photo by Amanda Schuster

Downtown Manhattan lights up for the festive season. Vienna takes architecture and decorations to the next level. In Tokyo, Christmas is the time for lovers and couples to celebrate their love. Across the pond, London’s multicultural scene brings a whole new festive experience to life. Explaining the feeling of the holidays in the city is difficult, simply because there is so much going on, in every little corner of London. Camden town brings a vintage feel to the festivities while Mayfair bursts with bright lights and cheery shoppers. Knightsbridge introduces luxury while Shoreditch’s hipster vibe adds its own flavours to the most wonderful time of the year.

Here’s what the city has to offer to dedicated imbibers:

Gin Craze City

The UK’s Gin Craze era first took place during the 18th century, when gin consumption skyrocketed. The streets of London were filled with an overly drunk population. Fighting and indecency ensued. Even though other drinks were available, gin was thought to cause the most trouble and production within the city limits all but stopped. Centuries later, a gin craze is again taking over the city, but this time, it’s one of quality, experimentation, and deep appreciation.

photo courtesy Sipsmith Distillery

December kicks off with the Spirit Show in Islington. With gin under the spotlight, this year brought interesting expressions from Japan, New Zealand and Australia, each using botanicals unique to the land they hail from. A sense of place seems to be rising in the gin market.

A must during any gin-lover’s trip to London is a tour of the great Sipsmith distillery. Founded in Hammersmith in 2007 (now in Chiswick), Sipsmith is the first traditional copper distillery to open in London since the 1820s. The distillery isn’t huge, but a look at the shining copper stills – Patience, Prudence, Constance and newest acquisition Verity- and a tasting of Sipsmith’s latest concoctions from the wall of experimental batches is more than enough to please the most passionate gin fan.

Alcohol Professor founder Adam Levy (r) with Desmond Payne at Beefeater Distillery

While at the distillery why not sign up for the amazing Sipsmith Sipping Society? Every two months, members receive the latest, most exciting gins to run off the Sipsmith stills (UK addresses only, though). Plus it makes the perfect last minute gift! While at the distillery, spend some time at the Sipsmith bar, “researching” the quality of gin to be received.

Other ginny places to visit in town:

The classic Beefeater distillery, where master distiller Desmond Payne continues this storied legacy 50 years on!

Portobello Road Gin this New York International Spirits Competition-winning spirit even has its own “ginstitute” and hotel.

Imbibe In Town

Once all your gin needs have been met, it’s time to relax at some of London’s most exciting bars.

As expected as this recommendation may be, the American Bar at the Savoy is a must for cocktail adventurers. The establishment topped this year’s World’s Best Bar list, and has won numerous accolades in previous years, too. December sees the bar come alive with live music, making it the very best time to visit.

head bartender Alessandro Palazzi at Dukes Bar

Visit Dukes in Mayfair for the world-renowned James Bond Martini, and sit where Sir Ian Fleming did when he ordered his cocktail “shaken, not stirred.” Visit Dandelyan for unique cocktails by the river Thames, or White Lyan, the worlds first bar with no perishables, both owned by cocktail extraordinaire, Ryan Chetiyawardana. For one of the great classic London bar experiences, one of the city’s greatest treats is a drink prepared by Ago Perrone a the Connaught. Or how about a taste of classic Italy right in the heart of London at the relaxing Bar Termini in SoHo?

Love whisky? Black Rock offers a huge range of whiskies, organized by flavour. Cosy and intimate, with an 185 year-old, 18ft long oak tree trunk acting as a table and whisky ageing system, Black Rock is as quirky a bar as they get.

Sexy Fish bar

For Asian food and Japanese whisky be sure to drop by Sexy Fish in Mayfair. Featuring the largest Japanese whisky collection in Europe (currently at 343 bottles), with open expressions by the legendary Karuizawa, this is the place for Japanese whisky fans who can’t seem to open that bottle of $10,000 whisky in their collection.

Boisdale Canary Wharf with its impressive collection of over 1,000 Scotch whisky bottles, will put stars in the eyes of the most dedicated Scotch enthusiasts. Also featuring an oyster and cigar room and impressive list of sticks, the Canary Wharf is a haven for food and drink lovers.

Holiday Bottle Shopping

Gerry’s, photo via diffordsguide.com

For wine and spirits lovers, the bottle shop within Harrods department store, curated by Nick Fleming, is a treasure trove of delights for both shopping and wandering.

In SoHo (conveniently located right near Bar Termini), Gerry’s off license, with its vast selection and friendly service is one of the best places to dig for that holy grail of a bottle.

Experiencing London during the holidays is a life-changing experience. While the many events and fun establishments make this time extra special, the entire city comes alive in a spectacular way. The people are happier, the streets and architecture resonate, and the alcohol goes down so much smoother than usual. Cheers!