Canadian Gin

The rise of Canadian gin: 5 of the best from the Great White North

Canadian gin is on the rise.  This week, we thought we’d take a look at some of the best brands from the Great White North (with a little inspiration from our Barcelona Gin friend, Sylvia Short). 
Here in Barcelona, we’re blessed with a beautiful year-round climate.  But, like everyone, we complain about the weather even when the sun is shining, the skies are bright blue and the temperature dips into single digits.  That’s when we need to remind ourselves to spare a thought for our neighbours in the North. They still have months of freezing weather ahead of them – and temperatures regularly sink to as low as -20c. Throw in a little wind-chill factor and you’ll feel like it’s -40c. Brrrr!

It’s as cold as ice…

I had a mis-spent my youth at university in Michigan, so I know first-hand how cold it can be in that part of the world. And when you’re locked inside for months on end, it’s always a good idea to have a stock of good gins in the house to get you through those long days and dark nights.

The gin revolution

And it got us thinking. This huge nation, so blessed by nature, seems to have had a long-running love affair with whiskey. But Canada is not necessarily the first country you’ll think of when you mention gin.  And yet, there is a gin revolution going on in Canada, just as there is in Europe and around the world. 

Canadian gin: inspired by vast landscapes, local ingredients and ancient cultures

From the great Inuit culture of the North to the sophisticated French sensibilities of Quebec and Montreal, this is a country with so many cultures that ginspiration should be found around every corner. From Calgary’s cowboy culture to Vancouver’s lakes, from the Pacific to the Atlantic and from the prairies to the rocky mountains there is so much geographical diversity here. It is no surprise that it’s now inspiring gin makers with unusual ingredients and combinations that will delight the senses.

Canada’s best gins

So, we thought we’d share a few ideas on some of the best gins that are currently being produced by our Canadian friends. The craft gin explosion is still a relatively new phenomenon in Canada. It all began to take off back in 2013 with some changes to the liquor laws in British Columbia. Up until then, a massive markup had been applied by the state on the sale of alcohol.  But that year, the State decided to abolish the markup on distilleries that were producing less than 50,000 litres of spirit p.a. 

The craft revolution

This in turn gave rise to a new breed of craft distillers with new brands popping up all over the place. Many of them turned their attention to gin. This new breed of distillers have been inspired by the infinite variety of the Canadian landscape and have been introducing new techniques, new botanicals and new blends to deliver an exciting selection of beautifully made, hand crafted gins – often in stunning bottles and always bursting with Canadian cultures and sensibilities.

So, we thought we’d take a look at some of these unusual new brands and see what the fuss is all about.

Stump Coastal Forest gin, Victoria: ABV 45%

This unusual gin is brought to us by the folks at Phillips Fermentarium, in Victoria, British Columbia. It’s a “new style” gin that is becoming more of a “thing” in North America.  These gins typically downplay the juniper elements (although they obviously still need to be present). Stumps Coastal Forest Gin, as its name implies, takes its inspiration from the natural, rugged beauty of the BC coastline. 

The team hand forage local herbs and botanicals to discover bold flavours that are a perfect fit for this part of the world. These flavours impart a smooth, well balanced taste that balances the forest scents seamlessly.  The process starts in an old British still called “Old George”.  It’s then redistilled in a modern German refractory still before getting its final re-distillation.  The result is a rich, velvety, smooth gin full of the refreshing flavours of the coastal rainforest.  This is one to put on your wishlist.

The perfect serve: We recommend a traditional G&T to make the most of these glorious flavours. In fact, the folks at Phillips Fermentorium have their own tonic just for this gin. Their artisanal dry tonic is a classic tonic with a citrus twist. Think orange peel, grape juice, lime peel and quinine. This was designed to be the perfect partner to Stump Forest Coastal gin, but you can use it with other gins that need a tonic that balances sweetness with sharpness. Pour it over some large ice cubes and add a twist of lime or a wedge of orange to set it all off nicely.

Hansen Distilleries Trouble Gin, Alberta: ABV 40%

At Hansen distilleries, they say that sometimes trouble finds you and sometimes you seek it out.  This is a gin worth seeking out.  Distilled in Alberta by the Hansen team, it’s first run through a 20 plate column still before being redistilled to infuse the amazing flavours that make this such a delight to drink. With organic juniper at its heart and infusions of coriander, angelica root, Grains of Paradise and orange and lemon peels the result is a delightfully complex gin with a citrus edge. Well worth a try if you’re looking for something fresh and different.

The perfect serve: This is one for a good G&T.  Put a large ice cube into the bottom of a copa glass and pour in a large slug of gin. Squeeze a wedge of lime into the glass and pour a freshly opened bottle of premium tonic water to mix it up. Garnish with a lime wedge, sit back and enjoy.

Forts’ Canadian Boreal gin: ABV 35%

Here’s another beauty from Alberta. Fort’s Canadian Boreal gin has been inspired by Canada’s Boreal Forest and the spectacular sight of the Aurora Borealis.  It’s their own unique take on a pink gin, but this one’s made to taste like the fruits of the forest. Distilled with Haskap berries and local honey, this is a bright, berry forward gin that will delight and surprise you the more you drink it. The vibrant berry taste works well with the other ingredients and dominates the nose alongside the warm, honey cinnamon notes and a floral finish. Inspired by nature, this is a gin for when you’re looking for something comforting.  And it comes in a very cool bottle.

The perfect serve: Pour 1,5 oz of gin into a coupe glass. Add 0.5 oz of St. Germain liqueur and 0.75 oz of lime and the same amount of simple syrup.  Shake it all up with ice for around 30 seconds and strain into a coupe glass with a lime wedge garnish.

Collective Arts Plum and Blackthorn: ABV 43.5%

This intricate and light Collective Arts gin is fruity and rich.  With a complex combination of unusual aromatics, there are traces of cardamom and mace lurking within alongside mace, orange. And obviously plums and blackthorn shine through to impart the dominant natural fruitiness and a warming kick of spice that comes from the gentle heat of the black peppercorns, cinnamon and ginger. 

This gin is packed full of interesting botanicals including the obligatoryJuniper, coriander, green cardamom pods, black pepper, whole clove, cinnamon, mace, ginger, fresh lemon peel, fresh orange peel, orris root, almond, blackthorn berries & plum. That’s quite a list and they’re all carefully chosen to complement each other so that you get an intriguing taste experience that is not like any other gin.  And as is the tradition at Collective Arts, the bottle label has been uniquely designed by a local artist, Nate Otto and is available as limited edition art. 

The perfect serve: Why not throw caution to the wind with a special cocktail.  We suggest something that has come to be known as a Collective plummet and it’s really easy to make. Just pour 1.5oz Collective Arts Plum gin with an equal amount of plum cordial and 1.3 oz of lime cordial.  Pour it all into a cocktail shaker, fill it with ice and shake it before straining into a coupe glass. And if you have a sweet tooth, add a dash of honey. We think you’ll love it. 

Strathcona Spirits Badland Seaberry Gin: ABV 44%

This Edmonton gin is brought to us by the folks at Strathcona Spirits.  They make a range of high quality spirits including pure vodkas and craft whiskeys.  But they also do a nice range of hand made gins which are making a name for themselves.  This gin is distilled in the traditional London dry style and features 10 unique botanicals to ensure a complex and exciting blend of flavours. Much of the juniper used is foraged locally from the fossil filled Badlands along the Red Deer River.  But what gives this gin its unique taste is the sour, bitter, tangy, native Seaberry which is picked locally from secret spots around the City of Edmonton.  This unusual berry produces a unique taste that is the perfect complement to the other botanicals.

The perfect serve: This one’s known as “Stars over Scona”. Take 1.5 oz Badland Seaberry Gin, 0.5 oz of Contreau, 0.5 oz lemon juice. 0.75 oz cranberry juice. 0.75 oz simple syrup.  Add it all to a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Give it a good shake and strain it into a cocktail glass.  Set it all off with a twist of lemon.  You’re going to like this one

Colombian Treasure Gin

Goodbye cocaine and coffee, hello Colombian Treasure gin!

We’d like to introduce you to the delights of premium Colombian Treasure gin from the folks at Dictador (43% ABV). This deliciously smooth, sugar cane-based gin is packed with local citrus and aged in oak barrels to give it a rich citric smoothness that makes it stand out from the crowd. And it’s well worth a try.

Coffee, cocaine and now gin

Colombia is famous for many things. Delicious, rich coffee, stunning scenery, beautiful beaches and mountains (as well as drug cartels and cocaine). But one thing I didn’t know is that gin is on the up in this part of the world.  So, imagine my surprise when I received a gift of a gorgeous bottle of gin from a Colombian friend of mine.  And this one’s a doozy!

