monkey47 gin legend

The Monkey’s Tale: the legend behind the gin

You might have seen our recent post about one of our favourite gins, the deliciously complex Monkey 47, made deep in the heart of the Black Forest.
Every great gin should have a great story behind it, but even by most normal standards, this one stands out. Bizarrely, it involves an RAF pilot, a wild monkey, a watchmaking business and a German distiller.
So what could possibly connect these things and what brought them together in the depths of the Black Forest to create this legendary gin?
Here we go, the Monkey47 gin legend.

The RAF pilot and a monkey called Max

After WW2 had ended, a certain RAF pilot with the very British name of Wing Commander Montgomery Collins moved from the UK to the Black Forest to set up a small watchmaking business.

But when his patience ran out with the intricacies of mechanical timepieces, he switched his attention to running a small guest house, which he named “The Wild Monkey”. According to local legend, it was named after a monkey called Max that he had adopted from Berlin Zoo.

Montgomery kept himself busy running the guest house, but he filled his spare time by making distilled fruit spirits. Inevitably, soon he graduated to gin.

Nobody knows exactly what happened to Wing Commander Collins, but his legacy lives on. Wherever he may have ended up, he left behind a case of gin labelled “Max the Monkey – Black Forest Dry Gin”.

In 2007 a local German distiller called Alexander Stein stumbled across the gin. Stein was intrigued. He tasted it and he recognised a good recipe when he saw one. He spent much of the next couple of years foraging for the ingredients and trying out and testing the ratios. Monkey 47 (paid link) was eventually launched in its distinctive squat, dark bottle with its stunning postage stamp label and an initial run of 2000 bottles.

47: the magic number

Within a year, this intriguing gin had won “Best In Class” at the International Wine and Spirits Championships in San Francisco. The rest, as they say, is history.

Monkey 47 is now one of the most respected gin brands in the world and a prominent feature of any decent bartender’s gin collection.

This complex, beautifully blended and packaged gin has carved out a big space for itself, partly because of the 47 unique botanicals (many locally sourced from the Black Forest) that make it so intriguing. It is also a hefty 47% ABV, so it packs a true punch. For a full review of this delicious gin, check out our recent article, Monkey 47: complex and packed with flavour

Each distinctive brown bottle recreates the old chemist bottles that gin was served from in its earliest days. It also features a postage stamp of Max the Monkey on its unique label, in tribute to the creature from the forest that inspired a gin.

Top tip: always keep a bottle of this in reserve for your special guests. They will love it.

We hope you enjoyed the Monkey47 gin legend. Prost!


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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Monkey 47

Monkey 47: strong, complex and packed with flavour

This is the one.
Universally liked for its complex botanicals, Monkey 47’s name [paid link] celebrates its 47 ABV strength. It also draws attention to the 47 rare and distinct botanicals that pack it with all that flavour. Quite simply, it’s hard to resist. It’s also a bartender’s favourite across the world and for good reason.
Infused with all those botanicals, Monkey 47 inevitably contains some unusual ones that are indigenous to its Black Forest location.

Botanicals foraged from Black Forest

These include spruce tips, verbena, cranberries and sage amongst a whole load more. Its full flavour is reminiscent of older style Dutch gins. And it’s complexity means it goes just as well with a basic standard tonic water as it does with vermouth or bitters. As with all great gins, not only does this one taste great but it has an equally exotic back story. This one involves an RAF pilot, a monkey named Max and lots of foraging in the Black Forest.  But more of that in another post.

A thing of beauty

This is a beautiful gin in a beautiful bottle. You’ll pick up mint and eucalyptus on the nose, followed by a blast of Black Forest fruits alongside citrus notes, angelica or a hint of Oak moss. Once you get tasting it you’ll pick up all of its complexity including a blast of smoky incense and a savoury shot of sage.  All in all, this is one of the best gins out there. It works well on its own or with  a simple light tonic water, poured over ice cubes and garnished with a slice of orange, this one’s for drinking not for sharing!

