It’s that time of year again – when Gin Festival rolls into town, and takes over Victoria Baths.
Two big glorious gin filled weekends.
This weekend was the first of two (next weekend is the second, and yes there are still tickets available), and I headed over for my now annual visit – to sip gin, chat gin, have a nibble or two, and see what’s changed for 2018.
Perhaps the biggest difference this year is the tonic. Those used to Fever Tree will now find that it’s Schweppes and their 1783 tonic that sits on every bar. Now this is a little controversial for some, but hear me out. For those averse to standard Schweppes, I would suggest you head here and read my review of the whole range. If you’re sensitive to the bitter notes in that bright yellow bottle, don’t panic it’s not the same. The 1783 range is much less intense and more accessible – but I do understand they’re not for everyone. But before you dismiss them, I’d definitely suggest you try the cucumber tonic, or ginger beer. My date for the festival was a complete convert by the end of the session.
That aside, there are other little changes here an there. Instead of the faffy paper tokens, you charge your wristband full of funds for gin. And as it’s firmly around your wrist, you’re far less likely to lose it, and have to go digging through all the receipts in your handbag to find it, or run back to the ladies to see if you dropped it there.
I mean, presuming you tighten it enough obviously.
Lots of things are exactly the same. The brands room is full of delicious things to try – Brockmans Gin, Kuro Gin, Slingsby Gin (try the rhubarb and ginger beer, it’s divine), Tinker Gin and William Chase all vy for your attention, along with a couple of newcomers. All of whom are definitely worth a visit.
Masterclasses as ever run regularly throughout the session, meaning you can learn about the gins direct from the brands themselves, and yep, try yet more free gin.
Over in the centre room, are the majority of the bars, along with the shop and plentiful opportunities to top up on both gin, and pennies with which to buy it. Your booklet is filled with information and tasting notes on everything on offer to help you decide. With so many gins, it’s still a bit of a challenge.
And in the final room is the last bar (bar E) and the food – so don’t worry if all that gin makes you feel a little peckish, I can definitely recommend a tray of salt and pepper chips to keep you going.
With the Easter weekend meaning Thursday really is the new Friday, I’m tempted to head back for a second visit.
See you there?