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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Rawal gin

Rawal Gin: a taste of the sea from the beating heart of Barcelona

posted in: Gin and Juniper | 0

El Raval. For centuries, it has been one of Barcelona’s most raw and exotic neighbourhoods.  Just behind the gentrified, touristed street that is known as Las Ramblas, sits one of the greatest food markets in the world. La Boqueria is known globally for its bustling, buzzy atmosphere and its generations old connection to this amazing city.  It’s true that tourism has started to eat away at the real, authentic local market that has served the people of Barcelona with fresh fruit, seafood, meat, nuts and treats for generations. But it still retains its extraordinary character and its well worth a visit if you’re ever in Barcelona. And just behind this Barcelona landmark lies a genuine local barrio, with a colourful history of tolerance, integration, culture and hedonism.

Barcelona’s edgy melting pot

For years, El Raval was the place where the immigrants settled.  With it, like every port area, it brought with it a slightly edgy, bohemian atmosphere.  It has been known as Barcelona’s Chinatown. It has been called Rawalistan (due to the influx of immigrants from India, Pakistan and the Middle East).  And taking up the centre ground in the area are the hipsters and bohemians that embrace that diversity and who love a sense of adventure.  So, it’s no wonder that this diverse, hip and tolerant barrio gave birth to some of Barcelona’s best cocktail bars and Barcelona’s first boutique gin. A local gin that reflects the diversity and edginess of this extraordinary neighbourhood.

So, when we heard about the latest craft gin offering from Rawal Gin (pronounced Raval in English!), we were more than excited. Our heads were full of questions.  Why Rawal? Why gin in Rawal? What’s this all about?

A beautiful gin in a striking bottle

So, let’s be clear.  I first saw a bottle of Rawal gin on my Facebook feed.  I was on the hunt for new Barcelona Gins and this one popped into my feed. The first thing that struck me was its beautiful label.  At this stage, I hadn’t even sniffed the gin.  But the label said it all.  It had a Barcelona vibe written all over it.  The diving figure demonstrated risk taking and adventure.  It spoke of the daring spirit of this extraordinary city and it paid homage to its willingness to think differently.  So, I reached out to the man behind the brand to find out a little more about his story. And this is what he told me:

Tell me a little bit about yourself.  Where are you from, what’s your background and how did you get into gin?

My name’s Sergi and I’m from Barcelona. I grew up in El Raval, so it’s been part of my life since the beginning. I feel very connected to this barrio. This story starts after I had been the chef-owner of my own cocktail bar for around twelve years.  Bartending was my passion and I’d been working as a bartender for all that time. The cocktail bar was called “Pesca Salada”. In Catalonia, “Pesca Salada” (salted-fish) is a generic name that the locals use to describe shops that sell salted cod, anchovies and canned fish.

The bar itself had a great atmosphere.  It was oozing with all the memories and shadows of its ancient origins and all the interior decoration was inspired by the sea.  The bar was on the same street that I’d grown up on and it specialized in gins.  It was a tiny bar but it served more than 40 different brands of gin. For all that time, I existed in this small island in the heart of Barcelona’s iconic Raval neighbourhood.  And this is where I first became familiar with the world of distillates and creative cocktails. Submerged in this gin and tonic sea, I had the idea of concocting my own, special Barcelona gin.

What made you start a gin brand/distillery?

I come from a home distilling background and as with most obsessions, it all began as a hobby. But I soon found that I enjoyed making my own fermentations so much, building my own copper stills, designing condensers, capturing the essence of botanicals through experiments. It eventually became a passion and I decided that it could become a part of my way of living. So, after some “Breaking Bad” style experiments, I decided to put my money where my mouth was and I went off to study Brewing and Distilling at Edinburgh’s Heriot-Watt University.

My dream was to create a one hundred percent local, handcrafted, organic gin. After a lengthy journey, the dream finally came true.

We started to produce Rawal Organic Dry Gin in Barcelona City’s first gin micro-distillery. It was anchored in a small spot, in a tiny neighbourhood, in this beautiful city.  And just like the neighbourhood in which it was born, it has a seafaring spirit. So, in April 2019, I decided to moor the “Bar Pesca Salada” for a while and I set sail for my new adventure.

What was the hardest thing for you to do as you launched Rawal Gin?

The hardest part is getting people to know about your product.  If you don’t have a large marketing budget it takes much more time and effort to make your product stand out. Especially now. That was definitely a challenge in the early days and it remains challenging now.