Bartenders’ favourite

Almost every mixologist who knows his onions will have a bottle of “Monkey” on the shelf behind them. It regularly features on the list of best gins in the world and it’s reputation is well deserved. We think this is one of the most complex, flavour-filled, well balanced gins out there – and we can’t recommend it highly enough!

Prost!

The perfect pour:

  1. Pour 50 ml of Monkey 47 into a large copa glass.
  2. Fill the glass with large ice cubes and top up the glass with Schweppes dry tonic water.
  3. Wipe the rim with a grapefruit slice and garnish with grapefruit zest.

Yum!

 


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 palaces

Victorian gin palaces: a 19th century game changer

There aren’t many real gin palaces left in the UK these days – and that’s a pity.

When I think of a gin palace, I imagine an ornate room with high ceilings, glamorous chandeliers and “over the top” decorations. I picture long polished bars, marble tiling and oil paintings and engravings on the walls. A sense of glamour and opulence. But it was not always that way. 

In the 18th century, gin began its journey in Britain. In those days, it was sold directly to customers from what were known as “dram shops”. These were often pharmacies (since that was where much gin was made in those days). They generally sold the gin to drink as a shot to drink right there or to takeaway. Dram shops were not places to linger and soak up the atmosphere. But there was no alternative and as the price of gin plummeted, their popularity soared. 

Mother’s ruin

By the 1750s, more than 7,000 dram shops were operating in London alone, distilling up to 10 million gallons of gin per year – mostly Old Tom. In fact, in those days, the average Londoner drank around a half a pint of gin per day. Social issues increased dramatically and violence and prostitution soared.

Then, as Britain changed its licensing laws, it also changed the approach to drinking gin.

So, to control consumption, the Government imposed taxes on gin and by the late 1700s, gin consumption had massively decreased. The backstreet gin shops died out, only to pave the way for the birth of a new phenomenon – the gin palace. Distillers started making their gin in quantities. They took their inspiration from the glamorous new department stores that were starting to appear in major cities, looking for new ways to engage with their customers. 

Gin goes upmarket

In the 1820s, the gin boom really kicked off.

In fact, between 1825 and 1826, gin consumption doubled from 3.7 million barrels p.a. to 7.4 million gallons p.a. The distillers saw an opportunity to capitalise on this growth in demand and began to build the first of the gin palaces. Based on the glamorous merchandising style of the new retailers, they spared no expense in fitting out these new, upmarket drinking establishments.

The new gin palaces looked opulent and “over the top”, often built with large glass front windows and lit by gas lights. They were somewhere you wanted to stay for a while, somewhere you wanted to be seen, somewhere with a bit of glamour. They were a world away from the dingy, often violent surroundings in which gin had previously been drunk.

Adding a touch of glamour

High ceilings and ornate mirrors dominated these glorious spaces – and for the first time, customers were encouraged to sit down and enjoy their gin in these extravagant new surroundings.

Gin was poured directly into glasses from giant barrels on the walls and pretty barmaids sold it to customers over the “bar”, which was simply an evolution of the chemist shop counter where gin was originally sold.

This style became hugely popular and paved the way for the even more glamorous gin palaces and pubs of the Victorian era. Sadly, none of the original gin palaces remain, but a few glamorous and ornate Victorian pubs still exist to give you a sense of the style and opulence that they once embodied.

If you ever find yourself in London, here are a few nice places where you can spend the afternoon sipping a G&T, staring at the ornate ceiling:


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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Corpse Reviver

Corpse Reviver No. 2: a Halloween treat

posted in: Cocktails, Gin and Juniper | 0

Halloween is here and this evening, it is very likely that you will get a knock on the door. When you answer it, you will probably be confronted with a child dressed as a witch, or a famous superhero or even a headless ghost. They will charm you, and you will fall for their charms. And then, they will demand candy in return for not messing up your front doorstep. This has become the modern Halloween tradition that we all recognise.
But Halloween is not just a contemporary combination of a fancy dress party and a sugar-rush. It is an ancient festival, dedicated to remembering the dead and is thought to have evolved from ancient Celtic harvest festivals with pagan roots.

