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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angostura bitters

Small bottle, big label: the story behind Angostura bitters

We recently published a little article about gin and bitters (including Angostura) – a pairing almost as old as gin itself. As cocktails become more daring and our tastes become more and more exotic, we are constantly searching for new twists and flavours to make sure we get the very best out of our drinks. As we mentioned in our article, bitters have been a bartender’s friend for many years now.  And with the recent explosion in interest in all things gin, new and interesting brands have emerged to put their latest spin on this classic concoction.

The “Daddy” of all bitters

And that got us looking at the “Daddy” of all bitters – Angostura. And the more we looked, the more intrigued we became.  We noticed that the label on a bottle of Angostura Bitters is way too big for the bottle itself. It almost looks like it’s been taken from a bigger bottle and simply slapped onto a smaller bottle, despite its overgrown proportions.  It looks a bit like a teenage boy wearing his Dad’s over-sized shirt.
So, after a little bit of research, we discovered the reason – but you’ll have to wait until the end of the article before we reveal it.
First, here’s the story of Angostura bitters and how a little bottle with a big label changed the way we think about drink.

What are bitters?

Just a little reminder, bitters are alcoholic preparations flavoured with carefully chosen botanicals and characterised by a highly concentrated bitter or bittersweet flavour.  Many of the famous brands of bitters began their life as medicines. But most are now sold as digestifs or cocktail flavourings.  A small drop of bitters can radically alter the taste of your drink bringing out flavours that you might not have noticed before. They also add layers of complexity to give your drink a richer, more rewarding  flavour profile.

But amongst all the bitters out there, one stands tall and proud.  It is the “Daddy” of them all and it is called Angostura.  We thought we’d take a look at this little beauty and see just why it has become the most popular brand of bitters on the market – and why it has a label that is much too big for its tiny bottle.

Angostura bitters – the original (and still one of the best!)

Angostura bitters are made by the House of Angostura in the Caribbean island of Trinidad and Tobago, but the bitters were originally produced in a little town called Angostura, in Venezuela. It is there that the liquid first got its name.  Interestingly, Angostura Bitters (unlike many of its rivals) does not actually contain any Angostura bark (yet another quirky fact about this interesting and long-lasting brand).

So, how did it all begin?

There was a German surgeon called Dr. Siegert who served in the Venezuelan army of Simon Bolivar.  It was he who originally developed the recipe as a medical remedy and in 1824, Siegert began to sell it commercially. By 1830, he had opened up a distillery exclusively for the production of these bitters and he used local knowledge about botanicals from the indigenous people who lived in the area of the town.  By 1853, bitters began to become popular abroad and by 1875, the plant was moved to its current location in Port of Spain.  At this point, Angostura bitters was growing its reputation. It even won some prestigious medals (which are still displayed on the legendary oversized label, which also features a profile image of Emperor Franz Joseph 1 of Austria).

A closely guarded secret

And, like many brands, its recipe remains a closely guarded secret. Rumour has it that only one person knows the full recipe and that it is passed down by word of mouth to each new generation. Angostura makes a range of different bitters now, including an orange one.  But it’s the original that sets the standard and has remained in charge for almost 200 years.

Reach for the Angostura…

Bitters are more popular than ever now and everyone from top mixologists to casual drinkers should keep a bottle close to the bar – if you like Pink Gins, Old Fashioneds or Manhattans, you’ll need to reach for the Angostura. So, that’s a little bit about the story behind the brand.  But what about that oversized label?

So, what’s the story behind the over-sized label?

Well, here it is. It was actually a mistake that has stood the test of time. When Dr. Siegert died in 1870, he passed the business on to his sons. They decided it was time to get some publicity, so they decided to do a rebrand of their precious product. One of the brothers set to work designing the new bottle while the other went about designing the new label.  Unfortunately, they didn’t bother to talk first and by the time the competition entry was due, they had no time for a redesign, so they left it how it was. The rest, as they say, is history. History tells us that the brother’s didn’t end up winning the competition.  But apparently, on the advice of one of the judges, they kept the oversized label going forward so they would stand out from the competition.

To this day, the tradition continues and it has now become an intrinsic part of the character of this little drink that packs a big punch.  Now, there is a new generation of imitators, but none have taken the crown from the King. Some have even tried to replicate the over-sized label.  But this is a case where the original retains its pole position at the forefront of its category.

So, in tribute to the longevity of this cocktail classic, here’s a little Angostura bitters recipe that you might enjoy.  In a world where Pink Gin seems to simply refer to a colour, we return to the original Pink Gin with a classic recipe that might be worth revisiting.  Over to you!

