barrel-aged gin

Barrel-aged gins: welcome to a world of wonder

We all know how far gin has come over the last decade or so.  It has moved from being an old fashioned, last generation drink to the coolest cocktail base in town.  There has been an explosion of gin making over that time period, with major distillers taking risks with unusual flavours and new techniques while small, imaginative boutique distilleries are inventing gorgeous new gins from spaces as small as most people’s kitchens.  Flavours, infusions and new techniques have become the clarion call for gin lovers everywhere and variety is only restricted by our imagination. 

The gin explosion

There have been many gin trends introduced over this period – some welcome, some not.  Flavoured gins are making a name for themselves with classics such as gooseberry, lemongrass, strawberry and rhubarb gins competing with more novelty flavours including Christmas pudding, toffee apple and candy cane gins.  We’ve seen gin made from ants, gin built around Asian flavours such as fresh chili and ginger.  There are gin liqueurs, gin shots, retro gins and even zero alcohol gins.  

All shapes, styles and flavours

Some of these you may love, others you may hate – but one thing’s for sure, gin is one of the most versatile spirits out there and it now comes in all shapes, styles and flavours. There are also different taste experiences that sometimes vary by country.  In the UK and Spain, we are blessed with a rich history of alcohol production going back hundreds of years and that has influenced many of the gins we have come to know and love.

When gin meets whiskey…

In the Philippines, they still have a penchant for sweeter gins and that dictates some of the styles that have become most popular over there. But in some countries, where there has been a rich tradition of whiskey making, gin has absorbed many of traditional skills and techniques from the whisky industry and applied them to gin making – with extraordinary results.  Scotland and Ireland led the initial wave as small, local whiskey distillers began to experiment and jump onto the gin bandwagon. 

New ideas and old techniques 

Many of them found old whiskey barrels lying around and began to decant their distilled spirits into these barrels to see how it affected the taste, colour and complexity of gin – and the results were delicious.  Subtle infusions from the wooden barrels slowly transferred their flavours into the liquid. This process imparted subtle, complex, smoky whiskey tastes, oak tones and other flavour notes from the aged cask itself.  Scotland and Ireland in particular now produce a number of beautiful, barrel-aged gins that are each unique, subtle and which add real character (and colour) to the distilled spirit that lies within.

The American Revolution

But, with all the competitive gins flooding the UK market, barrel-aged gins never took off in the UK in quite the same way as they did in North America.  The rich whiskey traditions of both the USA and Canada lent themselves to experimentation.  And the entrepreneurial spirit and “anything goes” attitude of the American micro-brewery tradition was the perfect fermenting ground for these two great drinks.  Bourbon flavours from American or French oak barrels subtly infused the gin within. Similar flavours are imparted from the small oak barrels that are used in Canada, which can be new, old, charred or uncharred.  But it’s in North America where barrel aged gins have become a “thing”. 

What makes barrel aged gins taste so different?

So, let’s take a look at the world of barrel aged gin and see if we can come up with a few stunners for you to enjoy as you start to get to know this subtle variation on a standard gin.  It’s not for everyone, but if you love it, we think you’ll be hooked for life.  What is it about barrel aged gins that makes them so delicious? First of all, it’s worth noting that barrel aged gins are not a new thing. In fact, they’ve been around for years. The original Genever gins from Holland were often cask-aged, but the crisp, more easily mixed English styles eclipsed them over the years and have been the dominant global style for several hundred years now.

Experimentation and innovation

But in recent years, more and more gin distillers, eager to explore new flavours and to set them apart from the crowd, have begun to experiment with barrel aged gins and they are starting to have quite an impact.

Gins aged in barrels absorb the subtle, complex characteristics of the wood within the barrels.  The type of wood, the size of the barrel, the previous liquids that have been stored in it and its age all contribute to making barrel aged gins truly unique – and that’s part of the charm. But with gin, the ageing process is usually done in a matter of months, not years.

Roll out the barrel…

Some distilleries use barrels made from virgin oak, which means that the cask has never been used for storage at this point. American oak delivers a cleaner, softer taste (think caramel and vanilla). European oak tends to be a bit more flavoursome and spicy and is often sourced from Spain, Portugal or France.  While most barrel aged gin distillers use these sorts of casks, experimental distillers are now trying out new woods such as mulberry, chestnut or cherry. Some people use virgin casks, others prefer whiskey and still others prefer sherry, Bourbon, wine or vermouth – all of which will leave their own unique mark on the colour, taste and smell of the final product.

Barrel-aged gin that is worth seeking out

So, just as you thought the gin revolution has gone as far as it can go, it surprises us with a new angle – and this time, North America is leading the way. Here are a selection of barrel aged gins from around the world that are making their mark on gin:

Citadelle Reserve (France): 44% ABV

Citadelle gins come with a well deserved reputation for excellence. Citadelle was one of the first modern gins to embrace the barrel aged process, back in 2008.  The brainchild of Alexandre Gabriel, Citadelle Reserve has been wood-aged in an egg-shaped 8 foot tall barrel for around 5 months.  The gin features botanicals including cherry chestnut, french oak and mulberry and the result is a pale gold gin with herbal notes of tobacco and bitter orange.  There’s loads of pepper and spice in there as well. But the ageing process mellows all the flavours into a smooth, easy to drink gin that is perfect in a classic Dry Martini.

Big Gin – peat barreled (USA): 47% ABV

Big Gin’s peat barreled gin is handmade in Seattle in small batches before being aged in Ardberg and Laphroaig scotch whiskey barrels.  This earthy gin has a twist of bitter orange and warm spicy notes derived from 9 unique botanicals including Tasmanian Pepperberry, grains of paradise and bitter orange peel. It’s a perfect drink to sip on as you nibble on a plate of cheeses for charcuterie – and great on its own or in a smokey Negroni. And at 47% ABV, this carries a big kick.

