Far from its beginnings in the bawdy backstreets of London, today, gin is the tipple of many a discerning drinker.
What is a ‘gin palace’?
The English relationship with gin goes back to the 17th century. And much as the drink has evolved, so have the places associated with it.
In all of its juniper-scented glory, gin was once so popular that we even built ‘palaces’ to drink it in. And although none of the original gin palaces survive, their design inspired later Victorian pubs, even after gin had fallen from favour.
Their ornate mirrors, mouldings, etched glass and gilding inspired the late 19th-century style, the heyday of urban pub building.
Here’s where to quaff your highballs in authentic surroundings.
1. The Philharmonic Dining Rooms, Liverpool
Look out for stone sculptures of musicians and musical instruments amid the rich copper and glass interior.
A perk for the gents: the toilets survive in their original decorative design.
2. The Tottenham, Oxford Street, London
When the Tottenham was built, it was located a few doors down from the Oxford Street Music Hall, and there is something of the palace of varieties about its interior.
The Tottenham is one of the best-preserved pubs in London.
3. Argyll Arms, Oxford Circus, London
Although only a stone’s throw from Oxford Circus, parts of this pub are little changed from Victorian times.
Particularly impressive are the large mirrors which miraculously survived the blitz.
4. Barton Arms, Birmingham
The best example of its kind in Birmingham, the Barton Arms retains a complete suite of Public Bar, Saloon-Smoke Rooms, Club Room, Committee Room and Billiard Hall.
5. Punch Tavern, Fleet Street, London
A barrel-vaulted skylight will greet you at the entrance, leading you to a bar with much of the original design.
The previous building on the site was renamed the “Punch Tavern” in the late 1840s because of its association with Punch Magazine, which had its offices at the end of Fleet Street.
6. The Vines, Liverpool
Known locally as ‘the Big House’, this much loved local landmark has a glazed cupola, original bar fittings and two fireplaces.
7. Bakers Vaults, Stockport
Previously known as the George and Dragon, the Bakers Vault was built around 1775 and rebuilt in the gin palace style in 1861.
It reopened in July 2014 after a seven-month closure, and it is hoped that the revitalised pub will bring much-needed regeneration to the market area of Stockport.
8. Viaduct Tavern, Holborn, London
The fine pub interiors include a wall of alternating mirrors and fine paintings of Pre-Raphaelite style women set in marble and alabaster architraves.
9. The Salisbury, Harringay, London
Magnificently elaborate, the entrances have ornate wrought-iron screens and elaborately tiled lobbies and mosaics.
The large room at the front was at one time a concert room. Sip your G&T in the large billiard room beneath the vine painted glass roof.
10. The Princess Louise, Holborn, London
A rich example of a Victorian public house interior.
Gents should also spend a penny in the basement WC to see some of the original tiled walls and fittings.
What have we missed? Let us know your favourite gin palaces in the comments below.