Gin Lane’s plan is to make a convert of anyone who says they don’t like gin.
“Classically, the thing that makes gin gin is juniper,” say Grant Collins, bartender at the newly opened bar in Kensington Street. “When people say they don’t like gin, they’re talking about juniper, which can be quite bitter and aggressive.”
While he acknowledges that something like Beefeater or Tanqueray is heavy on the juniper, Collins says a modern gin is a neutral grain spirit, just like its mildly flavoured cousin, vodka.
Of the 80 gins Gin Lane has available, many are light on the juniper; they focus instead on fresh botanicals such as lemon and lime. “We have this brilliant gin from Spain called Gin Mare. It’s almost savoury with flavours of olives, thyme and rosemary,” he says.
The gin and tonic on draught is infused with lavender, fresh grapefruit and tonic bitters. The lemon aspen gimlet is another mildly gin-y drink made with citrus-heavy lemon aspen berries foraged in the northern beaches. The berry puree is made into sorbet using liquid nitrogen. “The gin gives it a bit of interest to make the drink fuller, but I couldn’t even pick it as a gin,” Collins says.
Not everyone’s palate is averse to juniper, though. The Gin Riot – named for a time when Londoners rioted in protest of government-imposed tax on the spirit – is a drink made with Genever (a juniper-heavy Dutch gin), banana, clove vinegar and topped with wheat beer, which Collins says is a great conductor of flavour.
Gin Lane has taken over the terrace that once housed Bar Chinois. The red walls and East-meets-West decor has been replaced with a darker colour palette of black and teal with brass accents. On Friday nights a DJ spins outside the bar’s tiny kitchen. Upstairs there’s a warren of small rooms furnished with intimate tables and leather couches.
For food, there’s a short menu of snacks that includes salt-and-pepper cuttlefish, a beef burger and a cheese plate.
16 Kensington Street, Chippendale
Mon to Thu, Sat & Sun 4.30pm–11.45pm