100 years of gin making in Menorca: Spanish gin, the old-fashioned way.

posted in: Gin of the month | 0

Most gin lovers have already heard of Gin Mare – probably the best known of the Spanish brands. But Spain, having changed the way the world thinks of gin, is now starting to discover a range of new gin brands to add to its traditional gin distilleries. This new attention is also helping to revive the fortunes of some older Spanish gin brands that have been around for a long time.

One of these is Gin Xoriguer, made by Destilerias Xoriguer on the tiny and beautiful island of Menorca, set like a glittering jewel in the beautiful Balearics – it’s the perfect setting for a gin and tonic.

Gin and Menorca – not something you would always connect, but there is a reason why this little distillery exists. In the mid-18th century, Menorca was briefly under Dutch and British rule and the locals were encouraged to make gin to keep the naval forces happy. At one stage, there were 5 distilleries on the island, producing a diverse range of gins, but now there’s just one.

In 1910, master distiller Miguel Gusto established a little distillery on the harbour front of Mahon and the Xoriguer distillery is still making 60,000 litres of Mahon gin every year along with a couple of budget gins and almost a dozen local island liqueurs.

This local gin doesn’t get much airplay outside of the island and is heavily juniper dominant. In fact, that’s the only botanical they use in their domestic version. The berries, hand picked from the Pyrenees, are stored in hampers for a couple of years to concentrate the oils before being macerated and added to the neutral grape based spirit.

While the ingredients and the process are simple and the product perhaps lacks some of the complexity of a Monkey 47 or a Silent Pool, it packs a big juniper punch with a hint of pine sap and a soft, oily palate. Peppery and with a hint of tobacco, it’s a great drink to sip on while watching the sun set over the Mediterranean, nibbling on local cheese and sucking on plump, juicy giant olives. Drink it with tonic, by all means. But to drink it like a local, have a “Pomada”, traditionally made by mixing the gin with freshly squeezed local lemon juice. And at only 38% ABV, you can afford to have a couple of them!

For more information, click here

The Laverstoke

posted in: Ginteresting cocktails | 0
© animam photography 2017

On a recent tour of the beautiful Bombay Sapphire distillery in Hampshire (highly recommended by the way!), I stumbled across the Laverstoke as one of my post-tour cocktail choices. It’s been my “go to” Summer drink ever since, because it combines some of my favourite ingredients including elderflower, lime, ginger and gin. Mixed together it is the lightest and most refreshing of summer cocktails. Perfect for sipping on a summer’s day overlooking the clear waters of the trout stream that flows swiftly under the amazing converted mill deep in the Hampshire countryside – now home to the Bombay Sapphire distillery (and one of the best and prettiest gin tours in the UK).

Here’s how to make one (courtesy of Bombay Sapphire’s head bartender, Sam Carter).

  • Squeeze 2 freshly cut lime wedges into a large copa (balloon) glass then drop in
  • Pour in 10 ml of Elderflower cordial
  • Add 15 ml of Martini Rosato vermouth
  • Pour in 50 ml of gin (preferably Bombay Sapphire!)
  • Fill glass completely with large ice cubes and stir well to chill
  • Pour ginger ale (or ginger beer) down a twisted bar spoon over the ice and gently stir cocktail at same time
  • Garnish with a snapped ginger slice and an awoken mint leaf
  • Sit back, put your feet up and enjoy…

For more of Sam’s delicious gin cocktail recipes (and info about the distillery tour) click here:

www.distillery.bombaysapphire.com

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5 types of gin: do you know the difference?

posted in: Gintriguing facts | 2
© animam photography 2017

Gin is gin. But is it?

We all love gin – that’s why we’re here. But do we know what gin really is? Can we spot the difference between London Dry and Old Tom? Do we know why you don’t add tonic to a Genever? Probably not.

So here’s a simple guide to the 5 most important types of gin.

Try them all, figure out your own personal gin style – and stock your cupboard accordingly. After all, where gin is concerned, variety is the spice of life…

Gin

The humble gin starts its journey as a neutral spirit, distilled from anything you like – grain, potatoes, milk, apples, all of these can start you on your gin journey. But to be classified as a gin, the resulting liquid has to have a juniper flavour and juniper must be the predominant taste. It must also have a minimum ABV of 37.5% (40% in the US). So, in theory, you could simply pop down to your local shop, pull a bottle of vodka from the shelf, add a handful of juniper berries and “Hey Presto!”

Within a few hours, you’ll have turned it into gin. Once you have the base in place, you can have some fun – add some flavourings, infuse it with berries, add some spice – and start sipping. Or you could stay “old school” and simply pour it over some ice add some tonic and drink away. Your call…

Distilled gin

This starts off as above, but with one important difference  – it has to be made using distilled botanicals. The juniper-based gin needs to be “re-distilled” with those carefully chosen botanicals to become a neutral spirit of at least 96% ABV (and water). Distilled gin is increasingly popular around the world, especially in the boutique distillery movement and includes well known brands such as Martin Miller’s and Hendricks who include add more  flavours once the distillation process is done.

