For a tonic imbued with the creativity and quality of the capital’s master mixologists, it has to be The London Essence Company. Find out how these incredible tonics - one of which members found in their November Gin of the Month boxes - are inspiring a whole new generation of bartenders – and how you can make a simple-yet-spectacular cocktail of your very own right here.
Once, when warehouses lined the Thames and boats came to the capital from all quarters of the world, London was undoubtedly England’s gateway to the spectacular flavours of the Empire. These days, the warehouses have shuttered and imports arrive by air. But still London stands at the vanguard of British mixology.
As Hamish Bremner, The London Essence Company ambassador and bartender whose impressive CV includes London stalwarts HIX and Grain Store, explains, “London has been my home for 30-odd years – I love it. It’s so interesting to have so much history be part of all of the forward momentum in the gin industry.”
It’s a dynamic that didn’t go unnoticed by Ounal Bailey, co-founder of Wisehead Productions, when she stumbled across mentions of London Essence whilst combing through historical archives.
Established in 1896 by a group of gentlemen and tasked with distilling Victorian London’s finest flavours, details of the precise methodology used and quality products made by London Essence have survived through the ages. Ounal decided to bring that same commitment to exceptional quality to the 21st century, and named her new line of mixers after that giant of Victorian London.
Devoted to making an impeccably calibrated line of mixers and tonics, The London Essence Company relies on a master blender to craft the perfect balance of flavours in each of their tonics. And, as Hamish explains, their offering is a perfect fit for the ever-improving palates of the British public.
“Food and drink has gone from being a hobby – something you see once a week on TV – to almost a religion,” he says. “Every bar and restaurant has a bespoke cocktail menu. It’s wonderful and baffling – people have become a lot more knowledgeable, and bartenders are also dedicated to their craft and working with flavour in an intelligent way.”
London Essence, for its part, is dedicated to helping young bartenders in London refine their skills and serve up ever-more-amazing drinks to this eager, new audience. So much so, in fact, that they’re currently running ‘The Essence of the Season’, an initiative that brings together talented young bartenders to explore and build creative potential.
Hand-selected by Ounal and Hamish and mentored by legendary bartenders Nick Strangeway and Stu Bale, photographer Addie Chinn and renowned forager Jemma Foster, these exciting young talents will cap off a series of workshops and collaborative meetings with a task: create a magical London Essence Company cocktail, like the ‘Alpine Forest’ below.
The first wave of bartenders include talent from the Rosewood Hotel, Milroys, Trafalgar St James and The Gibson.
But what about The London Essence Company’s tonics lends themselves to these incredible creations? As Hamish says, “What I was really taken with first was the packaging – it’s so beautiful. And the product inside? It really is exceptional.”
The only line of all light mixers – which means every bottle is less than 20 calories per 200ml – they’re also obsessively engineered to make your spirit shine and sweetened with just a dusting of sugar and a touch of sweetness extracted from the stevia plant.
Hamish continues, “They’ve all been calibrated to flatter the spirit you’re pairing it with; it doesn’t mask or hide the complexity. When you’re paying upwards of £15 for a measure – and there are so many amazing, well-considered gins out there – it’s great to let that be the star of the show.”
The Grapefruit and Rosemary Tonic in November's Gin of the Month Box is case in point. “Grapefruit is a traditional gin botanical,” Hamish says. “What this tonic does really well, though, is the rosemary – many modern gins are exploring more of the savoury side.”
Sophisticated and fruity, this complex mixer will elevate your G&T without overpowering your 58 Gin – or whatever spirit you choose to pair with it (Hamish, for one, is partial to a splash with tequila or white port).
“As people become more discerning,” Hamish concludes, “our goal is to take a traditional drink and create something truly exceptional, with just a small tweak.”
To get a taste of the mixology magic going, whip up an ‘Alpine Forest’ cocktail using this super-simple recipe:
15ml Kummel liqueur
1 bottle of London Essence Co Grapefruit and Rosemary Tonic
Douglas Fir pine sprigs and dried barberries, to garnish
- Combine ingredients in a copa glass with plenty of cubed ice, garnish with spray of Douglas Fir and a small handful of barberries.
- The London Essence Company is available from selected Waitrose stores, Waitrose.com & Ocado.