In a land where rum is King, here’s something a little different

Colombia is better known for producing rum-based drinks including the notorious Aguardiente (often referred to as Colombia’s national drink).  Literally translated as “firewater”, this is generally drunk neat and it might not be for everyone. But its sugarcane base gives it a smoother taste and it clocks in at a slightly underpowered 29% ABV – a little low for a proper shot!

But it’s rum that’s ubiquitous in this region with high quality brands available everywhere at very good prices. So, when we discovered that Colombia is now starting to produce some good gins, we were excited to give this one a try.

Dictador: a lifestyle brand for the good things in life…

This exceptional aged gin is from the folks at Cartagena-based lifestyle brand, Dictador. This heritage company has been producing fine award winning aged spirits for more than 100 years. Their story all began long ago in the 18th century, when a Spanish official called Severo Arango y Ferro arrived in what was to become Colombia on a mission to improve tax collection rates for Spain.  It wasn’t long before his strong, powerful character was identified and he became known locally as “The Dictator”.

A taste for rum, coffee and good cigars…

But the Dictator was human, like everyone else, and he soon discovered a taste for the local spirit, rum.  Fast forward to 1913 and his descendants began to research his story and established the Destileria Colombiana with a mission to produce the finest rum in the Caribbean.  Since then, it has made its name with fine spirits, Colombian coffee and high quality cigars and it has a number of famous brands that sit comfortable alongside their world famous rums.

And now, they’ve taken the next step with the development of Colombian Treasure gin, delicious and rum-based, bursting with local flavour and aged in oak casks for a gentle, smooth blend.

Black, bold and beautiful: a striking bottle for your top shelf

Colombian Treasure gin

Colombian Treasure gin bottle itself is confident and striking. With its frosted black glass and bold reverse typeface, it makes an instant impression.  But it’s what’s inside that counts.  As you might expect in this region, the base spirit here is made from sugar cane. But this sugar cane is distilled up to five times to create the neutral spirit base which anchors this gin firmly in the Caribbean. The good folks at Dictador then make the magic happen.  

Exotic flavours, aged in oak

They add an exotic mix of botanicals, berries, citrus peels and local spices and then blend it all together in an ageing process that gives this gin its unique flavour. Then, they place the whole lot into huge oak barrels which have been previously used to store their classic rums for 35 weeks, imparting a unique, subtle smokiness to the final product. But what really sets this gin apart is the citrus flavours that give it a unique and special taste.  

The secret ingredient

Colombian Treasure gin

The secret to this flavour lies in the Limon Mandarina, known locally as the “Paraguayan Lime”.  This unusual fruit combines the sweet taste of the tangerine with the sharpness of lemon. It’s an unusual looking fruit. On the outside, it’s a rough green, like a normal lime. But open it up and the inside is like a tangerine. This is a fruit that is local to Colombia, but hard to find anywhere else. It’s this combination of freshness and smoothness that makes this such an easy gin to drink. In fact, it’s so good, you can enjoy it neat (or with a few ice cubes).

But what’s Colombian Treasure gin actually like?

Well the first thing you notice when you pour it is that it has a unique and distinctive colour.  The liquid is a pale gold, a hue imparted by the oak aged barrels that it ages in. And then you notice the aroma.  On the nose, there’s a distinctive citrus smell.  You can pick up notes of sweet lemon, tangerine and even a slight whiff of burnt orange. This is a citrus forward gin that shines through brightly on the nose.  But dig a bit deeper and you’ll soon spot notes of mint and some interesting herbal fragrances that add to its subtle complexity.

Tantalisingly complex

But it’s when you dive in that you first start to notice the smooth delicacy of this gin. Take a sip and you’ll spot orange and grapefruit in there, alongside an oily, lemon flavour, which becomes more prominent as you drink.  You’ll probably also pick up on the herbal notes and a little spicy pepper, just to lift it a bit further out of the ordinary. This unusual gin is just packed full of character.  And it’s not over until it’s over. On the finish, it moves in the direction of lemon again sitting comfortably alongside the gentle oak.  This is a smooth gin without any bitter edges and the rum subtly informs the flavour, but never over reaches.

The Gin and Tonic test

As with all our gins, we think the true test is in a standard gin and tonic.  We tried Colombian Treasure gin with a 1:2 ratio, poured over ice and topped with Fever Tree premium tonic water. We garnished it with a thinly sliced wedge of lime to highlight that refreshing sharpness. It was delicious. Just as we expected. All those citrus notes are agitated by the pouring of the tonic to bring to life all the playful flavours that lurk within. Smooth, citrus and herby, this gin is a worthy contender. And it’s really nice to see gin of this quality coming from South America.

Is Colombian Treasure gin a gin for cocktails?

Unhesitatingly, yes! That combination of sweet and citrus, mellowed by the oak barrel ageing and the unique citrus fruitiness of the “Paraguayan Lime” make it a perfect ingredient for citrus cocktails. We’ve done a little research and we think we’ve come up with something a little special to help you to turn this unusually smooth, citrus gin into a deliciously refreshing drink. So, we’ve done a little searching on your behalf and we’ve found a doozy of a cocktail that works really well with the smoky, citrus, smooth notes of Dictador’s Colombian Treasure aged gin.  Plus, like all great cocktails, it’s really easy to make – and even easier to drink

Triple Citrus Gin Cocktail Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 1 oz Dictador Colombian Treasure gin (or your preference)
  • 1 oz Cointreau
  • 2 oz fresh, unsweetened grapefruit juice
  • 1 tbsp fresh lime
  • 2 oz Club soda or sparkling water
  • 1-2 tbsp simple syrup (to taste)
  • Ice
  • A shaker (or a jam jar with a lid)
  • A shot glass
  • Glasses

Method:

  1. Fill your shaker halfway with ice
  2. Add Dictador Colombian Treasure gin
  3. Pour in Contreau and grapefruit juice
  4. Add the simple syrup (to taste) and fresh lime juice
  5. Top up with 2 oz fresh soda water
  6. Shake until it’s all blended nicely
  7. Strain into a rounded Coupe glass (or Martini glass)
  8. Garnish with a grapefruit wheel
  9. Sit back, put your feet up and enjoy (preferably with a good cigar!)

Written by Steve (with a little help from Ruddles, the gin dog!)

Don’t forget to follow us on our facebook community page to join in the gin discussion.


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Ukiyo Japanese Blossom gin

UKIYO Japanese Blossom gin: is this my favourite gin ever?

Banzai! I think I’ve just had the best gin I’ve ever tasted. I wasn’t expecting it. In fact it was a gift at a surprise birthday party. And I wasn’t expecting that either.  But this gin has just blown my Christmas socks off! The thing is, there are so many gins around to try now.  And increasingly, they are just variations on a theme. Some of them are just added flavours. Others barely stand out from each other. And then along came UKIYO Japanese Blossom gin.

One sip and I was taken.

A beautiful bottle for a beautiful gin

And what was so special about Ukiyo Japanese Blossom gin?

Well where do I even start? The bottle is an absolute stunner.  A classic rounded shape with a graduated tinted glass where the colours of blue and pink blend into each other in the same way that mountains blend into the sea. This gin is elegantly Japanese and subtly understated. The label is a simple, square with rounded edges and Japanese lettering spelling out its name.  The neck tapers up gently, like the slopes of the nearby Sakurajima volcano and the whole affair is crowned with a gorgeous, chunky flat cap that sets it off beautifully.  Before you’ve even tasted the first sip, you know this is a gin with a difference.

“Floating world” gin for the mindfulness generation

We also love the story behind Ukiyo Japanese Blossom gin.  The term ukiyo literally translates in English to “floating world” and it refers to “a state of mind that emphasises living in the moment, detached from the difficulties of life”.  This is a gin worth concentrating on. It will feed your senses. It’s sort of like a gin for the mindfulness generation.

So, what’s so special about it?

So much. This is not your normal gin.  In fact, this is a gin that all starts with Japan’s national drink, Shochu. This traditional Japanese spirit is distilled from barley and these guys have been practicing their art for more than 130 years.  They have drawn on all that knowledge and experience to distill this Shochu base from scratch. First, they distill the barley in a traditional Japanese pot still, which produces a gentler, more rounded flavour.