London Dry gin

London Dry gin can be made anywhere in the world – it’s a style, not a geographical location. London Dry follows the same basic rules as a distilled gin (see above) but it must only be flavoured with distilled natural botanicals. Once the distillation process is over, that’s it. No further flavourings can be added after the distillation process except for neutral spirit, water and a maximum of 0.1g of sugar per litre. Popular brands include Beefeater, Tanqueray, Bombay Sapphire.

Old Tom gin

The precursor to London Dry gin, it’s the oldest style of English gin still produced today. Old Tom has no rules imposed on it by the EU or any other regulatory body, so it can vary widely in its tastes and flavours, but it is sweeter than some of its more well known rivals and makes itself very amenable to cocktails. It is still the favourite of bartenders around the world, who like its infinite variations and who respect its pedigree as one of the oldest forms of gin still being made. Old Tom is the staple ingredient of some amazing cocktails that go back as far as 100 years. It was out of fashion for a while, but it’s on a comeback as part of the gin revival and is now being made by small batch producers and big brands alike. Always good to keep a bottle of this in your cocktail cabinet. Some of the more successful brands of Old Tom include: Hayman’s Old Tom (40% ABV) and Jensen’s Old Tom (43% ABV). For more information about the fascinating history of Old Tom gin, read our blog post here.

Genever gin

The grandaddy of them all. Way before gin became associated with England, the Dutch created the original juniper based spirit. Also known as Jenever gin, Ginebra gin or Dutch gin, it must be produced in the Netherlands, Belgium or certain parts of France and Germany. There are two main types: Jonge Genever and Oude Genever. Jonge Genever is closest to London Dry and is made from neutral spirit and juniper with additional flavourings as desired. It can contain up to 10g of sugar and up to 15% of malt wine. Oude Genever should be made with malt wine, juniper and other botanical flavourings as well as neutral spirits. Sometimes it is matured in casks to provide colour and flavour. Flagship brands include Bols and Genevieve Genever.

What’s your favourite type of gin and why?

 

 

Barcelona in a bottle

posted in: Gin of the month | 0

Barcelona – the capital of gin and one of the design centres of the world. Think Gaudí, Miró, Picasso, Tàpies and more, Barcelona is a design classic. It’s so laid back, they even named a chair after it, so why wouldn’t they name a gin?

Barcelona GINRAW isn’t actually made in the city of Barcelona but in a little town down the coast called Vilafranca del Penedes by four avant garde, Barcelona-born entrepreneurs with a real passion for their city. Either way, this gin is a design classic that deserves its place in your cocktail cabinet, for looks alone. This 42.3 ABV gin packs a reasonable punch and its bottle and label will make you look twice.

The striking design is a tall, thinnish bottle with a curved necknad a subtly frosted exterior, topped by an extra wide ash wood cap, covered by a subtle metal band. The label is a trendy sideways one and a little leather tag on the neck gives it that extra edge in the style stakes. But gin isn’t just for looking at, it’s for tasting as well, so what’s this one like?

Distilled at low temperature in a traditional copper still it’s made in small batches of 5000 (my bottle is labelled 953 out of the first batch they produced!)

The labels describes it as a gastronomic gin and claims a low temperature distillation process to make the most of the botanicals inside, which include lemon peel, kaffir lime, laurel leaves, black cardamon and coriander seeds. This mix delivers a citrus twang and the notes from the spices such as the smokey black cardamon and coriander lifts it from the ordinary.

Serve this with some ground black pepper, a generous slice of lemon or maybe even some burned rosemary to give it an extra Mediterranean twist. Sit back, pour into a long glass, add your favourite tonic water and ice, garnish to taste – and drink. You’ll love this on a hot summer night in Barcelona – and it will add an extra element of style to your gin cabinet. Enjoy!!

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Vive la France!

posted in: Gin of the month | 2

France and gin are not two words that you’d often put together. But the land of the grape is starting to make some pretty decent gins including the well known Citadelle and the delicious G-Vine, but here’s one you might not have heard of. Introducing Saffron Gin, imported by Gabriel Boudier from Dijon.

Dijon is more known for its mustard than its saffron, but these guys have they’ve infused one of the most distinctive and expensive ingredients in the world into a beautiful old school bottle to give the gin a golden colour more suited to a scotch whiskey or an Irn Bru than a simple gin. The result: an unusual gin, probably best for a special occasion to impress your friends rather than as a cocktail cabinet staple.

Gabriel Boudier have been making Cassis in the French countryside since 1874, and you can see that in the bottle.

But why France and gin?

