Before Gin – The Story of Bols Genever

The Reverend JW Simpson is possibly London’s best kept secret. On the rather busy Goodge Street and behind a unassuming black door lies a place of worship, where the worshippers come to pray at the altar of deities known as cocktails . Having been here a number of times, sometimes alone, sometimes with a friend and sometimes with the other sort of ‘friend’ I can honestly say this one pilgrimage that all Londoner’s should go and see.  One of the few bar in this fine city where the bartenders are true artist who know delve in to history to create beautiful mouthwatering cocktails.

But like all religions even these fine establishment has a story. The story goes that the venue was once home to the very same man of the church who gave the bar his name, before it changed hands to become a less-than-legal gentleman’s club, a brothel.

My personal pilgrimage to the Reverend JW Simpson was by accident, having been stood up on a potential date (the usual line ‘I’m sick’), and trying to escape the rain, I took shelter in the doorway of the Rev JW Simpson. Curiously I could hear music so I followed the noise downstairs and realised I was in small speaksey bar. Intrigued I walked down the stairs where I was greeted by one of the bartenders who whisked me to a small table and explained the drinks menu. The rest of the evening can’t be described as a blur. It was an experience filled with beautifully made cocktails, and bartenders who invited me to join them in drinking shots till closing time.

Having been there another of time it was obvious I was going to attend the Rev JW Simpson’s  Spirited Sermons (basically an Spirit tasting events). I decided to take my friend Sarah, to educate us on the origins of  Gin. We arrived at Rev and were each given a detailed special menu for what was going to be an interesting evening. Our lovely well dressed bartender Jim, (what can I say any man wearing a hat always gets a smile from me) explained what we would be doing that evening, apart from drinking we’d be making our own cocktail and also be given an extensive history lesson of the origin Bol Genever. Each of the drinks we were told were carefully selected and created by the charming bartenders at the Rev.


Our first drinks of the evening were obvious. I chose the strongest which was the Bol’ s Cherry Party. I was told this was a twist on the traditional Manhattan cocktail. Sarah chose the First Word, which we were told was the opposite of The Last Word, a popular cocktail from the 1920s.

When we finished our drinks we were invited to take part in making our own cocktails. I chose to make a Kopstutu,  and added to much beer, Sarah chose to make Never say Genever and didn’t add enough wine. Its safe to say that our cocktail making skills were pretty abysmal.

The final part of the night was a detailed Sermon on the Origins of Genever, by John Parsons. To understand the rich and decandent history of Gin we need to understand and finally give the respect due to Bol Genever, who without it we would have no Gin. And more importantly it would mean my life would have no meaning.


So here’s to Genever; the Grandfather of Gin. Gin Gin


For further details about Rev JW Simpson’s next Spirited Sermons visit Billetto

Rev JW Simpson 



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  1. REPLY

    Jona says

    I like it when people get together and share thoughts.
    Great website, keep it up!

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