The story of London and gin is a long, colourful and often debauched one. And on Saturday May 13, top bartender Tony Conigliaro and The Zetter Townhouse hotel will bring it to life with a special walking tour of one of the city’s most storied drinking spots: Clerkenwell.
At the height of the Gin Craze in the 18th century, Clerkenwell was a hotspot for illicit gin distilling and bad behaviour, with one in every four houses peddling some kind of juniper hooch. It was also home to a huge brewery and numerous pubs – St John Street boasted more than 30 alehouses and taverns at one point.
With the curational help of London history guide Andy Catto, Conigliaro will take guests on a tour of some of these landmarks, tracing the area’s journey from Hogarthian squalor to bouts of Victorian splendour, as gin palaces and iconic London Dry brands proliferated on the very same streets.
“Clerkenwell was a real heartland for gin drinking and production – Booth’s and Gordon’s were both based there – but it has so many other great stories too,” says Conigliaro. “I’m looking forward to making a stop at The Crown Tavern on Clerkenwell Green, where Lenin reputedly met with Stalin in 1905.”
The two-hour tour (from 3pm; £45 per person, including drinks) will conclude in the Georgian grandeur of Zetter Townhouse’s award-winning bar, where walkers will be able to revive themselves with four gin cocktails and a selection of bar snacks prepared by Conigliaro and the Zetter team.
“Gin is a wonderful spirit for bartenders to work with because it has so many flavours to hang things on – all those different botanicals can be taken in so many different directions,” says Conigliaro, who promises to make the point by serving a contrasting selection of drinks, including the Zetter’s signature nettle gimlet and a perfectly stirred martini.