The Sun Tavern in Bethnal Green

This post isn’t about martinis but I wanted to tell you about a cool bar I visited in East London, as well as the wonder that is Irish Poitín.

I nipped into an Irish bar in Bethnal Green for a quick drink with some friends from Latvia and Lithuania. (Take that Brexit, we’ve got no place for your xenophobia on this blog).

Apart from a drunk, ignorant stag party from Liverpool chanting OutOutOut (a braying but ominously tinged with racism call of the Brexiteers), and a response chant of InInIn by the assembled London drinkers (our own Les Marseillaise scene from Casablanca) it was a thoroughly enjoyable experience.

The bar caught my eye from the outside. I hadn’t pre-planned the trip or scouted it out on Foursquare or anything. It just looked visually appealing, with lots of nice, rough-hewn wooden and metal furnishings.

The staff were very knowledgeable and attentive; hipsterish/trendy but not twatty. We sat at the bar so we could chat, interact and admire their extremely wide drink selection.

It was then that we stumbled upon their Poitín menu.

Poitín is an Irish spirit that I have heard a lot about, but had never tried. So we jumped right in.

Typically ranging in strength from 40-90% (yes you read that right – God bless you Ireland) it was illegal for centuries, not because of its strength, but because it couldn’t be regulated – and taxed. When farmers harvested crops such as cereals or beets the produce would be checked or removed so those pesky peasants couldn’t brew up their own illicit booze. Damn you big government! Apparently it was therefore often made from milk, because despite the confiscation of harvested vegetables, even the poorest families had cows to milk on a regular basis. So they would ferment and distill the milk to create this clear and absolutely intoxicating liquid wonderment and get absolutely shit-faced in defiance of the authorities, for hundreds of years.

Served as a chaser with some light lager or a pale ale (I preferred the lager) I was amazed at the smooth, fruity and refined text and texture of the drink. It was like a super-charged sake, or shochu in its purity but with a more complex interplay of taste and texture sensations that moved through the whole mouth. I didn’t mix it with water or ice. It was quite fiery but the follow-up sensation was one of extreme warmth moving down my tongue the way phosphorescence glides down the body of a squid in tropical water at night. It was quite the experience. My friends and I tried several different varieties. Even the 90% version, while having the potential to blow our heads off, was quite smooth and gently warming. It was a lovely treat.

Although I didn’t try anything else, the bar also does a range of cocktails, including bloody Mary’s and even one of my favourite drinks: The Michelada.

I was also a fan of the overall vibe and decor. So if you’re in Bethnal Green, give it a go. And if you’re not, get yourself over there for a good night! Just don’t plan too many activities for the next morning…


Satan’s Whiskers, Bethnal Green 4/5


This is possibly the best value for money martini in London, served in a trendy, speakeasy setting in Bethnal Green.

A consummate cocktail bar, the staff pay particular attention to the quality of their martini, keeping the gin and glasses in the freezer. This is much more than can be said of most cocktail establishments serving martinis in the city, which frequently seem to treat the drink as an afterthought that hopefully no-one will order.

On the Satan’s Whiskers menu (which is apparently changed on a daily basis) the martini option was at the very bottom so I expected that it had been added there as a pretentious requirement (a common occurrence I have found). But no, I was to be pleasantly surprised.

Their version uses dry vermouth but I asked for mine to be made with a sweet vermouth. They kindly obliged and served it with martini rosso, adding a red-golden tinge to the drink.

Served ice cold using Tanqueray gin with a twist of lemon peel it tasted delicious, clean and crisp. You can tell that the glass has been kept in the freezer because the stem and base are ice cold, not just the cup, but I asked to be sure.

The attentive staff also serve guests with complimentary water in Tanqueray bottles on arrival – a very nice touch, especially in the summer.

The exterior of the building was somewhat dark and off-putting (all part of the image of course) but once inside the shaded light from the wooden slatted windows illuminated vintage posters and an array of taxidermy. Guests are offered seats at the bar to watch the barmen or more intimate tables.

The crowd was interesting and a refreshing break from the pretentious twats so common in other ‘trendy’ cocktail bar settings around central London.

The only thing I would change about the martinis is that I would serve them in a martini glass rather than a champagne coupe. I would possibly trim the lemon peel a little more so it would fit comfortably in the glass. The music was also perhaps a little bit too loud to enjoy a relaxed martini conversation but let’s be honest, it’s east London. Quiet isn’t the point. 

Furthermore, at £8 for an excellent tasting martini I would say that it was the best value you could get in London without making your own at home.

Just remember to stick to the Two Martini Rule so as to avoid any chemical crises.