5 of the best gin bars in Suffolk
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Every year there are rumours in the drinks industry that rum is set to be the next ‘in’ drink.
While, true, rum lists seem to be growing in bars and restaurants, gin aficionados need not fear their favourite tipple is going anywhere anytime soon.
The juniper-laden spirit de jour’s popularity is far from waning. In fact, did you know there are around 5,500 gins being produced across the world right now? And that number’s growing.
If you want to make a dent in the list, why not begin with one of our local bars or restaurants - some of which specialise in what used to be (less enticingly) known as ‘mothers ruin’?
Three Wise Monkeys
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Where: 22 Lloyds Avenue, Ipswich
Open: 11am to 11pm daily
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A pretty hip venue that’s great for social meet-ups. Dare you take on their film, TV and music quiz (on the first Sunday of every month)? Or join the beer club...
The bar, which has a sister venue in Colchester, is arranged over three levels. The ground floor offers over 20 beers (including their own brew) on tap, alongside inventive snacks. Above, is the Smokehouse for insane loaded fries, wings and more.
But, if gin is your spirit of choice, we recommend booking a table in the basement gin bar, open exclusively on Friday and Saturday nights. It’s the only subterranean bar (not counting the one at Ipswich Film Theatre) in the town, and has a menu of over 60 varieties of gin – from Old Tom, to London Dry.
Whether you like a simple, juniper-forward, traditional drink, or something fandangled and jazzy, they’ve got you covered. Singles start at £3.50, and doubles from £6.50, with tonics priced at £2 or a lemonade mixer £1.
Sip on Buss No. 509 – an exotic melting pot of a gin infused with liquorice, angelica, vanilla, cardamom, iris, citrus and fresh Persian peaches. Maybe the musky KWV Cruxland Truffle Gin. The sweet Chesterfield Strawberry Candy Floss gin. Or, for sophisticates – Mirabeau Provence Rose Gin. That one’s infused with grapes used to make their wine, and botanicals grown on the Mirabeau estate.
Where: 2 Theatre Street, Woodbridge
Open: 3pm to 9pm daily
Possibly one of the first pubs in Suffolk to ‘cotton on’ to the rising gin trend, investing in one of the largest collections in the region, with well over 200 to choose from. This is a friendly, no-frills kind of community inn, right at the heart of the town. It’s not a gastropub. More a place you know you can reliably visit for great banter, excellent beer (from breweries including Green Jack, ABK and Mr Bee’s Bee-R), and, when things go back to normal, cracking music. Their gin range changes as stock rotates but has included Hoxton Coconut and Grapefruit gin, Ish gin (made in London with 12 botanicals, and distilled five times), and the Jensen’s floral, citrussy dry gin.
Booking is advised. And look out for pop-up wood-fired pizza nights.
Arcade Street Tavern
Where: 1 Arcade Street, Ipswich
Open: From 12noon Tuesday to Saturday
An institution in Ipswich. And rightly so. The Ross’ (AKA the guys in charge) have created a cool spot that worships at the altar or beer, with over 120 to choose from – from sours and stouts to hoppy American lagers. Fridays offer pop-up street food. And, when restrictions allow, we’re sure they’ll bring back their roster of events – from 80s nights to cheese and beer pairings.
But let’s get down to the gin list. Over 100 varieties that sweep the globe – from the bright lights of London, to Japan. Every week the blackboard is chalked up with their recommended mix of gin, tonic and garnish. With thousands of combinations on offer, you need never have the same drink twice.
Singles start at £3.60 and doubles (including a tonic) from £9.10. Talking of tonics, they take these seriously here too, offering bar favourite Fever-Tree alongside Twelve Below and Sekford’s botanical sodas (prickly pear, fig and cardamom anyone?).
So what to try? How about telly foodie Valentine Warner’s Hepple gin, made with wild juniper grown on the brand’s own estate? There’s Malfy Rosa, infused with Sicilian grapefruit and Italian rhubarb. Or go off-piste with award-winning Hidden Curiosity Aranami Strength (59% ABV) gin with sansho pepper, yuzu, kabosu (another type of Asian citrus fruit) and kumquat.
The Turk’s Head
Where: Low Road, Hasketon
Open: Wednesday to Saturday, 12noon to 11pm and Sunday 12nonon to 8pm
A fabulous country pub that welcomes families and dog walkers with muddy-pawed pooches. The food here (think Thai style beef or Suffolk goat with chickpea hash, roasted cauliflower and mint yoghurt) is excellent. And matched by an equally good range of beers, wines...and gin. In fact, in August the pub usually hosts a gin festival. The jury is out on whether events like these will be able to go ahead later in the summer so, for now, why not stop in for a bite to eat in the garden or elegant dining room, with a glass of something cool from the list of 20 or so gins? Landlady Jemima’s favourites include the rhubarb, pineapple or strawberry and pink peppercorn varieties.
The Magpie Inn
Where: Combs Ford, near Stowmarket
Open: From midday Wednesday to Sunday
An oldy worldy pub that really is at the centre of its community – meaning locals really will have missed it over lockdown. There’s usually lots going on, be it an Abba dance party, bingo, or charity event.
One of the owners has Asian heritage so it’s a great place for a bite if you like Oriental cuisine, which segues into the menu alongside homemade, chunky crusted pies, ploughman’s and, on Sundays a really very good carvery, served from 12noon to 3pm. Booking is highly advised. As is ‘going large’ and upgrading to a big plate, and therefore a slice of each of the meats on offer.
Something the pub is rightly proud of is its Gin Palace – a massive collection of well over 250 types of rare, unusual and quirky gins, alongside the usual favourites. It must be one of the biggest gin bars in East Anglia, let alone Suffolk. Staff are happy to talk you through them to find your ideal combination, and with flavours including anything from Parma Violet or Turkish delight, to chocolate mint. They may even have stocked Cambridge Distillery’s experimental ant-infused gin (Anty) at one point...apparently they taste quite zesty.
Mixers from Fever-Tree, Double Dutch and Spanton feature too. And look out for Vodka Valley as well – with options ranging from Smirnoff Fluffed Marshmallow to Aivy White Pear, Strawberry and Mint vodka.