The fragrant, complex aroma of cherry blossom

They then redistill the mix with juniper, mandarin and spices before infusing it with the bright, citrus notes of yuzu and the subtle perfume of the sakura flower. The final blend offers up a soft, smooth mouth-feel, making this gin very easy to drink.  The Shochu adds a subtle, earthy flavour to the final product, that’s reminiscent of its more famous cousin Sake. This fragrant base is then redistilled with the required juniper, alongside mandarin and spice.  For the final touch, they infuse the gin with the delicate taste of Sakura flower, resulting in a perfumed, fragrant citrus-forward gin to delight your senses.

And on the nose? Boy, do those aromas tickle your taste buds.  Even before you take your first sip, your senses will be assaulted by a sweet, fragrant complex aroma that mimics the gentle scent of the cherry blossoms adorning the beautiful mountains that surround their beautiful Kagoshima base. And at a standard 40% ABV, this gin has just the right blend of strength and flavour.

So, what does it taste like?  Well, on the nose it is sweet and complex.  There is a fragrance that comes from the Shochu that delivers a perfume punch alongside the fresh, complex flavors of juniper, cherry blossom and orange. And there (f you look hard enough) lurking in the background, you’ll pick up more subtle notes such as woody spice, coriander and even a little Parma violet.

Ukiyo Japanese Blossom gin perfect pour:

This gin is too unusual and has too many contrasting taste sensations to waste on a flavoured tonic water.  This is one for a premium Fever Tree Indian tonic, large, square cubes of ice and a slice of orange.  Best served in a Collins glass, you’ll need to drop a large, square ice cube (the larger the better) into the bottom of the glass. Then, take a wedge of orange, squeeze it to release the juice and wipe it around the rim of the glass.  Pour a generous shot of the gin over the ice cube.  Then pour a premium quality tonic water such as Fever Tree premium into the mix allowing the bubbles to blend the liquids together naturally. Finally, a brief stir and then drop a sliced orange wheel on top and you’re “good to go”. A delicious, G&T just bursting with bright flavour!

But if you’re looking to try this in a cocktail, here’s one you might like to try…

Ukiyo Cherry Cobbler

Ingredients:

  • 40ml Ukiyo Japanese Blossom gin
  • 10ml cherry brandy
  • 10 ml blackcurrant syrup
  • 10ml lemon juice
  • 10ml blackcurrant liqueur
  • 190ml ice
  • 20ml soda

Method:

  • Add ice to a 10oz (300ml) highball glass
  • Pour gin into glass
  • Add cherry brandy
  • Add blackcurrant syrup
  • Pour in lemon juice
  • Top up with a dash of soda water
  • Pour a Creme de Cassis float onto the surface
  • Garnish with a Maraschino cherry
  • Just sit back and enjoy the blossoms…

Kanpai everybody!!


Written by Steve (with a little help from Ruddles, the gin dog!)

Don’t forget to follow us on our facebook community page to join in the gin discussion.


RECENT POSTS

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    Canadian gin is on the rise.  This week, we thought we’d take a look at some of the best brands from the Great White North (with a little inspiration from our Barcelona Gin friend, Sylvia Short).  Here in Barcelona, we’re blessed with a beautiful year-round climate.  But, like everyone, we complain about the weather even … Continued
  • Goodbye cocaine and coffee, hello Colombian Treasure gin!
    We’d like to introduce you to the delights of premium Colombian Treasure gin from the folks at Dictador (43% ABV). This deliciously smooth, sugar cane-based gin is packed with local citrus and aged in oak barrels to give it a rich citric smoothness that makes it stand out from the crowd. And it’s well worth … Continued
  • UKIYO Japanese Blossom gin: is this my favourite gin ever?
    Banzai! I think I’ve just had the best gin I’ve ever tasted. I wasn’t expecting it. In fact it was a gift at a surprise birthday party. And I wasn’t expecting that either.  But this gin has just blown my Christmas socks off! The thing is, there are so many gins around to try now.  … Continued
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Merry Gin-mas everybody: 12 tips for a tipsy holiday!

He’s been getting ready since January and his big moment is coming soon. The Jolly Old Elf (AKA Santa Claus) is already preparing to sprinkle holiday cheer around the world from his festive fleet of flying reindeer.

Christmas is almost here and we’re all looking forward to welcoming Santa down the chimney as we celebrate all that is good in the world.

So, in the spirit of Christmas, we thought we’d help you to get the party going.
Here are our 12 tips for a tipsy Christmas to ensure that all your (gin-based) dreams come true. Read on to find out more about how gin can help to renew the festive spirit for 2021. We’ll drink to that! Christmas Eve cocktails: get the party started with a festive gin Cosmo!

Christmas Cosmos…

Every house is different and has a different tradition. In our house, we always start the holiday off with a Gin Cosmopolitan. This cranberry classic is easy to make, has a hefty kick and it looks really Christmassy! It’s the perfect drink to get the party started! Luckily, it’s really simple to make and only requires a few readily available ingredients. So, this Christmas, ditch the vodka and head into a winter wonderland of gin. Starting with a Christmas Eve Cosmo!

Something special for Santa: he’ll love these boozy sloe gin mince pies!

Don’t forget to look after the jolly old elf! He always remembers who’s been naughty or nice. But you can get in his good books every year by leaving him something tasty to nibble on as he slides down your chimney to deliver his presents.  In America, it’s generally milk and cookies. In Spain it’s Turron. And in the UK (at least in our house) he seems to enjoy mince pies and a little dram of whiskey.  But rumour has it that he’s also partial to a drop of gin.  We reckon if you really want to be remembered by the man himself, make sure you stand out from the crowd. 

Here’s an easy recipe for some sloe ginfused mince pies, which we think he’ll love. Packed with our favourite Christmas spirit, these are absolutely delicious. And we think he might enjoy washing them down with a little glass of something special.  How about treating him to a glass of Himbrimi gin, made for sipping. It might be a nice transition from whiskey. Apparently, he’s also partial to a little gin liqueur. Here’s a little Christmas gin that we think might already be on his list – Tarquins Figgy Pudding gin

A Cocktail Christmas: 5 “must have” bartending tools for the festive season

Most of the year, if we need a fancy cocktail mixed up, we go to the nearest pub or bar and prevail upon the skills of an expert mixologist who has studied and practiced his art for many years. Not all of us are that lucky. That’s why it can be a bit challenging when we suddenly become head bartender at home over Christmas. But like everything in life, the more prepared you are the better.

And we all know that without the right tools, simple things can become quite complicated. Christmas can be a real test of our bartending skills. That’s why we recommend that your festive bartending kit contains the following five essential tools for a  flawless fiesta of festive cocktails! Don’t forget to visit our website to download our recent guide to the Top 10 bartending tools to make drinks like a rockstar. Until then, here are your bartender basics.

  1. A clean cutting board (so you don’t ruin the sideboard!)
  2. A sharp paring knife (to slice and dice all those garnishes)
  3. A cocktail shaker (a jam jar with a lid will work just as well)
  4. A muddling spoon (to get every last bit of flavour from your ingredients)
  5. A cocktail strainer (to keep your cocktails clear and free of floaty things!)

Christmas advent calendars: your daily dose of Vitamin Gin

Gin advent calendars are a real thing and we don’t understand why it’s taken this long to invent them. Why spend an entire month getting excited about individual chocolates when you could swap them for gin? There are now a multitude of ways in which we can access gin over the coming months. Some people will be going for gin-filled Christmas baubles. Others will be seeking out gin filled Christmas crackers. But they’re both for one day only. To make sure the spirit of Christmas lasts right up until the big day itself, we recommend Aldi’s gin advent calendar.

Packed full of a fabulous selection of 24 x miniature Haysmith’s gins, there is something for everybody in this lineup. From a traditional London Dry to rhubarb and ginger, from sloe gin to raspberry and redcurrant and from Seville orange and Persian lime to spiced plum and clementine, there really is something for everyone. This will brighten up your holidays for sure. Once again, Aldi leads the way for delicious, great value gins. 

Drink to your health: can the hair of the dog cure your Christmas hangover?

We all know that Christmas is a time for general gin-related shenanigans, festive fun and general frivolity. But, just in case you haven’t been as moderate over the party season as you should have been, fear not.  Here’s a proper article from the folks at Harvard who take a science-based look at the best way to rebound from a holiday hangover. Of course, the best course of action is not to drink so much that you get a hangover in the first place. But just in case that festive spirit gets the better of you, have a little read of this article on the best science-based hangover cures to get you back on track for a big Christmas rebound, just when you need it the most!

Christmas treats: no tricks!