Pink Gin cocktail – the classic

This drink works best with a strong, Navy Strength gin such as Tarquins Navy Strength.  The point of this mix was originally to help make the strong alcohol taste a little easier to drink.  Sometimes, dilution can actually be your friend in a cocktail – it’s not always about the strongest.  In this version, the strong gin is “cut” by water from the melted ice to help to improve the flavour of over-strength gin. And it works a treat.

Ingredients:

  • 2 oz Navy Strength gin
  • Angostura Bitters
  • A twist of lemon (for garnish)

Method:

  1. Gather your ingredients
  2. Express the oils of the lemon peel over the drink and drop the peel in
  3. Add a dash (or two) of Angostura bitters to a mixing glass filled with ice
  4. Swirl this “bittered” ice and water around in a cocktail glass
  5. Dump out the water, leaving the glass with a bitters rinse
  6. Back in your mixing glass, pour a large measure of gin (2 oz is good) and fill it with ice
  7. Stir well and strain into a cocktail glass
  8. Serve 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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the Hugo

Gin and summertime: introducing The Hugo

posted in: Cocktails, Gin and Juniper | 0

Gin and summertime are a perfect match. They go together as naturally as strawberries and cream.  In fact, there’s  nothing better on a hot summer’s day than a deliciously long, sparkling gin and tonic made in a Spanish copa glass. Especially if it’s filled with extra large ice cubes to keep you refreshed until the last sip.  But gin lends itself to so much more than just gin and tonics.  And maybe there is another way…

In the summertime, long cocktails become more popular than at other times of year and you can mix them up to match your mood. Whether you’re sunning yourself by a pool in the Mediterranean or sipping them gently by the BBQ in your back garden, they can make a lovely, easy to drink alternative to a cold beer and a more sophisticated way of drinking your gin than in a standard gin and tonic.

Summertime (and the ginning is easy…)

We know that as we ease into the summer social season, there will be lots of people reaching for that bottle of Pimms they’ve had since last summer.  They’ll be thinking about cutting up all that fruit, getting the proportions right and whether or not they have a jug or a punch bowl in the kitchen that’s big enough to mix up a summer batch.

But there is another way.  There are loads of refreshing, easy to make summer coolers that we think you might enjoy as the heat gets turned up and the summer starts to deliver on its early promise.  From standard summer punches to Singapore Slings and from Tom Collins‘ to Pomegranate coolers and Gin Fizzes, there’s something for everybody. 

But we thought we’d share a recipe for a delicious, refreshing summer drink called a Hugo
I like to think it’s in honour of one of my favourite teenagers, but he assures me that it’s nothing to do with him.

So, what is a Hugo and how do I make one?

This drink is so easy to make, it’s almost embarrassing.  It’s the perfect cocktail for summer sipping in the back garden, or for gathering around the pool for a cool down.  And it only has three key ingredients: gin, cava and elderflower cordial. It seems so simple and such easy flavours to combine. So, where did this refreshing drink originate? Well, according to legend it first appeared in Austria in the region of South Tyrol.  According to Mixology magazine, the first sighting of a Hugo was in 2005, when a barman called Roland Gruber was looking for an alternative to a Spritz Venetiano (prosecco, Aperol and soda water).  

In Roland’s version, he mixed gin, prosecco, lemon balm syrup and sparkling water and stirred it over ice.  As time went by, it became clear that elderflower syrup was easier to get than the lemon balm syrup (and tasted just as good).  Elderflower joined the party permanently and is now a standard ingredient of the Hugo. And in these days of flavoured gins, you can subtly switch up your flavour by choosing a gin. While a classic London Dry works really well with this mix, you could experiment with a few other trusted flavours. Dial up the citrus with a limey blast of Tanqueray Rangpur or give it a lemony lift with a shot of Malfy Limone. Add a little cucumber freshness with a classic Hendricks. Or make the most of that elderflower taste with a JJ Whitley elderflower gin.

Nobody quite knows why this cocktails is called a Hugo and we don’t really care.  It is sweet, refreshing, delicate, easy to make and easy to drink. It’s absolutely perfect for summer – and that’s good enough for us!