For many years, the French and the British had competing interests in the Indian subcontinent, especially in Southern Indian cities such as Pondicherry. Somewhere in that period exotic spices started turning up in France, the culinary centre of the world, and some of these recipes were recently discovered into the Boudier archive and were resurrected to make this startling gin. The look is dramatic and the saffron is quite forward and gives the gin a dry, savoury taste which dominates any tonic water. In addition to the Saffron other botanicals in the mix include Juniper, Coriander, Lemon, Orange Peel, Iris, Angelica seeds and Fennel. When mixed, it takes on a golden colour but despite its unusual history, I like it as an occasional drink and it’s complex enough to be drunk “on the rocks”. It’s only 40% ABV, so it’s not a heavy hitter in the alcohol department, but as a curiosity and a talking point, it’s well worth a go.

http://www.boudier.com/gamme/gin/

Anyone for Pimm’s?

posted in: Ginteresting cocktails | 0

There’s nothing more delicious on an English summer day than a long, refreshing jug of Pimms, served with lemonade, ice, mint, cucumber, sliced oranges and lemons and poured over a pile of ice cubes. It is the drink of Wimbledon and Ascot, Henley Regatta and the Chelsea Flower Show – but it’s at its best in your back garden on a (rare) English summer’s day. So why is it so hard to find in the land of Sangria and Tinto Verano? Well maybe that’s just it – there are so many established alternatives in Spain, so why should they bother with an English version off what they already do well?

I’ll tell you why – because its got gin in it and it’s absolutely delicious.

So what is it and how did it come about?

The original Pimms was invented in 1840 by James Pimm of London town. He was a restaurant owner with several establishments across the city and experimented by blending gin with liqueurs, spices and other special ingredients, which he then served in pint tankards. It proved so popular with his customers, that he saw an opportunity and he took it. He started bottling his concoction and his customers loved it. That began a great British love affair with this delicious, easy to drink gin-based spirit.

Shortly after the bottling started, so di the journey of Pimms itself. One of its first ever shipments was to the Galle Face hotel (I was there earlier this year and I can vouch for the fact that there can be no finer place in the world to sip it than on the verandah of this classic colonial, eating a fine curry and gazing out at the Indian Ocean). In 1898, a shipment of Pimms was sent up the Nile by boat to Sudan. Its mission: to help to quench the thirst of the forces who were digging in to defend Khartoum. I can only imagine General Gordon having a last glass of Pimms before his last stand at the Battle of Omdurman guaranteed his place in the history books forever.

Since then, Pimms has gone from strength to strength and a number of different Pimms Cups are now available including Pimms No. 2 (based on scotch); Pimms No. 3 (based on rum); Pimms No. 4 (based on rye whiskey); and Pimms No. 5 (based on vodka). But the Daddy of them all is still Pimms No.1 and it stll tastes of Summer.

Hard to find in Barcelona, but availabe at Colmado Quilez

Classic Pimm’s No. 1 Cup recipe

Mix 1 part Pimm’s No. 1 with three parts sparkling lemonade

Add strawberries, cucumber, mint and orange to a large jug

Pour the concoction over ice into a long glass (or a tankard)

Garnish to taste.

Enjoy.

Thank you, Mr. Pimm.

A very refreshing recipe for the summer

posted in: Cooking with gin | 0
Photo by Puk Khantho on Unsplash

The dog days of Summer are here and we’re sure that the gins are already out and the ice cubes are stacking up in the freezer. But sometimes, just drinking gin isn’t enough. What if you could eat it?

Never fear, your dreams have just come true.

So, as the temperature climbs, why not cool down with some delicious gin & tonic ice cream.

Here’s one of our favourite recipes for you to try out at home (in 5 easy steps).

Give it a whirl and let us know what you think. You could even stick a couple of flakes in the top and pretend it’s just a 99 from Mr. Whippy (although you may not fool your friends, who will all want to try this cool G&T treat!)

 

5 steps to a perfect G&T ice cream

  1. Pour one cup of sugar directly into a mixing bowl, then add 2 tablespoons of lemon juice, 125ml of tonic water and 3 tablespoons of gin
  2. Stir all ingredients together until they start to dissolve
  3. Pour in 600ml of cream
  4. Whip it good! Beat the cream with a whisk until it thickens up like a decent milkshake (think McDonald’s). Try not to over do the whipping!
  5. Transfer the contents into a freezer-proof container and allow to freeze.

It really is as easy as that – so whip some up for your friends and relatives and let us know what you think of the ultimate summer cooler! And don’t forget to share all your photos on our fabulous instagram pages. #barcelonagincommunity #ginstagram #gin ice cream #gin&tonicicecream

 

Recommendation: Any gin will do for this recipe, but we recommend Bertha’s Revenge from Ireland (see Gin of the Month). This gin is rich and creamy (just as well since it’s made fermented from real Irish milk). The perfect base for a gin ice cream. Thank you, Bertha!

