Something about cocktail bars puts me on edge. I picture pretentiousness, arty farty cocktails, matched with some bizarre concept seemingly pulled out of a Jane Austen novel. The drinks take an extra long time to serve and are often made by some Italian who’s dedicated his life to masking the taste of alcohol with lychee. My time spent at Rev JW Simpson proved me that cocktail bars don’t have to be all of the above, but can be cosy, relaxed and homely as a pub.
As I strut into this underground bar located just off of Goodge Street, I am instantly absorbed by the bar’s soundtrack and its squatter chic look. They’re playing some hard rock and the interior is worn with ripped wallpapers and scratched tables. I start to feel like I’m in a friend’s living room as the manager quickly bowls over to me with a smile and a drinks menu, bringing an aura of hospitality and attentiveness. Everything is done by table service, and that suits me just fine.
I had been invited here for one of their Tuesday Spirit Sermon sessions and tonight’s spirit was gin. After trying a delectable gin cocktail, a table of around 8 people are introduced to the representative of Gin Mare. He is a likeable guy from Chile but has lived in Spain for a long time. He explains the history of gin in a way that you’d feel guilty for not paying attention.
We eventually get around to the good part – trying the Gin Mare (pronounced maray) and it is a shock to my system. Unlike the many popular gins in London, it’s not heavily laced with juniper that gives that perfume-like quality. The main botanicals give it such an umistakable Mediterranean style. The strong notes of rosemary and olives offer such an enjoyable flavour that makes it the first gin I like straight. It reminds me of focaccia and charcuterie boards in Spain and truly captures the essence of the beautiful side of Europe without having to taste like a pizza.
The representative gives us lots of helpful tips such as adding marmalade to a G&T which balances out the sharpness of the drink. He claims that if we continue to drink premium spirits, then we can avoid hangovers altogether. I make a note to test that theory.
We then continue with cocktail sampling and receive three in total, giving the opportunity to find our favourite. Mine comes in the form of a Turkish Delight style cocktail. It is bang on the money and tastes exactly like the gelatine fruit. A bartender guides us to a platform that resembles an old fashioned home bar and I instantly want it. He recommends building one. HA! I own a cupboard that has been hanging off its hinges for the past year. I don’t do DIY.
He shows us how to make our drink, which does take a while and I have the patience of a hamster on steroids. But the bartender says he can make it in 20 seconds flat. Impressive. I drink my concoction and it tastes perfect, if I do say so myself. We then relax and continue the evening hugged by the comfy chairs.
These sessions are perfect for an after work drink and such a lovely way of finding out more about the spirit you enjoy. They have agave and whiskey evenings coming up and even I would love to replay the night all over again. Rev JW Simpson offers a quiet but cosy night, but the manager recommends coming on the weekend when people are really in the drinking mood. It would be interesting to see how the atmosphere changes on a Saturday, and I am so coming back.