From pagan roots to hobby horses

Over the years, we have become familiar with the most recent incarnations of those ancient rituals. These include pumpkin carving, costume parties, telling scary ghost stories and generally spooking people out. But before the current tradition of trick or treat began, earlier versions were taking place.
From as early as the 16th century, the tradition of mumming was common in Ireland, Scotland and Wales. People went from house to house exchanging songs and verse for food. In those days, they would dress up as the souls of the dead. At around the same time, over in England, a man with a hobby horse led youths from house to house reciting verses with pagan overtones. And in Scotland people in masks went from door to door threatening to do mischief if they were not welcomed.

Turnips, pumpkins and cross-dressing Scots

Fast forward to the late 19th and early 20th century and it appears that the youth of Glamorgan and Orkney went for a bit of cross-dressing. In the 20th century, the pranks became more common in England as well and naughty kids would hollow out turnips and carve grotesque faces in them to use as lanterns. These in turn became the Jack ‘O’ Lanterns that we now carve out of pumpkins.
Echoes of these roots can still be glimpsed in our 21st century version of Halloween. And given the year we’re in, strangers knocking on your doors in masks may have a particular resonance.

Manning the barricades

So, if you’re planning on manning the barricades this Halloween, it’s best to be prepared. Obviously, you’ll need a large bag of assorted candy to ward off the ghosts and ghouls – and a strong gin cocktail to keep your own spirits up.
And what cocktail could be better than a Corpse Reviver?

Corpse Reviver classic cocktail was invented by the eminent Harry Craddock, original head bartender at the American Bar of the Savoy (and all round legend). It features in his famous Savoy Cocktail Book, first published in 1930. Ever helpful, right underneath the recipe, Harry offers the following advice:

Four of these taken in swift succession will unrevive the corpse again.

Harry Craddock

TOP TIP: We don’t necessarily recommend downing four Corpse Reviver cocktails in a row, unless you really want to see spirits. But one or two won’t do you any harm. And it will help you to deal with those pesky Halloweeners outside your front door.

Harry Craddock’s original recipe for a Corpse Reviver No.2:

Shake well and strain into a cocktail glass

Happy Halloween!


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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Akori gin

Akori gin: where Barcelona meets Japan

Barcelona has always embraced inspiration from all over the world. As an ancient Mediterranean port, it was a major trading hub, bringing in exotic herbs and spices from Africa and hosting traders and merchants from along the silk route. This cosmopolitan vibe is one of the hallmarks of this great city. You can see it in the food, the restaurants and the architecture that define this place.
And, as we know, it was at the forefront of the craft gin revolution. This is the city that redefined the way we approach gin, adding drama to the experience with exotic garnishes, giant glasses and loads of ice. Sipping a G&T on a roof top bar in Barcelona is an experience not to be missed.

Made in Barcelona, born in Asia

Having led the charge in the first revolution, which changed forever the way we think about a Gin & Tonic, Barcelona’s gin makers have now turned their attention to making the stuff themselves. Building on a rich tradition brands such as Larios, Gin Mare and Mahon often take centre stage. But now, there is a new generation of craft gin distillers in the Barcelona area who are once again redefining the gin we drink.
These craft distillers use clever blends of infusions, herbs and natural ingredients that are taking gin to another level. And amongst this new crop of artisan gin makers, we came across Akori Cherry Blossom gin .

Inspired by Japanese cherry blossoms

This delicate gin (blended with rice based spirit) is inspired by Japan but distilled in Barcelona. It is the younger sister to Akori Premium gin (which we also highly recommend). The cherry blossom is one of the the national flowers of Japan and is the key botanical of this unusual gin. It sits comfortably alongside the more exotic flavours of kumquat, ginger and dragonfruit. There’s even a hint of almond in there. The result is a delicious, refreshing and complex gin with a subtle cherry citrus flavour. This modern gin manages to build a contemporary bridge between Asia and Europe. Plus, its crisp, smooth finish make it ideal for sipping in a cool environment. And, as you would expect from a Barcelona gin, it comes in a drop dead gorgeous bottle that is sure to stand out on anybody’s gin shelf.

