Canadian Gin

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

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

It’s as cold as ice…

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

The gin revolution

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

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

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

Canada’s best gins

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

The craft revolution

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

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

Stump Coastal Forest gin, Victoria: ABV 45%

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

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

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

Hansen Distilleries Trouble Gin, Alberta: ABV 40%

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

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

Forts’ Canadian Boreal gin: ABV 35%

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

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

Collective Arts Plum and Blackthorn: ABV 43.5%

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

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

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

Strathcona Spirits Badland Seaberry Gin: ABV 44%

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

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

Colombian Treasure Gin

Goodbye cocaine and coffee, hello Colombian Treasure gin!

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

Coffee, cocaine and now gin

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

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

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

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

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

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

A taste for rum, coffee and good cigars…

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

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

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

Colombian Treasure gin

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

Exotic flavours, aged in oak

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

The secret ingredient

Colombian Treasure gin

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

But what’s Colombian Treasure gin actually like?

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

Tantalisingly complex

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

The Gin and Tonic test

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

Is Colombian Treasure gin a gin for cocktails?

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

Triple Citrus Gin Cocktail Recipe

Ingredients:

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

Method:

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

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

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


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Ukiyo Japanese Blossom gin

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

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

One sip and I was taken.

A beautiful bottle for a beautiful gin

And what was so special about Ukiyo Japanese Blossom gin?

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

“Floating world” gin for the mindfulness generation

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

So, what’s so special about it?

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

The fragrant, complex aroma of cherry blossom

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

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

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

Ukiyo Japanese Blossom gin perfect pour:

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

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

Ukiyo Cherry Cobbler

Ingredients:

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

Method:

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

Kanpai everybody!!


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

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


RECENT POSTS

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

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

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

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

Christmas Cosmos…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Christmas advent calendars: your daily dose of Vitamin Gin

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

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

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

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

Christmas treats: no tricks!

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

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

Christmas gin liqueurs: boost your bubbly this Christmas

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

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

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

Gin-filled baubles: will they survive to Christmas?

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

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

Indoor fireworks: light your Christmas pudding with Navy Strength gin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Merry Gin-mas everyone!

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

The Barcelona Gin team

Steve, Marta, Jason (and Ruddles!)


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

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


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Ólafsson Gin

Ólafsson gin: the exquisite, natural taste of Iceland

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

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

Ólafsson Gin – made from nature

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

Driven by a taste for adventure…

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

Iceland’s gin revolution

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

Pure water and unique botanicals

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

The taste of Iceland in a bottle

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

Getting under the skin of the gin

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

The taste test

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

Ólafsson Gin: the perfect pour

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

Ingredients:

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

Method:

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

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


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

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


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Oxley Gin

Oxley Gin: the gin that came in from the cold

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

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

How it all began

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

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

Eight years to make, but worth the wait

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

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

So, what exactly does it taste like?

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

The perfect serve: Oxley classic Dry Martini recipe

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

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

Ingredients:

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

Method:

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

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

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


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a gin zombie

A Gin Zombie: no tricks, just a Halloween treat

posted in: Cocktails, Gin and Juniper | 0

After a couple of years where Covid managed to transform our once busy Halloween streets full of children dressing up as ghosts and goblins into what seemed like genuine scenes from a post apocalyptic Zombie movie, a Gin Zombie seems like the ideal cocktail to usher in the Halloween feast. Now, that life is returning to normal the ghosts and ghouls can return for their biggest night of the year. It feels like Halloween is back.

Be prepared for fright night

Whether you like it or not, those pesky kids will be ringing your bell again this year demanding treats and punishing anybody who dares to deny them unlimited access to sugar and candy.  Some of you will have prepared for this for months and will have bags of candy at the ready for anybody who rings your doorbell. Others will turn the lights out, lock the doors and hide in the back room until the threat has passed.

But whether you are hiding from the kids or fully embracing the spirit of Halloween yourself, an appropriate cocktail can help to make your evening a pleasure, not a chore. And that’s when our thoughts turn to Zombies. The cocktails, not the living dead.

High spirits

The Zombie first rose to popularity back in the 1960s as part of the Tiki cocktail revolution inspired by the slightly tacky, legendary (and tongue in cheek) Trader Vic’s.  But its history stretches further back into the mists of time.

The original Zombie is centred around 3 types of rum. They then add a bit of apricot brandy, some lime juice, some pineapple juice and a dash of grenadine. But, as you’d expect, we’ve switched up and adapted the original for our favourite spirit, gin and turned it into a Gin Zombie.

So, if you’re looking for a little something to keep your spirits high as the ghosts and ghouls stalk your neighbourhood, then fear not. Lock the door, turn the lights down and mix up a Halloween gin treat.  And that way, you get to eat all the candy yourself!!