Twisted Nose (UK): 40% ABV

This delicious gin is cask aged gin is made in the heart of the beautiful Hampshire countryside (alongside its delicious watercress infused original gin).  This time, the folks at Twisted Nose have mellowed some of the more astringent notes of herbs and peppery watercress through cask-aging for a few weeks in German oaked barrels, imparting a softer, creamier, vanilla flavour. This results in a smoother, more fragrant spirit which shares some flavour characteristics with the original Genever gins. This delicious gin can be drunk neat, on the rocks – or in a classic gin cocktail. And at a manageable 40% ABV, you can afford to have a few of them.

Stillhead London Dry Gin – Barely Aged gin (Canada): 43% ABV

This award winning London Dry gin from the Stillhead Distillery in British Columbia, Canada has been barrel aged for a year in an oak bourbon barrel which imparts the flavour of holiday spices into the gin. Take a sip and you’ll immediately get a sense of complexity as the star anise, cloves, cinammon and vanilla start to come through. The colour of this gin is a delicate golden yellow and it delivers a deep complex , balanced gin with the oak barrels and spicy vanilla working beautifullyb with the botanical. The finish is citrusy and clean and we think this one works really well in a gin and tonic made with Fevertree mediterranean tonic.

Avva Cask Finish Scottish Gin (Scotland): 55% ABV

This is the first cask gin to be made in Speyside, the spiritual home of malt whiskey. Avva Cask Finish Scottish gin is made annually in a limited edition and is matured in a Bourbon barrel sourced from the famous Speyside Cooperage. Only 200 bottles of this gin have ben produced, making it harder to find than the Loch Ness monster, but if you get your hands on a bottle, you’ll find it’s delicious. Rich juniper notes blend seamlessly with a floral bouquet. Then vanilla, butter cream and spices kick in to reveal an incredibly smooth, rich tasting gin. And with a long, warming finish, it’s almost whiskey like in its characteristics. This is another one that works well with ginger ale and a slice of orange. But make no plans for the morning after – at 55% ABV, this is a gin you should handle with care.

Boatyard Double Gin (Ireland): 46% ABV

This young, but innovative distillery is only a few years old, but it’s making quite a name for itself.  Made in the Boatyard Distillery, on the shores of the beautiful Lough Erne, this place has already established a reputation for its delicious Boatyard Double gin.  But this one is a touch different, aged in Wild Turkey bourbon barrels and sweetened with local Fermanagh honey, this smooth tasting barrel aged gin dispenses with locally produced Irish whiskey casks in favour of the stronger flavors of Kentucky bourbon. The result: a sweet and smokey gin with a distinctive Old Tom flavour. This gorgeous gin with its rich bourbon notes works well with a Fever Tree ginger ale and a slice of apple. And at 46% ABV, make sure you’re sitting down while you’re drinking.


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

  • Barrel-aged gins: welcome to a world of wonder
    We all know how far gin has come over the last decade or so.  It has moved from being an old fashioned, last generation drink to the coolest cocktail base in town.  There has been an explosion of gin making over that time period, with major distillers taking risks with unusual flavours and new techniques … Continued
  • Gin mussels – flexing your tastebuds
    We all know how versatile gin can be and increasingly it is appearing in more and more interesting recipes. With so many complex ingredients and unique flavours, a carefully chosen gin can add layers of undiscovered flavour to traditional dishes that would have probably been unthinkable only a few years ago. But as the gin … Continued
  • Spring gin cocktail: Elderflower Collins
    It’s that time of year again. Every spring, we are teased with fleeting glimpses of bright sunshine and clear blue skies. We are seduced by the promise of warmer air and longer evenings.  And then, we return to the cooler weather and grey skies for a few days, feeling a little cheated and let down.  … Continued
  • The Ruddles Report (April): all the gin news that’s fit to print
    It’s official – this month, Ruddles, the Barcelona Gin Dog has gone barking mad. He’s spent the last few weeks hunting down the gin news that’s hard to find. The stuff that’s as rare as truffles, but much more useful. This month, we take a look at the world’s first cardboard gin bottle and we … Continued
gin mussels

Gin mussels – flexing your tastebuds

We all know how versatile gin can be and increasingly it is appearing in more and more interesting recipes. With so many complex ingredients and unique flavours, a carefully chosen gin can add layers of undiscovered flavour to traditional dishes that would have probably been unthinkable only a few years ago.
But as the gin revolution has accelerated and gastronomy has gone mainstream, the two world’s have collided with some interesting results.

Creamy, bacon sauce, fresh mussels and rosemary

Over the last year, Barcelona Gin has shared a selection of gin recipes to delight the senses. From gin venison casserole to orange gin drizzle cake and from gin ice cream to gin scampi, we’ve found some great recipes that are packed with flavour, delicious to taste and easy to make. But here’s something we haven’t explored: gin and mussels.
The UK mussel season used to last from winter to mid March. But these days, it seems to be extending, so good, fresh, plump mussels are more accessible than ever. As we’re still on the edge of prime season, we thought we’d share this delicious recipe which calls for a large dose of gin to bring it properly to life.

We’ve hunted down a delicious, creamy gin-fuelled mussels recipe that features the compulsory gin and mussels alongside the smoky richness of bacon, the herbal spice of thyme and rosemary, the savoury taste of celery and the comforting richness of cream to finish it off.
We think you’ll like it – it’s really easy to make, absolutely delicious and you can do it all in 10 easy steps.

Add a dash of gin…

We suggest that you pair this with Spain’s delicious Gin Mare (to dial up those rosemary notes) or try it with a creamy gin to add richness and depth to the dish. You could also try our old favourite, Bertha’s Revenge or branch out into the Scottish islands with the beautiful Tobermory Hebridean gin (with a dash of local whisky to add a little depth).

