Autumn is definitely in the air and we all know that Winter is just around the corner.
So, while you’re feeling the comforting crunch of fallen leaves beneath your feet and before the cold Winter wind drives you towards the mulled wine, how about something a little different – a nice warming Hot Gin Toddy to get you through the weeks between now and Christmas.
Hot gin might sound a bit weird but it’s delicious.
Why not give it a try this weekend if you need a little “gin hug” to revive your spirits..
There are some great seasonal gin cocktail recipes that are perfect for the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness. They are easy to make and guaranteed to warm you up from the inside out as the nights grow colder, longer and darker.
You can even drink them from a coffee cup – nobody will ever know!
Here’s one of our favourites, a simple recipe, full of Autumn goodness and gingery warmth.
Imagine if you could click those ruby slippers and transport yourself to a classic cocktail bar, with a great bartender, a nice selection of gins and the best almonds in town.
You’ve just landed at Toto – one of my favourite places to sip on a gin in Barcelona (and a great place to eat as well!).
Nestled on the corner of Valencia and Balmes (in Barcelona’s elegant Eixample district) and only a block away from Barcelona’s iconic Rambla Catalunya, this is one of the classiest bars in Barcelona. Inside, it’s all art deco and modernism with a classic bar with half a dozen barstools, a stunning and well stocked selection of bottles, antique mirrors and a fab wine and cocktail list.
But the king here is Mathias, their Argentinean bartender, who will mix you up a fabulous drink of your choice. Gins behind the bar include some of the classics – Monkey 47, Gin Mare, G-Vine, Beefeater and Bombay Sapphire.
They also have a delightful little gin trolley that they can wheel out to your table and mix right in front of you. G&Ts are served in giant Barcelona style Copas, ice cubes are round and large and you can choose from Schweppes or Fever Tree tonic to give it that extra fizz. But the star of the show here is the presentation – a beautiful selection of small glass jars adorn the bar and Mathias plunders these regularly to make sure that the ingredients – from dried rosemary to chili peppers, to burned orange peel adorn your drink in the prettiest way possible while adding a unique flavour and character to each drink.
It can take a bit of time to mix one of these babies up, but it’s well worth the wait. Order up a G&T, soak up a little of that fabulous classic cocktail bar atmosphere, listen to the jazzy soundtrack and order a little plate of snacks. Their almonds are delicious, but then so is their cheese, locally sourced dried sausage and giant, juicy olives (in a jar the size of a small child, tantalisingly perched on the edge of the bar).
If you don’t fancy a G&T, then there’s a nice selection of cocktails on offer here – some gin-based and some not, but all good. Ask Mathias for a Lost in Caribbean Sea – they are to die for. Officially, this is a vodka based drink, but ask him to substitute gin and it becomes the perfect gin cocktail. Spiced up with ginger and dried chilli peppers, it has a lovely sweet/spicy kick that’s a great way to start or end the evening.
This is a great place to sit at the bar and soak up a little classic 1920’s ambiance.
It must be good, since I sat next to Bono at the bar after a U2 gig last year. If it’s good enough for him, it’s good enough for me.
We all know that gin is a thing of beauty, but beauty exists not only on the inside but the outside too.
Packaging is increasingly important as the gin revolution gathers pace, so here are our top 5 gins that both look good and taste good.
Let us know what you think are the most beautiful bottles out there and send us some pictures.
Here’s our personal top 5.
Silent Pool gin: a true work of art, it reflects the colours of the legendary pool itself, nestled in the Surrey Hills in the south of England. A pale blue wash on the bottle and a stunningly embossed exterior etched with bronze Autumn leaves (like the pool itself), it’s a real stunner. Plus, they do beautiful copa glasses to match!
2. GINRAW: as befits a city with Barcelona’s design heritage, this bottle breaks the rules with its elegant shape, subtly frosted exterior, hand-made ash wood stopper and aluminium ring to top it all. This is a modern design classic and will stand out on any gin bar.
3. Opihr – a bulbous, squat, rounded bottle with a richly coloured exterior with gold and purple and a gold cord around the top, there’s something “fez like” about this presentation. Eye-catching, exotic and bold, it makes a statement, and that statement is “drink me”.
4. Beefeater 24: Its confident straight lines, heavy glass base and big blob of red glass anchoring its bottom, this is a gin bottle that looks stunning. With a little light shining from behind and that red blob, it always reminds me of a lava lamp from the 60s. A bottle fit for a cocktail bar (and a great gin as well).
