Gin has never been my tipple of choice, I’m more of a rum and tequila girl, but when one of my friends asked if I fancied spending an afternoon making my own gin, I jumped at the chance.
The Ginstitute experience at The Portobello Star in London’s Notting Hill is essentially a three-hour masterclass in gin – an hour-long history of the spirit, followed by a gin making tutorial.
While the history of gin was fascinating (I had no idea there was so much drama attached to it), it was the gin making that I really enjoyed. During our tutorial, we sampled and learned all about the different botanicals that can be used in gins and that when combined, give each gin its own distinct flavour. Botanicals included citruses such as lemon peel, smokier flavours such as celery salt, spices such as cinnamon, florals such as rose and then random stuff like asparagus.
To make your own gin, you start off with a base of Portobello Road’s signature gin, then choose your preferred botanicals to add to it – the idea is to choose a mix (no more than seven) from across the spectrum, making sure to include one from each of the four groups eg one floral, one citrus, etc. The gin instructor then takes your choices and adds a bit of each one to create your own unique gin.
What surprised me most was how different everybody’s custom-made gin tasted. There were seven of us in our group and each gin was markedly different. My gin, according to my far more knowledgeable friend, apparently tastes quite similar to Hendrick’s.
Throughout the experience, we were furnished with a constant, flowing and very welcome supply of gin with a gin and tonic on arrival, followed by a Tom Collins (delicious; gin, lemon, sugar and soda water), followed by another gin and tonic, then another Tom Collins, and at the end, a gin martini…
We left The Ginstitute very happy (having stayed on afterwards for more gin cocktails in The Portobello Star) armed with two bottles of gin and some tonic. What’s more, The Ginstitute keeps a record of the gin you made, so you can order more bottles in the future.
The whole experience was great fun and one I’d definitely recommend, especially if you’re looking for something special and a little bit different to do. I certainly came away with a new found respect and appreciation of gin. Cheers!
The Ginstitute, The Portobello Star, 171 Portobello Road, London W11 2DY
£120 per person (includes five cocktails and two bottles of gin)