Gin Mussels recipe

Ingredients:

  • 2 kg fresh mussels
  • 4 shallots
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 4 rashers of streaky bacon
  • 50g butter
  • Thyme, rosemary, bay leaf, red chili
  • 2 sticks of celery (plus leaves)
  • Ground paprika
  • Hot chili powder
  • 200 ml gin
  • 100 ml cream

Method:

  1. Clean mussels in cold water and remove the “beards”
  2. Scrub the shells and soak them in cold water to remove any grit
  3. Finely chop the onion, garlic, chili and bacon and fry in the butter
  4. Tie the herbs in a bunch and add to the pan
  5. Stir the pan to ensure the herbs are covered in butter
  6. Add the gin, cream, chopped celery sticks, chili powder and paprika
  7. Simmer to reduce and thicken the sauce
  8. Add mussels and celery leaves
  9. Cover and steam for 3-4 minutes until mussels have opened up
  10. Serve in bowls, pouring extra sauce over the top.

Serve with chunks of crusty bread and a strong G&T – and dig in!


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

  • Barrel-aged gins: welcome to a world of wonder
    We all know how far gin has come over the last decade or so.  It has moved from being an old fashioned, last generation drink to the coolest cocktail base in town.  There has been an explosion of gin making over that time period, with major distillers taking risks with unusual flavours and new techniques … Continued
  • Gin mussels – flexing your tastebuds
    We all know how versatile gin can be and increasingly it is appearing in more and more interesting recipes. With so many complex ingredients and unique flavours, a carefully chosen gin can add layers of undiscovered flavour to traditional dishes that would have probably been unthinkable only a few years ago. But as the gin … Continued
  • Spring gin cocktail: Elderflower Collins
    It’s that time of year again. Every spring, we are teased with fleeting glimpses of bright sunshine and clear blue skies. We are seduced by the promise of warmer air and longer evenings.  And then, we return to the cooler weather and grey skies for a few days, feeling a little cheated and let down.  … Continued
  • The Ruddles Report (April): all the gin news that’s fit to print
    It’s official – this month, Ruddles, the Barcelona Gin Dog has gone barking mad. He’s spent the last few weeks hunting down the gin news that’s hard to find. The stuff that’s as rare as truffles, but much more useful. This month, we take a look at the world’s first cardboard gin bottle and we … Continued

Spring gin cocktail: Elderflower Collins

posted in: Cocktails, Gin and Juniper | 0

It’s that time of year again. Every spring, we are teased with fleeting glimpses of bright sunshine and clear blue skies. We are seduced by the promise of warmer air and longer evenings.  And then, we return to the cooler weather and grey skies for a few days, feeling a little cheated and let down.  It’s what’s called a false spring – and it can be a little frustrating.  But the good news is that the direction of travel inevitably takes us towards summer.  And we’re so looking forward to enjoying it with more freedom than we had in 2021.  After a year of restrictions and confinement, I suspect there will be a lot of celebrating once normal life has returned.

Post lockdown drinking

For more than a year now, we have been restricted to drinking at home and raising a glass to our friends and loved ones via Skype or Zoom.  That’s all been very nice but what we’ve all really wanted is to laugh and smile in the company of those we love.  Every moment shared is now more precious than ever.  But, of course lockdown ending has other consequences.  And we don’t know exactly if or when restrictions will return.  We do know some things for sure. Statistics tell us that people have been drinking more during this lockdown.  Not really surprising, given the circumstances.  We will also have to get used to pub measures once again.

Have you had your shot?

While we have been pouring gin into our glasses more regularly over the last year, we’ve also been quite generous with our shots.  Anecdotally, it appears that while the number of gins we drink is one thing, how much booze goes into those drinks has changed dramatically.  A single measure of gin?  Forget it.  A double? We’re getting there. A free-poured treble – now that’s more like it!
Sadly, as the world opens up, we’re going to have to get used to bar-made drinks again with their controlled measures and strict recipes.  Nowhere near as much fun as a free-poured cocktail.

Freedom to play, freedom to pour

While we are in no way condoning excessive drinking, we appreciate the free-pour method more than ever and are likely to embrace it more as we get used to paying bar prices for weaker drinks than we get at home.  So, we thought we’d suggest a little cocktail that allows you to take back control.  This gorgeous, light, spring elderflower drink is the perfect refreshing cocktail to toast those blue skies and little fluffy clouds that herald this time of year.  Refreshing, natural, light and delicious, this spring cocktail is going to put you in a positive, optimistic mood for the sunshine that surely lies ahead.  Plus, it’s also really easy to make – and even easier to drink.  This is a perfect cocktail for spring, but we think once you’ve tried it, you’ll be sipping on these well into the summer.

The Elderflower Collins – a taste of spring

Introducing the Elderflower Collins – best served in a tall Collins glass, with lots of ice and a refreshing slice of lemon. This lovely cocktail only uses a few ingredients and is really simple to make.  Basically, all you need is gin, lemon and elderflower cordial (and a slice of lemon for some citrus zest!)  We think this cocktail lends itself to the clean, vapour-infused taste of Bombay Sapphire – a gin that doesn’t overpower the elderflower.  Martin Miller’s is another deliciously smooth option that is a perfect, smooth match for elderflower.  And while the recioe might call for 50 ml of gin, freedom means you can keep pouring until you’re happy. All you need now is a hammock and some nibbles!

