaints, it would be that the cocktails were too expensive. At £10 a throw, I never quite managed to get around to buying one. Although I live in London, and know how expensive cocktails can be, I did think this was a bit steep for an event. It’s a shame because I really like cocktails. My friend was a little annoyed at how the only tonics available were Fever Tree, as he finds them quite overpowering. And, to be honest, we thought there maybe too many gins there? It was a little overwhelming.
We really enjoyed the event, and it’s nice to see that the Festival takes place all round the country, not just in London. Plus, the tickets at £12.50 were pretty good value for a four hour time slot, and for the amount of choice, plus the master classes you could have joined. I think we’ll look into going back next year, to scratch a few more gins off the list.