Gin in Malaga

Martyn Sells, previously of this parish, writes about a daytrip from his new base in Gibraltar.

I was recently in Malaga, birthplace of Picasso and a much underrated city. Even in winter here, it can be hot and dry, and you’re soon feeling parched. So, I was looking for a suitable watering hole for a thirst quencher. Then I spotted a Union Jack hanging from a wall of a bar.

In these parts, your heart sinks when drinking establishments decorate themselves with flags, especially British flags. It usually signals a loud place for a clientele comprised of a certain strain of lager lout and/or football hooligan.

But this establishment’s name – Gin Tonic [sic] – did have an appeal, under the Spanish sun.

I inherited a fondness for this typically English tipple. It seems to have so much going for it – it’s fresh and refreshing and sparkling. It tingles the palate and sharpens the taste buds and is particularly good for a lunchtime pre-prandial sip. Apparently I’m not alone – or old-fashioned – in liking a G & T.  A recent London Evening Standard article nominated it as the current ‘in’ drink.

Whatever. I know what I like and like what I know, and that would be Tanqueray or Bombay Sapphire, a Schweppes tonic water and a slice (never a wedge) of lemon. In summer, I also enjoy a Hendrick’s gin with a strip of cucumber.

Notwithstanding the bar’s flag-waving (or the missing ampersand), in I went. Not a lout or binge drinker in sight. Instead, from the brightness of the street, you enter a ‘Gin Emporium’, a positive cornucopia of all things gin.

A glance at the bar’s Gin List revealed more than 50 different types of gin and nearly a dozen different tonic waters. But most fascinating of all was the selection of ‘add ins’.  Not just lemon and lime (slice, wedge or peel) or a sliver of cucumber, but a whole variety of scents and spices (cinnamon, mint, rose petals), a touch of fruit (strawberry, grape, pink grapefruit) plus cocktails mixed with different varieties of tea – and not forgetting juniper berries, the very seed of gin.

In the interests of research, your correspondent sampled as many options as possible while remaining perpendicular and capable of finding my way back to the table I’d booked at the (thankfully) nearby Café de Paris (Michelin-starred, no less). Although my scribbled tasting notes became increasingly illegible, the clear consensus was that there were delightfully many more ways of enjoying a glass of gin than I’d previously imagined.  Even someone as set in his drinking ways as I’d become can still have his eyes opened to new imbibing experiences.

Old Shanghai hounds like me (and I mean old) will recall when there were but a couple of Western bars where you could get a lunchtime snifter. Shanghai now has any number of wine bars, whisky bars, tequila bars and even rum bars. But where’s the Gin Bar?

Come on Shanghai, this may be the new opportunity you’ve been waiting for. It’s time for gin to conquer China – and, at least, the English will love it! (Don’t forget the flag.)

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