Elderflower Collins cocktail recipe

Ingredients

Method

  1. Blend all ingredients in a glass, stirring well
  2. Add soda water (while stirring glass)
  3. Pour into a tall glass full of large ice cubes
  4. Garnish with lemon wedge

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

  • Barrel-aged gins: welcome to a world of wonder
    We all know how far gin has come over the last decade or so.  It has moved from being an old fashioned, last generation drink to the coolest cocktail base in town.  There has been an explosion of gin making over that time period, with major distillers taking risks with unusual flavours and new techniques … Continued
  • Gin mussels – flexing your tastebuds
    We all know how versatile gin can be and increasingly it is appearing in more and more interesting recipes. With so many complex ingredients and unique flavours, a carefully chosen gin can add layers of undiscovered flavour to traditional dishes that would have probably been unthinkable only a few years ago. But as the gin … Continued
  • Spring gin cocktail: Elderflower Collins
    It’s that time of year again. Every spring, we are teased with fleeting glimpses of bright sunshine and clear blue skies. We are seduced by the promise of warmer air and longer evenings.  And then, we return to the cooler weather and grey skies for a few days, feeling a little cheated and let down.  … Continued
  • The Ruddles Report (April): all the gin news that’s fit to print
    It’s official – this month, Ruddles, the Barcelona Gin Dog has gone barking mad. He’s spent the last few weeks hunting down the gin news that’s hard to find. The stuff that’s as rare as truffles, but much more useful. This month, we take a look at the world’s first cardboard gin bottle and we … Continued
Gin news

The Ruddles Report (April): all the gin news that’s fit to print

posted in: Gin and Juniper, Gin news | 0

It’s official – this month, Ruddles, the Barcelona Gin Dog has gone barking mad. He’s spent the last few weeks hunting down the gin news that’s hard to find. The stuff that’s as rare as truffles, but much more useful.
This month, we take a look at the world’s first cardboard gin bottle and we unveil a 3 L “box” of pink gin that will keep you drinking well into the summer months. We take a look at the story behind how the Spanish perfected the G&T and we have a helpful guide to the 14 best gin cocktails for 2021. We round up this month’s Ruddles Report with a campaign to create a Gin and Tonic emoji, which we think will make post-gin texting a much easier affair. There’s something for everybody here – hope you enjoy it.

Get down to earth with a cardboard gin bottle

In the month that the world celebrated Earth Day, it’s great to hear innovative gin makers addressing the real concerns of our impact on the planet we love. It is good to see the gin industry rallying around with initiatives that will help to minimise its impact on the environment.

Gin’s ingredients depend on a healthy planet and consumers are increasingly sensitive to the impact that some of their favourite brands are having on the place we love and live. That’s why big distillers such as Bombay Sapphire have announced their intention to be the world’s most sustainable gin producer and are starting to make a virtue out of their fully recyclable gin bottles. They have already announced their mission to become the world’s most sustainable gin – let’s see how they do.

This month, the folks at Silent Pool have also unveiled a brand new gin based on ingredients and botanicals sourced from their local forest. But here’s the thing – they’ve just created the world’s first fully recyclable cardboard bottle, Woodland Gin. In keeping with their other gorgeous bottles, this is a stunning bottle design – but it’s made from cardboard. We hope this is the beginning of something good.

In the pink with a 3L box of gin…

While we’re on the subject of cardboard, we’d like to share news of another development. If you’re into pink gin, the folks at Pinkster have introduced their “Gin in a Box”.
During lockdown, it appears that a combination of drinking a bit more and getting out a bit less has led to some ginnovative ideas. One of them is Pinkster’s 3L box of gin, which allows you to stock up at a discount on the normal bottle price. That means less trips to the booze aisle of the supermarket. It also has the advantage of being sustainable, refillable and has a handy tap so all you have to do is flip it and pour.

Perfect for barbecues, festivals and general partying!
Another great idea from the gin industry.

How Spain changed the gin and tonic forever

And in a homage to our Barcelona connection, we’re delighted to share an article about how the Spanish perfected the gin and tonic. They rescued a slightly old fashioned, tired and unattractive drink from the 70s and turned into a fiesta of taste sensations that stimulates the senses and adds a touch of theatre and style to an English classic.

They’ve turned the ordinary gin and tonic into an extraordinary occasion and changed the gin game in the process. You’ve got to love the Spanish.

Unveiling the 14 best gin cocktails for summer sipping

With summer getting ever closer, summer cocktails might be on your mind. It’s always difficult finding the best way to showcase your gin and cocktails are the way ahead.

But the season dictates your mood and tastes, so you’ll need a summer selection to brighten up those (not always) sunny days. But we know how busy you are, so we’ve saved you from troubling google with last minute cocktail recipe searches.

We’ve done the work for you with this excellent article with 14 great gin cocktails that you can whip up for those special summer moments.

Smile if you want a gin emoji

Finally, something to make you smile. We think gin deserves an emoji of its own. After all, everything else seems to have one. So, get political and join the campaign for a G&T emoji. Just think how handy that would be when texting from the bar.
The folks at Lixir Drinks have started a petition to get G&T on the digital map.
We think it’s a great idea. Hope you get behind it!


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

  • Barrel-aged gins: welcome to a world of wonder
    We all know how far gin has come over the last decade or so.  It has moved from being an old fashioned, last generation drink to the coolest cocktail base in town.  There has been an explosion of gin making over that time period, with major distillers taking risks with unusual flavours and new techniques … Continued
  • Gin mussels – flexing your tastebuds
    We all know how versatile gin can be and increasingly it is appearing in more and more interesting recipes. With so many complex ingredients and unique flavours, a carefully chosen gin can add layers of undiscovered flavour to traditional dishes that would have probably been unthinkable only a few years ago. But as the gin … Continued
  • Spring gin cocktail: Elderflower Collins
    It’s that time of year again. Every spring, we are teased with fleeting glimpses of bright sunshine and clear blue skies. We are seduced by the promise of warmer air and longer evenings.  And then, we return to the cooler weather and grey skies for a few days, feeling a little cheated and let down.  … Continued
  • The Ruddles Report (April): all the gin news that’s fit to print
    It’s official – this month, Ruddles, the Barcelona Gin Dog has gone barking mad. He’s spent the last few weeks hunting down the gin news that’s hard to find. The stuff that’s as rare as truffles, but much more useful. This month, we take a look at the world’s first cardboard gin bottle and we … Continued
Harahorn

Harahorn: the legendary beast behind the gin

We’ve been searching for the Harahorn gin for all our lives – we just didn’t know it.

