A few weeks ago I rode my bicycle down the towpath from Angel to the East London Liquor Co in Bow Wharf for a #ZomatoMeetup. It was a beautiful golden afternoon and the canal was not its usual swampy self but a sparkling green ribbon winding its way to Victoria Park and beyond. London’s towpaths are lovely places in the summer, full of happy pub-goers, dog-walkers and middle-aged canoodlers, who in the sunshine seem not grossly inappropriate but in fact rather sweet (“blatantly having an affair,” my mother would say under her breath, gleefully).
It was a nice route to a nice destination. The East London Liquor Co is a little bar-cum-distillery in an old glue factory in Bow Wharf, specialising in gin but more recently branching out into vodka, whisky and rum, the latter imported specially from Demerara Distillers Limited in South America.
We were given a tour of the distillery by Alex, master craftsman and spirit enthusiast, which included an up-close experience with the enormous, gleaming beast they cook the stuff up in.
We also had a talk from Fever Tree, who make the posh tonic water I always enjoy in nicer bars but am too cheap to buy for home. I never really think about the tonic in a G&T, even though it makes up 3/4 of the drink and really shouldn’t be left to the monkeys making Sainsbury’s’ own brand mixers (three for £1!), ESPECIALLY if you’re paying through the bum for a posh gin. As the Fever Tree bloke explained, putting substandard tonic with a good gin is a bit like buying a couture Chanel dress and then rolling it in dog poo. (Or something like that. By this point I’d accidentally had three very strong drinks and everything was already going a bit wibbly, so I’m paraphrasing.) We had a blind taste test with Schweppes – which I’d normally consider the decent stuff – and, well. I never noticed how shit Schweppes is.
Although the distillery’s own gin is very good (especially its Premium Batch 1, my favourite), what I like most about the company is that its passion for good booze extends way beyond pushing its own product. “We offer a comprehensive list of cocktails, not only featuring our own spirits but also acknowledging the rich heritage of gin production around the world,” they say on their website, which I think is rather sporting.
The on-site bottle shop – a must-visit for anyone who enjoys proper alcohol in any capacity, and perfect for birthday presents – stocks pretty much every small-batch spirit in London and many more in the UK and beyond. (‘Small-batch’ is the watchword here; “We don’t use ’boutique’, ‘artisan’ or ‘craft’,” Alex tells us, disdainfully, “because they don’t mean anything anymore.” Quite.) Their own booze, which is made and bottled on site, is a snip from just £18 a bottle, a similar price to Gordon’s, which we all know is total balls.
If you get peckish, there are also cheese and meat plates to
savagely bulldoze face-first delicately nibble on, like a lady.
Tours are available (basic and bonanza) from the Virgin experiences website for £35/55 respectively, but even if you’re just looking for an awesome bar with a story to tell and an absolute treasure trove of independent spirits, it’s the perfect venue. It also seems to be flying under the radar a bit, so it’s perfect for a date as you’ll get originality points as well as, of course, those all important gin points. (Totally a thing.)
NB: Cretinously, I arrived at the East London Liquor Co. without an SD card for my camera, so these rather better-than-usual pictures are from Zomato’s own photographer. Thanks Zomato!
The East London Liquor Co, Unit GF1, 221 Grove Rd, London E3 5SN
Author: Emily Gibson
Emily is an urban adventurer, blogger and
glutton foodie on an epic quest to uncover the best things to eat, drink and do in London. She lives in East London and loves ceviche, cycling and magic shows. Lifelong nemeses include beetroot, beards and wine served in tumblers.