Introducing the Gin Zombie

Ingredients:

  • Old Tom gin 1 oz
  • Navy Strength gin 1 oz
  • London Dry gin 1 oz
  • ¼ oz lime juice
  • ¾ oz grapefruit juice
  • ¾ oz elderflower liqueur
  • ½ oz grenadine
  • ¼ oz ginger syrup
  • 1 dash of Angostura bitters

Method:

  1. Put some ice cubes into a cocktail shaker with the 3 gins, lime juice, grapefruit juice, elderflower liqueur, grenadine, ginger syrup
  2. Pour into a chilled glass without straining (hurricane glass works well here)
  3. Add a large dash of Angostura bitters to the mix and float a little extra Navy proof gin on the top of the mix
  4. Decorate with a wedge of pineapple or and a slice of lime
  5. Sprinkle a little sugar over the top and serve

Happy Halloween everybody!!


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

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


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Hot Gin Toddy

Hot gin toddy: cold comfort from an old friend

posted in: Cocktails, Gin and Juniper | 0

The seasons are changing.  The summer heat is now well and truly behind us and we are now in that lovely space where the last of the summer sun still occasionally breaks through. It is a time to hear the leaves crunch beneath your feet, to watch the colors change from green to brown and gold and purple.  It’s a time of year when we appreciate every day of sunshine as we get ready for the inevitable winter weather ahead. It’s nature’s transition time and it follows a rhythm as old as the earth. We dig out the scarves and the Wellington boots and seek refuge in long country walks.  Sometimes this manifests itself in the glory of warm shaft of sunlight on your face. Other days, it shows itself in your breath, visible in the colder air.

The season of mists, mellow fruitfulness…and colds

In North America it is the season of Halloween costumes, pumpkin carving and family gatherings around the Thanksgiving table.
In the UK, it’s all about long country walks through gorgeous foliage. The trees are in their ultimate glory, lighting up the countryside with a rich tapestry of colours. The lure of a gorgeous country pub with a roaring fireplace, comfy chairs and convivial company keeps the walkers motivated whatever the weather.
In Barcelona, the sun still shines, but  it’s a time of transition. Some hot days, some colder days, but the sky stays blue and the locals still pile on the autumn clothes, wrapped in scarves and enjoying a welcome relief from the heat of summer.

But this seasonal uncertainty has its consequences.  The frequent temperature changes, the wetter weather and the chillier days and nights mean that it is also a time when we all become subject to seasonal illnesses such as colds and flu. And we’re delighted to let you know that gin can be a great ingredient in your winter recovery plan.  You might have read our recent article about the healthy properties of gin. Well, here’s more good news. Hot gin toddies are here to save your day!

Having just succumbed to my first major cold of the season, complete with stuffed up nose, headache, constant sneezing, a chesty cough and what seemed like a river flowing through my nose, I mixed myself up one of these.  And the results were great.

What is a hot toddy and how does it help?

Well, one thing a hot gin toddy won’t do is cure your cold. But it can be a big help in managing your symptoms and helping you to feel better until the infection leaves your system. Tradtionally, the home made remedies are made with honey, lemon, hot water and alcohol. The customary booze for this remedy is whiskey but, as you’d expect, we think gin is a great substitute. And here’s the reason why.

The complex botanicals in gin are opened up nicely by the addition of hot water. Choose a good gin (with a flavour profile that suits your taste) and suddenly taking your medicine gets a whole lot easier. In fact, the flavour release is so effective that you don’t need to add tea (or anything else, for that matter). Drier gins may work better for this concoction and its best to add water that is just at the end of its simmer to get the best from the gin. And there’s even more good news – this cold cure tastes great and only has 120 calories!

How does a hot gin toddy work?

Well, let’s take one ingredient at a time.

  • Hot water – hot water seems to have the effect of clearing congestion. But remember, not too hot. Just 45 seconds in a microwave should do the trick and release all the aromas and flavours of the botanicals within.
  • Lemon juice – Vitamin C is the best thing for fighting colds and flu. Lemons are chock-full of antioxidants that have been shown to be good at fighting colds. According to studies, regular doses of vitamin C can reduce the length and strength of a cold and regular intake can stop you getting one on the first place.
  • Honey – this natural treat has been playing a significant role in treating cold symptoms for hundreds of years. Not only is it packed with natural goodness, but it’s also really good at soothing sore throats, reducing coughs and helping to improve sleep quality.
  • Gin – the alcoholic content in gin is a great decongestant. It helps dilate the blood vessels making it easier for your mucus membranes to deal with the infection. Plus, if you have one of these before bedtime, it can also make you a little drowsy, helping you to get a good night’s sleep – essential to a strong recovery.

