Camden. Colourful, vibrant Camden. Bursting with life, its market a wonderful maze of tiny shops and street food stalls.
I’m in love with a different Camden. One that exists only a few hours a day – when the tourists finally disappear, before the night crowd arrives, when the sky turns a soft pink. The kitsch and daring sculptures on the high street buildings (giant scorpion, elephant head, shoe, angel, dragon…) look almost poetic. From brash commercial signs, they have become gentle guardians. Street art, barely noticeable by day, seem to bloom on the brick walls. My favourite spot is Lock Tavern’s terrace, overlooking the canal. I sit there with a G&T, and listen to the semi silence – a few laughs, a guitar being played.
It’s a rather special G&T too, made with Half Hitch gin, made less than a hundred metres away, the tiniest distillery you could imagine. One sip brings memories of orange blossom, nutmeg, Earl grey tea to mind. The botanicals also include wood, hay and pepper… It’s slightly sweeter than you expect, in a floral, mallow kind of way. The kind of gin you want to drink neat too, slowly, dreaming the evening away.
You may not realise it, but this is, in a way, a historical gin. Before being famous for its Stables Market, alternative vibe and music scene, Camden was known as the gin district of London. There were so many warehouses producing it than an express train ran from there straight to the docks. It all disappeared 50 years ago. Half Hitch (a reference to the rope knot used to moor up barges along the waterways) was created to bring Camden Lock’s gin glory back to life…
If you’re a gin connoisseur and why not join their gin school? It might be a micro distillery but their technique is quite innovative… They use, for example, a combination of methods: the traditional copper pot distillation for the classic botanicals, a modern vacuum to better preserve the hay flavour. And to make the experience more fun, you will get to infuse your gin (and of course take it back home) with the ingredient of your choice. I tried their mind wowing mince pie version before Christmas… You’ll get a 100ml bottle of your bespoke blend (as well as a 100ml of Half Hitch) to take home and trust me, you will want to show off to your friends. Why not plan this as a birthday present or even for father’s day? After all it ticks all the boxes: a little history, some skills learnt, memories made and even a white negroni as the perfect conclusion.