By now, you will have already been deluged with Christmas offers as marketers try different ways to tempt you to put their products in your Christmas stocking. But don’t be fooled. There’s a lot of tat out there and prices at Christmas do not always reflect what’s inside your package. So, don’t fork out £10 for 5 chocolate truffles with a picture of a Christmas tree on the front.  Here are a few Christmas themed presents that will make your loved ones smile without breaking the bank:

  • Marks and Spencer Snow Globe – snow globes have become the must have gin treat for the last few Christmases.  We think this one from M&S is one of the best.  But they won’t last forever
  • Gin and tonic truffles – everybody loves a bit of chocolate, especially at Christmas.  But these days a foil-wrapped chocolate Santa just doesn’t cut it any more.  Here’s a fab recipe for some G&T truffles you can make at home. Guaranteed to give you the best of both worlds this Christmas
  • Gin tours – we spend our lives drinking gin and talking gin. But to really immerse yourselves in this great drink of ours, talk to the experts.  There are dozens of great gin tours now available from small batch artisans to big distillers.  You can either book one at your local gin distillery or check out our list of bespoke gin experiences.  Just book your slot online and turn up.
  • Make your own gin at home – there’s no longer any need to make your gin in the bathtub. Check out this neat little gin-making kit and create your own personalised gin from the comfort of your own kitchen. Taste is a very personal thing, and this kit gives you the chance to mix up the perfect blend and turn plain old vodka into your own, magical gin in as little as 36 hours.

Christmas gin liqueurs: boost your bubbly this Christmas

These days, there are a raft of gin liqueurs available that are perfect for the holiday season. In the end, what you like most is all a matter of personal taste. But the range is increasing every day, so we’re now spoiled for choice. They range from novelty flavours (such as peppermint candy cane and mint humbug) all the way through to more traditional Christmas flavours such as orange, cranberry and even ginger.  But you might want to check out the range from jam makers Tiptree, who have a delightful range of liqueurs made from English fruit. 

The range includes raspberry, strawberry, damson, rhubarb and quince. Sweet, comforting and full of the taste and smell of Christmas, there’ll be a bottle of this in my kitchen this year. Remember, these are not gins, but gin liqueurs. This generally means they are thicker, sweeter and lower in alcohol than proper gin. They make a nice change if you’re looking for something different from your traditional sherry or port.

They also work really well as a cocktail ingredient or even to add a little flavour to a standard G&T. And a little drop in the bottom of a glass of bubbly can change the game forever. We’ve heard that Santa is a bit partial to a little glass alongside his mince pies. It’s the perfect Christmas combo! 

Gin-filled baubles: will they survive to Christmas?

We wait all year for Christmas to come around again. And we all love the idea of gathering the family around to decorate our trees with tinsel, glitter and shiny baubles. But what if those baubles were filled with gin? Well your dreams have come true.  These days, you can buy gin-filled baubles from all your favourite brands. From personal experience, I can confirm that this simple idea really adds the festive element that we all desire at this time of year. And if you prefer, you can always opt for refillable balls that you can top up with your personal favourites.

We’ve had enough of cheap chocolates and tacky trinkets. They do nothing for us.  Gin baubles, on the other hand, is an idea we love.  Once again, they’re going fast, so make sure you get them while you can. 

Indoor fireworks: light your Christmas pudding with Navy Strength gin

For those of us who like a little Christmas pudding, there’s nothing like the thrill (and nervousness) surrounding the lighting of the pudding and the precarious march toward the table desperately hoping that the flaming blue brandy will not spill onto the kitchen floor and burn the house down. As anybody who’s tried to light their own Christmas pudding, it can be a bit tricky to get the thing to burn.

So, here’s an idea. Switch from brandy to Navy Strength gin. We recommend Winchester Distillery’s Navy Strength gin. With a higher proof of 57% ABV, it is much easier to light. But remember to be careful. Top tip: warm the gin up slightly in a saucepan before pouring it on to the pudding and lighting it. The fumes help it to catch light and the show can begin. 

The King of Gin: splash the cash on the world’s most expensive gin

If you’re really into the ultimate gin for Christmas, you could really splash out.  If you’ve won the lottery and have the cash to splash, you could try a bottle of the world’s most expensive gin. Why not treat yourself to a bottle of Morus LXIV.  This English gin is distilled from the leaves of a single ancient Mulberry tree and is made in very small batches.  It takes more than two years to produce this little beauty and it’s packaged in a beautiful hand made white porcelain jar with a matching stirrup cup with a hand embossed leather hide. 

If you’re still feeling generous, I still have some room in my Christmas stocking. Just saying.  There’s still some stock left at Harvey Nicholsfor  around £4000 for a bottle, I’ve never tried it (and at that price I probably never will) But for the person who has everything, this could be the perfect gift.  Maybe next year, Santa?

Go crackers this Christmas: a Christmas tradition to get your party off with a bang

Non-Brits might be a bit confused by the concept of Christmas crackers. Traditionally, these Christmas surprises appear at the Christmas table. They’re basically paper-covered cardboard tubes colorfully wrapped in the shape of a giant bonbon. The idea is that you and the person next to you each pull on the ends of the cracker until it breaks, with a small bang. Inside, tradition dictates that there is a colorful paper crown that you wear at the table; a very bad joke that you read out at the table (to accompanying groans!); and some sort of gift that can range from a bottle opener (in the cheaper ones) to diamonds (in the very expensive ones!).

Somewhere in between, they invented the best ones of all – gin Christmas crackers. And now everybody’s doing them. So, to help you decide which one’s best for you, here’s a handy guide to the best gin Christmas crackers for 2021. A few non-gin ones seem to have snuck into the list. But they are rum and Bailey’s, so what’s not to like!

Gorgeous gin glasses: look good, taste good, feel good

Why is it that gin tastes different in different glasses? We’re not exactly sure if it’s psychological or real, but it always seems to taste better from a pretty glass. While most gin brands offer branded glasses for sale, not everybody wants a big logo on the side of their copa. There are some stunning branded gin glasses out there (think Silent Pool for example).

But for those who’d rather not become a brand advocate, there are some stunning gin glasses available on Amazon (and elsewhere) that will help you to stand out from the crowd. We love these beautiful hand-painted copa glasses. But for a little extra sophistication, check out these little beauties – classic style in an elegant gin glass. Plenty of room in the stocking for a couple of these. Just saying…

Merry Gin-mas everyone!

Make the most of your time with friends, family and loved ones this Christmas. And thanks for all your support in 2021!  Here’s to a brighter, gin-filled 2022!

The Barcelona Gin team

Steve, Marta, Jason (and Ruddles!)


Written by Steve (with a little help from Ruddles, the gin dog!)

Don’t forget to follow us on our facebook community page to join in the gin discussion.


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gin and tonic lemon tart

Gin and tonic lemon tart: getting into the Christmas spirit

There’s an old English Christmas rhyme that goes something like this: “Christmas is coming, the geese are getting fat. Please put a penny in the old man’s hat.”  And while we wholeheartedly endorse the spirit of generosity and kindness that is the hallmark of the festive period, we suspect that it won’t just be the geese that are getting fat.

A time for care, joy, love and laughter

As we prepare our festive feasts, fill our turkeys with fabulous homemade stuffing and bake treats and sweets for the whole family to enjoy, it’s worth thinking about those less fortunate than ourselves.  But it’s also a time to celebrate with joy and laughter after a tough few years for everyone. The streets of Barcelona are lit up to celebrate in elegant Christmas style.  The skies are blue, the sun is bright but there’s a chill in the air that keeps the Christmas spirit alive.

Golden lights, sweet potatoes and Turrón…

In Barcelona, strolling down the elegant Passeig de Gracia past the smart hotels and high end fashion retailers, it’s easy to be entranced by the mile or so of golden lights falling from the sky above you like snow.  The old, atmospheric plazas of the Gothic quarter are strung with decorations and Christmas markets sell mulled wine by the glass. Chestnuts are roasted with sweet potatoes from little roadside grills. Local Christmas delicacies such as sweet, nutty, chewy Turrón are laid out to stuff those stockings with.  Even the stunningly beautiful Sagrada Familia has been adorned with a giant 12-pointed star. It’s 7.5m wide, weighs 5.5 tonnes and has just been hoisted 160 m into the air to shine across the city from its tallest point.

Carols, skaters and stinky Stilton…

In London, the carols will be ringing out, the streets will be ablaze with Christmas lights and the pubs will be packed with revelers.  The Salvation Army will be blasting out Christmas tunes and the pantomimes will be full of kids and adults shouting: “he’s behind you” at the tops of their lungs.  Mince pies and stinky Stilton cheese will be filling the air with rich aromas and skaters will be skating their merry dances across ice rinks around the city.  Christmas markets will be filled with shoppers buying presents and treats and the London will be transformed into an Instagram wonderland.

