The term ‘journey’ is over-used these days with reality TV stars and sports people describing their dull personal experiences as if they were Homer’s Odyssey.
But the Brighton Gin Journey is an entirely different kettle of juniper berries, and is the sort of civilised cocktail-heavy journey you’ll be hoping for on a summer Saturday in Sussex.
After taking the capital by storm the people behind the Gin Journey spread their wings to Liverpool, Leeds, Manchester, Prague, Singapore and on World Gin Day (June 7) they hosted only their second event in good old BN1.
It’s a great time to be gin-guzzler/connoisseur. As Prosecco finally starts to lose its fizz in Blighty, gin sales have surged and have overtaken vodka for the first time in the UK .
The Brighton Gin Journey promised a chauffered-tour around some thoroughly groovy cocktail bars, tasting plenty of the good stuff in the company of a ‘gin guardian’ who would regale us with a splash of history and a good measure of tasting notes on some of the new gins and cocktails to be found in Brighton and Hove.
For their latest B&H jaunt, we were doubly blessed with Jake, a lively likeable sort who certainly knows and loves his liquor, and the lovely Kate who has been with the Gin Journey since its inception in 2013, and is more effervescent than a whole crate of tonic water.
The revels began at The Fix Bar in Regency Square, and with the sun comfortably over the yard-arm it was a respectable enough time for a sample of the first super Sussex spirit of the day. Foxhole Gin is a smooth aromatic London Dry-style gin from the Bolney Wine Estate, which was followed by an appropriately refreshing long Foxhole gin cocktail (given the relatively early start of day) mixed with a vermouth from Arundel.
This would be the pattern of the afternoon as we sashayed around five fabulous bars – a sample of a gin first, then a gin cocktail, with some interesting tidbits imparted along the way.
After a mini-bus journey which would have made John Prescott blush (Regency Square to Preston Street, albeit the long way) venue two was the fabulously named and sustainably-sourced Gung Ho!
A tropical-tasting Porters Gin, a pickled pineapple cocktail, and a rather bizarre bit of citrus (check out the Buddha’s Hand fruit) was accompanied by tales of the 18th century gin craze and a look at William Hogarth’s Gin Lane, a hellish depiction of wanton booze-addled wretchedness, which, in spirit, may or may not be a million miles away from Brighton’s West Street...
Our guides, quite reasonably, pointed out that any Brighton gin tour must feature Brighton Gin, so we were given a cup of Portslade’s finest with Fever-Tree Mediterranean Tonic for the road.
That road was the seafront road for an ever-so-slightly longer journey to Plateau, opposite Brighton Town Hall.
On the way there the Gin Journeymen and women were given some more ginecdotes, including the provenance of Indian Tonic Water and the Sub-continental colonial etymological roots of the term Doolally.
In Plateau it was the turn of Jenson’s Gin, a vintage-style London Gin made in Bermondsey, inspired by a nineteenth century recipe, and spurred on by the uniformity of gin flavours on offer at the beginning of this century. This Old Tom-style gin was big on botanicals and light on sweeteners for an oily, rich taste
The penultimate venue, a popular choice for budding Brighton mixologists, was the Plotting Parlour, another short mini-bus hop away in Steine St. In the surprisingly bright surroundings of the newly-refurbished upstairs area we sampled a teeny tot of Gorilla Spirits Silverback gin, which as well as creating a full-flavoured and slightly higher alcohol gin (the higher the abv the more the botanical flavours can come through, according to Jake) the company behind the drink also support Gorilla conservation and donate £1 from every bottle of spirit sold to The Gorilla Organization.
It was also the base for the best cocktail of the day, A White Lady, with a vegan egg-white substitute - Aquafaba. It was difficult to believe that the same liquid found in a can of chick peas could be part of something so indulgent.
Our last bar of the day was one of the newer kids on the metaphorical cocktail block, The Golden Pineapple in Ship Street, which is styled as a ‘neighbourhood cocktail bar with low lights and high spirit’
The bar’s comfortable vibes made it a good place to wind down the tour and sip Aviation Gin, a newer style American gin owned by no lesser American that movie star Ryan Reynolds, with a further taste of the States with Sarsaparilla in the ingredients.
By the end of the afternoon the group of gin wayfarers were merry but in fairly good shape, which may have been helped by the ever-present jugs of H2O to hand, and after a bruising encounter with rum earlier in the week I glugged more water than your average blue whale.
When Cervantes wrote ‘The journey is better than the inn’ it’s impossible to know if he had the Gin Journey in mind, but it’s certainly worth thinking about if you’re a gin-loving funster with a Saturday afternoon going spare.