Gin is experiencing a resurgence and craft gin makers are springing up in all sorts of unusual places and starting to take on the larger, well-known brands.
If you look hard enough you’ll find something not too far away from where you live, down a hidden alley, or tucked away in the corner of an old market.
In search of a new Friday night watering hole, the team at The Food Rush stumbled upon the cutest craft gin bar (which is more like a gin cupboard but don’t let that put you off).
We found it in a quiet corner of Tooting Market in South West London. In a teeny tiny stall surrounded by traders selling fabric, Chinese takeaway and other ethnic goods. People were lining up for a cocktail made with the local Graveney Gin.
A Craft Gin Lover’s Story
Victoria Christie isn’t your typical gin maker. She transitioned from a career in banking to become a craft gin distiller and bar owner in a year. The combination of Victoria’s love of gin and the continuing support from the local community have turned a fun hobby into a real business. And it’s one the local’s love.
Victoria developed a thirst for learning about the different types of craft gins and the distilling process. After a trip to the Ginstitute where she blended botanicals to make her very own gin, she had a ‘what am I doing with my life’ moment. She decided to turn her passion into a dream job.
Victoria bought her own still (the big copper apparatus needed to distill gin) and contacted a couple of small craft gin companies to learn as much as she could.
She was surprised to discover that the craft gin distillers of London were a super friendly bunch. Mark Marmont, the master distiller at 58 Gin, opened his doors and showed Victoria the ropes. It wasn’t long before others were doing the same and Victoria started creating her own concoctions.
Victoria shared her journey on social media and her passion was infectious. Her following grew and people started asking when they could get their hands on her locally made spirit.
A Festival Launch And A Market Stall
With demand building, Victoria decided to take the leap and launch her craft gin brand to the local community. As the whole experience was fuelled by local demand, she chose to launch at the Tootopia Festival in her hometown of Tooting in September 2015.
Making gin at home alongside her full-time job was tough but it was the only way to launch her craft gin in time for the festival. Using a small 5 litre copper still, Victoria spent her evenings distilling gin in her kitchen until she had 200 bottles ready for the festival. On the first day of the festival she sold 120 bottles. The experience was overwhelming and spurred her on to where she is today.
Since that autumn of 2015, Graveney Gin has gone from strength to strength. Victoria attributes a lot of her success to the local residents – they became real advocates for the product.
It’s this community support that landed Victoria the opportunity to create a gin bar within the popular Tooting Market. With the help of a crowdfunding campaign, the Graveney Gin
cupboard bar was born. The funding helped to buy a new, larger still and provided Victoria the help and support she needed to take the venture that one step further. “I was a little bit unprepared for the venture, and growing it from home to having a permanent location, and upgrading the still was a massive step.”
The Hyperlocal Effect
Graveney Gin continues to operate from the small space in Tooting Market. It’s the most unlikely of places for a craft gin distillery and bar. There’s space for the still, a small preparation area and a handful of bar stools. Outside the stall there’s a collection of tables and chairs for those who want to perch and people watch while they enjoy their gin cocktails.
The bar has been open since early 2016 and has had more success than Victoria could ever have imagined.
“I didn’t anticipate the little bar being as popular as it has been, I just thought it would be a place where I could make the gin and sell the bottles, and that would be about it. I’m delighted with both the success of the bottles as well as selling gin and tonics.”
A running theme in Victoria’s story is the important role that the local community played. From the initial push to launch the gin, to helping find a place that Graveney Gin could call home, Victoria says she couldn’t have done it without this local support.
The name of the gin reflects this relationship too. Graveney is an area within Tooting. It’s also the name of a local school and a river. The gin was named Graveney Gin to acknowledge the part that the local area played in its creation. People from the area will always know it’s a Tooting gin.
The Growing Community Spirit
Tooting isn’t the only place where hyperlocal small businesses are thriving. In corners of many communities you’ll find thriving micro-enterprises supported by the local residents and a growing number of visitors from further away.
In London alone there are community spaces popping up everywhere. From the creative hub of Pop Brixton to the 7 storey car park in Peckham, the growing number of Boxpark pop-up malls and the collection of Street Feast night markets and street food arenas. Everywhere you look – if you look carefully – hyperlocal is a growing trend resulting in some amazing community spaces.
If you want to check out Tooting’s favourite craft gin for yourself, you can visit the bar in Tooting Market. Alternatively, buy yourself a bottle online or even book onto one of Graveney Gin’s tasting events.