The Hugo recipe

Ingredients:

  • 1 measure of gin (to taste)
  • One Collins glass (half filled with ice)
  • A good splash of elderflower cordial
  • A handful of mint leaves
  • Lime wedge
  • Cava
  • Soda water

Method:

  1. Pour a generous measure of gin into a glass half-filled with ice
  2. Add a good splash of elderflower cordial
  3. Place several mint leaves into the drink
  4. Squeeze the juice of a lime into the drink and drop the wedge in
  5. Top up with cava
  6. Add a splash of soda water
  7. Serve chilled…

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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Suffering Bastard

The Suffering Bastard: handle with care

When you’re young, you see things differently.  New experiences pile up all around you and you want to try everything.  And with the sharp, social competitiveness of youth, you want to test your limits to see if you can outdo your friends.  It’s all a part of discovering who you are. My teenage years were spent between the UK and the USA. In the UK, it was all about how many pints of beer I could drink and how hot my curry would be afterwards. It was a badge of honour and it took me many years to step out of that phase.
Too many, actually!  

How it all began

Then I went to college in the USA – and that’s where I found out that I had a taste for cocktails.  It wasn’t a very refined taste in those days. Some would say it still isn’t! All I know is that in those early days, I tended to gravitate towards the ones that were either easiest to drink or contained the most alcohol. 

So, after a few years on the “Long Island Iced Tea Diet”, I found myself on a road trip to Chicago, sitting at the bar of Trader Vic’s Tiki Lounge at the Conrad Hilton, when somebody bought me a  cocktail I had ever tried before.  It was called a Suffering Bastard (and I can only assume that it was named after the hangover that I had the morning after). If so, it’s the most appropriately named drink I’ve ever had.

And over the years, these deceptively strong drinks have been the source of some of my best evenings (and worst mornings) ever since! So, what is in this delightfully named drink that makes it so appealing?  Well, let’s take a look under the hood of this cocktail classic and see if you like it. If you do, it could easily become the taste of summer.

Legendary hotels and their cocktails

As we know, all good drinks contain a legend. And many of the greatest cocktails began their lives behind the bars of some of the world’s most legendary hotels. They often changed the lives and fortunes of the bartenders who invented them as well, many of whom went on to become household names.  We’ve recently written some articles about hotel cocktail classics such as the Singapore Sling, invented at the historic Raffles Hotel in Singapore.  But now it’s time to reveal the story behind the legendary Suffering Bastard and how it got its unique and dramatic name. So, here’s the deal…

Originally invented as a simple hangover cure by the bar team at Cairo’s Shepheard’s Hotel, the Suffering Bastard gained a small, local reputation before the hotel burned to the ground in a fire in1952.  But wind the clock back 10 years to see where the story really begins.  

A legend is born

It’s 1942, Cairo and the Shepheard Hotel is fast becoming party central for British troops based in North Africa and the press corps that were covering the war. They had seen a lot and often found their solace in drink. The head bartender at the Shepheard, a guy called Joe Scialom, was on duty at the bar when he heard some officers complaining about the size of their hangovers.  His ears pricked up and it got him thinking. 

He began playing around with some recipes that might cure the hangovers of some of the troops who were his regulars.  Joe tried a variety of combinations before deciding on his final mix, which combined two liquors with lime juice, bitters and the curative qualities of ginger beer. Apparently this drink became instantly popular.  Before long it was being shipped to the front lines to fortify the troops and to keep their spirits up for the hard times ahead.

An unholy alliance

The most common recipe combination for a Suffering Bastard calls for an unholy alliance of bourbon and gin.  To this day, that remains the favourite combination but many variants exist which substitute brandy for bourbon.  Rum also sometimes makes an appearance.  And sometimes ginger ale is substituted for ginger beer (which is harder to find in some places).  For those who like to tone down the spice or who prefer a dryer, more refreshing drink, this might be the combo for you. 

Tiki culture

After the war, news of the Suffering Bastard spread beyond Egypt and into the post-war cocktail culture before being hijacked by the burgeoning Tiki Culture of the 60s and 70s. Polynesian bars were popping up everywhere and fruit-based cocktails, served in giant ceramic bowls paying homage to Hawaiian culture became all the rage.  

The leader of this cocktail fad was the infamous Trader Vic (otherwise known as Victor J. Bergeron). His recipes leaned more towards rums and he added a slice of cucumber for garnish. But, he also added orgeat (for sweetness) and a splash of curacao liqueur (for some extra fruitiness).  Whichever version you prefer, is entirely up to you. But remember, these are strong drinks that are deceptively easy to drink. So, if you have too many the night before, expect to be suffering in the morning.  And we all know the best way to beat a hangover.  Have a taste of the hair of the dog that bit you. 