The perfect serve:

Best served in a large Spanish Copa glass, filled all the way to the top with large cubes of ice. Pair it with a freshly opened Indian Tonic Water or some Fentiman’s Yuzu tonic for a refreshing, invigorating drink. Then garnish it with a slice of ginger, a sprinkling of juniper berries or a kumquat. Finally, sit back in your chair, take a deep breath and relax. We think you’re going to like this one.

ABV: 40%


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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prawn scampi

Prawn scampi: made with gin!

Some things are made for each other. Let’s face it, where would gin be without tonic?
Where would fish be without chips? Where would salt be without pepper?
But what if we could have the best of all worlds and use our favourite drink to make one of our favourite dishes. As the current gin boom continues unabated, our drink of choice is appearing in more and more popular recipes – some expected and some not.
Over the years, we’ve tried gin ice cream and gin cheesecake. We’ve nibbled on gin After Eight mints and eaten lashings of gin curry. We’ve had lemon tart with gin, gin pasta and even gin milkshakes.
But this is a new one for us – prawn scampi in gin and tonic batter.
Once again, our dear friend gin plays a starring role in the delightfully light and crispy batter that make these prawns so crisp and crunchy. Plus, we share our recipe for a delicate lemon mayonnaise which perfectly complements the crispy gin and tonic batter and juicy prawns, This is one you might want to try at home. It’s easy to make and absolutely delicious.

This recipe will serve two people comfortably. We’ll leave the chips to you.

Prawn scampi in gin and tonic batter (with lemon mayonnaise)

Ingredients:

  • 300g of raw prawns, shelled and de-veined
  • 200g plain flour
  • 75 ml gin
  • 100 ml tonic
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • Vegetable oil

For the lemon mayo:

  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 tbspn Dijon mustard
  • 300ml veg oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/2 lemon (juice only)

Garnish:

  • Coriander leaves
  • Sliced red chilli
  • Lime wedges

Method:

  1. Pre-heat the fryer to 190c.
  2. Whisk together the flour, gin, tonic and slat. Dip each prawn in the batter and fry for 1 minute.
  3. Drain onto kitchen paper and season with salt.
  4. Whisk together the egg yolks and mustard, slowly add the oil and then add the lemon juice.

To serve:

  1. Place the prawns on a serving plate and drizzle over the lemon mayo.
  2. Sprinkle over the coriander and chilli then dot with lime wedges.

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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A woman in a relaxing Spa room with a glass in her hand

Glasgow’s Gin Spa: the ultimate indulgence

Just when we thought we’d seen it all, we came across Glasgow’s amazing Gin Spa. We’ve seen gin bars, gin buses, gin cruises and gin hotels. But this is the first time that we’ve ever seen a Gin spa – and we want to book now. If you’re into massage and are partial to a G&T, then this stylish, gin-themed Scottish spa could be the place for you. Situated in glamorous surroundings right in the heart of Glasgow, this is a gin lovers dream.

Massage – with a twist.

As luxurious and professional as any other upmarket spa, this one has built its proposition squarely around the subject of gin. So, while all the usual treatments are in place – reflexology massages, couples massages, facials and the rest, this spa has a gin twist. You can indulge in amazing massages and treatments, before rounding off your experience with botanically infused chocolate. And as if it couldn’t get any better, the final indulgence is a beautifully crafted G&T.

What makes this spa different?

Anybody can add a G&T menu to a spa menu, so what makes this place different? Well, as far as we’re aware, this is the first ever gin inspired day spa. It taps into their intricate knowledge of botanicals to deliver a spa experience like no other. They provide exceptional massages and top levels of service to ensure that you have an experience you’ll never forget. Plus, their partner deals are great.

Botanical massage – yes, please.

