Having attended The Gin Society’s first event back in February, I was super excited to be able to go to their second and final event for the year, the Prohibition Dinner, which advertised a three-course meal, six gin and tonics and plentiful entertainment for £70 per ticket.
I was, I have to admit, a little apprehensive about the theme. At GinSoc’s first event, the theme of botanical was fairly easy to achieve with a multitude of dresses to browse through when “floral” was typed into the search bar of ASOS. But, the idea of trying to find an even remotely 1920s outfit – especially at short notice, if you had, like me, forgotten – was a little daunting, and I was worried I would look either completely out of place or way too enthusiastic. However, everyone had made an effort to a similar degree, with guests striking the perfect balance of 1920s with a modern edge. The dress code, although a little fiddly, really made all the difference to the event, bringing a real 20s vibe to the night which was only further enhanced by the jazz band and casino.
The GinSoc really had chosen the perfect venue for the Prohibition Dinner. With the dinner itself taking place in Lower College Hall, guests were seated around circular tables of 10. Each guest had a drink awaiting them when they arrived to start dinner (much to my delight), with the lights dimmed and the tables decorated without being too in-your-face, complementing the idea of paring back the raucous fun of parties in the face of prohibition. This was completely juxtaposed the afterparty upstairs which was completely inundated with fairy lights and decorations. GinSoc really made the most of their venue to go all-out on the theme.
Although the majority of guests attended in groups of 10 to make up a table, GinSoc also had a few social tables, where guests who had not been able to find a full table of 10 but still wanted to attend were mixed with other guests, including people who they wouldn’t necessarily have met before. Toby and Jonah Lowenstein had highlighted this to me prior to the event, especially since I was on one. I thought it was a really good concept but for me, it didn’t quite work out as the three seats to my left remained unoccupied so I had no option to mingle with new people, but I can see how it would have worked otherwise.
GinSoc really went above and beyond for the amount and variety of entertainment at this event. Upon arrival, guests were able to drink in a jazz-filled setting with their first two gins, with the jazz continuing throughout the meal as well. There was even a magician who wandered from table to table performing (mind-blowing!) card tricks, as well as a big finale piece involving swallowing needles (I know!). After dinner, the jazz group grew to a 20-piece big band who played a mixture of well-known jazz pieces and jazz arrangements of bangers by the likes of Smashmouth and Lady Gaga, both with and without a singer, which transitioned very well into the DJ set which really got people dancing. The vodka luge also made a return, which had proved to be a huge hit at the last event, and I hope at many more in the future! Guests had been provided with fake casino money that could be used to play blackjack and roulette, with the winners taking home full bottles of gin as prizes. It was an absolute asset to GinSoc to have such a great range of things to do throughout the evening, ensuring nobody got bored.
Of all the elements of the evening, I think dinner was probably the most disappointing, although still good enough. The starter – sweet potato and coconut soup – was the best dish by far. For main, the vegetarian option of tomato and lentil stew was a little more interesting than the chicken with veggies and potatoes for meat eaters. The dessert, cheesecake, was incredibly pretty to look at, but a little plain again. For an event that was £70 a ticket, it would have been nice to see the choice of food be a little more interesting, but the portion sizes were perfect.
And of course, the drinks! This time, Toby and Jonah had a much more personal engagement with the drinks that we were all served. To begin with, six gins felt like quite a lot, especially as someone who isn’t the greatest fan of gin following my 18th, but they were well spaced out, with two upon arrival, one with every course and a final one to start the afterparty, meaning that by the time I’d finished one in a comfortable amount of time, the next one was ready and waiting. I loved that the garnishes were not so typical and that they were paired so well with the food, making for a really sophisticated and well-thought-through dinner.
It’s a credit to GinSoc that they listened to criticism from their Maiden Event and were able to noticeably improve their next one. I was SO pleased to see bins available to dispose of used cups (a minor detail I know, but have you ever tried to Charleston while holding a paper cup?), and the music, which was my other negative point from their first event, was perfectly anticipated for the theme as well as ensuring the interest of the guests. They were also sensitive to the fact that not everyone wants to drink gin all evening, offering the normal range of other drinks at the bar and also as table service.
I think opinions would be fairly unanimous that the £70 ticket was worth it. Despite it being a fair dent into anybody’s bank account for a single evening, GinSoc ensured that everyone got at least their money’s worth in food and drinks, let alone with the added extra of the huge range of entertainment across the evening. I think that GinSoc is providing the shake-up that St Andrews events needed: the value for money is unmatched, whilst the amount of entertainment packed in is astonishing. The good news is that the events are only likely to get bigger and better as GinSoc gathers experience and fans who are eager for the next gin-themed instalment of a better night out in St Andrews. I can’t wait to see where they’ll go next.