And it will be the same the whole world over, with different traditions and customs celebrating peace on earth and goodwill to mankind.

Gin is the spirit of Christmas

But one thing’s for sure, eating and drinking will be high up on the agenda this year (like every year).  Gin will be making a prominent appearance in my house as we knock up a few gin Cosmopolitans to celebrate Christmas Eve.  There will be steaming mugs of hot gin toddy available for breakfast on Christmas Day, alongside warm mince pies with sweet brandy butter melting on top. There will be glasses of sloe gin and gin liqueurs and even a delicious gin sherry trifle for Boxing Day and beyond.  We have recipes for all of these delicious Christmas treats but here’s one more delicious gin based dessert that is bound to get your mouth watering.

Light, refreshing gin and tonic lemon tart

After all those sweet, rich, sticky festive flavours such as Christmas pudding and mince pies, sometimes it’s nice to have something a little lighter and sharper to cut through some of that richness. So, here’s a perfect recipe for the Christmas table that can be served at any time over the holidays as a lighter, fresher alternative for the buffet table.  This tangy gin and tonic lemon tart with candied lemon combines gin and tonic with the lemony mix for a double celebration. It’s guaranteed to get your sleigh bells ringing this Christmas. Plus, it has the added benefit of a large helping of our favourite spirit.

Gin and tonic lemon tart recipe

Ingredients:

  • 11/3 cups (295g) caster sugar
  • 8 eggs, plus 4 egg yolks
  • 250g unsalted butter, chopped
  • Finely grated zest and juice of 3 lemons and 1 lime, plus 1 extra thinly sliced lime to serve
  • 2 tsp juniper berries
  • gelatine leaves

Almond shortcrust:

  • 1/2 cup (50g) almond meal
  • 11/4 cups (185g) plain flour
  • 1/3 cup (40g) pure icing sugar
  • 125g chilled unsalted butter, chopped
  • 1 egg, plus 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tsp vanilla bean paste
  • 1-2 tbsp tonic water, chilled

Candied lemon

  • 11/2 cups (330g) caster sugar
  • 1 cup (250ml) tonic water, chilled
  • 2 lemons, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup (60ml) gin

Method:

  1. For the curd, place sugar, eggs and egg yolks, butter, lemon and lime zest and juice, and juniper berries in a large heatproof bowl. Whisk to combine. Place over a saucepan of gently simmering water (don’t let the bowl touch the water) and cook, whisking constantly, for 6-8 minutes until thickened.
  2. While this is boiling, soak the gelatine in a bowl of cold water for 5 minutes to soften. Remove curd from heat, squeeze excess water from the gelatine and add the leaves to the bowl, whisking to combine. Strain into a clean bowl, discarding solids. Cover the surface with plastic wrap and chill for 2 hours or until thickened.
  3. Preheat the oven to 180°C. Grease and line the base of a 22cm springform cake pan with baking paper. For the almond shortcrust, place the almond meal, flour, sugar and butter in a food processor and whiz until a rough crumb. With the motor running, add the egg yolk and vanilla, then add the tonic water, a little at a time, until the pastry comes together.
  4. Press the dough into the lined cake pan to create a 3mm thick base and sides about 3mm thick. Chill for 30 minutes. Trim the sides of the tart to a straight edge, about 3.5cm deep. Using a fork, prick holes in the bottom of the tart. Line the tart with baking paper and fill with pastry weights.
  5. Bake for 20 minutes, then remove pastry weights and baking paper. Beat the remaining egg and brush over the tart. Return tart to the oven for a further 10 minutes or until golden and cooked through. Set aside until cool, then remove from the pan. Spread thickened curd into the tart case and chill for 4 hours or until firm.
  6. For candied lemon, place sugar and tonic water in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a simmer, then reduce the heat to low and add lemon. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 40 minutes or until soft, then remove the lemon and spread evenly over a wire rack to cool. Cool syrup slightly, then add the gin and cool completely.
  7. Top tart with candied lemon and extra lime slices. Drizzle with gin syrup to serve.

Written by Steve (with a little help from Ruddles, the gin dog!)

Don’t forget to follow us on our facebook community page to join in the gin discussion.


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gin entropia

Entropia Gin: lift your spirits with a little ginseng and guarana

Entropia Gin is back in my life. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised. Looking back, it was probably always inevitable that I would fall in love with gin and tonic. I was born in post-colonial Malaysia, where G&Ts were sipped on whitewashed verandahs by men in Panama hats and linen suits. Later on, as a child in Calcutta, I have vivid memories of my Dad downing a few well-made G&Ts at the legendary 220 year old Tollygunge Club – a throwback to the days of the Raj and a place that was just wreaking of atmosphere.  

A fall from grace

Later in life, I discovered that back home, the traditional English G&T had fallen so far from grace that it had been relegated to the ranks of old ladies. In America, however, it had been elevated to include upscale brands such as Tanqueray, that were barely known in the land of Gordons. Gin in the States was poured in large measures, into large glasses and served with lots of ice.

Reinventing gin

But it wasn’t until I moved to Barcelona that I finally got it. In those in between years, the humble G&T had been completely reinvented. The industry was starting to spawn a legion of new, artisan craft gin distilleries.  These new gin makers were not afraid to challenge preconceptions and to apply creativity and natural ingredients to their gins. It was here that the love affair really began.

Rediscovering an old friend

Today, I stumbled across one of the first gins that I bought after moving to Barcelona, Entropia Gin.  It caught my attention all those years ago because of its distinctive bottle and it’s hero ingredients – guarana and ginseng.  Up until then, this gin was about as far removed from a traditional Gordons and tonic as I could imagine. I was intrigued. These two unusual ingredients were most commonly seen marked up on the outside of a can of Red Bull, so I was curious to find out more. Where was it made? What did it taste like? What on earth did guarana and ginseng bring to the party? And here’s what I found out…

A wild gin from rugged Galicia

Entropia Gin is made with a wheat grain base in the wild region of Galicia in Northern Spain.  It’s triple distilled in small batches using artisan techniques in Allariz, Ourense. This is where the unique botanicals and spices are sourced and distilled to create this complex and unusual Spanish gin. And then, at the end of the process, it is triple filtered to protect the pure essence of the gins complex aromas and clear golden colour.

Tall, round and handsome

The first thing you notice is the bottle. Tall, with a short neck and a round black top, this bottle stands out from the crowd.  And the second thing you notice is the pale golden colour of the gin within. This is not due to  subtle infusion of saffron or years of ageing within an oak soaked whiskey barrel.  Instead, this is a result of the post-distilling infusion of the guarana and ginseng that give this gin its distinctive flavour.

Standing out from the crowd

So, what is it about  these two ingredients that separates Entropia Gin from other gins? Well, let’s start with the guarana. I first discovered guarana in its soft drink form while travelling through Bolivia many years ago.  It was a sweet, golden carbonated drink with plenty of sugar and a unique flavour profile that was hard to define, but delicious.  It kept me going when my energy and enthusiasm dipped. I’ve been a fan ever since.

Brazilian caffeine?

Some people describe guarana as Brazilian caffeine, due to its energy giving properties and it kept me going on many a long, bumpy bus ride as we crossed Bolivia’s Altiplano. It definitely helped to give me energy when I hit a dip. And it’s been associated with other health giving benefits ranging from an appetite suppressant to a diet cure and from sharpening up your mind to improving your staying power between the sheets.

Better sex?

And then there’s the ginseng. It shares some of the same properties including (apparently) improving your sex drive, sharpening your mental awareness and even boosting your immune system.  So, imagine what might happen if both of those ingredients were added to gin?  I knew there was only one way to find out for sure.

So, what did this little beauty actually taste like and did it really have the magic qualities claimed?

On the nose…

I thought I’d start off our acquaintance with a classic taste test – a standard G&T, garnished with a twist of lemon zest. But first, what’s it like on the nose?  There’s an earthy, woody aroma that keeps this gin on the spicy side.  But there’s also a lot of sweetness, possibly from the ginseng and guarana. There’s also a distinctive, fiery alcohol taste which is offset by a complex aroma of tobacco. And somewhere in there is a little citrus and cinnamon to keep you on your toes.

In the mouth…

But the proof of the pudding is in the drinking, so what’s it like? Well the first thing you notice as you take that first sip is that this is a complex gin. That woody spiciness carries on into the palate where it mixes seamlessly with the sweetness of bergamot and cinnamon and the warm heat of ginger and nutmeg. If you look hard enough, you might even notice a spicy chai taste that you might recognise.  