Toddy tips:

  1. Use a juniper forward gin if possible. It’s bold flavours bring the best out of this drink
  2. High strength gins work better. Navy strength gins work particularly well.
  3. Use hot water, not boiling water. 30-45 seconds in the microwave should brng the best out of the botanicals

Hot Gin Toddy recipe

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 oz gin
  • ¾ oz freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 2 oz hot water
  • Garnish with cinnamon stick or clove (other garnishes are available!)

Method:

  1. Gather your ingredients
  2. Add the gin, lemon juice and honey into an Irish coffee glass, brandy snifter or mug
  3. Heat your water to a high simmer, ad to glass and stir to dissolve honey
  4. Garnish with cinnamon stick, clove or a slice of lemon

Please note: alcohol may interact negatively with other cold treatment remedies, so be careful.


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

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


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Gin and elderflower: the new taste of summer

posted in: Cocktails, Gin and Juniper | 0

So, elderflower and gin is fast becoming the taste of summer. For many years, it was a staple ingredient of North Western Europe, but now elderflower cordials, gins and liqueurs are available around the world. But while this pretty flower’s culinary roots go as far back as the Romans, Europeans have been using the flowers of the European Elder to make cordial recipes to refresh thirsty Europeans for many centuries now. These days, it has become a common summer flavour and many people still make it in the traditional way, generally as a cordial, squash or syrup that is mixed with still or sparkling water – and it’s refreshing, healthy and easy to make at home.

What exactly is an elderflower?

Elderflowers generally grow between May and June, making them the perfect solution to summer heat and they can generally be found across Europe, North Africa and S.W. Asia. 
Making the cordial is actually a very simple process which involves steeping the flower heads in a solution of concentrated sugar which infuses the flavour directly into the syrup.  Some people add a little lemon juice to help add a little sharpness before covering it and allowing the infusion process to begin.  Once the flavours have really blended, it’s then a relatively simple process of straining the resulting product to extract as much juice as possible before mixing it with water, sparkling water and even gin. 

Keeping things cordial

Or, if you prefer, simply buy some commercial elderflower cordial and mix it up to your taste. For centuries, this light, refreshingly delicious summer drink has been served up at summer events and picnics.  And then, when the craft gin revolution began and distillers and craft gin producers started looking for ways to improve and enhance their gin, elderflower became the perfect match. It’s light, citrus sweetness made it an ideal partner for gin and a fabulous alternative to the standard choice of Indian tonic water to provide a refreshing, easy to drink mixer.  Many brands are available these days, from Belvoir to supermarket own brands. But we like the very French St. Germain which uses hand picked flowers that are taken back to the village by bicycle.

Just the tonic…

Most of the premium tonic brands now offer an elderflower alternative.  From the ubiquitous Fever Tree with their plain elderflower tonic to old standards such as Schweppes, it seems everybody now recognises this new flavour as a legitimate alternative to standard tonic.  One of our favourite tonic brands, Franklin and Sons, now offers elderflower and cucumber tonic water which is cooling and light and a perfect way to enhance your summer gin of choice.  Versions are available at all levels and prices.

Elderflower gins…

But, you could dispense with the commercial versions altogether if you choose an elderflower gin. My personal favourite is from JJ. Whitley – a refreshing, fragrant gin with a distinctive honey, orange and elderflower taste and at a great price.  It’s not overly strong at around 38.6% ABV, but that may not be such a bad thing since it’s so easy to drink.  Other brands to look out for include the Warner Edwards Elderflower gin which clocks in at a slightly stronger 40% ABV, but is almost twice the price. Gordon’s even does an elderflower version of their gin. 

Gin liqueurs – keeping things sweet

Then there are the elderflower gin liqueurs which are sweeter and more concentrated but can be a lovey aperitif or add a blast of summer to your cocktails. There are tasty versions of these over at Edinburgh Gin with a blend of elderflower, lavender. Orange peel and lemongrass (other brands are available).

Perfect for summer cocktails

And then, there is the elderflower as a gin cocktail ingredient, increasingly appearing in summer gin coolers, martinis and long cocktails topped up with soda or sparkling wine. But we could talk about the theory all summer long, but what you really want is an easy recipe to get your summer rolling.  So, we’ve found a really easy to make (and easy to drink) recipe for a Gin and Elderflower cooler that will impress your friends and give you an extra reason to get your shorts on, slip into the garden or terrace and elevate yourself smugly above those gin and tonic drinkers.

Welcome to the Gin and Elderflower Cooler.