You’re treated to an arrival tea before getting down to business. In the relaxing and soothing environment of the spa, you get to choose botanical based aromatherapy treatments. At this time, your consultant offers you inspiration cards to pick from which will help determine the course of your treatment. While sipping on a fragrant herbal tea, you can then discuss the full range of treatments, massages, facials and pedicures with your therapist before deciding on the one for you.

Anyone for tea?

The selections are comprehensive and many of them include afternoon tea with a glass of Prosecco as well as a tailor made gin and tonic – of course. They also have packages that pair their treatments with 5 course tasting menus at their partner restaurant Gin 71. Some of their gin highlights include juniper soaked foot baths and botanically infused aromatherapy oils – what’s not to like?

So, if you’re looking for the ultimate in gindulgence, look no further. Just head to Scotland’s Gin Spa and they’ll look after you in the way you like best.

www.ginspa.co.uk


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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A scottish castle in front of a lake and its reflection in an autumn atmosphere.

Scottish Gin Day: Smoky Martini, anybody?

posted in: Cocktails, Gin and Juniper | 0

It’s time to celebrate International Scottish Gin Day. And there’s no better way to do that than by raising a glass and sipping on a Smoky Martini.

Over the last few years, Scotland has had a real gin renaissance. The country most associated with Scotch whiskey is now building a huge reputation as a centre for craft gin distilling. In fact, last year there were more than 240 gin distilleries listed in Scotland. And, when you think about it, why not.

Scottish gin: based on centuries of knowledge

The country is chock full of whiskey distilleries, with centuries of knowledge carefully contained in the minds of its famous distillers. And the country is rich in natural, exotic, local ingredients such as heather, honey, naturally foraged herbs, raspberries and even seaweed, which make this one of the most diverse gin landscapes in the world. Some are even run through whiskey casks to absorb some of the heavier whisky aromas, while others remain more true to the original London Dry.

Two spirits, one cocktail

So, how can we combine the rich tradition of whiskey making and the rich tradition of gin drinking in one simple recipe. Welcome to the Smoky Martini. This is a wicked combination of Scotch and gin. Basically it’s a Scottish version of a Dry Martini, but it replaces a drop of vermouth with a drop of Scotch whiskey. It’s a really relaxing drink – perfect for an after dinner tipple. But since it only has two main ingredients, you’d better make sure you use the good stuff. A premium gin such as Caorunn (paid link) or Isle of Harris gin would work well, but really it’s a matter of your own preferences. And for your whiskey, we recommend something smoky and peaty such as a Laphroaig (paid link) to give it just the right balance. It’s really easy to make and it tastes absolutely delicious. So, if you’re looking for a change this evening, whip out a Scottish gin, a Scottish whiskey and a Martini glass and make a toast to the glories of Scotland.

Or as they say in these parts, Slainte!


Ingredients:

  • 2 1/2 oz premium Scottish gin
  • A dash of your favourite Scotch whiskey (the peatier and smokier the better!)
  • Lemon twist

Method:

  1. Gather the ingredients above
  2. Pour gin into a mixing glass, filled with ice
  3. Stir well
  4. Strain into a chilled Martini glass
  5. Garnish with a lemon twist

Slainte!


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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simple syrup

Simple syrup: what is it and why do I need it?

Ever struggle to get sweetness into your cocktail?
One of bartending’s greatest secrets is simple syrup and just as it says on the tin, it’s really simple. If you’re into cocktails, always have a supply of this available in your fridge. It will be the best thing you ever did. Plus, if you want to dial up your taste sensation, you can add flavour to your syrup by simply adding extra ingredients of your choice while making it. Try flavouring it with mint leaves, citrus peel, ginger, elderflower, chili or blackcurrant. In fact, the possibilities are endless, so whatever floats your boat. If you’re into making cocktails with your gin, this is the ideal way to customise them to your tastes.