The Suffering Bastard – the legend lives on

And what happened to the legendary bartender responsible for creating this infamous concoction? Well, after the original hotel burned down in 1952, Joe decided to remain in Egypt.  Unfortunately after a while he was arrested on a charge of espionage and eventually, after the Suez crisis, he was exiled from Egypt by President Nasser. On arrival in the US, he ended up being hired by a certain Conrad Hilton, founder of the Hilton hotel chain. Joe spent the rest of his career opening bars for Conrad Hilton in Puerto Rico and Havana.  But he’ll always be known for one thing in particular – the Suffering Bastard.  And that’s the way it should be.

Ingredients:

  • 1 oz bourbon
  • 1 oz London dry gin
  • ½ oz freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 2 dashes Angostura Bitter
  • Ginger beer
  • Mint sprig to garnish

Method:

  1. Add the bourbon, gin, lime juice and bitters into a shaker with ice
  2. Shake until well chilled (about 30 seconds)
  3. Strain into a Collins glass over fresh ice
  4. Top up with ginger beer (or ginger ale)
  5. Garnish with a sprig of mint

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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Barrel-aged gin cocktail

Barrel-aged gin cocktails: our guilty pleasure?

posted in: Cocktails, Gin and Juniper | 0

There are some gins that tick all the boxes on paper, but when it comes down to the perfect serve, it can be hard to know how to get the best from your gin. 
Last week, we took a look at barrel-aged gins.  We focused on the history and process of making these delicious gins. So this week, we’re looping back to share some perfect cocktail blends that are bound to get the best out of your barrel-aged gins.

Roll out the barrel

The Scots got the ball rolling by ageing their gins in leftover whiskey barrels.  There are plenty of those lying around Scotland. Then America took up the baton, ageing gins in old bourbon and rye whisky casks. But anywhere there are innovative distillers, there are bound to be barrel-aged gins somewhere nearby.  Last week, we suggested 5 barrel-aged gins that are worth adding to your wish list. But what’s the best way to drink these beauties, if sipping neat gin isn’t your thing?

Subtle and smoky

Well, we thought we’d help by suggesting a few delicious barrel-aged gin cocktails that will help you to get the very best out of your gin. Barrel-aged gin combines the subtle botanicals of gin with the smooth smokiness of a whisky, which all sounds great on paper, but how are you supposed to drink it?
In the last decade or so, these hybrid gins are slowly and steadily building a reputation. But they’re not for everyone.

The early days

One of the early pioneers was the French gin company Citadelle, who launched their Reserve gin way back in 2008. Since then, many other players have followed in their footsteps, with up to 100 varieties available in the market as we speak.
Some of them are scooping up big awards and they’ve become quite a talking point in the industry. But the public are confused. Some people are fooled by the light gold colour and expect it to taste like whiskey (which is understandable). Others assume it must be an Old Tom gin. But in reality, barrel-aged gins are not a new thing. In fact, Genever (the world’s original gin) was made and transported in a barrel of malt liquor to give it a unique characteristic.

The great experiment

These days, it’s all about experimentation, with distilleries trialing new varieties of wood, new barrels and new techniques to get the very best out of the gin. And some of the snobbery of only drinking barrel-aged gins “on the rocks” is also disappearing as drinkers increasingly understand the infinite variety and complexity that these gins possess. Some people claim that their gins are a perfect substitute for cocktails that would normally require a bourbon or whisky base, such as an Old Fashioned (particularly useful in the summer months when you want something a bit lighter or more refreshing). Others prefer lighter gins to add depth to the more subtle flavours of a Bee’s Knees or an Aviation.

It’s a rum thing…

Stronger flavoured barrel gins also work particularly well as a substitute for rum. Think rum cocktails, Mai Tai’s and even traditional rum drinks such as a Dark and Stormy. The depth of flavour of barrel-aged gins works well with the spicy and ginger notes that favour rum and it can be a real delight to drink. But these gins are made for drinking neat or adding complexity to cocktails. They don’t work so well in a standard G&T. So, after last week’s suggestions of some great barrel-aged gins to get into your collection, here are some great cocktail recipes to help you mix things up a little.

You’re welcome!

