The shrine to the British spirit opens in the Tenderloin neighborhood.
Over the last few years, San Francisco has developed a bit of a crush on gin. A number of small batch artisanal distilleries have opened around the Bay Area (most recently Falcon Spirits Distillery in the Richmond, and Spirit Works Distillery in Sebastopol). Juniper, too, has become a beloved addition on the latest craft cocktail menus. It comes to a head this week, with the christening of Whitechapel, a new bar devoted to gin.
Inside, an obsession with the British spirit runs deep—with more than 350 bottles on the list, it’s snagged the title for having the largest gin selection in North America. To orient yourself amid this dizzying selection, start with the more manageable cocktail menu. It’s got an impressive 100 options on it (try the Dutch Nemesis: Bols Genever, Combier Kummel, pineapple gum, sparkling wine, angostura, and lime), and is designed to showcase the history of gin, curated from vintage to contemporary selections. The bar has also collaborated with San Francisco-based Distillery 209 on their house Whitechapel Victorian Dry Gin, a traditional London-style gin with botanicals, black walnut, and lemon verbena.
The space itself is a veritable gin altar, broken into three themed rooms. The design could be classified as Victorian San Francisco-meets-London Underground, with beautiful moldings that nod to the local architectural, barrel-vaulted ceilings, acanthus tiles, vintage distilling paraphernalia serving as art pieces, and whimsical bubbly light fixtures.
The dining area pays tribute to London’s ornate gin pubs of the 1820s, and serves upscale bar bites to pair with gin’s delicate profile. Expect a blend of British, Dutch, and Bangladeshi flavors, noted in dishes like mussels vindaloo, welsh rabbit, and quail with a scotched egg.