Today you will be promptly kicked out of any bar in which you whistle at your server. But back during the Gin Craze, whistling for drinks was common practice. Shoreditch’s premier Gin Palace, the Worship Street Whistling Shop, takes its name from this history.
In the mid-1700s, Parliament, reacting to a serious spike in gin consumption particularly amongst the poorer classes, passed duties so prohibitive that they rendered gin production virtually illegal. A black market flourished with many producing gin, or something vaguely resembling it, out of their homes. Thirsty merrymakers simply had to walk to the front door of such an establishment and give a whistle. The proprietor would then either hand you a bottle, taking your money in turn, or let you in for a drink.
Although it would still be bad form to whistle for your drink despite the Shop’s namesake, the bar has adopted the Gin Craze practice of in-house production, taking drinks fabrication to new levels.
The Whistling Shop has its own rotary-evaporator which, apart from helping modernist chefs with their molecular cooking, is also a common tool in chemical laboratories. The machine allows WSWS to make its own liqueurs and to redistill spirits which it does for drinks such as the Zazel, the Shop’s spin on an Old Fashioned with peanut butter and jam-infused Bulleit Bourbon, and the Espresso Martinez, redistilled coffee-infused Belvedere Vodka with maraschino liqueur and an infused cherry.
Redistilling isn’t the only liquid science at WSWS. The bar undergoes regular experimentation such as:
- Sloe gin barrel aging of which they currently have five experimental barrels
- an in-house Solera system which is an interconnected system of 3-4 litre sherry, bourbon and cognac barrels in which the bar pours a few bottles of rum per day, forcing yesterdays liquid into the next barrel
- Gin in 3D, a time-machine experience for gin lovers in which they are served three cocktails from three historical periods over an hour’s time and hosted by a server dressed for each era.
All of this experimentation combined with the bar’s decor, a throwback to the regal Gin Palaces of yesteryear, and the current Victorian Age Circus-themed menu, makes the Worship Street Whistling Shop a must-visit in London’s booming cocktail bar scene.