A herbaceous gin from the East London Liquor Company
Words: Mark Riddaway
I was once the face of British cocktails. I was meeting a client in a fancy bar one quiet weekday afternoon when a photographer approached saying she’d been commissioned to provide images for a major feature in the New York Times about how London is the cocktail capital of the world—but there was hardly anyone in the bar and absolutely no one drinking cocktails. She bought me a drink and begged me to gad about, pretending to have friends.
Two weeks later, there I was in America’s greatest newspaper, brandishing an elaborate cocktail (rum, banana liqueur and 20-year-old sherry) and looking, to the untrained eye, like a bit of an idiot.
In reality, there are few people in London less likely to drink a cocktail. For me, spirits are there to be savoured as the distiller intended, not faffed around with by a haughty young person with a muddler and a blow torch. There is just one exception: my girlfriend’s martinis, which she mixes at home whenever she’s had a tough day at work. (She’s a headteacher; she drinks a lot of martinis.)
Her version, with its homeopathic quantity of vermouth, is less a cocktail, more a stiff shot of liquor that has a vague memory of once meeting a fortified wine at a party. But she puts it in a fancy glass with an olive on a stick, so it still counts. Premium Batch No2 is her favourite gin by a mile—mine too.
Thanks to the presence of winter savory, thyme, sage and bay among its botanicals, it has an unusually verdant, herbaceous profile. Quaffing it is like getting quietly drunk while someone mows a dewy lawn beside you. It makes the perfect martini, or my other favourite cocktail: a shot of gin with a tiny squeeze of lime. Just don’t, in the name of all that is good and decent, allow any banana liqueur or vintage sherry into the mix.