Gin and Elderflower cooler recipe

Ingredients:

  • 100ml elderflower cordial
  • 150 ml gin (use JJ. Whitley to pump up the flavour)
  • 400 ml of soda (or sparkling water)
  • Ice cubes
  • 8 cucumber circles (thinly sliced)
  • 2 apple circles (thinly sliced)
  • 3 sprigs of fresh mint
  • 1 litre jug or pitcher

Method:

  1. Pour the elderflower cordial and gin directly into the jug
  2. Top up with the soda or sparkling water
  3. Scrunch up the mint leaves in your hands (bruising them lightly to release the flavour)
  4. Add it to the pitcher along with the cucumber and apple
  5. Add ice last and then give it all a good stir
  6. Leave it for a few minutes to infuse and when you’re ready, pour 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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home-made pimms

Home-made Pimms – put a little sunshine in your life

We’re now well and truly into summer and the social season lies ahead of us.  In the UK we have three of the most social events of the year coming up including Wimbledon this week (where people watch tennis and drink Pimms); the Henley Royal Regatta (where boaters in straw hats row, while people drink Pimms); and the Chelsea Flower Show (where people look at flowers and drink Pimms).  Are you picking up a pattern here?

The unmistakable taste of the English summer

Yes, the Pimm’s Cup is truly the drink of the English summer and you will find it on any sunny day being served and drunk in large glasses filled with fruit, ice, lemonade and the unmistakably herby taste of Pimms.  Pub gardens will be full of Pimms drinkers and large jugs of the stuff will be perched on bar tables around the country for the authentic taste of the English summer. For those who don’t know, Pimms is a gin cup first made in London by James Pimms way back in 1820. He actually owned an oyster bar and created this herbal concoction to settle the stomachs of any customers who might have over-indulged on his shellfish.

Introducing Pimms No. 1

The restaurant chain grew and his drink became increasingly popular, so he developed a version of the mix that he could sell to other restaurants – and he named it the No. 1 Cup.  Today, we just know it as Pimms.
But Pimms comes in different shapes and sizes including the No. 2 Cup (made with Scotch whiskey); the No. 3 Cup (or Pimms Winter) was relaunched in 2008; the No. 4 Cup (made with Rum); and the No. 5 Cup (made with Rye). Then comes the No. 6 Cup (made with Vodka) which is the second most popular of the variants. But this article isn’t about Pimms.  It’s about an alternative.  What if we could share a recipe for home-made Pimms that is even more delicious than the original and really easy to make?

Well, say no more – your wish has just come true. Here’s an amazing, easy to drink recipe that you can make at home.

Home-made is always best…

This recipe requires first making a fruit cup syrup, which is then mixed with gin and sweet vermouth to give your summer potion an unmistakable and distinctive character.  But to do this properly, you’re going to need to gather some ingredients.  You’re going to need a little caster sugar, some fresh strawberries, a cucumber, some grapefruit peel and some mint. And then, to spritz it all up you’ll need a juniper-forward gin, some vermouth (rosso), plenty of ice and some fizzy lemonade or ginger ale. It’s already making my mouth water just thinking about it. So, without further ado, here’s the recipe!

Home-made Pimms recipe

Ingredients:

For the fruit cup syrup

  • 300g of caster sugar
  • 200g of thinly sliced strawberries
  • 150g of sliced, peeled cucumber
  • 30g of grapefruit peel
  • 10g of mint leaves
  • 300 ml water

For the fruit cup

  • 200 ml fruit cup syrup (see above)
  • 400 ml of juniper forward gin
  • 400 ml of red vermouth
  • Sparkling lemonade or ginger ale
  • Sliced strawberries, oranges, lavender leaves and bay leaves to garnish

Method:

  1. Sprinkle the sugar over the strawberries, cucumber, grapefruit, mint and lavender
  2. Place in refrigerator overnight (to draw moisture from the fruit)
  3. Add the water, then pour everything into a resealable plastic bag
  4. Heat a pan of hot water to a steady 55C (you may need a temperature probe for this)
  5. After 4 hours, remove from the pan and strain through a sieve

For the fruit cup:

  1. Once the syrup has cooled, mix it with the gin and vermouth and store in the fridge, where it should last for up to 6 months
  2. Mix one part of fruit cup with two parts of lemonade or ginger ale (or both) over plenty of ice
  3. Garnish as extravagantly as you like – game, set and match

Anyone for tennis?


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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  • The rise of Canadian gin: 5 of the best from the Great White North
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    Banzai! I think I’ve just had the best gin I’ve ever tasted. I wasn’t expecting it. In fact it was a gift at a surprise birthday party. And I wasn’t expecting that either.  But this gin has just blown my Christmas socks off! The thing is, there are so many gins around to try now.  … Continued
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