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A stairway to heaven

posted in: Gin is in the air | 0
Photo from Leonardo for Tripadvisor

Last week we paid a visit to one of our favourite roof terraces in Barcelona. Hidden on the top floor of the stylish 3* Hotel Yurbban on Carrer Trafalgar, just tucked away at the back of Plaça Urquinaona, is one of Barcelona’s hidden gems. Take the lift from the lobby to the 8th floor (you’ll need to ask the concierge to swipe his card) and follow the small sign on the door that says: “Stairway to Heaven” and you’ll emerge at one of the best rooftops in Barcelona, with a stunning view and drinks at a price you can afford. The spectacular 360º panorama take in the whole city, with no obstructions. In front of you, gaze over the medieval patchwork  of roofs that make up the Gothic Quarter and El Born and look out at the beautiful Mediterranean sea and the boats and ferries heading slowly out to Mallorca, Ibiza and beyond. Pan left and watch the Torre Mapfre all lit up for the evening and over your shoulder, gaze at the stunning spires of the Sagrada Familia. Keep your gaze rolling and watch the sun setting over the stunning monastery of Tibidabo on the top of Barcelona’s majestic mountain.

Then, take in the Ramblas, the rooftops of Raval and St. Antoni and Poble Sec and spot tthe Olympic stadium and the imposing castle of Montjuic, guarding the city for hundreds of years. Quite a view – and if you get there at sunset when the sky explodes into a riot of dramatic orange you’ll realise you’re in a very special place.

And what’s the bar like? Very nice indeed. There’s a small rooftop pool (roped off for hotel guests only) and al selection of cabanas, couches and tabletops to perch on as you sip your drinks.  While not a specialist gin bar, there are plenty of gin drinks available for your drinking pleasure including (on our visit) Tanqueray Ten, Hendricks and Gin Mare. Several interesting looking gin cocktails also appear on the list including a suspicious looking plastic bag, all wrapped up with a ribbon and containing a red concoction that tasted truly delicious. It was called a Barcelona Iced Tea – and if memory serves me correctly it was made of gin, ginger, elderflower. A truly scrumptious cocktail with a nice fiery kick (in all senses of the word!) Tonic water was standard Schweppes and the service was a bit slow and chaotic, but all in all, one of our favourite spots in Barcelona. Small, intimate, casual and unpretentious. With views to die for!

But please, don’t tell anyone. It’s our secret, right?

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Barcelona’s cocktail corner

posted in: Gin walks | 0

 

On Barcelona’s cocktail corner, you could be forgiven for think you’ve just entered a time machine and ended up in the sophisticated 1930s (with the occasional time warp nod to the 1970s). This is without doubt the high end of Barcelona’s cocktail scene complete with white jacketed waiters, sophisticated cocktail bars and even a hidden Speakeasy.

Within a few hundred feet, you will find easy access to some of the coolest places in town for a quiet drink, a romantic liaison or just a casual encounter over your favourite gin-based beverage.

So, purely in the interests of science, we thought we’d try them out and let you know what we think:

Dry Martini

A Barcelona classic and often appearing in the top 10 lists of best bars in the world, this is like stepping back in time. The bar is a decent size with panelled walls, leather chairs and banquettes, a long bar, retro and classic artwork and a jazzy, 1930s vibe. As the name suggests, it has become famous because of its excellent Dry Martinis (gin is best, obviously) and they even have a digital counter clocking up in real time every Dry Martini they have served.

Waiters are in white jackets, food is of the elegant tapas variety and prices match the salubrious atmosphere. In addition to their classic martinis, they have a good selection of gins served up in classic tumblers with Schweppes Premium tonic water as standard.

The clientele is generally well heeled – but on the night of our visit, there was a mixture of affluent locals, curious tourists and cocktail fanatics sitting at the bar.

This place gets busy, especially later – so get there early for a seat. Service can be a bit patchy but if you’re patient, you’ll be rewarded with a well-made G&T, a classic evening and a great cocktail. And if you’re in the mood and can get a table, try out the Speakeasy restaurant, hidden behind a door in the panelled wall. Another connection to the 1930s.

Tanqueray 10. We started off the evening with a round of Tanqueray 10s served with tonic and garnished modestly with a thinly sliced lemon wheel and poured down a “gin spoon” over large lumps of cocktail ice.

This seemed like a good choice to start off with at Dry Martini, since it was specifically blended to go into one. But we thought we’d see what it works like in a normal G&T and we all thought they were excellent and set a good benchmark. All the G&Ts were bought to the table by the waiter and presented on a small tray, free poured direct to the glass and with a decent measure of gin in each.

We all agreed that it was a great way to start the evening. Also, Tanqueray 10 was especially created as the perfect gin for a Dry Martini, so we were in the right place and were delighted with the citrus notes, the lime and grapefruit and the heavy juniper, all balanced nicely with the creaminess of the chamomile and the savoury notes from the coriander. Afterwards, we ordered a round of different gins, some of which we had never tried or heard of before. Here are our thoughts:

The Foxtrot – This was the most refreshing and aromatic of our drinks, and what made it special was the roof of frozen tonic and lime that brought out the citrus notes of orange and grapefruit and the powerful lime zestiness. As we drank it, the lime came through loud and clear and for some of us it had notes of mojito, for others it was a bigger hit of lime, similar to a gimlet, which receded after the ice had started to melt, resulting in a better balanced and blended drink that retained its characteristic citrus sharpness. Either way, it was delicious and one of our favourites of the evening.

