A gin palace is an English name originally for a lavish bar selling gin, later transferred by association to late Victorian pubs designed in a similar style.
In the 18th century, gin shops or ‘dram shops’ were just small shops (often originally chemist’s shops as gin originally had medicinal associations) that sold gin mostly to take away, or to drink standing up. As the legislation changed establishments generally became larger; they also had to be licensed and sell ale or wine. In the late 1820s the first ‘Gin Palaces’ were built, Thompson and Fearon’s in Holborn and Weller’s in Old Street, London. They were based on the new fashionable shops being built at the time, fitted out at great expense and lit by gas lights.
Londoners are drinking gin like it’s going out of fashion. Which it did for a bit, around the 1980s. But now it’s back with a vengeance. The spirit has a long history, much of it disreputable, and new cocktail bars are having fun rummaging in the vintage dressing-up box, finding design inspiration from New York speakeasies, Parisian jazz bars and, increasingly, the sort of low-lit Victorian drinking establishment where you might have rubbed velvet-clad shoulders with Whistler or Wilde.
Are you a gin lover? I guess you visit some of these places, then. Tell me about your experience!