Somewhere. way up in the rugged mountains of Norway, the Harahorn lives.  But few people have ever seen this mystical beast. In the high mountains, this elusive, shy creature has been glimpsed occasionally, but never captured.  Regardless, the mountain men of Norway have a clear recollection of what this magical creature looks like from their stolen glimpses over the centuries.  And this is what we are told.

Harahorn: The story of the beast

As its name suggests, the Harahorn is a large hare with the horns of a deer. It lives its reclusive existence far up between the majestic beauty of the Fjords and the heavenly show of the Northern Lights.  But this mystical creature is not unique. Similar legends appear in other remote areas across the world.  And for some reason, these mythical beasts have all become associated with gin.
In the USA, they talk about the Jackelope (but the basic story is the same). And, just as with the Harahorn, the Jackelope has also inspired a gin. In fact, Peach Street Distillers in Colorado have named their Jackelope Gin after it. And back in Ireland, one of my favourite distillers has been inspired by a similar legend. This time, it’s Drumshanbo Gin (infused with gunpowder tea and Irish botanicals) who claim to have seen this timid creature tiptoeing around the green fields of Co. Leitrim.

As rare as hen’s teeth…

But back in Norway, while the rugged mountain men have sworn to have seen the Harahorn, this extraordinary creature, nobody has actually managed to capture one on film – yet.
It is this shyness and timidity that keeps this creature so elusive. It is a rare and beautiful thing, like a great gin, waiting to be discovered.  So, imagine our delight when a bottle bearing an image of this mythical beast appeared in front of me on a gin shopping trip. With bunny-like grace, it almost hopped into my basket and this weekend, I cracked open a bottle to see if the gin really is as good as the back story – and I’m delighted to say, it is.

Juniper berries, blueberries and rhubarb

On the slopes of the mountain bearing its name, this mythical creature avoids the hunters. But the Harahorn need not fear them. These Norwegian hunters aren’t coming for him. They’re coming for the berries. Juniper berries, to be precise.
There, beneath the extraordinary majesty of the Northern Lights, on the gentle slopes of this Norwegian mountain, juniper berries grow.  They are picked by hand before being added to hand harvested rhubarb stalks from abandoned farms on the lowland slopes of the mountain. Natural blueberries are then plucked from thorny bushes in the deep forests of the lowlands.  They source carefully measured quantities of angelica and marjoram, which they add to the mix before it is all (as if by magic) transformed into a magnificent and unusual small batch gin from Norway.

What’s it like?

But does this interesting little gin with a big legend really stack up to the tale behind it?  Well, we think so!
And this is why.

Let’s start with the bottle. Small, but perfectly formed, this small, round-necked 50cl bottle is charming. With its blue-tinted glass and a beautiful etched image of the elusive Harahorn taking a starring role on the front, it’s topped by an attractive metallic silver top. This is an elegant bottle that will stand out on any gin shelf.
And it’s chock full of local Norwegian botanicals which contribute to its complex, well-balanced and distinctive flavour profile. The Norwegian juniper and the blueberries complement each other perfectly, while the fruity sharpness of the rhubarb shines through to give it a bit of an edge.
And at 46% ABV, it is strong enough to make you see things. Perhaps that’s the secret of the Harahorn after all?

The real deal – hand made in Norway

So, if you’re looking for a true craft gin experience, then this gin might just be the one for you. The folks at Harahorn are rightly obsessed with quality. That’s why they only make these gins in small batches of 300 litres at a time. And it features more unusual ingredients beyond the juniper and blueberries. You’ll find Bladderwrack seaweed from the Grimstad region, angelica from Oppdal and wild marjoram from Sunndal. The result is a delight for the senses.

Crisp, clear and deliciously complex

On the nose, it has a crisp, clear smell with strong, clean juniper notes backed up by citrus. Take a sip and you’ll unleash the fruitiness of the blueberries amidst the wild spiciness of the bladderwrack seaweed, the tartness of the rhubarb and the subtle and savoury taste of marjoram which comes through at the end.

The verdict:

This is a great drinking gin. Fruity, crisp, smooth and complex, it works beautifully in a simple gin and tonic (but there are a number of other great cocktail recipes on their website). In fact, here’s their recommended mix for the perfect G&T – easy to make in the comfort of your own home.

Welcome to the classic Harahorn G&T – a few of these and you might start seeing things as well!

The perfect pour: the Harahorn G&T

Ingredients:

  • 4cl Harahorn gin
  • 2 cl freshly squeezed lemon juice (or lime juice)
  • Ice cubes
  • Premium tonic water (dry is better)
  • Blueberries

Method:

  1. Take a large highball glass
  2. Pour in 4cl of Harahorn Gin
  3. Fill with large ice cubes
  4. Wipe the rim of the glass with a wedge of lemon or lime
  5. Squeeze in the fresh lemon or lime juice
  6. Top up the glass with a freshly opened, premium, dry Indian Tonic water (such as Franklin and Sons)
  7. Garnish with blueberries (or your preferred choice of herbs or botanicals).

Sit back and sip (and keep your eyes peeled for giant, horned rabbits – you never know when one might pop up!)

As they say in Norway, Skol!



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.

American gin

Gin’s brave new world: the story of American gin

As an international, Barcelona-based gin blog, we tend to have a small, unwitting bias in favour of British and Spanish gins. They are two of the most innovative gin traditions and we have easy access to those brands.  But as we grow and welcome more North Americans to the group, we thought it was worth spending a little time looking at the contribution of America and Canada to the history of gin. These countries have had a long love affair with gin. They are now starting to have an influence on the development and future of our favourite drink.  We know that we have not yet reached “peak gin” in North America. But there are an increasing number of gin connoisseurs over the pond. And an increasing collection of new, innovative American and Canadian gins for us all to try.

So, let’s take the wraps off the American gin story. Let’s pay tribute to the increasing contribution of our transatlantic cousins to this great and glorious international drink.

