“Alcohol,” said P.G. Wodehouse, “is a misunderstood vitamin.” The man knew. There is something of him about The Chesterfield, a cathedral of effortless elegance a stroll from Green Park. There’s a wood-paneled library, all leather and learning, and then there’s The Terrace Bar. It houses a lot of misunderstood vitamins, and one of London’s most immersive afternoons: The Gin & Tonic Experience. If that conjures thoughts of ice and a slice, wrong. This is theatre. The hotel is part of Red Carnation, a collection of family-run, award-winning boutique hotels in five countries, some of which we’ve praised in the past.
So we know they never take shortcuts. So it proves today. The experience begins with a choice of four tasting menus, each with three drinks. Ours came with a gem called Jade. She was our guide, bringing us trays with botanicals, spices and other accompaniments used to flavour gin. Jade also brings knowledge and an eagerness to share it, so we were schooled on the essence of each drink. There were tales of experiments, of German brews with 47 extras, and other stories that added romance to the ritual. All this is done expertly, but without pretension. Quite a trick to pull off when you serve black pepper and strawberries married to alcohol blended from Icelandic water (the unanimous winner). After the third lap our tasting notes lacked clarity. The afternoon was just part of a weekend’s luxury incorporating a sensational dinner at Butlers Restaurant, overnight in The Duchess Suite and a slothful Sunday. Huge thanks to Chris at reception for his brilliant warm welcome, plus Jade, Adam and Alex for doing everything to create something very special.