It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas out there; if you’re the type who loves a tipple or two, it’s certainly the right time of year for it. Whether you’re creating a custom cocktail for your Christmas party, buying Granddad a bottle of vintage as old as he is, or picking up a present to yourself just because, here’s our pick of the finest booze shops in London.
For all those hard-to-find spirits and liqueurs, Gerry’s Wines and Spirits on Old Compton Street is something of an institution. Unconcerned by modernisation, the door is always open (even if it’s freezing), the legendary staff, who’ve had more drinks than you’ve had hot dinners, work behind a huge wooden counter, and there’s usually a bottle (or five) on the go for you to have a taste of. We think their self-summary says it all: “Gerry’s is one of the last outposts of retro Soho. A West-End warren of alleys and side streets which spanned decades as an exotic urban village, filled with artists, actors, gangsters – and hedonism.” Visited by London’s top cocktail aficionados, this curiosity shop truly is a treasure chest for the booze connoisseur.
Sampler, Upper Street
This unique and independent wine seller takes the grape seriously, with over
1,500 varieties of wine in stock and 80 available to sample for a small fee at any time. If it’s a vintage you’re after, particularly Bordeaux, you’re likely to find it here. They also host regular tasting events and have a sampler’s
club, with quarterly and monthly options – they’ll send wine to your door along with tasting notes and food matching suggestions.
The Winery, Maida Vale
“Home is where the wine is” at The Winery, who travel constantly to find small growers in the regions of Germany (really!), France, Italy, Spain and California. In fact, German wine is a bit of a speciality of theirs – only recently, they’ve been celebrating the 31 Days of German Riesling (a concept based on the ‘fact’ that it takes 30 days to acquire a new habit). Come, visit, drink; lose yourself in a veritable library of bottles.
One of seven shops throughout the city, (the others are all known as Jeroboams, Milroys stands out as the whiskey lover’s choice. An Aladdin’s cave filled to the brim with vintage varieties, it’s a shop one might go to buy their connoisseur uncle a special bottle or partner a rare anniversary present to remember. Bourbon or Highlands, Canadian or Japanese: there’s something for every palate – what’s more, there’s a cellar where tutored tasting sessions take place, which is available for private hire.
Utobeer, Borough Market
If wine isn’t fine, and beer is more your thing, this last pick is for you. Utobeer, based in a cage in the fabulous Borough Market, has been open since 1999, when it offered just 50 different beers. Today, they offer 2000 different versions of the fizzy stuff in a mind-boggling array from around the globe; so whether it’s British, Belgium, German or Japanese beer you’re craving, you’ll probably be in luck. Utobeer also own a beer bar on the edge of the market where you can dedicate time to trying their wares: there are 130 beers on offer and seven ever-changing kegs.