Have you heard about Old Tom’s Gin Kitchen? As massive gin lovers, this newest bar from the Hedonist project seemed right up our (gin) lane.
We’re always on the lookout for exciting new ventures within gin, be that a new bar, unusual cocktails or a shiny new gin that we’ve not come across before. A Leeds bar that’s been on our radar for a while now, and has recently become more gin-centric than earlier iterations, is Old Tom’s Gin Kitchen. The current set-up from the Hedonist Project is a fantastic gin bar with a twist (not just the lemon kind).
A pop-up bar with a permanent location, The Hedonist Project is the only bar of its kind in the world. With a strong focus on delightfully enticing cocktails and truly great food, we’ve been lucky enough to have visited the bar once or twice in its various earlier guises. When it opened as a gin bar, we knew we had to have a chat with them and pick their brains on gin. So earlier this week we caught up with Tom Finnon, one of three Directors of The Hedonist Project (the others being Dan and Bruce) and learnt a little more.
Here are 5 things that we took away with us:
Rather than changing the options on the food and drink menus with dishes inspired by the time of year, the bar goes through a full revamp every three months. Everything including the name, decor, food, atmosphere, uniforms, style and, of course, drinks is totally altered.
What remains the same with each version of the bar is the quality of the products and the service. It’s this continuation of knowledgeable staff, and a brilliant quality of food and drink, that brings customers back time and time again despite the monumental changes that have been made to their favourite bar.
Beginning life as two distinct companies, Hedonist Drinks, Consultancy and Events and Oenotheque LTD, the three guys who have formed The Hedonist Project have worked together in bars across the north for the last few years. They decided to merge the two companies and The Hedonist Project was born.
The idea behind the 3 month turnaround is simple: not only are the first 3 months of a new bar super successful, it gives them a chance to constantly reinvent themselves whilst learning more about different areas of spirits, cocktails and drinks as a whole. For each form of the bar, they must be as knowledgeable and capable as they would be for something they’d worked closely with for years. It’s a lot of pressure and work but it allows them to hone their skills and their passions.
Having created and fronted Hogarth’s Gin Joint, The Rum Shack, and Liquor and Whisky in the last 12 months, the guys at Hedonist chose to go back to gin for this newest version of their bar because of its current, fashionable position and because it’s such an accessible spirit.
They’ve also made their very own gin through the Ginstitute, it’s a Lemon Gin and absolutely delicious! Soft, citrusy and with a touch of sweetness, it harks back to a particular, older style of gin. It’s currently only available to drink in the bar but hopefully it will be possible to buy full bottles soon! (hint guys).
Gin lends itself incredibly well to cocktails, in fact, a distinct correlation can be seen in times where good quality gins are in production and cocktails are particularly popular. For example, gin was the spirit at the turn of the last century and cocktails were de rigueur, this passed and gin and cocktails were left out in the cold for a long time. Many gin distilleries closed or lowered their standards and cocktails were made long, fruity and very sweet. Cocktails didn’t really come back into the mainstream until the eighties, with the appearance of spirits like Bombay Sapphire and drinks like Dick Bradsell’s Bramble.
Obviously fashions change, some of this can be put down to the generational effect of not wanting to drink what your parents drank. That change will again come to the drinks industry is not a surprise but that’s not to say that gin is about to go anywhere. Though some believe that the number of gins commercially available isn’t sustainable gin is not a bubble that’s about to pop.
While bone dry Martinis where the ice is washed with dry vermouth or used in a 10:1 ratio are all the rage, they’re not the most traditional of martinis.
One of the earliest recorded versions of a Martini is in the New and Improved Bartenders' Manual, published in 1888 by Harry Johnson. It called for equal parts Old Tom Gin and Vermouth, 2 dashes of sugar, 2 dashes of bitters and 1 dash of orange curacao. Even more interestingly, at that time “vermouth” would refer to sweet Italian vermouth rather than dry, French vermouth.
So, next time you’re up north make the time to visit Old Tom’s Gin Kitchen. You’ll have to hurry though, it will be gone by August.
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