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The Mecca for the renaissance of gin in Budapest

Even though the renaissance of gin is not a brand new phenomenon, it is far from fading. More actors appear on the market month by month, whether we look at them from the perspective of new wave gin manufacturers or whether from that of the catering sector. The dynamically growing Gin Corner Budapest, opened in last December, offers a selection of 101 types of gin from all around the world, with specifically designed dishes and excellent professionalism, amateur and expert gin fans are both welcome

The modernist building of the former Erzsébet Square bus station is one of the most renowned and, in many ways, the most successful architectural reuse in Budapest. The modernist bus terminal, designed by István Nyíri, was out of use for years, and in the 1970s, it came very close to being demolished. It was finally saved by a historic preservation law in 1977 and has since proved its place in the fabric of the city center many times over. It has successfully undergone several changes of function and in the last ten years has become one of the most prominent nightlife venues in Budapest thanks to Fröccsterasz. The Gin Corner, a thematic bar on the edge of the building, is the new stand-alone unit of the Fröccsterasz complex. Manager Attila Éliás and professional manager Márk Pap have composed a non-verbal experience for guests that appeals to all senses. This is reinforced by the unique perfume scent wafting through the space, the eclectic interior—entirely designed and executed by Attila and Márk—, the oriental bar-garden separated from the noise of Erzsébet Square, the drink selection, which has been renewed this week, and the freshly debuted dishes.

101 gin

Attila and Márk found the professional basis of Gin Corner extremely important, they didn’t want another bar in Budapest, but a complex and educative experience of the gin culture. The selection consisting of 101 types of gin was created under Márk’s guidance: it offers gins from Vietnam to Estonia and South Africa, to Hungary, of course. Márk has also taken special care to ensure that the repertoire is broad not only in terms of origin, but also in terms of type, so there are true classics, new wave experiments and what at first sound like bizarre specialties, such as a unique flavor of squid-tinted gin served with algae rolls. “I love gins that I taste and can recognize from a thousand,” Márk admits. 

One of their novelties that stands alone in Hungary is the “gin library” placed on the tables, accessible with a QR code, including Hungarian and English language descriptions of different gin types, introducing their histories and ingredients. There is also a strong emphasis on training bartenders (who are also waiters) to be able to offer and tell stories professionally to guests of all tastes and abilities. From the day they opened their doors to the present day, they have attended weekly courses where they learn the technical and theoretical aspects of the history and production of gin. “It’s the drink menu that really reflects the guys’ knowledge. It all started with a competition, and I told them the best cocktail would be on the drink menu. Even then, I hoped it wouldn’t be just one, and because they really put themselves out there, everyone got at least one drink on the new drink menu. I also made a few cocktails and helped fine-tune the drinks,” Márk shared.

We tested two of the eight signature cocktails. One of them was an aesthetically pink Gin Sour. The refreshing drink is made of a complex, citrusy, world-class German gin. Then we add a bit of Campari, homemade tonka beans and neroli syrup, providing a perfumed, flowery impression. The second drink creation, a classic from the 1800s, is most likely the forerunner of the famous Martini cocktails from the James Bond movies, the Martinez. It is based on a very distinctively spiced Swedish Old Tom gin, made with the addition of honey. It is paired with red vermouth and orange bitters and topped with a spray of orange oil. Of course, Gin and Tonic fanatics have also been catered for. But with 101 types of gin, they deliberately offer only two types of classic, high-quality Indian tonic, to keep the gin as it was conceived. 

Cocktail-inspired dishes

The menu, which debuts this week, is essentially inspired by the flavors of gin and cocktails. “I cooperate with Márk, either I come up with a dish and he comes up with a drink, or vice versa. The question we asked ourselves at the beginning was how to bring the flavors of cocktails into street food. Fortunately, we have a lot of ingredients that we can use perfectly, such as juniper, rose or hibiscus,” said chef Ádám Cser about the fusion cuisine, which has Asian, American and Hungarian influences. For example, the pickles and fried pickles, which carry the flavor notes of their main sponsor, Hendrick’s. Ádám made a Negroni cocktail-flavored mayonnaise for this and sprinkled rose petals in its coat. It’s this kind of diversity and fusion of styles that permeates the whole concept of the Gin Corner, which is reflected in both the interior and the food and drink menu. It’s also reinforced by the fact that, while gin is clearly the superstar, other alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks are equally available to ensure that there really is something for everyone.

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Photos: Dani Gaál

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