5. Saffron – a classic French bottle that feels like it’s been made for an 18th century pharmacy. But the real star of the show is the golden orange saffron colour of the gin itself. Liquid gold, this one lets the gin do all the talking.
What’s the prettiest bottle of gin you ever saw? Drop us a line or even better, post a photo in Instagram tagging @barcelonagincommunity and mentioning #myfavouriteginbottle.
The Philippines tops the list drinking a massive 1.4 litres of gin per person per year (almost 6 times as much per head than the USA)
Slovakia comes in an impressive second place in the gin drinking table, clocking up an impressive 1.2 litres per person per year
The Netherlands lands at number 3 with around one standard 70cl gin bottle per person consumed every year
Spain is in 4th place and consumption is on the rise, driven by its leading role in the gin revolution, its huge copa glasses and its dramatic garnishes, Spain has elevated drinking gin in to an art form
The UK comes in at a lowly number 5. Despite being synonymous with all things gin. Brits drink around 400 ml of gin per person, per year. However, let’s put this in some sort of perspective. I have many friends who could easily quaff that much in an afternoon
Most gin lovers have already heard of Gin Mare – probably the best known of the Spanish brands. But Spain, having changed the way the world thinks of gin, is now starting to discover a range of new gin brands to add to its traditional gin distilleries. This new attention is also helping to revive the fortunes of some older Spanish gin brands that have been around for a long time.
One of these is Gin Xoriguer, made by Destilerias Xoriguer on the tiny and beautiful island of Menorca, set like a glittering jewel in the beautiful Balearics – it’s the perfect setting for a gin and tonic.
Gin and Menorca – not something you would always connect, but there is a reason why this little distillery exists. In the mid-18th century, Menorca was briefly under Dutch and British rule and the locals were encouraged to make gin to keep the naval forces happy. At one stage, there were 5 distilleries on the island, producing a diverse range of gins, but now there’s just one.
In 1910, master distiller Miguel Gusto established a little distillery on the harbour front of Mahon and the Xoriguer distillery is still making 60,000 litres of Mahon gin every year along with a couple of budget gins and almost a dozen local island liqueurs.
This local gin doesn’t get much airplay outside of the island and is heavily juniper dominant. In fact, that’s the only botanical they use in their domestic version. The berries, hand picked from the Pyrenees, are stored in hampers for a couple of years to concentrate the oils before being macerated and added to the neutral grape based spirit.
While the ingredients and the process are simple and the product perhaps lacks some of the complexity of a Monkey 47 or a Silent Pool, it packs a big juniper punch with a hint of pine sap and a soft, oily palate. Peppery and with a hint of tobacco, it’s a great drink to sip on while watching the sun set over the Mediterranean, nibbling on local cheese and sucking on plump, juicy giant olives. Drink it with tonic, by all means. But to drink it like a local, have a “Pomada”, traditionally made by mixing the gin with freshly squeezed local lemon juice. And at only 38% ABV, you can afford to have a couple of them!
On a recent tour of the beautiful Bombay Sapphire distillery in Hampshire (highly recommended by the way!), I stumbled across the Laverstoke as one of my post-tour cocktail choices. It’s been my “go to” Summer drink ever since, because it combines some of my favourite ingredients including elderflower, lime, ginger and gin. Mixed together it is the lightest and most refreshing of summer cocktails. Perfect for sipping on a summer’s day overlooking the clear waters of the trout stream that flows swiftly under the amazing converted mill deep in the Hampshire countryside – now home to the Bombay Sapphire distillery (and one of the best and prettiest gin tours in the UK).
Here’s how to make one (courtesy of Bombay Sapphire’s head bartender, Sam Carter).
Squeeze 2 freshly cut lime wedges into a large copa (balloon) glass then drop in
Pour in 10 ml of Elderflower cordial
Add 15 ml of Martini Rosato vermouth
Pour in 50 ml of gin (preferably Bombay Sapphire!)
Fill glass completely with large ice cubes and stir well to chill
Pour ginger ale (or ginger beer) down a twisted bar spoon over the ice and gently stir cocktail at same time
Garnish with a snapped ginger slice and an awoken mint leaf
Sit back, put your feet up and enjoy…
For more of Sam’s delicious gin cocktail recipes (and info about the distillery tour) click here:
We all love gin – that’s why we’re here. But do we know what gin really is? Can we spot the difference between London Dry and Old Tom? Do we know why you don’t add tonic to a Genever? Probably not.
