We’ve got artisan breads, Lebanese baklava, locally brewed beer, organic fish, and Portuguese cheeses, hell, we’ve even got two tattoo parlours, and yet for a long time I was under the illusion that Kentish Town lacked a really good off license. Especially when on the hunt for ingredients to make a Negroni.
‘What do want Campari for?’ snorted the man in Oddbin’s (and yes, we know his wine selection is spot on.) If you can’t answer that question, I was about to retort, you shouldn’t be running a booze shop.
But I smiled sweetly and continued scouring the high street. Thankfully a last-minute tip-off led me to Drinker’s Paradise, the slightly crummy looking shop next to the vet on Prince of Wales Road, which enjoyed a moment of fame in Imelda May’s video for her classic ‘Kentish Town Waltz.‘
And don’t let the exterior fool you – Drinker’s Paradise is in fact a veritable Aladdin’s cave of booze, some of it seriously specialist. Highlights include the range of aperitifs and vermouths including Antica Formula, a sought-after Milanese vermouth (great in a Negroni) and the French aperitif Lillet (essential to James Bond’s favourite, a Martini Vesper), a wide range of liqueurs, American whiskies and rums, and a humungous selection of more than 200 bottled beers, ciders and perrys from Wales, Germany, China and beyond (and shortly the neighbouring Camden Brewery too) – oh, and also bitters. And they are lovely chaps to boot with a real passion for the subject.
So forget all those silly new year’s resolutions and get down there tout de suite to acquire a bottle of Campari. Once safely indoors, mix 25ml with equal parts sweet vermouth and gin, stir over ice, chuck in a slice of orange, and raise a Negroni to our ever-surprising manor.
Does anyone else have a great local off license we should know about?
Drinker’s Paradise, 129 Castlehaven Road, NW1 8SJ
Words & pics by Alice Lascelles