Stepping back in time

Let’s wind back a bit to the 19th century.  In those days, New York was a bustling, growing city and the Dutch had a big influence.  In fact, Manhattan was originally known as New Amsterdam. And when the Dutch came to town, they brought with them their favourite drink.  Dutch immigrants brought high quality genever from the old country. It was far superior to anything they could get locally. It was also better than the stuff the English were bringing with them.
In fact, in the 19th century, 5 times as much “Holland Gin” was imported to the US than English gin. 

Ice, ice, baby!

Then, some time in the 1830s, ice started to make an appearance – and it was a gamechanger. Ice soon became a vital (and innovative) way to keep drinks cool in New York’s hot summer months.  Its widespread availability helped to inspire a new kind of drink, called a cocktail. Most Americans made their cocktails with whiskey at first. But gin wasn’t far behind and by the mid-1800s, there were as many as 6 distillers in New York. Brooklyn alone was distilling almost 3 million gallons of grain spirit per year, most of it used to fuel the American gin revolution.  By 1870, the first London Dry style gin distillery was opened in Cincinnati, Ohio and slowly, slowly the switch to a drier type of gin began.  In those days, the malty, sweet taste of Genever and Old Tom gin was perfect for mixing with punches or slings, but not so good for the more subtle and evolving art of cocktail making.

A tale of three Harrys

By 1888, Harry Johnson’s Bartender’s Manual contained 19 different gin drinks, all of which required either Genever or Old Tom gin. By 1908, the gin switch was on with the appearance (and soon dominance) of drier gins.  And then after the end of World War 1, came prohibition and everything changed. 
For the next 13 years, alcohol was illegal in the US. The result was the closure of thousands of bars, breweries and distilleries as the cocktail revolution imploded stateside.  On the other hand, this elevated the status of stylish new international bars such as the Savoy’s American Bar in London to The Ritz in Paris. 

The United States elite simply sailed over to Europe to sip their alcohol in style and freedom. These sophisticated establishments created the world’s first superstar mixologists such as Harry Craddock and Harry McElhone, who carved themselves a permanent spot in cocktail’s hall of fame.  

Just as an aside, why are all the best bartenders called Harry?

The dawn of the cocktail

By the early 20th century, classic cocktails had started to build themselves a reputation with drinks such as the Aviation, the Negroni and the Dry Martini first making an appearance.

These are all classic gin drinks that we still sip on today.  But back in the UK, enterprising Brits started looking for ways to protect their potential post-prohibition market. They did this by bootlegging their gins to the US to fuel the illegal speakeasy gin trade that was thriving.  However, this bootleg gin did not come cheap, so DIY “bathtub gin” began to fill the void. This was often dodgy (to say the least). But those commercially savvy Brits had established a “brand bridgehead” in the States. This was to pay off post-prohibition when big players such as Gordon’s and Gilbey’s opening their first US distilleries.

The rest is history

The rest, as they say, is history and ever since, gin has remained a staple cocktail ingredient across North America. From the Dry Martini to the classic G&T, gin has found a serious niche for itself in the biggest consumer market in the world.  Gin can be found in cocktails across the US from Long Island Iced Teas to Gimlets and from Singapore Slings to Hanky Pankys.

The new world of American gin

Not long ago, the craft beer revolution transformed the beer market in North America forever. Now, there are signs that the craft gin revolution is parking its tanks on the lawn. Great small batch gins such as Brooklyn’s No.209 Gin, New York’s Dorothy Parker, Washington’s Death’s Door and Ryan Reynold’s Aviation Gin.
And, in true New World style, new genres of gin are being created all the time. These include an increasing number of barrel-aged gins that are leading the charge for new flavour sensations that we can all enjoy!

Stay tuned for an article in the next few weeks with some of the best gins from New York and Canada. We think you’ll be pleasantly surprised!


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 smoothie

Gin Smoothie: healthy, delicious and fun

posted in: Cocktails, Gin and Juniper | 0

Sometimes, people think of gin as an unhealthy drink. Images of drunkards on Gin Lane, a speculative association with depression, unfortunate nicknames like “Mother’s Ruin”. None of these things really represent the truth. Gin is no worse for you than any other spirit – and in some ways it’s better! So, like any drink that is taken too much and too often, moderation is always the best policy. However, it’s worth noting a few things for the record. Gin doesn’t make you cry or feel depressed. In fact, it is one of the healthiest booze choices out there. For those looking to count their calories, it’s worth noting that gin is one of the least calorific of all the major spirit categories. Weighing in at under 100 calories per shot, you can pair it with a zero calorie tonic water and have a decent drink without worrying about putting on the pounds. Plus, with the addition of some fruit garnishes, it even starts to look healthy!

Guilt-free drinking…

So we thought we’d find a recipe that we can all enjoy – healthy, boozy and delicious. Welcome to the Barcelona Gin Smoothie.

This fruity, healthy little number is a simple blend of strawberries, lime juice, diet tonic water and…more strawberries!
Basically, it has all the ingredients required for guilt-free drinking and it’s delicious at any time of day. So, let’s take a look at how easy this gin smoothie is to prepare.
Here we go – an easy to prepare, delicious and healthy way to mix your gin (and get a little fruity goodness at the same time).
Enjoy!

Gin smoothie recipe

Ingredients:

  • 30 ml gin
  • 80g fresh or frozen strawberries
  • 1/2 lime (juiced)
  • 200 ml low calorie tonic water
  • More frozen strawberries (for garnish)
  • Ice

Method:

  1. Mix gin, frozen strawberries and lime in a blender
  2. Mix until smooth
  3. Add ice cubes and some frozen strawberries to your favourite glass
  4. Slowly pour in the fruity mixture, leaving space at the top
  5. Add tonic water to top up
  6. Sit back and sip smugly…

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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GinCity London

GinCity, London: the star of your bar

I love GinCity.
Every so often, you come across a gin that takes you by surprise. So, when I received a bottle of GinCity London this Christmas, I was initially seduced by the beautiful bottle.  Elegant and tall, the glass is intricately etched with a map of my home city in exquisite detail.  Every London street seems to exist and I had some fun finding all the different places I had lived over the years.  And then, I discovered the disco button.