Star of Bombay – Bombay Sapphire’s flagship gin, like the others, was poured at the table with great fanfare and it ended up being one of our favourites of the evening. Served in the standard Dry Martini tumblers with plenty of ice, it was also (bizarrely) served with a single chocolate (courtesy of the marketing team at Bombay Sapphire). This was a mistake and didn’t seem to go with the gin at all. We picked up a saltiness to this gin (alongside the citrussy taste) which just didn’t work with the gimmicky chocolate), but we concluded that this gin would be delicious on a hot summers day, sipping slowly at a little chiringuito or beach bar on the nearby Med.

Porte des Indes – This was the most disappointing of the gins we tried at Dry Martini. While it received the same presentational treatment as the others, it lacked any distinctive flavour and competed with the Schweppes tonic water for taste. It was also slightly less carbonated than the other drinks (maybe a result of the stirring at the table) and the overall impression was to make the drink taste like diet tonic had been added to it. Won’t be rushing back for this one (but their strawberry version is delicious!)

Bloomsbury – not bad at all, but definitely not the best that we’ve had this evening. Made by Tanqueray, it is the latest of their Limited-Edition gins and to us it felt like it was tangy, dry, citrussy with floral notes that smelled almost like lavender. The angelica bark, cassia and juniper add some woody notes to the small, but when added to the Schweppes tonic water, it became almost piny with a pleasant bitterness that lasted until the bottom of the glass.

No gin list.

Note: Dry Martini also run a cocktail school and have opened the Dry Martini terrace next door, so sign up if you’re interested in knowing their tricks and secrets.

http://www.drymartiniorg.com/

Solange

Right across the street from Dry Martini is one of the latest additions to the cocktail scene in Barcelona. Solange sits on the opposite corner, looking out at its more well-known neighbour. But this place is cosy, intimate, jazzy and sophisticated (in a sort of 1970s, chicken Kiev kind of way). The gin selection is awesome and features prominently on their bar display with some established brands and some more unusual ones all waiting there, tempting you to try them out.

Speak to the head bartender and you’ll find he has history (some of the Savoy bar staff popped in to check things out on my last visit there), this is a classic place with a growing reputation and while it might be trying too hard for some people’s tastes, it’s ideal for a pre-dinner drink or a post-dinner nightcap (or frankly anything in between). One thing is for sure, this is a place that takes real pride in every drink they pour. And it shows.

Talk to the knowledgeable staff about any cocktail and they’ll happily share their insight and knowledge with you while offering handy tips about things to do in Barcelona. This is probably my favourite bar in town. It’s not cheap, but worth every penny if you want a sophisticated haven to escape the Barcelona heat in the Summer or for a warming drink in the winter.

Il Gin del Professore Monsieur/Madame (The Professor) – this was dry, citrussy with notes of lemon peel and it tasted like a proper gin. It had a slightly bitter edge, which reminded us of lime marmalade or bitter orange. It was Juniper dominant and after a few sips, its spicy, aromatic side came through which worked well with the cardamom camomile, cinnamon and vanilla. Soft, with jammy feel in the mouth, we loved it Delicious.

Old Raj – This was a classic gin with loads of botanicals, including juniper, citrus, coriander, cassia. It had a slight golden tint delivered by a hint of saffron. Served with a twist of lemon rind, it was slightly bitter but we felt it lacked some of the structure and complexity of other gins available. All in all, it was a bit disappointing bitter die to its lack of depth and neutral flavour balance.

Tandem

This was the last classic cocktail bar on our list but it was definitely last but not least. In fact, all four of us (and I swear it wasn’t just the gin kicking in!) looked at each other and said it was our favourite.

With some of the classic pedigree of Dry Martini, but less of the slightly tourist touristy vibe of Solange, this felt like it was an old school cocktail bar that has got it just about right. A long bar, 1930s artwork and atmospheric lighting add to the art deco mood and while we weren’t able to access a menu, their gin selection is extensive and they know their stuff.

Our waitress guided us to the gin wall where we selected 4 gins that we had never tried before and we were delighted with the results. The crowd was low key and happy and it felt like this was tapping into the local neighbourhood for many of its customers. Classy and full of charm, this is the bee’s knees, the top banana and the dog’s bollocks all rolled into one.

You get the feeling that this place is the sort of place you stumble across once and then make a pilgrimage time and time again to get more. The music was low key, the crowd were chilled out and the bar staff were the most knowledgeable.

While Dry Martini felt like it had become a bit of a business and might be resting on its reputation, and Solange looks like it’s parked its tanks on the lawn opposite to stake its claim and build its reputation, the easy ambiance and relaxed vibe of Tandem felt like we’d discovered the real deal. Definitely our top pick for a classic cocktail bar and one of the best places to drink gin in Barcelona.

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Bertha’s Revenge Gin: gin made from milk!!

posted in: Gin of the month | 1

In our relentless quest to find the most unusual and interesting gins from around the world, let me introduce you to Bertha and tell you a story about her revenge. Bertha was a lovely cow from the beautiful green fields of Co. Kerry in Ireland. She lived a happy life, chomping her way through the famous green grass of her homeland and was so well looked after that she lived to the ripe old age of 48. By the time she passed on to chomp on the Elysian fields, she had become the world’s oldest cow and gave birth to a staggering 39 calves over her lifetime.

