London will gain a new museum on Thursday as the historic Beefeater gin distillery in Kennington opens its brand new visitor centre to tell the story of gin, the spirit’s part in the history and evolution of London, and show exactly how our favourite accompaniment for tonic is made.
Londonist got a sneak preview of the centre, and we’d recommend it to anyone interested in stories from London’s dark past, as well those with a penchant for booze. The experience starts with a self-led tour through a series of rooms variously decked out to resemble the streets of Victorian London, spice-laden Covent Garden Market, secret speakeasies and plush cocktail bars. On entering, guests are handed iPads to guide them around the exhibits, with detailed information, images and videos cleverly pulled up on screen when held in front of any of the displays.
The rooms tell the story of gin’s origins in Holland through to the devastatingly drunken ‘gin craze’ of 18th century London that makes a Friday night out in Shoreditch nowadays look very tame indeed. There are mock-ups of prohibition-style bars and discreet gin delivery methods — such as this cat with a pipe in its paw, shown right — from when the authorities clamped down on illegal distilleries, and more recent displays of how gin has gone from drunk juice to craft spirit, including an interactive map pinpointing all the distilleries in London over the past few hundred years.
While most (such as Gordon’s) had left the capital by the turn of the Millennium, the likes of Sacred and Sipsmith have prompted a resurgence in small scale distilleries and carefully created products since their arrival in the last five years. Visit the website for more information and opening times.