The finish…

And then, on the finish, there’s a smooth warmth with floral notes of hibiscus and the warm spices of nutmeg and cinnamon combining well with the softer, creamier flavour of vanilla.  In fact, this is packed full of seasonal flavours and is not a bad gin to drink at Christmas.  All in all, this is a great gin, well worth trying. At 40% ABV and less than 20 euros a bottle, it’s not expensive and it stands out on your shelf with its striking bottle and golden colour. It could be the perfect stocking stuffer for the festivities ahead.

Entropia Gin. The perfect serve:

Entropia Gin ginseng & guarana would work well with a classic gin cocktail such as a Negroni.  But we think it also makes a very unusual and worthwhile G&T. We garnished ours with a twist of lemon rind and served it with a premium tonic water over lots of ice.  A gentle stir released the flavours nicely and there’s no doubt that this is distinctly different from a standard G&T.

Leave your expectations at the door…

But if you leave your traditional expectations at the door, you might be pleasantly surprised. That spicy taste takes over from the traditional juniper and once you get our head around that, it all begins to make sense. The premium tonic releases the flavours within and brings out the juniper.  And the finish is complex and long and leaves you tasting the citrus notes before being rounded off with a smooth vanilla and cinnamon taste that will linger long after your final sip. 

Ólafsson Gin

Ólafsson gin: the exquisite, natural taste of Iceland

Icelandic gin is on the rise. I suppose it should come as no surprise that one of the most dramatic landscapes on earth has turned to its natural resources for inspiration. Iceland now creates some of the most interesting new gins available anywhere in the world. From the early days of the gin revolution, brands such as Martin Miller’s spotted the gin potential of this bleak and barren landscape.  They were one of the first to make the connection and marketed themselves as a “super premium gin, distilled in England blended with the purest Icelandic water” . This water is filtered through 800 years of glacial melt, so it is as smooth and pure and clean as water can be.

Martin Miller’s found a niche and made a bit of a name for itself at the vanguard of the gin revolution.  And then, a few years ago, some friends returned from a visit to Iceland. They introduced me to the delights of Himbrimi gin, a deliciously unique Old Tom gin. This unique, sweeter and smokier gin is made with pure Icelandic water, hand picked wild flowers and honey. It appeared that the Icelandic gin revolution was now in full flow.

Ólafsson Gin – made from nature

In fact, there are now more than a dozen craft gin distilleries operating on this island of 350,000 people. And it’s starting to build quite a reputation for itself.  So, when a couple of Icelandic friends visited us in Barcelona recently (bearing a lovely looking bottle of Icelandic gin), we were delighted. The classic label and limited edition batch number just made us even more excited to give this one a try. And, we were not disappointed. Ólafsson gin, with its slogan: “Hreint Og Villt” (loosely translated as “pure and wild”) comes in a striking bottle. It has an etched label featuring an image of Iceland’s most famous explorer, Eggert Ólafsson gazing out dramatically at a scene of geysers, rocks and wild animals.

Driven by a taste for adventure…

In the 18th century, Eggert Ólafsson roamed this island to discover more about its native culture and natural secrets. He wandered the tundras, rocks and hills, discovering geysers and glaciers and waterfalls and volcanoes along the way. In 1772, he recorded his findings in one of Iceland’s most famous books, Travels in Iceland. Since then, he has become a part of Iceland’s folklore and a hero to many.  So, when the folks at Eyland spirits decided they needed a name for their new gin, Ólafsson was the first name they thought of.

Iceland’s gin revolution

So, what is it about dramatic, rugged, cold Iceland that makes it such a popular place for gin making? Well first of all, apart from the pulsing heartbeat of Reykjavík the capital, there’s not much to do on those long Iceland days and nights. So, Icelanders turn to their heritage keeping traditional skills alive.  There is a rich craft history here and this has led to a culture of creativity that extends all the way to gin.  That enthusiasm, combined with the natural gifts of the rugged Icelandic landscape, have come together in a sensational blend.

Pure water and unique botanicals

Pure water direct from glacial melt and unique, hard to find botanicals, some of which are unique to Iceland all combine to create a little gin magic.  There are now more than a dozen distilleries on the island, each with their own unique blend and distinctive style.  And we expect more to come.  Icelandic gin might not be easy to find in your local liquor store. But it’s worth the effort to track some down and the proof is in the taste.  So, how about this Ólafsson gin – how did it all begin?

The taste of Iceland in a bottle

Well, the folks at Eyland spirits were determined to capture the purity of the Icelandic landscape in a bottle of gin. That’s exactly what they’ve tried to do in their Ólafsson gin. Their aim was to harness these fresh, clean tastes in a bottle.  To do this, they began with the crisp, clean notes of juniper and a grain base. They then added a range of complex botanicals to deliver floral and citrus notes and earthy spice.

Getting under the skin of the gin

So, let’s get under the skin of this special gin. With a classic juniper base, the unique flavors of Iceland are brought out by the native notes of Arctic thyme, birch and mountain moss.  All of this is then blended with its pristine arctic water for a unique, smooth and refreshing drink. On the nose, you’ll pick up complex notes ranging from lime zest to kiwi. There are hints of ginger, Earl Grey tea and peppercorns to give it a little extra spiciness and angelica and juniper also shine through.

The taste test

And then, the best bit – the taste. There’s a lovely citrus zest from the lime and the complex warmth of the spices comes through to make this a sophisticated treat for the senses.  The overall impression is of a smooth, complex gin featuring classic botanicals in a refreshing. modern style. As with all gins, we think it goes best with a simple premium tonic water, but Olafsson gin is also a dependable gin for cocktail making.  In fact, we think it works particularly well in a Dry Martini, a Gimlet or even a French 75.

Ólafsson Gin: the perfect pour

While we would normally recommend a classic gin and tonic recipe as our perfect pour, for this gin, we’re going to go with a Dry Martini.  That’s partly because it shows off the complexity of this smooth gin, but it also just happens to have been awarded a Gold Medal as the Best Gin for a Martini by the Beverage Tasting Institute, so we thought we’d go with that.  Here’s all you need for a deliciously smooth Icelandic Martini!

Ingredients:

Ólafsson Gin
  • 2 shots of Ólafsson gin
  • 1/2 shot Extra Dry vermouth
  • 1/2 shot Martini Bianco vermouth
  • Ice
  • Lime twist

Method:

  1. First, find yourself a classic Martini glass (even better if it’s been in the freezer for half an hour!)
  2. Next, pour 2 shots of Ólafsson gin, ½ a shot of extra dry vermouth, a ½ shot of Martini Bianco vermouth into a cocktail shaker.
  3. Half fill the shaker with ice and stir for 20 seconds.
  4. Strain into the martini glass. 
  5. Peel a twist of lime over the glass and drop into the drink. Et voila!

Enjoy this little piece of Iceland. And don’t forget the ice!


Written by Steve (with a little help from Ruddles, the gin dog!)

Don’t forget to follow us on our facebook community page to join in the gin discussion.


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sloe gin bramble pie

Sloe gin Bramble pie: blackberries, booze and elephants

It’s sloe gin time. There’s no point in pretending any more.  Autumn is well into its stride and winter lies just ahead.  While the last warm bursts of sunshine still make an occasional appearance, it’s only a brief tease before the grey clouds and drizzle take over.  However we believe in the brighter side of life. So, despite the colder weather, we’ll be making the most of this season and taking advantage of all the things we love about this time of year.  The leaves are falling, leaving a satisfying crunch under our feet and a dazzling display of fall colour for our eyes. Here in Barcelona, the sweet potato sellers are out. You can see them huddling around their little stoves selling piping hot yams and bags of roasted chestnuts to keep us warm as the days grow colder.  

Christmas is in the air

Across the world, the Christmas lights are starting to appear in all their festive splendour. They’re strung elegantly across our streets like twinkling diamonds in the night sky.  The sounds of Christmas are all around.  Seasonal carols echo down the streets and blast out of our shops and restaurants.  The terraces are less popular these days and outdoor sipping is best done with a scarf wrapped casually around your neck.  Serious eating and drinking has moved indoors where the vibe is cozy, warm and comforting. The sights and sounds of the coming festivities are starting to build some proper momentum to give us hope and cheer for the colder weather ahead.  We suspect a version of this is happening all around the world as everybody prepares for the cozy days ahead.