She became a living legend in Ireland and her memory now lives on in Bertha’s Revenge, a fantastic, flavour packed small batch gin made by the Ballyvolane House Spirits Company, who have honoured her existence by creating a unique Irish gin made from (wait for it…) MILK.

Using whey alcohol from Irish dairy farmers, and incorporating a formidable mix of locally foraged and grown botanicals including many of the usual suspects (and some unusual ones such as sweet woodruff, elderflower, almond) alongside other listed ingredients such as “love”, “laughter” and “childish enthusiasm”, this is a delicious drink full of complex flavours. But don’t try pouring it on your cornflakes, since it packs a decent punch at 42% ABV.

But all the clever marketing in the world can’t disguise a bad gin, so what’s it like?

We had a little gathering to find out and in a blind test of 4 of our favourite small batch gins, this was our runaway favourite with a unanimous 4 out of 4 tasters making it their top choice.

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The Singapore Sling

posted in: Ginteresting cocktails | 0
©2017 animam photography

This classic cocktail was invented in Singapore’s Raffles Hotel where it started off as a Straits Sling. However, this appeared a little too dry for the contemporary taste buds, so the head bartender decided to sweeten it up a bit. Kirsch was replaced with cherry brandy and the drink was lengthened to make it more refreshing. The result – one of the most famous gin-based cocktails in the world, ready to refresh your taste-buds on a hot day and transport you to a fan cooled veranda on a hot and humid Singapore day. Aaaah. I can taste it now.

How to make it at home:

30ml of gin

30 ml of Benedictine

30 ml of fresh lime juice

60 ml of soda water

A dash of Angostura bitters

Build the first 4 ingredients in a tall ice-filled glass, then stir, top up with soda water and add the bitters.

For a spicy twist on the classic recipe, replace soda water with ginger beer or ginger ale, sit back and pretend you’re in Singapore.

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Gin Sling?

posted in: Gintriguing facts | 0
Photo by Mike Enerio on Unsplash

So, what exactly is a Gin Sling?

We’re not talking broken arms or hammocks here. The Sling is one of the best things to do with your gin and it’s been around for ages. A “sling” drink started out in 18th century America as a long alcoholic drink, composed of spirit and water, sweetened and flavoured and served cold.

But it took a Hainanese bartender called Ngiam Tong Boon to make it famous when he was working at The Long Bar at Raffles Hotel. One day, some time before 1915, he decided to create a drink for his colonial clients at the famous hotel bar.

It was originally simply called the “Gin Sling” but as its fame developed, local ingredients such as the juice of Sarawak pineapples was added and word of this delicious concoction soon spread across the empire.

Sometime around 1930, it took its current name, the “Singapore Sling” and the recipe settled based on the memories of the hotels bartenders until eventually it was listed in the Savoy Cocktail book and became the classic cocktail that it now is.

Over the years, it has had many incarnations with many variations on the original recipe

The most well-known is the Singapore Sling but variations are plentiful and include the Gin Sling, the Singapore Sling, the Straits Sling (a punch version that can serve up to 6 people).

We love a bit of history and folklore and this is a great story, redolent of classic colonial Singapore. Mix one up and let us know what you think…

The Cotton House Barcelona

posted in: Gin is in the air | 0
Photo by Zeny Rosalina on Unsplash

Following our colonial theme, try out the roof terrace at the Cotton House hotel for a classic colonial vibe, sipping a nice G&T looking up at the rooftops of Barcelona. We went there on a recent early Summer evening and swept up the grand staircase towards the lift, which whisked us up to their classic roof terrace where we ordered a round of classic and unusual gins and soaked up the atmosphere…

Despite a slow start to service, the terrace itself is a hidden treasure, full of colonial ambiance with cane chairs and hanging flowers. We went in for dinner (the most amazing pop up Indian restaurant by Atul Kulchar) before returning after dinner to try another round of G&Ts chosen from their reasonable selection of gins.

Verdict: lovely atmosphere and ambiance in a stunning hotel. Only let down by confused and disorganised service and very expensive drinks (although I guess that should be expected at a 5 star hotel on one of the main streets in Barcelona). We would return, for the atmosphere, not for the service.

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Born again walk

posted in: Gin walks | 0
DUX Borne © 2017 animam photography

El Born is one of the most interesting areas of Barcelona. Originally an extension of the more famous Barrio Gotico next door, it is a maze of twisty atmospheric medieval streets and alleys reeking with atmosphere (like its cousin next door) but with less tourists and shops and more bars and restaurants. The perfect place for a short gin walk. We tried 4 bars on a Friday night, all within a few minutes walk of each other and all with a completely different vibe.