3 (easy) barrel-aged gin cocktails to make your spirits soar

The New Fashioned

  • 2 oz Citadelle Reserve gin
  • 0.75 oz of simple syrup (infused with orange, lemon and rosemary)
  • 4 dashes of Angostura bitters
  • A sprig of Rosemary for garnish
  1. Stir the gin, simple syrup and bitters over ice
  2. Serve over ice in a rocks glass
  3. Garnish with a rosemary sprig

Classic Tom Old Fashioned

  • 2 oz New Riff barrel-aged gin
  • 0.5 teaspoon of Demerera syrup
  • 3 dashes of Angostura bitters
  • Lemon or orange twist (for garnish)
  1. Combine all ingredients into a mixing glass
  2. Add ice and strain over ice into old fashioned glass
  3. Squeeze citrus twists into drink and garnish

Over a barrel (cask-aged gin cocktail)

  • 1.5 oz barrel-aged Big Gin
  • 0.5 oz of maple syrup
  • 0.3 oz sherry
  • 2 dashes orange bitters
  • 1 dash aromatic bitters
  • Ice
  • Blood Orange wheels (for garnish)
  1. In a cocktail shaker, stir the gin, maple syrup, sherry and bitters with plenty of ice
  2. Pour into an ice filled glass
  3. Garnish with orange wheels and serve

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

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


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gin cocktails

Gin cocktails: is this the perfect summer drink?

posted in: Cocktails, Gin and Juniper | 0

Gin cocktails are getting ready for a summer flourish. As the weather starts to warm up and sunnier days are on their way, we’ll all be glad to leave the colder, wetter weather behind. We’re looking forward to stepping into the more carefree, sunnier season that lies ahead. And with the year we’ve just had with a (mostly) lost summer in 2020, we’ll all be embracing the return of normality with a spring in our step. Optimism is back and we’re looking for a better year ahead. And with the change in season comes a change in cocktail styles.
Sloe gins, gin toddies and heavier winter spiced gins are gradually being replaced with lighter, easier to drink cocktails with a more refreshing taste.

New flavours for a new season

Short drinks are becoming long ones and gin variants such as Pimms Cups and fruity gin sangrias are starting to take center stage alongside champagne cups and summer coolers. This is the time of year when we rediscover gins with flavours that we’ve forgotten over the winter months. Seasonal cocktails such as the Bramble become more and more appealing. We start to experiment with mixers such as ginger beer and elderflower so that we get the very best from our gins. It’s also the time of year when distillers release more seasonal versions of their gins with lemon, lime and grapefruit becoming increasingly popular.

A beautiful distillery tour by a rolling trout stream

So, we thought we’d share a little cocktail recipe for you to make at home. A huge thank you to the folks at Bombay Sapphire for this recipe. It’s one I have tried and tested over the last few years and it never disappoints. I discovered it on a visit to their beautiful distillery on the banks of the River Test at Laverstoke Mill in Hampshire, from where this delicious cocktail gets its name. And just a little recommendation – if you find yourself in the Hampshire area, it’s well worth a visit.

This beautiful converted paper mill is centuries old and straddles the crystal clear waters of the River Test. Beautiful trout float just below the surface, keeping a beady eye out for flies in the sky above them. The tour is one of the best around and features the history of gin, the story of botanicals and the process behind making Bombay Sapphire. They also give you a taste questionnaire to identify your favourite flavour profiles. And here’s some good news – as of 17th May, they’ll be back in business offering Covid-safe tours again. A sure sign that things are starting to return to normal.

Introducing The Laverstoke

The tour takes place in a stunningly designed glass extension that showcases their botanicals and melds beautifully into the surrounding landscape. And of course, it all culminates with a drink on the terrace of their cocktail bar overlooking the stream running alongside. This is where I first discovered The Laverstoke – in beautiful surroundings on a summer’s day. And that’s why it has become my go to drink at this time of year. Simple to make, easy to drink and exquisitely refreshing.
A big thank you to Bombay Sapphire’s head bartender, Sam Carter for coming up with this delicious drink. It combines gin, dry vermouth, elderflower liqueur and lime wedges with a deliciously refreshing ginger ale “top up” and a sprig of fresh mint. Here’s to gin, cocktails and summer skies!

Ingredients:

  • 5o ml Bombay Sapphire
  • 15 ml Martini Bianco Vermouth
  • 15 ml elderflower liqueur
  • 100 ml Fevertree ginger ale (freshly opened)
  • 2 lime wedges
  • 1 thinly cut ginger root slice
  • 1 large mint sprig

Method:

  1. Squeeze the lime wedges into a large copa glass
  2. Add the ginger root slice, elderflower cordial, Martini Bianco and gin
  3. Swirl well to mix, fill glass with ice and stir to chill
  4. Top up with ginger ale and stir gently to combine
  5. Garnish with a fresh mint sprig
  6. Kick back, slip on your shades 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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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.


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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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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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