The Mint Gun Club Brings the World Inside a London Bar
The Mint Gun Club seems like an old-fashioned colonial outpost in the heart of the former empire. But Rich Hunt’s new bar offers drinks for more than just an evening tipple.
Open since last year in London, the Mint Gun Club is the latest globetrotting project for UK bartender Rich Hunt. He’s come a long way since his days working as a barback at glamorous banquets and bartending in his home town of Oxford. That includes a consultancy business, a spell in the south of France, and working at a host of London’s big name bars, including Quo Vadis, Hawksmoor, Kanaloa, Milk & Honey London, and Trailer Happiness – where he also owns some shares.
The Mint Gun Club Took A Decade Of Preparation
Hunt’s first bar of his own is an encapsulation of his experiences over the last 10 years – the ideas began to sprout while he was working at the tropical-themed, celebrity favorite, Mahiki. The Mint Gun Club proves extremely tricky to define. Is it a colonial-style tiki bar? “Perhaps an expatriate tiki bar would be a better way of describing it,” says Hunt.
The name itself, sounding like an actual gun club, seemed a little intimidating at first, so Hunt tried to give it a more tongue-in-cheek slant. He tried the Pineapple Gun Club, and the Mango Gun Club, before settling on the Mint Gun Club – named after the fictional bar and casino in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. “It definitely softened the whole idea,” Hunt says.
Finally, a clear way of defining the bar strikes Hunt. “If you could draw a Venn diagram in the middle of a tiki bar, local cafe, coffee house, and a world class cocktail bar, you’d have the Mint Gun Club,” he says, satisfied with his explanation. It takes in all Hunt’s different bar and travel experiences to date, and the international vibe extends to the décor, too. White-washed with Venetian blinds, with Moroccan tiles and vibrant plants galore, the Mint Gun Club is a bright, welcoming oasis surrounded by the dreary roads of the British capital.
In the Navy
The menu is split into four sections: gimlets, aperitifs, tonics and sodas, and cocktails and nightcaps. Hunt is particularly fond of the gimlet, which he calls the most “underrated drink.” He’s fascinated by its historical relevance, too. “The British navy used to drink it,” he explains. “It’s this idea that people are just stationed somewhere, a refuge from wherever they are based, that interests me and links to my whole concept. The officers would drink gin, with the sailors drinking rum and then cordial, too, to ward off scurvy. If you combine the two (spirit and cordial) you have the gimlet.”
At the Mint Gun Club, gimlets are made of 50ml of spirit, and 15ml of homemade cordial, with an extra splash of something aromatic. Highly recommended are the Gun Club gimlet, with cacao nib gin, kaffir lime cordial, and kümmel, and the summery, but unorthodox Rudie’s, featuring shiso tonic cordial, fragrant Jamaican rum, and elderflower liqueur. At just £5, they’re a bargain, too.
The bar is open all day, so, in keeping with the colonial outpost vibe, there’s also a range of tea on offer. The selection includes Kenyan assam, Chinese anxi and Indian cloud tea. For those in need of something other than liquid sustenance, the bar also offers tapas-style small plates and canapés.
Stoked to be Here
Hunt lives in Stoke Newington, which is one of the main reasons he picked this vibrant area as the location for the Mint Gun Club. It’s not the only reason – Stoke Newington has one of the best food scenes in London, despite its less-than-central location. There’s the definitive pizza at iconic Neapolitan export L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele, Turkish food par excellence at Mangal 2, and Rubedo, a hotspot for natural wine and seasonal Italian fare.
But for all that, Stoke Newington was lacking a world-class cocktail bar. Opening the Mint Gun Club puts Hunt among the ranks of veteran bartenders mixing things up in East London – think Tony Conigliaro at Untitled, and Chris Moore at Coupette.
Hunt looked for a space on and off for a long time, which is no easy task in London. “Getting a place is so tough, there’s so many hoops and barriers to jump through,” he says. “I looked at over 100 venues and did business plans for about half of them!”
Just like the decade of bar experience before it, all that preparation and planning have clearly paid off for Hunt. The Mint Gun Club is an essential stop on any London bar tour, day or night.
Foto: Mint Gun Club