214 Bermondsey, London
There’s no doubt gin is in, but 214 Bermondsey began setting the trend way back in 2013 when they first started accumulating their vast collection. With over 100 gins lining the backbar, finding the perfect one might be overwhelming (we lie, it’s actually Brockmans), but to make it easier, the bar team have everything categorised by their botanical attributes.
As there’s no table service, we slink off the brown leather bench bumping to electric swing as and move about the underground speakeasy towards the bar. Antim Solakov, formerly behind the opening team of Three Six Six, with stints at Duck & Waffle and Artesian, now runs the show. He began his bartending career at Tattershall Castle, on a boat overlooking the London eye before moving into a pub. He didn’t stay there long as he missed creating cocktails, gaining much of his inspiration from books and flavours in the kitchen. While he currently experiments with basil and roasted red pepper to match the risotto on their bar menu, he helps fellow barman Daryl Dowey perfect their Sunday Social drinks menu. Each Sunday from 4pm five new cocktails make an appearance for six and a half hours only. They also hand select five gins to feature in their £5 double G&T menu, alongside a £10 gin flight, served with a secret envelope that reveals each gin after you’ve put your palate to the test.
We begin our afternoon with a G&T as 214 Bermondsey creates their own tonic: BTW. Unlike the tonics you find in stores, BTW has an amber colour as the Cinchona bark used for quinine extraction is left unbleached. Mixed with a bit of citric acid, sugar and soda water, you quickly come to understand why the recipe took years to perfect. G&Ts are served garnish-free, as BTW tonic brings out the natural botanicals in each gin… further proving that you can’t enjoy a premium spirit without a premium tonic.
Now on the London map as a gin destination, 214 Bermondsey attracts a crowd thirsting for more knowledge. Which is why Ginlightenment Saturdays are on the brink of launch. Think one and a half hours of pure ginducation. The classes start at 1:30pm with a classic cocktail to keep your palate strong before going into the history of gin with a tasting flight before moving into the world of martinis.
By now we’ve finished our B&BWT and are ready to experience Antim’s cocktail creativity. He begins preparing Hedgerow Heaven, a refreshing classic which brings our blackberries to life. As we sip the cocktail in our cosy corner, we fire the usual questions to round out the evening:
Describe 214 Bermondsey in a few words.
We have a great atmosphere, it’s cosy and friendly here.
Best thing you’ve ever overheard at your bar?
A customer once told me he’d like some gin and when I asked him what kind of gin he likes, he responded with: The kind with juniper in it.
Why do you think gin is so popular?
It’s a good refreshing drink and I’m constantly amazed by the flavours and varieties available.
What is it about Brockmans that appeals to you?
I like that it’s a fruity gin, easy to drink on its own. It works with our tonic beautifully, but it’s also great for classic cocktails, especially the Clover Club.
If you could have one last drink before you died, what would you choose?
A dirty martini. I dunno, I just like it.
By Antim Solakov
- 45ml Brockmans Gin
- 15ml Chateau du Breuil (Calvados)
- 30ml fresh lemon juice
- 15ml Homemade blackberry syrup
- 10ml homemade pomegranate syrup
- 30ml egg white
Pour all ingredients into the shaker with ice and shake. Double strain into a goblet glass and garnish with a fresh raspberry.