Iconic; it’s a term that’s bandied about fairly loosely these days. But to our minds, such big words should be reserved for things to be truly revered. Like Gerry’s. Described as an Aladdin’s Cave or a sweetshop for grown-ups this treasure trove of a liquor shop is probably the best store of its kind in the UK.
Even if you’re tee-total you can’t fail to be slightly intoxicated by the myriad bottles piled high on the shelves – here household names sit happily side-by-side the exotic, beautiful and downright weird. And while Gerry’s stocks wine and champagne, since the early 1990s it’s their staggering range of spirits that has made them the destination of choice for locals and visitors alike – in the last four years they’ve handled some 4,000 different brands.
Founded in 1984 by the former managers of Del Monico’s off-licence, Michael Kyprianou and Gerry Cohen, the store was originally set to be called Michael & Gerry’s or Gerry & Michael’s. However, it was Michael himself who felt ‘Gerry’s’ worked best. Ironically Gerry moved on after just one year. Depending when you visit, Michael can still found behind the counter, although on a day-to-day basis the shop is run by manager Alan Daly and assistant manager Vince Hopwood who have been at Gerry’s since 1985 and 1986 respectively.
While the price tags range from just a few pounds for miniatures you didn’t even know existed, you can splash your cash on cognacs for £1,500 (they sold one bottle recently and the customer opened it there and then so the staff could sample it). Mind you, selling expensive products isn’t what interests them. They get their buzz from serving real people – regular customers and bartenders alike – introducing them each to something new and interesting.
That’s not say they don’t have their fair share of famous fans; Ewan McGreor, Leslie Phillips, Patrick Stewart, Eddie Izzard, David Suchet John Cooper Clarke, Michael Portillo, Tom Conti and Jimmy Page are all regulars. There are always bottles open to try, both established and new products, and somehow they retain an almost encyclopaedic knowledge of their vast stock. But like the best Soho destinations it’s the people that run them that make them the success they are. Michael, Alan, Vince and the rest of the team clearly love what they do and dropping in is less like shopping and more like catching up with mates. But mates who know about and supply the best spirits around.
Gerry’s, 74 Old Compton Street, W1D 4UW. T: 020 7734 2053. www.gerrys.uk.com
Photography: Liam Kennedy