Deputy Culture Editor – Food & Drink
I visited Hilton’s BeGin on Byres Road last month, on the day of the General Election. The weather was dreary, we all thought we knew how things were going to go, and I was in need of a drink.
We had some food first, two peaky mounds of whipped butter, one studded with salty, melting specks of bacon, and another blushing with sundried tomatoes. Gravlax, cured in-house with Plymouth gin, was pleasingly firm; textured with a gin-tinged freshness, and the (all-British) charcuterie plate is good too; the chorizo robust with spice.
But, unsurprisingly, it’s the gin selection that’s the highlight here and it’s certainly extensive—there’s 68 of them. The overhanging threat of a Tory supermajority made drinking all 68 extremely tempting, but I managed to resist. Just.
Stirling, on the menu as a ‘whisky drinker’s gin’, is pleasingly savoury, and as a ‘perfect serve’ (50ml gin plus mixer and garnish) comes with a pomegranate and basil mixer. It feels like some thought has gone into these perfect serves: the fruity, dry mixer works really well here, and the hefty frond of basil used as garnish gives a nice heady, herby aroma.
Limbeck, from the Eccentric distillery in Wales, is my favourite of the bunch. There is a wonderful aniseed kick at its back from tarragon (which admittedly might not be everyone’s idea of a good time), and its aging in ex-burgundy casks gives it an appealing peachy colour. Sir Robin of Locksley, a Yorkshire gin, has its floral notes brought out by Fever Tree’s delicate Mediterranean tonic. Young Tom, another from Eccentric, is fermented from an IPA wash which colours each bottle with a varying tone of caramel that looks irresistible behind the bar.
It’s a shame that smaller local distilleries are a bit underrepresented here — I’m surprised not to see popular Scottish gins like Rock Rose and Makar among the 68 on the menu. The bar manager tells me they are working to get smaller producers on board, though, which would really lift the already impressive list.
Coming here with the perspective (and the wallet) of a student, some of the gins do look a bit pricey, but signing up to the Gin Club bags you a handy 20% discount Sunday to Thursday and brings the cost down nicely. And it’s definitely worth it. Those perfect serves are good value, with mixer, garnish and 50ml measure of premium gin included. BeGin isn’t somewhere to come every night (unless you want to blow all your SAAS on gin, for which I wouldn’t judge you), but — fingers crossed it’s definitely where I’ll be celebrating come the next election.