DuxBCN

This bar is tucked away on a side street in El Born, very close to Jaume I metro station and just off the busy Via Laietana. DuxBCN is a modern twist on an old school cocktail bar and serves a good range of standard and hard to find gins at reasonable prices. It also has a range of interesting infused gins and (perhaps with a nod to the Roca brothers or Heston Blumenthal), even serves some gins infused with smoke at the table under glass jars. A comfortable, civilised, stylish bar with excellent and helpful bar staff, this one is well worth a try (and a great place to start your evening).

Most gins were in the 8-14 euro range.

The vibe was cozy, vintage modern, quirky, jazzy with nice details such as a working piano (for their regular jazz evenings), a beautiful collection of lead soldiers in an illuminated case, and a fireplace with framed paintings of cartoon dogs.

Drinks were strong, well presented and served in large “copa” style balon glasses with 4 big ice cubes and well garnished to enhance the botanicals of each gin

Service was good (and prompt), our bartender, Angel was charming and explained all the options, made the drinks and even served them at our table.

They also organise regular live jazz/swing music evenings, guest bartenders, themed events and have daily/weekly specials.

Rubi Bar

Just a few blocks down the road is Rubi, unassuming from the outside but this place picks up once you get inside with a long crowded bar, exposed brick walls draped with red velvet curtains and ambient lighting to give it a clubby feel. We got there at 10pm on a Friday night and it was already packed (but it was pouring with rain outside which might have had something to do with it)

Gins were between 7 and 9 euros, the place was loud and filled with a young crowd (early 30s) and mostly English speakers ex-pats and a few visiting tourists and some cozy couples

Vibe, buzzy, pre-club atmosphere, more girls than guys – more like a party bar that serves gin than a specialist gin bar.

They offered between 30 and 50 different gins ranging from exotic foreign gins to locally produced brands – they also have their own Rubi gin brand available for only 7 euros a glass.

The busy staff behind the bar did the best to keep up with the crowds  demands

Other – loud and crowded, 70s R&B pumping out from the speakers at volume. A great place to go for a late night drink or to top up before hitting the clubs. They also serve a limited range of basic tapas to help to soak up the booze. Not really a gin bar (despite the vast range of gins, most people were drinking something else). Also, please note that at the time of our visit, they did not accept credit cards, so bring cash.

Paradiso

Stagger a few blocks down the road to find Paradiso, a cool and stylish bar with a modernist “speakeasy” vibe and a sophisticated but quirky style. The front of the bar is a small tiled pastrami shop with a few stools at the counter. But  look to your left and you’ll see a closed door and if the doorman lets you in, you enter another world. A stunning curved wooden ceiling pays homage to modernism and the place is buzzing with an eclectic mix of customers in their 30s and 40s all obviously having a great time. The soundtrack is sexy laidback house music and the vibe is buzzy but chilled. Plus, you can get their delicious pastrami sandwiches (served on rye bread with mustard and sauerkraut or if you prefer you could try their delicious pulled pork bagel) brought to your table. The pastrami is amazing, hand-smoked by local artisans direct from the Barcelona-based Rooftop Smokehouse – absolutely delicious.

http://www.rooftopsmokehouse.com/

The vibe here is cool, buzzy, sexy, sophisticated.

While they had a decent selection of gins it was nothing exceptional. Also a vast range of quirky cocktails served in teapots, jam jars, glass pipes and other unusual vessels.

Our gins were served in beautiful, large, vintage tumblers made of old fashioned cut glass to add a little extra style to our evening

Service was amazing. We were seated within 5 minutes, everyone was charming, helpful and attentive and we were even brought glasses of water before they took our order. They discreetly manage the steadily increasing volume of a group of guys seated next to us and despite bringing our food at different times (they were busy) they apologised to us twice and were instantly forgiven when the food arrived!

This has quickly become one of my favorite bars in Barcelona and I’ll be going back soon. I loved everything about it from the decor to the service to the drinks – and my pastrami sandwich was one of the best things I’ve eaten in a bar for years.

Collage

A quirky, cool, old style drinking bar with a sexy twist, we really like this place. Converted from what looks like two shops, its walls are filled with vintage 60s wallpaper, interesting wall art (for sale) and a cozy atmosphere created by clever use of indirect light. The bar serves standard gins such as Sipsmith, Citadelle, Bombay Sapphire and BCN Raw Gin (a delicious Catalan gin made locally), but they only had one tonic water available when we were there. The crowd were mostly in their 30s and were a bit more casual and laid back than at the other bars – you got the sense that for many of them this was a regular hangout. Despite this, we were able to quickly get a table for 4 on the mezzanine upstairs, with a view of the hipster bartenders doing their thing downstairs.

 

The vibe was quirky hipster, casual and laid back “vintage” style (with a dash of irony). Groovy elevator music was playing in the background (but this got more appealing as we drank our gins). It was quite loud and not easy to have a conversation but everybody seemed to be having a good time. Water was brought to our table when we sat down and while the waitress was polite and charming, she wasn’t that knowledgeable about gin and she couldn’t remember the name of the tonic water they served.