Keeping it sweet

Because it is a liquid sweetener, you can just pour it directly into your drink without the need to stir or heat the sugar – ideal to soften up the sharpness of a Tom Collins or to take the citrus edge off a French 75.  Plus, there’s one more advantage – keep your simple syrup in a bottle in the fridge (it should last a month or so). That way, it’s always handy for your impromptu cocktail making sessions. And remember, this is not just “gin juice”. You can also use it to sweeten up your favourite recipes, pour it straight into a long iced coffee or iced tea, just pour it into your morning cuppa when you run out of sugar.

Here’s an easy recipe for home made syrup.

Ingredients:

  • ½ cup of granulated sugar
  • ½  cup of water

Steps:

  1. Add sugar and water to small saucepan on medium heat
  2. Stir until sugar is dissolved and add flavouring (if desired)
  3. Allow to cool and decant into a glass jar or bottle
  4. Seal lid and leave in fridge
  5. Kept refrigerated

One batch of simple syrup will last for around one month and is sure to sweeten even the sourest of cocktails!


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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  • Gin-Gin Mule: a gin cocktail with a kick!
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This recipe provides a new twist on the classic gimlet cocktail.

Gimlet with basil: a new twist on a classic gin cocktail

posted in: Cocktails, Gin and Juniper | 0

In our never-ending search for the perfect cocktail, the Barcelona gin team (guided by our faithful gin dog, Ruddles) is constantly searching for new gins and out-of-the-ordinary recipes. And the wonderful thing about gin is that (unlike vodka) its unlimited flavour combinations and subtle infusions mean it is now one of the most versatile cocktail spirits out there. Gone are the days when we simply poured Gordons (paid link) into a gin and tonic with a few lumps of ice. These days, gin is high art. It is made from everything from cow’s milk to seaweed and infused with everything from chilli peppers to lobster (yes, really). But sometimes you just want to go back to a classic, like the gimlet. 

Basil gimlet: upgrading an iconic cocktail

That’s why we want to share with you a simple recipe that offers a clever slant on an established classic gin cocktail.  Most of us will already be familiar with the iconic gimlet, full of tart, limey acidity and lots of gin.  But here’s a nice twist on the original which softens the tartness by adding some simple syrup.  And a handful of muddled basil leaves gives it a lovely earth taste which counters some of the acidity. This is the perfect drink to bridge the gap between summer and winter – well worth a try.

Ingredients:

  • Basil leaves
  • 45 ml gin
  • 1 tbsp simple syrup
  • 20 ml fresh lime juice

Method:

  • Muddle the Basil leaves, lime and simple syrup in a shaker
  • Add gin and fill to top with ice cubes
  • Shake for 10 seconds and strain into cocktail glass
  • Garnish with Basil leaf and serve

And there you have it. A truly classic drink, but now with a modern touch to bring it right up to date. Try it now and drop us a line in the comments to let us know what you think.


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.


  • NUT gin: the clue is in the name!
    We stumbled across a lovely little gin the other day. It’s from right here in Catalunya and frankly it was too good for us not to share. Go nuts! Introducing NUT gin, craft-distilled in the Emporda region of Catalunya nestled between the rugged drama of the Pyrenean mountains and the cooling breezes of the Mediterranean … Continued
  • Gin-Gin Mule: a gin cocktail with a kick!
    Many of us will have heard of the legendary Moscow Mule.  It’s a classic cocktail and it’s been around forever.  It is a cocktail made with vodka, spicy ginger beer, and lime juice, garnished with a slice or wedge of lime.  The Moscow Mule is generally served in copper mugs and is one of the simplest and … Continued
  • The Italian Job: penne pasta with gin
    What could be better on a cold winter’s day than a warming, comforting bowl of pasta to heat you up from the inside? How about a bowl of pasta that has gin as one of its main ingredients? Got your attention, didn’t we!There can be few more comforting things in the world than a hot, … Continued
  • Gin punch: a giant cocktail served in a bowl
    We all like a cocktail. But 200 years before the term was invented, we had to resort to other creative ways of getting our alcohol fix. In those days, there were no cocktail glasses, fancy recipes or bartender’s tools in those days – so they turned to punch! In its earliest days, in the 18th … Continued