Like a fair few venues across London, distilling on-site has become fashionable and means you’re getting something extra special when you ask for your usual house G&T. If you've ever admired a copper still behind the bar and wanted to learn more, there's usually a workshop or masterclass for you eager beavers and the guys behind Martello Hall are no exception, offering a masterclass where you can blend your own small batch gin to take home.
If you haven’t been upstairs at Martello Hall before it’s a lovely spot with velvet sofas, a tucked away terrace – that’s right, there’s another outdoor spot for you to try near London Fields – and a bar, all tied up with the air of a 1920’s steamer ship that runs throughout the venue.
First off you meet Jack, a lovely Aussie who is the Head Distiller for all three (soon to be four) sites – Martello Hall, Canova Hall and Cattivo. Well-travelled and well versed in the ways of gin, he’ll hand you a gin & tonic and run you through the history of the liquid, picking up on some of the more gruesome facts you might not have heard about its tumultuous past.
Then you move onto tonics, obviously a very important aspect to consider when making a gin. Jack has rounded up some of the more obscure offerings from East London for us to try, including a B&W tonic syrup and a hopped tonic, plus everyone’s favourite Fever Tree, as well as some other recognised names and matched them with gin for us to try.
After discussing our favourite of the mixers, it's noses at the ready and another cocktail in hand, the next stage part of the class we sniff and nibble our way through the botanicals on offer for the blending part of our evening, as well as tasting them in the booze-infused forms we’ll be adding to the base gin… and then we’re off! Gin in beakers, we pipette our way to a pretty impressive floral offering, plus if you really mess it up Jack is on hand to save the day.
Once you’ve finished and re-bottled your masterpiece, it’s time to come up with a name... seemingly the hardest part of the evening, you’ll hear gin puns a plenty and most likely settle for something that sounded funnier in your head.
For the final stage of the class we learn how to wax seal our bottles, submerging them into warm turquoise wax then attempting to artfully drip it down the neck is harder than it looks but a whole lot of fun. You’re left with two pretty professional looking bottles of your own blended gin that you can take away with your goodie bag. All in all a really fun, hands-on evening, where you’re actually allowed to have a go at messing things up... we were impressed.
What you need to know:
The course costs £80pp and is available at two of their sites. For Hackney book here and Brixton, here. Included are two cocktails, all tastings and 2 x 200cl bottles for you to take away with you.