Under an adhesive strip on the bottom of the bottle is a little bump.  Push it once and this beautiful bottle lights up with a gentle, blinking, pulsing red glow. Push it twice for a slower, gentler vibe. Or push it three times for a steady glow of red. Whichever you choose, with a simple push, this bottle is turned into a talking point. GinCity, will be the undoubted star of your bar.

The real deal…

But here’s the thing. My experience with gimmicks and promotions isn’t good.  Generally, the hype gets you in the door and the taste often makes you want to lock the door from the outside.  That’s why I didn’t rush to open this bottle.  I knew that its time would come. And so, this weekend, I turned the lights down low, switched the bottle to disco mode and poured.  I was pre-conditioned to be disappointed.  But I couldn’t have been more wrong.  Not only is this a stunning addition to my collection, but it tasted delicious.  And that’s what really matters.

So, what is this new gin, where does it come from and what does GinCity taste like?

A tale of two cities

GinCity London is one of two GinCity branded gins from their collection.  The one I tried is red and is etched with a detailed map of London. The other one is yellow and is etched with a beautiful street map of Valencia.  GinCity gins have been made by the team at Bodegas Vegamar, who have made their reputation from wine, but have recently turned their attention to gin. Their GinCity brand currently features the two gins we have mentioned.  Each of them have been meticulously produced and each has a completely different character. 

The Valencia version is the sweeter of the two and is made from a Muscat base that has been infused with the sweet aromas of orange blossom. Mediterranean flavours are then added, including chamomile, thyme and marcona almonds to give it a real warmth and softness.  Or at least that’s what it says on the website.  We haven’t tried it yet, but we will.

GinCity London – it’s all in the detail!

On the other hand, we’ve dived straight into the London version and we were deliciously (and pleasantly) surprised. This is no average gin in a novelty bottle. This is actually a delicious gin in a beautiful bottle. So, let’s take a look beyond the flashing lights and find out what it’s all about. 

This is a modern London Dry gin. It’s elegant and contemporary, with a beautifully blended selection of botanicals that include ginger, cardamom, cilantro, angelica, orange and lemon peel and mint. There’s also plenty of juniper, which helps retain its London Dry characteristics. This is a good thing. The result is a delightful gin, that despite being named after London, is actually packed full of Mediterranean flavour, as befits its birthplace, sunny Valencia.  But it’s not just that Spanish sunshine that makes this gin special. 

Five macerations…

These guys do it properly.  They divide the base spirit into three separate tanks, each of which macerates a different selection of botanicals.  In the first batch, they mix up juniper, cardamom, cilantro and angelica root.  In the second tank, they macerate a mixture of ginger and peppermint. And in the third tank, they macerate the citrus fruits including the lemon and orange peel. 

After 24 hours, each tank is redistilled with its own botanicals and with each distillation, the “heads and tails” of the gin mixture are discarded, leaving only the best of the gin in three new, high quality distillates.  Then, in a final flourish, all three mixtures are distilled for a fifth and final time, resulting in a fresh, powerful and flavour-packed gin that is easy to drink and deceptively intricate.

The verdict: oranges and lemons (and a hint of Yuzu)

Well, I was pleasantly surprised. I absolutely loved this gin. It is a complex mixture but its five distillations ensure a smooth, rounded and sophisticated drink that will suit most tastes. On the nose, there are the distinct floral notes of orange blossom. The lemon and orange peel lends it a citrus aroma that is a lovely signpost to the treat that awaits you. You can certainly smell the juniper bitterness, which is softened with hints of verbena and almond. These delicate notes linger on long after you’ve put the glass down.

And then when you taste it, you’ll probably pick up the silky smoothness of the blend that releases big, fruity citrus notes and a rich flavour that is rounded off by the sweet warmth of the Marcasa almonds. Long after I took my last sip, I was tasting the citrus notes, which almost tasted like Yuzu. The result is a gin to remember.

GinCity London: the perfect pour

This worked well as a Spanish style Gin and Tonic. I served a double shot in a copa glass filled with large, round ice cubes. Ice in first, then a gentle stir. Pour in your preferred amount of gin. Then cut a wedge of lime, squeeze the juice into the glass, wipe the rim with the wedge and drop it in. Top up with a freshly opened bottle of Franklin and Sons Premium Indian tonic water, sit back and enjoy. This is a gin to sip and respect.

The Gin Apple cocktail recipe

But, while this works really well as a G&T, it’s also a great gin for cocktail making with its lemony/ginger roots and yuzu like taste, it lends itself to your imagination. The folks at Gin City have recommended a few cocktails and we’ve chosen one to share with you if you fancy pushing the boat out one of these days. Introducing the Gin Apple, from the good people at Gin City.

Ingredients:

  • 30ml of GinCity London gin
  • 30ml of apple liqueur
  • 120ml of premium Indian tonic water
  • Plenty of ice
  • 4 apple slices

Method:

  1. Pour the ice, the gin and the apple liqueur into the glass
  2. Stir gently and add tonic
  3. Garnish with 4 apple slices
Gin Sangria

Gin Sangria: the best of both worlds

posted in: Cocktails, Gin and Juniper | 0

Some people think it’s impossible to have the best of both worlds.  At Barcelona Gin, we respectfully disagree.  Barcelona and London. Gin and tonic. Sun and sea…
But there’s a magical combination that combines all of these things in one delicious, refreshing jug of summer loving.  For most people, Sangria is a drink mostly tasted on holiday in Spain.  From Malaga to Madrid and from Barcelona to the Balearics, Sangria has become a tourist favourite. 
Easy to drink and easy to get drunk on, for some people it’s the perfect holiday cooler.  The trouble is that most tourists get to drink the tourist version. It’s fine, but the locals spin their Sangria any number of different ways.