Cozy, warm and comforting

So, while we’re on the subject of cozy, warm and comforting, we thought we’d share with you a recipe that will make you feel all of those emotions in one go.  Last year, we introduced you to the delights of the apple and blackberry sloe gin crumble.  This year, we’re going to discover the world of the sloe gin Bramble pie.  This is a gorgeous, heart-warming, stomach-filling dessert that’s perfect for this time of year and it features a delicious dose of sloe gin, our favourite winter warmer.  This is the kind of dessert you want baking in the oven after a long walk in the countryside.  It’s full of fresh, natural ingredients and we think it works really well with a dollop of double cream or a drizzle of hot custard. 

Take it sloe…

And, as you sit back in your comfy chair, soaking up all the heat from that roaring fire, pour yourself a glass of sloe gin. Home made is best. But if that’s a step too far, we highly recommend a glass of Elephant sloe gin from Germany. Hand made in small batches by artisan gin-makers, this deliciously rich spirit is based on Elephant’s original London Dry gin, but it has been transformed with fresh apples and rare African botanicals. Hand picked sloe berries that have been macerated in the gin have been added to release all their fruity autumn flavours. And at 35% ABV, you’ll only need a little bit. After having some Bramble pie and a glass of sloe, I think a pre-Christmas nap might be in order…

Save the elephants

Don’t forget that 15% of all the funds from the sales of Elephant gin go to foundations fighting the illegal ivory trade. Another reason to raise a glass of sloe.

Sloe gin bramble pie recipe

Ingredients:

  • 2kg blackberries
  • 75 ml sloe gin
  • 250g golden caster sugar
  • 6 tbsp cornflour
  • 1 medium free-range egg yolk, beaten (to glaze)
  • Seve with hot custard or double cream

For the pastry

  • 200g unsalted butter (room temperature) cubed (plus extra for greasing)
  • 400g plain flour (plus extra for dusting)
  • 50g golden caster sugar
  • A decent sized pinch of salt
  • 1 medium egg

Method:

  1. Put the blackberries in a pan with the sloe gin and golden caster sugar. Set over a low-medium heat and simmer for 10 minutes until you have about 1 litre juice. Drain the blackberries, reserving the juices, then leave to cool completely. Return the juices to the pan and reduce to a thick syrup (see tips). Once the blackberries have cooled, mix them with the cornflour. For the pastry, briefly whizz the butter with the flour, 50g sugar and salt in a food processor until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Slowly pulse in the egg, then 2 tbsp cold water, until the dough just comes together. Tip onto a floured surface, split into two (roughly two thirds and one third), then roll each into a ball and flatten into a disc. Wrap each disc in cling film, then chill for 30 minutes.
  2. Heat the oven to 210°C/fan190°C/gas 6½ and put in a baking sheet to heat up. Take the larger disc of pastry out of the fridge. Roll it out to 0.5cm thick on a lightly floured surface and use to line the base and sides of a 5cm deep ceramic or metal flan/pie dish measuring about 18cm across the bottom and 23cm across the top. Once you’ve lined the dish with the pastry, spoon in the cooled blackberries. Put the blackberry-filled base in the fridge.
  3. Roll out the second piece of pastry to a 23cm circle. Remove the dish from the fridge and lightly wet the edges of the pastry base. Top with the second layer of pastry and crimp, using your thumb and forefinger, to seal. With a sharp knife, make a few slits and a hole in the top and, if you like, use any pastry trimmings to decorate (re-roll, cut into shapes and affix with a little water). Brush the top with the beaten egg yolk to glaze it. Chill in the fridge for 10 minutes, then glaze again.
  4. Bake on the hot baking sheet for 45 minutes until the pastry is golden and crisp – cover the top with foil if it browns too quickly. Remove from the oven and leave to cool in the dish for 2-3 hours so the filling can thicken. Serve the pie in slices straight from the dish, with lashings of cream.

Please note: You won’t need the syrup from the blackberries in this recipe, but it’s great as a base for a gin and tonic. Or drizzle it over sorbets and ice creams (you may need to sweeten it a little). If you’d like a sugary glaze for the pie, sprinkle the pastry with a little demerara sugar before baking. To make sure the filling is heated throughout, push a metal skewer into the centre, then carefully hold it to the back of your wrist. It should feel very hot.
Make the filling and pastry separately up to 2 days in advance, then assemble and bake at the last minute. 


Written by Steve (with a little help from Ruddles, the gin dog!)

Don’t forget to follow us on our facebook community page to join in the gin discussion.


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RECENT POSTS

  • The rise of Canadian gin: 5 of the best from the Great White North
    Canadian gin is on the rise.  This week, we thought we’d take a look at some of the best brands from the Great White North (with a little inspiration from our Barcelona Gin friend, Sylvia Short).  Here in Barcelona, we’re blessed with a beautiful year-round climate.  But, like everyone, we complain about the weather even … Continued
  • Goodbye cocaine and coffee, hello Colombian Treasure gin!
    We’d like to introduce you to the delights of premium Colombian Treasure gin from the folks at Dictador (43% ABV). This deliciously smooth, sugar cane-based gin is packed with local citrus and aged in oak barrels to give it a rich citric smoothness that makes it stand out from the crowd. And it’s well worth … Continued
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snacks

Gin snacks: 5 amazing recipes to spice up your gin and tonic

There’s only one thing better than sipping on a freshly made G&T, built with care and garnished with love and that’s having the right snack available as you sip on our favourite drink. So, we thought we’d suggest some simple, nutty accompaniments which will make your G&T go down a treat. From sweet almond nibbles to a simple chickpea Bombay mix that you can make at home, these are the treats that will make your cocktails shine.  We love the spicy chili lime peanuts and the sweet spicy rosemary nuts the most.  But everyone’s different, so it’s up to you.

Because these are so moreish, we suggest that you make up a batch of these in advance and store them in a jar with a lid.  That way, you’ll always have something handy for happy hour (or any other time!)

Here are our 5 favourite snack mix recipes to help your G&T go down – you decide which one’s the best.

1. Honey sesame almonds: keep everyone sweet

Sometimes you want sweet. Sometimes you want savoury. Sometimes, it just depends on what kind of mood you’re in or what you’re drinking at the time. But if you like the best of both worlds, then here’s a perfect little 15 minute honey sesame almond recipe that blends honey and almonds together for a sweet, salty, spicy nut mix.  This delicious blend of sweet and savoury is just perfect for nibbling alongside your favourite cocktail. Plus, it’s full of healthy, natural goodness and it’s really easy to make. You can whip a portion up in no time and dispense them as you please.  These little beauties are simply delicious and they’ll work with a range of gins and cocktails. They’ll also pair well with gin liqueurs.

Best with: Hayman’s Old Tom

We think the sweet, nutty flavours here would complement a similarly sweet gin such as Haymans Old Tom gin with its notes of nutmeg, cinammon, cassia bark and licorice. Haymans led the Old Tom revival and we think these softer flavours will work really well with these honey sesame almonds.

2. Curried cashew nuts: heat things up with a taste of the East

As you’re sipping your perfect G&T, allow your imagination to transport you in the direction of the exotic far east. You’re sitting on a white verandah, sipping on a freshly made gin and tonic. The air is thick with humidity and the smell of rain and flowers sprinkles it’s exotic incense for us all to enjoy. Crickets chirp and parrots squawk in the background and the moon is lighting up the scene from on high.  The only thing that could improve this scene is the addition of a perfect snack to complement your gin. And here it is! Curried cashew nuts are the perfect snack. You can whip up a batch of these tasty treats in around half an hour using three simple, easy to find ingredients – curry powder, lemon juice and cashew nuts.

Best with: Bombay Sapphire

This classic colonial concoction can be found from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur and from Delhi to Dubai.  Spicy nuts with a citrus cut-through make this combo especially delicious alongside a high quality standard London Dry gin such as Bombay Sapphire or Beefeater.

3. Chickpea Bombay mix: an easy 3-ingredient spice mix to tickle your tastebuds

All you need is three simple ingredients to make this delicious gluten-free Chickpea Bombay Mix. This may not be the classic Bombay Mix that contains fried chickpea flour noodles known as Sev.  Sev is hard to find and harder to make, so this recipe dispenses with it entirely, in favour of curried chickpeas.  And you’re going to have to make those first. This will take around 25 minutes. Then, you’ll need to add the chickpeas together with salted peanuts and raisins and pop them all into an oven to roast them to perfection. It takes less than 15 minutes to make this delicious, healthy snack. If you can’t live without your Sev, then you can buy pre-fried Sev from most Asian grocery stores.

