Head Here If… Gin’s your thing (on a budget)

Graphic bar

Graphic is a bit like Cheers (minus the fat dude and his wingey sidekick glued to their bar stools). Although they don’t necessarily know every punter’s name, we love the fact that they do a good impression of looking like they give a damn, that and the way you can settle in for a first-class tipple at any time of day…

TCL Rating:

First Things First

There’s good ‘energy’ about Graphic. And you don’t have to be into crystals or that kind of mumbo-jumbo stuff to feel the effects. In fact, the only spiritual aspect you need to tune in to is the drinks list at the bar. It’s the prices that grab you first  – £6.90 or so is the average which is extremely good going for a bar in Soho, even better for cocktails of this quality.

Your favourite gin in a Paint Tin

Once reassured that you won’t unnerve your bank manager for spending a night here, it’s time for the fun part: choosing your drinks. Gin is the thing at this popular bar. You’ll find it in one of the five unique Paint Tin Punches, (literally half a litre single serve, or 2.5 litre party serve paint tins filled with a gin-based cocktail), and in the various libations featuring any one of the 70 gins on offer. There are also classics and some clever contemporary mix-ups and for those who want them, a good choice of wine, beer, teas and non-alcoholic drinks, too.

So that’s the drinks part, what about the mood and setting? We like to think of it as urban chic. There’s something of a funky sixth form common room about it – that’s down to the no-nonsense, straight up, straight down wooden tables and chairs and reinforced with the smart graffiti-style shutter art by Eine currently adding a shock of colour and drama to the stark grey and white walls. Sticking with the education theme, Graphic also run a Juniper Society where you can gen up on all things gin, genever, jenever and juniper with talks and tastings every second Monday of the month.

Sarah and the rest of the team are fun, informative, knowledgeable and passionate, stop by and put their drinks skills to the test.

The Signature

There could really only be one choice: the Paint Tin Punch. Ms S goes for the Yellow (Tanqueray, Maraschino Dry Cherry Liqueur, fresh lime and pineapple juice, Peychaud bitters and Fever Tree Ginger Ale) but could have chosen from Red (Beefeater, Briottet Mixed Berry Liqueur, fresh raspberries, lemon juice, lemon bitters and cranberry juice); Green (Hendricks, fresh cucumber, mint, lemon juice, lemon bitters, apple juice), or White (Whitley Neill, Briottet Peach Liqueur, fresh lemon juice, orange and cranberry). There’s even a pimped up Gold version with comes with Spandau Ballet’s classic of the same name booming out from a gold ghetto blaster. Classic.

Back to the Yellow tin: it’s nice, fruity, deliciously exotic and summery. Be careful how you take your first sip though – the paint tin is filled to the brim which means if you’re stupid enough to tilt it (yes, she did!), you’ll find some of the liquid finds its way down your front (classy!) It’s a fabulous idea that could be style over substance but the flavour combinations and balances really work a treat.

The Classic

With that hefty list of 70 gins available, it’s a particularly enjoyable challenge for Mr G to throw at our barmen as to which brand he recommends for a martini. Interestingly our man doesn’t push anything exotic or esoteric. For him it’s the classic Plymouth Gin because “it’s well balanced with a citrusy feel, but it’s not overpowering”. It’s served in a nicely frosted coupe glass, with an inviting long, thick, twirling piece of lemon peel protruding from the drink which delivers just a slight aroma. Like the gin itself the drink is very well balanced. There is delicate lemon taste but it’s an appealingly dry one, almost sherbert-like. Rounded off with a clean long finish this is an extremely well mixed martini.

TCL Choice

Spring is in the air so Ms S goes for the Rhubarb Daisy (Woodford Reserve bourbon, Chase Rhubarb Liqueur, fresh lemon juice, grenadine and rhubarb bitters). The frothy headed, deep sunset-coloured drink is served with straws in a wine goblet making Ms S want to float around in a Cavalli kaftan or Temperley dress, it feels girly and elegant before it even reaches her lips. This is confirmed by the taste: nicely balanced, quite creamy, not too sharp, not too sweet. The bourbon is definitely there but not overly so, just enough to make you know it’s the main event in the glass. Gorgeous.

It takes a lot to lure Mr G away from a straight up or a rocks kind of cocktail, but the Graphic High Tea (Tanqueray Import 47.3% Gin, Jenson Old Tom Sweet Gin, Plymouth Sloe Gin, Bramley & Gage Damson Gin, Bols Genever, fresh lemon & lime juice, Fevertree Bitter Lemon & Ginger Ale) jumped right off the menu. A gin-fest in a glass – how could he resist? Served in a very tall glass (well it has to be) with a straw and a lemon slice, it has a pink hue but a reassuringly dusty one. Tastewise it’s incredibly refreshing and appealingly dry, a fabulous thirst-quencher – with a subtle but effective kick. Every ingredient combines to make it a winner of a drink. (It also wins out as the longest list of ingredients we’ve ever stuck between two brackets.)

And To Eat?

The all-day menu features everything from thick buttered toast (95p) to chocolate fondant (£5.50). In between there’s bar food – chicken wings braised with smoked paprika and onions (£4.50), Bloody Mary bruschetta with celery leaf, sea salt and vodka (£4.50), or more substantial dishes like leek and ham tart (£6.50) and butternut squash risotto (£7).

Look Out For

1.The Paint Tin Punches. We like the fact you can order one all for yourself, or if you’re feeling sociable, go for a large one to share with friends. 2. The Gin Menu: ask to see the two volumes which lists the characteristics of every one of the 70 gins stocked and gives recommended measures for making the perfect martini and gin and tonic with each. 3. The Juniper Society: sign up on the Graphic Facebook page for details of the bi-monthly sessions. 4. The art: every six months Graphic features the work of a London artist, right now east London comes uptown with the streetsmart work from Eine.

What’s The Damage?

It’s an all-day happy hour with drinks priced at a very wallet-friendly £6.90, rising to £7.70 or £25 for the Paint Tin to share with six.

Ms S says

This is the perfect after-work drinking joint – not too fancy, not too casual, just right. The mood is 100% good times which makes it perfect for groups – especially with those party Paint Tins. Go enjoy.

Mr G says

Take a  list of 70 gins and introduce it to a bar staff who clearly know their way around a Dry Martini, then serve up the majority of those martins at around £9.50 and you have a bar that any cocktail lover should put on their “To Do ” list.

The Details


4 Golden Square, W1F 9HT. Tel 020 7287 9241.  graphicbar.com

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