The best boozy days out near London
Londoners might spend endless summery evenings sipping G&Ts, but travelling to the headquarters of world-famous gin maker Bombay Sapphire is quite the experience for country-fearing city dwellers, waiting for the distillery’s shuttle bus in the middle of leafy nowhere. The distillery is at a former paper mill which used to make notes for the Bank of England in the 1700s. It’s been carefully converted into an impressive distillery, which churns out 25 million litres of mother’s ruin a year. Get shown around by a blue-suited brand ambassador on the ‘ultimate experience’ tour, or take the self-guided option around a botanical dry room, the giant stills that make the gin and twin greenhouses – two magnificent biodomes made from curved glass that grow the botanicals used in gin. Finish up at the Mill Bar, where they whip up gin drinks including ‘The Laverstoke’, a bubbly gin, ginger, lime and elderflower cocktail.
In a gorgeous market town in rural Northants you’ll find this tiny brewery, a site that will remind any beer lover of the early days of London’s craft beer boom. Twice a month, hopheads are welcomed in for a 90-minute tour that covers the beer-making process and a guided tasting of their core ales. The brewery produces craft, keg, can and bottled beer, so you get the whole suddy set-up here. Head to the Tap & Kitchen after, which champions local produce on the menu while serving up pints as fresh as they come. The spot also overlooks the charming River Nene – just don’t fall in after a few pints.
Tucked away in Albury, this small but growing distillery makes its flagship gin, as well as vodka, gin liqueur and eau de vie (fruit brandy). It’s a beautiful site in the rolling Surrey hills with a nearby lake as the source for its much-loved product. See inside the boiler room where wood from the nearby forests is burned to heat a copper still that they’ve affectionately named Juliet. You’ll get her story along with the folklore that surrounds the ‘haunted’ body of water below. Learn about the distillation process and bottling before sampling the full Silent Pool range. You definitely won’t be silent once you’ve tried them all.
Travel through the winding Kent country roads to reach Chapel Down, a hilly spot filled with creeping vines. On the winery tour you’ll learn about the increasing popularity of English wine. Since winemaking season is a fleeting time each year, tours are operated round a quiet site where stainless steel vats lie in wait for the harvest. But you’ll still learn about the wine-making process before being led to a tasting room overlooking those vines. Don’t miss the English sparkling wine or prize-winning bacchus (the UK’s answer to sauvignon blanc). Book a table at the vineyard’s popular restaurant The Swan, then exit through the gift shop for more booze. Make sure you’re not designated driver for this one.
Enjoy a boozy day out closer to home
London has a dozen gin distilleries, a growing number of bars specialise in the spirit, and gin festivals in the capital sell out weeks in advance. But here are six other amazing ways to participate with the juniper-based drink and distil your knowledge in London. Here's our pick of the best gin distillery tours and experiences in London giving drinkers access all areas.