Gin has been making the most incredible comeback in the last few years and is now a huge industry. There’s now approximately 3,500 different gins around the world and we want to try them all. Up and down the country people are quaffing their G&Ts in the autumnal breeze, with many bars setting up a ‘gin palace’ section offering at least 5-10 decent gins. There are a lot of bars around Southsea getting in on the gin trade, and plenty of places you can go for a proper Spanish serve, in a copa glass, with oodles of ice and fresh fruit. I’ve been sniffing out some of the best ones for your sipping pleasure.
There are multiple locations popping up around Portsmouth. Even since writing this initial article I’ve heard of other places which I haven’t yet featured. I have recently discovered that the Royal Albert has around 40 gins nowadays so they’re totally worth a visit. Where do you start? Well here’s a good starting point for gin bars in Portsmouth.
I wanted to include The Merchant House as they’ve only opened recently, and are more known for the craft beers, but they also have a small but surprisingly diverse selection of gins and are soon to be launching a new gin menu.
Ben from The Merchant House describes, “We opened the Merchant House in February and from the start we knew we had to have a great Gin selection. The plan was to have gins from independent distillers to complement our independent beer range. We are all great believers in supporting small business and that ethos carried through our range. We have a gin menu that has all our suggestions, but they are only suggestions as we believe gin is an individual thing that can be complimented by an array of tonics and garnishes. Our favourite and most popular at the moment is Mermaid from the Isle Of Wight and Xavier from the distillery has supported us from the start. We believe that the gin boom will only increase, and we look forward to launching our new gin menu in the not too distant future.”
If you’ve not tried Mermaid’s Gin, I’d heartily recommend it. It’s a beautifully fresh and soft gin and IOW Distillery is a fabulous place that takes great interest in our nautical heritage.
The Marmion are long-standing professional Southsea gin pushers. Established in 2014, the Marmion has always offered locally sourced food and drinks spanning the globe. Matt told me that “Through alcohol-fuelled field trips we delved into the rich and wide history of gin. With this began our juniper journey – a fascination, an obsession – a thirst for mother’s ruin. Our in-house collection now spans a range of forty plus from London Drys through to Palma Violets. Such was our love for gin, we opened a dedicated gin van in 2015 #theginemporium and with a range of over 80 gins and an ever-changing menu it’s just fit for any wedding! We have worked very closely with Sipsmiths and now produce our own Sipsmith gin infusions at the pub, from marmalade to Turkish delight, we will try it! Our favourite is a simple gin and ginger but with a twist (or heat should I say) Opihr gin – spiced orange and ginger ale fever tree – orange quarters – squeeze of lime – and slices of fresh red chilli to your taste!!!”
I’d suggest the Sipsmith infusions are a great one to try out here. Sipsmith are up there in the Kings of Gin, changing a law to allow small batch distillation again and opening one of the first distilleries in London for 189 years back in 2011. The Marmion also host regular gin nights so it’s worth keeping an eye on their site for upcoming events.
Brasserie Lou Lou’s has been on my radar for some time now. It’s a cosy little place, offering an intimate setting and some wonderful and unusual gins. The restaurant manager, Charles Tourres, recommends Pink Pepper Gin. “It has a very unique taste. It works perfectly well with our regular Fentimans tonic, but we always recommend people try it with our Fentimans rose lemonade too. The sweetness of the lemonade balances very well with the peppered gin. Pink pepper is a French gin…and as we are a French restaurant it is the perfect gin for us. We have been open for 6 years and this is definitely our most popular and most talked about gin”.
They also added that every day from 5pm-7pm they do buy one get one free on selected gins. Something to consider when planning your route.
Huis is a great little place and has a fantastic selection of gins. Simon Docker from describes that “Being Belgian, HUIS has its feet deeply sunk in the world of gin from the juniper-flavoured national and traditional liquor genever of the Netherlands and Belgium, from which gin evolved. We stock a wide range of around twenty Belgian and worldwide specialist gins, all perfectly served with fresh perfect pour accompaniments. In addition to a selection of pure and favoured genevers. Our classic Belgian Copperhead Gin with tastes echoing of blackberries and black caylon tea. Next to this is a reminder of Summer days at Wimbledon, the English Poetic License‘s Strawberries and Cream Gin with additional notes of coriander and orris root.”
Poetic License is a firm favourite of mine in the gin world. Packing a lot of spicy punch, Luke is a very experimental distiller and has a wide range of flavours available online too, from St Clements, to Tutti Frutti.
Sant-Yago is well known for cocktails, but they also have a great selection of gin, are really passionate about it and have tonnes of recommendations. I spoke to Sarah to find out a little more:
“Jon and I opened the restaurant together 4 ½ years ago, we finished the renovations of our speakeasy cocktail bar two years ago, and opened our second restaurant ‘Sants- Sant-Yago’s Bit On The Side’ 3 months ago on Castle Road. They have a bigger gin selection than us! Our general approach to gin being the more the merrier! We are passionate about our gin and have a superb collection of small batch gins from all over Britain, the World and also local.
We recommend three gins from the innovative Cambridge Distillery where each botanical is distilled individually to create previously unattainable levels of quality –
Japanese Gin – This is the first gin to focus on Japanese botanicals such as shiso leaf, sansho pepper, yuzu peel and white sesame seeds.
Truffle Gin – The world’s first digestif gin using white truffles from Alba, Piedmonte, Italy (to be drunk neat on the rocks. )
Cambridge Dry – Created from a homegrown recipe using local botanicals including lemon verbena, rosemary, basil and rose petals for a fresh crisp gin.
And also three superb gins created in Australia from West Winds –
The Sabre – our weapon of choice to conquer new flavours and pleasures. Our style of London Dry Gin is a citrus collision combining native Australian botanicals, like the exotic lemon Myrtle and wattleseed.
The Cutlass – As a New World Gin, its special blend combines traditional Juniper with some unique Australian treasures such as cinnamon myrtle and native bush tomato.
Broadside – our Navy Strength Gin, made to honour the most brazen, aggressive and fearless of naval war tactics. Its firepower comes from the delicious sea parsley seasoned with Margaret River sea salt.
From up the road in Clanfield a collection of 3 inventive gins from Corner 53 –
Pomelo – Pink grapefruit and wormwood. Super for a punchy Negroni
Umami – Butternut squash and shittake mushroom. Perfect for a Red Snapper
Cherokee – Maple syrup and sarsaparilla. Try this in an Old Fashioned
Our newest gin is Jarrolds London Dry from husband and wife team in Chichester. New to the market, launched in March 2018 and at 48% is a fusion of Dutch and English traditions.”
Top tip, to avoid disappointment, if there’s a specific gin that you’re going for, always best to call and check it’s there before you go. The world of gin is a constantly changing affair and bars regularly change up the gins in stock. So there you have it. A great set to get started. Off you go! Have fun, take notes and don’t forget to shout about where you go. A great thing about gin is its sociable nature. Share the wealth with your friends and your family. Cheers!