It's common knowledge that the UK is enjoying a gin revival, with an unprecedented array of craft gins launching in the marketplace, since Sipsmiths sparked important changes in the world of distillation back in 2009.
Around that time, Gary Whiter was about to embark on a Martini masterclass aboard the Queen Mary 2, while en route to New York. His previous experience of bartending was grounded in the early nineties when the cocktail menu in his Surrey home town consisted of retro classics like Sex on the Beach. During this transatlantic mixology session, however, the Commodore Club's bar manager, Ophelia, introduced him to a whole world of gin and how to serve world class Martinis. Working in the travel industry often took Gary to far flung places and gave him a real taste for premium drinks and an aspiration for excellent customer service. Years later, it was only natural that gin should play a significant part in the journey to launch Cabinet Rooms.
In 2014, Cabinet Rooms was born, with a tweet of an espresso Martini at the London Coffee Festival. Initially, a social media platform for sharing his adventures in discovering food and drink, Cabinet Rooms started to host small group workshops and masterclasses that allow like-minded people the opportunity to discover new drinks in fun, sociable settings. With all Cabinet Rooms events, there is an emphasis on doing things that are a little bit different or quirky.
"It's possible to take things too seriously," explained Gary, " and so it's important to us that we create environments in which a discerning and often more mature crowd can learn something and have a little fun along the way. Now we have our own premises in Winchester, we are looking forward to running a whole programme of exciting events and you can be sure that there will be a gin club there in some form or another!"
Following the success of the small group events, Cabinet Rooms expanded into festivals and have brought Cocktail Week and the Ginchester Fête to Winchester's festival calendar.
Now in its second year, the Ginchester Fête takes place on Saturday 10 June, World Gin Day, at Winchesters iconic Great Hall. The festival is a unique way for gin lovers to celebrate the juniper spirit. Gary, and his partner Marcus, wanted to create a gin event that wasn't just a run-of-the-mill gin show. 16 local producers will be taking part, offering visitors a village fête style activity or game. The event is sponsored by Winchester Distillery, producers of Hampshire Gin and, most famously, Twisted Nose Gin.
"We are very lucky indeed to be surrounded by so many top gin distilleries in Winchester," Gary said. "There is a lot of talk in the trade about if and when we will reach 'peak gin' but from our perspective we're seeing the region's love for the spirit is as strong as ever. We are sure there are more exciting things to come for the category."
Indeed, Winchester Distillery will be launching a new gin at the Ginchester Fête so visitors to the event will be the first to try it. What better way to spend World Gin Day?
This month's cocktail is from one of Gary's favourite events in Winchester, the annual fete at the 12th Century Hospital of St Cross, where last year he bought a jar of the Brothers' honey. Combined with the delicate flavours of Isle of Wight Distillery's Mermaid gin or Winchester Distillery's aged gin for his 'local' take on a classic Prohibition-era cocktail.
St Cross Bee's Knees
60ml (4tbsps) Twisted Nose Aged Gin or Mermaid Gin
15ml (1tbsp) Brother John's Wayfarer's Honey
10ml (2tsps) Freshly squeezed lemon juice
Mix the lemon and honey together at the bottom of a cocktail shaker with a bar spoon. Add the gin and fill the glass with ice. Shake well. Fine strain into a chilled coupe and serve with a lemon twist.
If you would like to visit, friends of Nectar will receive 10% off tickets to the Ginchester Fête when booking online with the code 'nectar'. Click here for more info and to book.
We know where we're heading on the 10th!