Best with: Opihr

We think this might work well alongside a similarly spicy beverage. Opihr is one of those gins that divides opinion.  Some are put off by what is described as a “whiff of curry”.  But for those who think that’s a good thing rather than a bad thing, these tasty snacks, with their curried flavours, might be just the thing you’re after to keep your tastebuds in balance.

4. Sweet and spicy rosemary nuts: honey and heat to make your mouth water

These gorgeous snacks are just completely irresistible. I first fell for their charms in my favourite (now defunct) Barcelona cocktail bar, Toto.  They served these sweet and spicy rosemary nuts in a small dish, (beautifully flavoured) alongside a few thin triangles of manchego cheese.  It was love at first taste.  So, we thought we’d share a recipe that replicates that experience.  All you’ll need is a ration of mixed nuts, some honey, a little brown sugar, some cayenne pepper, a twist of sea salt and the most important ingredient of all, fresh rosemary.  The result is a totally irresistible mix of sweet, spicy, crunchy and salty.  These are so moreish that we think you ought to mix up a large batch of them to store for the holidays.  We don’t want you running out on Christmas Eve, do we!

Best with: Gin Mare

Gin Mare is a Mediterranean favourite and we love it. With its savoury olive notes and the gorgeous Mediterranean flavour of fresh rosemary, we think this is a match made in heaven. And that little twist of cayenne pepper just amps it all up a little bit.  The result is an addictively delicious mix that you can whip up in no time.  They’re addictive, so don’t say we didn’t warn you!

5. Spicy chilli lime peanuts: so addictive, you’ll keep coming back for more!

These spicy chilli lime peanuts are the snacks that have it all.  Peanuts for a little nutty protein, the spicy heat of chilli and the sharp cut through of fresh lime make this little mix an intriguing concoction.  And they’re so moreish, we think you’ll keep coming back for more.  It shouldn’t take you more than a few minutes to whisk up the basic mix.  Then simply pour the mix onto a baking tray and heat in the oven for around 30 minutes.  You’ll start to smell those wonderful flavours as the oven brings them all together.  And I wouldn’t blame you if you chose to mix a drink while you wait in anticipation for these little beauties to be served. They also work really well with an ice cold beer or even a Tom Collins

Best with: Tanqueray Rangpur

The spice and lime in this snack is a perfect match for the citrus notes of Tanqueray Rangpur.  The citrus notes of the Rangpur lime blend well with the juniper forward flavour of this London Dry gin make it one of the purest and most refreshing gins around.  So, a little bit of citrus heat is just the thing to keep you sipping your G&T.  It might also work well with Brewdog’s Lone Wolf Cactus and Lime gin or Sipsmith’s Chilli and Lime gin.  Whatever you choose, you’re going to love these nuts.


Written by Steve (with a little help from Ruddles, the gin dog!)

Don’t forget to follow us on our facebook community page to join in the gin discussion.


RECENT POSTS

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RECENT POSTS

  • The rise of Canadian gin: 5 of the best from the Great White North
    Canadian gin is on the rise.  This week, we thought we’d take a look at some of the best brands from the Great White North (with a little inspiration from our Barcelona Gin friend, Sylvia Short).  Here in Barcelona, we’re blessed with a beautiful year-round climate.  But, like everyone, we complain about the weather even … Continued
  • Goodbye cocaine and coffee, hello Colombian Treasure gin!
    We’d like to introduce you to the delights of premium Colombian Treasure gin from the folks at Dictador (43% ABV). This deliciously smooth, sugar cane-based gin is packed with local citrus and aged in oak barrels to give it a rich citric smoothness that makes it stand out from the crowd. And it’s well worth … Continued
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    Banzai! I think I’ve just had the best gin I’ve ever tasted. I wasn’t expecting it. In fact it was a gift at a surprise birthday party. And I wasn’t expecting that either.  But this gin has just blown my Christmas socks off! The thing is, there are so many gins around to try now.  … Continued
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Oxley Gin

Oxley Gin: the gin that came in from the cold

If you like a classic juniper-forward gin with a twist, then we might have just discovered the perfect gin for you. Welcome to the wonderful world of Oxley Gin, a classic blend of tradition and innovation that delivers one of the most well balanced, smoothest and easiest to drink gins around. With 14 different botanicals (each individual batch is vacuum-sealed and frozen to make sure that the flavour is protected) you’d expect this to be a complex and sophisticated blend – and you’d be right!

So, how did this smooth, juniper-forward classic come about and what’s the secret behind its subtle, elegant flavours?

How it all began

Well, Oxley Gin is now part of the Bacardi family and it all began as an experiment.  In fact, the folks at Oxley spent 8 years developing this beautiful gin.  And along the way, they invented a completely new way of distilling gin. Traditionally, gins are distilled using heat.  This reduces the spirit and the botanicals to vapour.  However, the Oxley team decided to turn conventional wisdom on its head.  Instead of using heat to create the vapour, they did the exact opposite. 

They create an intense vacuum, which reduces the pressure within the still. In turn, this takes the temperature down to around -5C, at which point the spirit (already in its 15th hour of maceration) vapourises.  Then, a cold finger probe (frozen to -100c) is introduced, which returns the vapour back into a liquid with a beautiful, smooth blend of flavours that set this gin in a league of its own

Eight years to make, but worth the wait

Despite being owned by such a big brand, this is still a small batch gin. It took them 8 years and 38 recipes to get it right, but it was worth the wait.  The 14 botanicals include juniper, coriander seeds, vanilla, grapefruit peel, cassia bark, grains of paradise, nutmeg and cocoa nibs.  The cold distilling process means that the gin leads with a big hit of fresh fruit, citrus , herbs and floral flavours for a delightfully smooth, yet complex gin that works very well in a standard G&T but which also adds a rich complexity to cocktails.

Plus, the bottle is as classy as the gin itself. Tall, with a short neck, it tapers into a textured, indented base. It is decorated front and back with a classic rectangular, green edged label which contains the recipe number and the unique batch number

So, what exactly does it taste like?

Well this is one classy gin!  On the nose, you’ll find licorice notes alongside orange and tangerine, followed by a smooth (but unmistakable) juniper blast.  Then, when you take a sip, you start to get a sense of the complexities that lie within. One by one, you start to unravel the botanicals within and peppery notes and complex aromas begin to appear.  It all finishes with a clean, sweet finish that lingers with a delicate mintiness, lengthened by a touch of aniseed, juniper and even a little mace. 

The perfect serve: Oxley classic Dry Martini recipe

This is one of those rare gins that is so smooth and mellow that it can be sipped neat (or with a bit of water to bring out all the tastes).  It also works brilliantly in cocktails that require a smooth, well balanced taste profile that complements rather than detracts from the cocktail itself.  And,  like most classic gins, we think it makes a great G&T. 

At 47% ABV, this gin is no shrinking Violet, but its subtle composition doesn’t allow the alcohol taste to be over dominant, allowing for a great G&T.  But its smooth, subtlety means that it is a perfect companion for a classic Dry Martini.  With its delicate flavours and smooth, mellow tones, it works really well in a 3:1 ratio with a dash of orange bitters that allows the botanicals to shine through delivering a crisp, complex and delicate drink.  Best garnished with a little orange zest to bring out the best of the citrus notes, this could become your “go to” brunch cocktail.  We think you’ll enjoy it…

Ingredients:

  • 45 ml Oxley Gin
  • 15 ml Noilly Prat vermouth
  • Dash of orange bitters
  • Orange zest

Method:

  1. Stir all the ingredients over ice
  2. Strain into a martini cocktail glass
  3. Garnish with orange zest

Written by Steve (with a little help from Ruddles, the gin dog!)

Don’t forget to follow us on our facebook community page to join in the gin discussion.


RECENT POSTS

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  • Merry Gin-mas everybody: 12 tips for a tipsy holiday!
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RECENT POSTS

  • The rise of Canadian gin: 5 of the best from the Great White North
    Canadian gin is on the rise.  This week, we thought we’d take a look at some of the best brands from the Great White North (with a little inspiration from our Barcelona Gin friend, Sylvia Short).  Here in Barcelona, we’re blessed with a beautiful year-round climate.  But, like everyone, we complain about the weather even … Continued
  • Goodbye cocaine and coffee, hello Colombian Treasure gin!
    We’d like to introduce you to the delights of premium Colombian Treasure gin from the folks at Dictador (43% ABV). This deliciously smooth, sugar cane-based gin is packed with local citrus and aged in oak barrels to give it a rich citric smoothness that makes it stand out from the crowd. And it’s well worth … Continued
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