Unless you’ve been walking around with your eyes and ears closed, you’ll notice that Luxembourg has a thing for gin. Balloon glasses, garnishes, and Fever Tree abound in the fanciest restaurants right down to the tiniest bar on the corner.
Not content with importing from Belgium, the Netherlands, Spain, Portugal and the UK, Luxembourg itself is making a splash on the craft gin market with a small but growing gin distilling movement – Opyos (notes of blossoms, bitter and honey), Ginix (botanical), Gruber’s and Mansfeld to name a few.
But where will serve you up the best G&T experience? Well, in our opinion it’s an artful melange of setting, selection, and mixology perfection. It’s been thirsty work, but we can bring you the Luxembourg locales that know their Fentiman’s from their Fever Tree, their balloon glasses from their botanicals, and their pink peppercorns from their (likely) pink-cheeked clientele. Please give a round of applause to the following:
For the setting – Mi Garba, 2 Montée de Clausen, 1343 Luxembourg
Hands down, the finest view in Luxembourg. Seated on Mi Garba’s terrace, looking out over the Alzette and across the Grund, the whoosh of the weir beneath and the ring of church bells rolling across the valley, you need only one thing to complete the picture – an ice-cold gin and tonic. Owner Stefano, who opened the restaurant just over one year ago, very sensibly asks that you accompany your drink with a meal from their Tuscan-inspired menu (no great trial), so you can sip your gin with a selection of authentic Tuscan coppa, young and aged pecorino and beignets, followed by succulent Tuscan bisteca, tagliata or other choice from their short but highly-curated menu. The wine list isn’t bad, either.
We drank Buss No 509 Pink Grapefruit Gin with aromatic rose tonic water, garnished with pink peppercorns and star anise.
For obsessives – Um Plateau, 6 Plateau Altmuenster, 1123 Luxembourg
Fancy, very fancy. Um Plateau prides itself upon its seasonal and innovative menu, but few would know this also extends to a fabulous gin selection – and we mean fabulous – they had sixty different bottles at their highest count. We selected from a ring binder of options (Um Plateau’s varied and changing gin selection means they cannot be accommodated in a traditional menu), guided by super-knowledgeable bar staff who then carry all the ingredients (including gin bottle) to your table and serve you up with ceremonial flourish. This is the place in Luxembourg to really learn about gin. Did you know, for example, there is a gin (Dutch newbie, Hermit) which is best drunk with oysters? Or that Italian gin Monsieur del Professore is THE gin to use in a negroni? You’ll try it at Um Plateau first.
We drank Belgian gin HAVN CPH Copenhagen with Fever Tree, garnished with peppercorn and dill, and British gin Old English with Fever Tree Elderflower, garnished with lime peel, grapes and cardamom. And two Monsieur del Professore negronis.
For after work – Metropolitan, 35 Rue du Fort Elisabeth, 1463 Luxembourg
All right, with tram works underway throughout Place de Paris, Metropolitan’s view cannot rival Mi Garba’s, but this buzzy after work joint’s west-facing spot means that office workers can bask in the evening sun right until it dips behind Paname (incidentally, another mean gin and tonic), opposite. This Spanish-style bar opened two years ago, dosing up a robust selection of gins (all the old favourites of Hendricks, Tanqueray, mixed with newbies like Marcula), each with its accompanying garnish (hibiscus flower anyone?) and Fever Tree. For those that are serious about their gins, the glasses vary too, and the ice is of the slow-melt, large-cube variety. No watery gins here!
We drank Gin Mare with thyme garnish and Fever Tree, and Hendricks with cucumber garnish and Fever Tree.
For the space – Rotondes, Place des Rotondes, 2448 Luxembourg
If you want hipster cool, acres of space to stretch out your lycra-clad legs, plus a gin and tonic, then please look no further than Luxembourg’s iconic converted railway roundhouses. On the terrace at Rotondes you can sit, lie, run, climb (there’s a second terrace above the buvette) on a variety of sun loungers, picnic benches, or even ex-fairground vintage car. Unfortunately, in true hipster style, Rotondes couldn’t spare their head barman for a five minute chat when we called, or when we called again, or when he was asked to telephone, or when we turned up in person…but don’t let that put you off. Rotondes offers a slug of fantastic local Luxembourgish gin Opyos mixed beautifully, as well as a few other crafty numbers. And the guy who brought them out to us was really nice.
We drank Opyos dry gin with Fever Tree and garnished with orange peel.
Go Ten, 10 Rue du Marché-aux-Herbes, 1728 Luxembourg
It would be indecent to write an article about gin and tonic terraces in Luxembourg without mentioning Go Ten, the Luxembourgish institution which has put gin and tonic at the heart of everything it does. Go Ten has a specialist gin menu, categorised by herbal/earthy, spiced, floral sweet and dry citrus, into which it crams more than thirty six gins, a ‘gin of the week’ and a ‘gin cocktail of the week’ (Strawberry Wasabi Martini made with sake, red fruit, Matterhorn gin, yuzo, and wasabi, in case you’re interested). Unusually, it is one of the few places with the confidence to branch away from Fever Tree and serve Finnish (Arctic) and Lixir (UK) tonics with its gins. And all right, Go Ten’s terrace can be described as more ‘buzzy’ (situated on the busy Rue du Marche-aux-Herbes) than ‘spacious’, but the outdoor heaters, footfall and fun of the summer’s evening makes it the perfect place to spot and be spotted.
We drank Matterhorn Belgian gin with Fever Tree Mediterranean, garnished with smoked pine tree (set alight, placed in glass, smoke captured) and Sharish Magic Blue Gin from Portugal, with Fever Tree Mediterranean, garnished with raspberry and ginger.