So here’s a simple guide to the 5 most important types of gin.
Try them all, figure out your own personal gin style – and stock your cupboard accordingly. After all, where gin is concerned, variety is the spice of life…
The humble gin starts its journey as a neutral spirit, distilled from anything you like – grain, potatoes, milk, apples, all of these can start you on your gin journey. But to be classified as a gin, the resulting liquid has to have a juniper flavour and juniper must be the predominant taste. It must also have a minimum ABV of 37.5% (40% in the US). So, in theory, you could simply pop down to your local shop, pull a bottle of vodka from the shelf, add a handful of juniper berries and “Hey Presto!”
Within a few hours, you’ll have turned it into gin. Once you have the base in place, you can have some fun – add some flavourings, infuse it with berries, add some spice – and start sipping. Or you could stay “old school” and simply pour it over some ice add some tonic and drink away. Your call…
This starts off as above, but with one important difference – it has to be made using distilled botanicals. The juniper-based gin needs to be “re-distilled” with those carefully chosen botanicals to become a neutral spirit of at least 96% ABV (and water). Distilled gin is increasingly popular around the world, especially in the boutique distillery movement and includes well known brands such as Martin Miller’s and Hendricks who include add more flavours once the distillation process is done.
London Dry gin
London Dry gin can be made anywhere in the world – it’s a style, not a geographical location. London Dry follows the same basic rules as a distilled gin (see above) but it must only be flavoured with distilled natural botanicals. Once the distillation process is over, that’s it. No further flavourings can be added after the distillation process except for neutral spirit, water and a maximum of 0.1g of sugar per litre. Popular brands include Beefeater, Tanqueray, Bombay Sapphire.
Old Tom gin
The precursor to London Dry gin, it’s the oldest style of English gin still produced today. Old Tom has no rules imposed on it by the EU or any other regulatory body, so it can vary widely in its tastes and flavours, but it is sweeter than some of its more well known rivals and makes itself very amenable to cocktails. It is still the favourite of bartenders around the world, who like its infinite variations and who respect its pedigree as one of the oldest forms of gin still being made. Old Tom is the staple ingredient of some amazing cocktails that go back as far as 100 years. It was out of fashion for a while, but it’s on a comeback as part of the gin revival and is now being made by small batch producers and big brands alike. Always good to keep a bottle of this in your cocktail cabinet. Some of the more successful brands of Old Tom include: Hayman’s Old Tom (40% ABV) and Jensen’s Old Tom (43% ABV). For more information about the fascinating history of Old Tom gin, read our blog post here.
The grandaddy of them all. Way before gin became associated with England, the Dutch created the original juniper based spirit. Also known as Jenever gin, Ginebra gin or Dutch gin, it must be produced in the Netherlands, Belgium or certain parts of France and Germany. There are two main types: Jonge Genever and Oude Genever. Jonge Genever is closest to London Dry and is made from neutral spirit and juniper with additional flavourings as desired. It can contain up to 10g of sugar and up to 15% of malt wine. Oude Genever should be made with malt wine, juniper and other botanical flavourings as well as neutral spirits. Sometimes it is matured in casks to provide colour and flavour. Flagship brands include Bols and Genevieve Genever.
Barcelona – the capital of gin and one of the design centres of the world. Think Gaudí, Miró, Picasso, Tàpies and more, Barcelona is a design classic. It’s so laid back, they even named a chair after it, so why wouldn’t they name a gin?
Barcelona GINRAW isn’t actually made in the city of Barcelona but in a little town down the coast called Vilafranca del Penedes by four avant garde, Barcelona-born entrepreneurs with a real passion for their city. Either way, this gin is a design classic that deserves its place in your cocktail cabinet, for looks alone. This 42.3 ABV gin packs a reasonable punch and its bottle and label will make you look twice.
The striking design is a tall, thinnish bottle with a curved necknad a subtly frosted exterior, topped by an extra wide ash wood cap, covered by a subtle metal band. The label is a trendy sideways one and a little leather tag on the neck gives it that extra edge in the style stakes. But gin isn’t just for looking at, it’s for tasting as well, so what’s this one like?
Distilled at low temperature in a traditional copper still it’s made in small batches of 5000 (my bottle is labelled 953 out of the first batch they produced!)