Good, old fashioned bloodletting…

Sangria is a traditional alcoholic drink that originated in the Iberian peninsula and that remains popular across both Spain and Portugal.  In fact, only those two countries are officially entitled to use the name Sangria, so make sure you’re trying the real stuff.
And here’s an interesting fact – the word Sangria literally means “bloodletting” and it began to be popular as early as the 18th century. 

Punch and Sangria – cousins, separated at birth

It generally belongs in the punch family of drinks and is most often served in a large jug, filled with red (or white) wine, chopped fruit and ice. 
But often, other ingredients make an appearance including spirits. In fact, there are any number of variations of this delicious drink across Spain. It’s traditionally made with Rioja red wine. But it can also be made with white wine or cava.
Fruit is generally added to the mix depending on seasonality and region. Peaches, nectarines, apples and pears are common ingredients, but you’re only limited by your imagination.
In recent years, Sangria from white wine is becoming increasingly popular. And for those looking to add a bit of strength to their mixture, feel free to add a splash of brandy or a fruit liqueur.

The gin is in!

And this is where our good friend gin enters the scene. As usual, while we fully respect the tradition of a Sangria (and we know we might be breaking some of the rules), we think gin is the missing ingredient. It is the thing that links Spain and London. It makes regular appearances in old fashioned punches and it can add a little boost to the spirits. This is a drink that truly bridges both worlds.

So, here’s a cheeky Gin Sangria recipe that is really easy to make and that makes use of a little gin to pep up this traditional Spanish drink.

Gin Sangria recipe

Ingredients:

  • 2 bottles dry Spanish red wine
  • 6 oz gin (Gin Mare or Gin Xoriger Mahon)
  • 3 tablespoons of sugar
  • 4 oranges (3 juiced, 1 whole)
  • 2 limes (1 juiced, 1 whole)
  • 4 lemons (3 juiced, 1 whole)
  • Ice
  • 24 oz guarana soda

Method:

  1. Combine the wine, gin, sugar and the juice from the 3 oranges, 3 lemons and one lime
  2. Slice the remaining orange, lemon and lime and add them to the pitcher as well
  3. Stir the pitcher and let it sit overnight in the refrigerator
  4. Pour the sangria into glasses filled with ice and top up with guarana soda
  5. Sit back and drink.

Salud!


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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key lime pie

Gin Key Lime Pie: a taste of summer sunshine

Summer is on its way!

It’s that time of year when the weather likes to tease us.  We’re offered little glimpses of sunshine before the warmth is dampened by the clouds.  We enjoy walking on the sunny side of the street, but freeze in the shade.  We have warm spells but we know we can’t rely on them. Yet!

But our time is coming.  Beyond spring lies summer – a time of long, hot sunny days, warm evenings, outdoor cocktails and barbecues. So, we have something good to focus on while we wait for the retreat of winter and dream of the better days that lie ahead. Some of us are dreaming of freedom to travel, others are dreaming of reuniting with loved ones.  I’m dreaming of Key Lime Pie.  That’s the space that I inhabit. 

Key Lime Pie – a Florida classic

Key Lime Pie is one of the great contributions of America to world cuisine. This amazing, tangy, sweet dessert is simple to make and delicious to eat. If you have lime juice, eggs, condensed milk and digestive biscuits in your larder, you can whip one of these up, no problem.  Some of us may be more familiar with lemon meringue pie, its better known cousin.  But this younger family member is even better. Sharper, tangier and lighter, it’s a great summer treat.  

Fire up the grill, load up those plates with sausages, burgers and steaks – and save enough room for a little dessert.  After all that heavy, rich food this light, citrus tart cuts through all those heavy flavours with a little lime goodness that immediately let’s you know that summer is coming.  Key limes are a special type of lime, mostly found in Southern Florida. The juice is yellow instead of green – and so is the pie.  But the taste is pure lime and wonderfully unique. 

No history, but a great tradition

There is no clear history to this pie – and nobody quite knows when it was actually invented.  But it first gained fame in the 1950s when it began to be promoted as “Florida’s most famous treat”. Once this glorious dish had achieved its initial fame and notoriety, it has never looked back.  But one thing could make this dish even better – the addition of a well chosen gin to this Florida favourite.

So, with that in mind, here’s an easy to make Key Lime Pie recipe that won’t challenge casual cooks too much. It’s simple, delicious – and with the addition of a large measure of gin to the recipe, it is almost as good as a gin and tonic. 

We recommend using Tanqueray Rangpur for a little extra lime zestiness.  Plus, if you keep a bottle nearby while you’re cooking, it’s even simpler to cut up a few extra limes and fix a large G&T.
You’re the chef. Nobody deserves it more!

Gin Key Lime Pie Recipe

Ingredients:

key lime pie
  • 200g digestive biscuits
  • 100g sugar
  • 50g butter
  • 4 limes
  • 1 can of condensed milk
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 4 oz Tanqueray Rangpur gin

Method:

  1. Crumble the digestive biscuits into a blender.
  2. Blitz into a nice, crumbly mixture.
  3. Melt the butter and pour it into the blender.
  4. Grate it into the zest from the limes and mix together.
  5. Press the crumbs into the bottom of a greased cake tin.
  6. Bake at 200c for 10 minutes.
  7. Pour the gin, condensed milk and sugar into a bowl.
  8. Grate the zest from two of the limes into the mixture and the zest from the third into a bowl.
  9. Place the bowl in the fridge.
  10. Squeeze the juice from all four limes into the mixture.
  11. Add the egg yolks.
  12. Whisk together until smooth.
  13. Place some parchment paper around the edges of the cake tin.
  14. Pour the mixture on top of the biscuit base and smooth off the top.
  15. Bake for 25 minutes at 180c.
  16. Chill in the fridge until cool and serve with the remaining zest.
  17. Pour out a large Rangpur and tonic and enjoy!


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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