Drinks were served in IKEA style tumblers and garnished appropriately with fruits and spices. Well organised and the perfect place to end our evening. We’ll definitely be going back

Service was good, friendly, efficient. This is not technically a “specialist”gin bar and that was reflected in the service and product knowledge of the servers.

This place could be dangerous. I could see myself popping in and staying for a while or extending my evening with a nightcap or two. Felt like a local place with an honest approach and its “shabby chic” vibe felt instantly comfortable.

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The Aviation

posted in: Ginteresting cocktails | 0
© 2017 animam photography

 

A cocktail classic – simple to prepare with complex flavours. Created by Hugo Ensslin, head bartender at the Hotel Wallick in New York in the early 20th century, it was refined in the 1930s by Harry Craddock, head bartender of the Savoy, this classic gin cocktail has stood the test of time. Try it out and let us know what you think…

 30 ml of Old Tom Gin

20 ml of Maraschino

15 ml of fresh lemon juice

Shake all the ingredient together with ice and strain into a chilled martini glass.

Garnish with a cherry

 

Challenge: these are delicious. See if you can stop at one…

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About Old Tom gin

posted in: Gintriguing facts | 0

Gin has been around in different forms for a long time – but how much do you know of the history of your favourite drink? How did gin change the world? Which famous people liked a good G&T? Why did cats dispense gin to Londoners in the 18th century? Why was gin known as “mother’s ruin”?

All will be revealed in our regular Gin-triguing facts segment – updated every month with quirky and totally irrelevant Gin-formation that you can impress your friends with.

 

Gin dispensed by cats: When Captain Dudley Bradstreet wanted to avoid paying excessive taxes on his gin sales in 18th century London, he came up with a cunning plan. He nailed a wooden sign to his door in the shape of a cat with a little pipe hidden inside its paw. When customers put a coin inside the cat’s mouth, Captain Dudley would return the favour by pouring gin down the pipe directly into their outstretched cup. This became known as Old Tom gin after the Tomcat sign from whence it came.

Old Tom style gin is now back in fashion with its sweeter taste making it perfect for light and refreshing cocktails – so much so that the Dorchester Hotel in London recently commissioned its own unique Old Tom Gin especially for its signature cocktails including its most recent creation, a delicious Coriander and Lemongrass concoction whipped up by head bartender Giuliano Morandin.

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Gin is in the air – Gintastic terraces of Barcelona

posted in: Gin is in the air | 0
© wordpress

Where better to spend a summer’s day or evening than sitting in the open air on a roof terrace sipping your favourite gin concoction. And there’s no better place to do that than right here in Barcelona – justly famous for its stylish, cocktail swigging rooftop terraces. We promise to leave no stone unturned in our quest for the best (this research thing is so difficult!).

We’ll dedicate ourselves single mindedly to find the best places in Barcelona (and beyond) to sample your gins al fresco and report back to you every month with the best places to sip on a gin while taking in an extraordinary view of this stunning city.

Stay tuned, this could turn your entire summer around!

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Silent Pool Gin

posted in: Gin of the month | 0
© 2017 animam photography

Silent Pool Gin – April’s Legendary Gin of the Month

Hand made in small batches in the beautiful Surrey Hills, south of London, this is not only one of the tastiest gins we’ve tried recently, but it comes in one of the prettiest bottles we’ve ever seen.

It even has a 600 year old legend attached.

Named after a local beauty spot near Guildford known as the Silent Pool, legend has it that some time in the 14th century, wicked King John of England was passing by the pool on his horse when he spotted the local woodcutter’s daughter, the most beautiful woman he had ever seen, bathing in the crystal clear water. He wanted his wicked way with her and she refused to yield her honour to the evil monarch and waded backwards into the water to escape him, when she stumbled and drowned.

Even now, her ghost is said to be seen at midnight in the reflections of the dark water of The Silent Pool.

And now for the legendary gin itself – the bottle is stunning, with an unusual glass stopper and a beautifully intricate design of autumn colours set against an aqua tinted bottle reminiscent of the pool itself. The bottle features scenes illustrating the legend (including tiny figures of the King and the Maiden hidden among the leaves). The gin is made on site by Master Distiller Cory Mason who uses a copper pot still heated by steam from local wood, burned in its wood fired burner.

The result is a delicious full-bodied, fresh gin full of complex flavours derived from its blend of 24 specially chosen botanicals including local lavender and honey. These well chosen ingredients enliven the senses and play tricks on the mind, but the result is a taste sensation that is sure to get people talking. Its dominant botanicals include locally sourced chamomile, kaffir lime, elderflower, coriander, lavender, orange and pear (amongst others).

It tastes of the English countryside and is fed from the same spring that feeds the legendary pool itself. Mix it with a decent tonic water such as Fever Tree and garnish it with a thin orange wheel or a wedge of lime (to bring out the citrus notes). You could even add a mint sprig (or two) to give it a fresh twist and wait for the honey and lavender to come through on your tongue. You’ll love it.

ABV 43%

Gin tours available by arrangement

Other products available (including seasonal gins)

Order on line www.silentpooldistillers.com

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