The labels describes it as a gastronomic gin and claims a low temperature distillation process to make the most of the botanicals inside, which include lemon peel, kaffir lime, laurel leaves, black cardamon and coriander seeds. This mix delivers a citrus twang and the notes from the spices such as the smokey black cardamon and coriander lifts it from the ordinary.
Serve this with some ground black pepper, a generous slice of lemon or maybe even some burned rosemary to give it an extra Mediterranean twist. Sit back, pour into a long glass, add your favourite tonic water and ice, garnish to taste – and drink. You’ll love this on a hot summer night in Barcelona – and it will add an extra element of style to your gin cabinet. Enjoy!!
France and gin are not two words that you’d often put together. But the land of the grape is starting to make some pretty decent gins including the well known Citadelle and the delicious G-Vine, but here’s one you might not have heard of. Introducing Saffron Gin, imported by Gabriel Boudier from Dijon.
Dijon is more known for its mustard than its saffron, but these guys have they’ve infused one of the most distinctive and expensive ingredients in the world into a beautiful old school bottle to give the gin a golden colour more suited to a scotch whiskey or an Irn Bru than a simple gin. The result: an unusual gin, probably best for a special occasion to impress your friends rather than as a cocktail cabinet staple.
Gabriel Boudier have been making Cassis in the French countryside since 1874, and you can see that in the bottle.
But why France and gin?
For many years, the French and the British had competing interests in the Indian subcontinent, especially in Southern Indian cities such as Pondicherry. Somewhere in that period exotic spices started turning up in France, the culinary centre of the world, and some of these recipes were recently discovered into the Boudier archive and were resurrected to make this startling gin. The look is dramatic and the saffron is quite forward and gives the gin a dry, savoury taste which dominates any tonic water. In addition to the Saffron other botanicals in the mix include Juniper, Coriander, Lemon, Orange Peel, Iris, Angelica seeds and Fennel. When mixed, it takes on a golden colour but despite its unusual history, I like it as an occasional drink and it’s complex enough to be drunk “on the rocks”. It’s only 40% ABV, so it’s not a heavy hitter in the alcohol department, but as a curiosity and a talking point, it’s well worth a go.
There’s nothing more delicious on an English summer day than a long, refreshing jug of Pimms, served with lemonade, ice, mint, cucumber, sliced oranges and lemons and poured over a pile of ice cubes. It is the drink of Wimbledon and Ascot, Henley Regatta and the Chelsea Flower Show – but it’s at its best in your back garden on a (rare) English summer’s day. So why is it so hard to find in the land of Sangria and Tinto Verano? Well maybe that’s just it – there are so many established alternatives in Spain, so why should they bother with an English version off what they already do well?
I’ll tell you why – because its got gin in it and it’s absolutely delicious.
So what is it and how did it come about?
The original Pimms was invented in 1840 by James Pimm of London town. He was a restaurant owner with several establishments across the city and experimented by blending gin with liqueurs, spices and other special ingredients, which he then served in pint tankards. It proved so popular with his customers, that he saw an opportunity and he took it. He started bottling his concoction and his customers loved it. That began a great British love affair with this delicious, easy to drink gin-based spirit.
Shortly after the bottling started, so di the journey of Pimms itself. One of its first ever shipments was to the Galle Face hotel (I was there earlier this year and I can vouch for the fact that there can be no finer place in the world to sip it than on the verandah of this classic colonial, eating a fine curry and gazing out at the Indian Ocean). In 1898, a shipment of Pimms was sent up the Nile by boat to Sudan. Its mission: to help to quench the thirst of the forces who were digging in to defend Khartoum. I can only imagine General Gordon having a last glass of Pimms before his last stand at the Battle of Omdurman guaranteed his place in the history books forever.
Since then, Pimms has gone from strength to strength and a number of different Pimms Cups are now available including Pimms No. 2 (based on scotch); Pimms No. 3 (based on rum); Pimms No. 4 (based on rye whiskey); and Pimms No. 5 (based on vodka). But the Daddy of them all is still Pimms No.1 and it stll tastes of Summer.
Hard to find in Barcelona, but availabe at Colmado Quilez
Classic Pimm’s No. 1 Cup recipe
Mix 1 part Pimm’s No. 1 with three parts sparkling lemonade
Add strawberries, cucumber, mint and orange to a large jug
Pour the concoction over ice into a long glass (or a tankard)
Garnish to taste.
Thank you, Mr. Pimm.
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