Any London-dwelling cocktail lover worth their salt will have heard of Worship Street Whistling Shop – a low-lit, subterranean bar filled with wingback leather armchairs, moody Chesterfields and Victoriana that is known for its inventive take on mixology and love affair with gin. However, the old favourite is about to get even better. For the Summer, part of this delightful drinking den has been converted into an indoor gin garden. Sated rushed on down to the launch the launch of Hendrick’s Summertime Garden at Worship Street Whistling Shop to have a gander and sample the specially created menu.
It’s a horrendously rainy British Summer’s eve and we find ourselves leaping over puddles, trying to avoid the throngs of people charging to the tube, determined to get home and dry off as soon as physically possible. We make it to the familiar threshold of Whistling Shop on Worship Street, shaking off the droplets that have unwelcomingly attached themselves to our beings, and head down the stairs. As we get to the basement, we are presented with two choices: to the left is the familiar dark and cosy main room with its atmospheric lanterns, to the right is the newly turfed Hendrick’s Gin Garden. Ivy hangs from the rafters and potted plants – plastic, but have you ever tried keeping real plants alive in a basement?! – are dotted about the space. The iconic piano remains and metal chairs provide a nod to outdoor seating.
We approach the bar and are greeted by the relaxed and affable Bar Manager, Dario, who welcomes us and hands over the new menu featuring six new cocktails created by the staff. Each one has been made by combining Hendrick’s Gin with unusual flowers and will be on offer for the next five weeks, after which a whole new host of beverages fashioned from Hendrick’s and vegetables will emerge.
After having a quick nosey at the other guests’ choices, we elect to kick things off with Eccentrium, made with the new Hendrick’s Orbium – a reimagination of the original Hendrick’s that includes extracts of Quinine, Wormwood and Blue Lotus Blossom. As Orbium is only currently available in 20 venues in the UK, we are particularly excited to try it! The neat gin is refined and floral, quite unlike the other slightly sickly bloomy gins on the market at the moment. Eccentrium pairs this with cacao, herbal soda and a spray of geranium, quirkily served in a twee birdcage. Strong yet not overpowering, the cacao adds a roundness and depth that beautifully completes the drink.
Our next choice is less of a success. Whilst nicely presented in a metal plant pot, Peculiar Lemonade is, as its name suggests, not to everyone’s taste. Sweet, soapy and just a bit odd, to us it recalls Parma Violets. What is interesting about it however is that the foam that floats on top is not egg white as we had at first presumed but Aquafaba (chickpea brine) that has the same consistency but is vegan-friendly!
Intrigued but not yet sated, we soldier on to a wet martini combining Hendrick’s with Vermouth infused with Buzz Button (a Szechuan flower that introduces a giggly tingling sensation to the tip and sides of the tongue). Unusual, strong and smooth – this is a fantastic martini with a difference.
We take a break and get chatting to Dario who explains that what they try and do at Whistling Shop is challenge the predictable: if someone orders a martini, they want to deliver something that includes an element of surprise and plays with expectations. This is certainly the case so far and we excitedly peruse the menu for our next tipple whilst Dario undauntedly grants a punter’s request for a pint.
Analeptic Spirit arrives in an adorable painted clay watering can and is our favourite of the night. Dario explains that Orange Oleo-Saccharum is an ingredient made by macerating orange peel with sugar so that the oils and flavour of the citrus are taken up by the sugar without any juice infiltrating the drink. This is joined by Hendrick’s, Fever-Tree Elderflower tonic and Balsamic Vinegar reduction. The vicious sweet-tart reduction works perfectly with the Oleo-Saccharum and is sweetened by the floral tonic.
The final two cocktails are both entirely pleasant. The Anolamous Negroni is much lighter than a regular Negroni so as not to drown out the floral notes from the Hibiscus sweet wine, whilst the Cucumberolic brings us back to that classic Hendrick’s and cucumber combo, adding a touch of sparkling rose water to tie it in with the rest of the menu.
The night has run on and we seem to have sampled every cocktail on the list. The phenomenal staff urge us to stay for a cheeky Orbium G&T, which we oh so begrudgingly give in to, before heading back out into the rain. Whistling Shop has succeeded in creating a cosy and chipper little hideaway from the elements. Their floral menu is a must-try for all lovers of gin, and their upcoming vegetable one promises to be just as enticing.
Visit Whistling Shop on Worship Street’s website for more information about upcoming events.