Is there a clear philosophy behind your brand and what do you stand for?

Rawal Gin is a local product, organic and environmentally friendly. My original purpose was to bring a level of environmental awareness into the world of distillation. It was also a formidable challenge to build a micro distillery in the city.

Over the last decade, we have been lucky enough to see many successful craft breweries open up in our country. So, it’s a really good feeling to be able to say that I built Barcelona’s first micro distillery and that I’ve transferred this philosophy to distillates.

The main philosophy behind Rawal Gin is “do-it-yourself”. As you can imagine, making gin  requires a lot of time and effort. But if you make it yourself, it can also be very rewarding indeed.

Tell me about the gin: what process do you use to make it and what makes Rawal Gin stand out from the crowd?

Rawal Dry Gin is a natural product.  We add no sugars or chemicals. The neutral spirit is made from organic wheat and all botanicals used to flavour this high quality neutral spirit are organic certified.

We infuse 12 distinctive botanicals for 24hours in the diluted neutral spirit and then we distill it using a hand-made copper still that we call Rufino. Even the copper still is home made and I built it myself through a combination of speculation, imagination and the practical  soldering of large diameter copper pipes. The result was a still that was perfect for my needs. Rawal Organic Dry Gin is craft-distilled in small batches of one hundred bottles. That’s because the slow pace of distillation requires a full working day to produce this number of bottles.

What botanicals do you use and how would you describe the flavour profile of your gin?

These are the basic botanicals that make up the unique flavour profile of Rawal gin:

  • Juniper berries
  • Coriander seeds
  • Angelica root
  • Liquorice
  • Cassia
  • Allspice
  • Cardamom
  • Orris root
  • Almond
  • Lemon peel
  • Orange peel
  • Kombu

Through accurate doses and increasing familiarity with each other, Rufino still continues to delight us with a distillate where juniper berries are still clearly in charge. It delivers the essential and familiar character of gin, offering up the refreshing notes of pine leaves with a slight bitterness, which leaves the palate crisp and dry.  This delicate distillate balances sweet and bitter tones with warm spice and floral mellowness, all rounded off to deliver a drink that has the unmistakable taste of the sea that inspired it.

What is the perfect serve to enjoy Rawal Gin?

For first timers, I always recommend simply mixing Rawal Gin with a good, premium tonic water.  They are a perfect match for each other and by starting off like this, you’ll be able to notice more of the subtle nuances of this delicious gin. We all know that perfection doesn’t exist.  But we think a Rawal G&T with a twist of lemon peel and a small strip of Kombu is about as close to perfection as any of us are likely to get.  

You have a very distinctive brand and label. What’s the significance behind the design and who designed it?

The design relates to my old cocktail bar, the “Pesca Salada”.  This is where the initial idea of creating a gin began. Also, I was born in a port city, so the sea has always been part of me. It was an essential requirement to create a gin that was related to the sea.  After a long period of research I realized that an algae called Kombu would be my partner in crime.

I came up with the idea of using a swimmer for the brand design – but the folks at Dorian Studio were able to really bring the design to life. In Spain, we have a saying, which is: “tirarse a la piscina”.  This is used to indicate that it is time to take a risk.  The closest English expression would be: jump in the deep end. This image of a guy diving head-first into the sea is also a metaphor of my own sense of daring and adventure.

What are your ambitions for Rawal Gin? Will you be producing more gins?

I’m not an ambitious guy but if making gin is enough to make me a good living I will be very happy. I love experimenting with new botanicals so it’s highly likely that I will produce more gins to add to my range. I’m already thinking about organic vodka too.

Where is your gin stocked and how can people buy it?

Right now, you can buy it online from my website.  You can also find it in many of Barcelona’s best bars and liquor stores.

Any final words of advice for our readers?

Please taste it!! And if you like it, please taste it again…


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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gin and tonic ice cream

Gin and tonic ice cream with a citrus blast

The sun is out at last and it finally feels like summer might be here to stay. From Barcelona to London and from California to Canada, the skies are turning bluer, the sun is shining brighter and it seems like there is a better future ahead of us.  And after the year we’ve just had, we think we all deserve that. It feels like there is a slow return to normal and now we have a chance to make up for last year’s lost summer.  

So, as your mind turns to warmer days, flipping burgers on the BBQ and long, cool gin cocktails, we thought we’d help you celebrate with an easy-to-make gin ant tonic ice cream recipe that will get your taste buds tingling. Welcome to the cool taste of summer!

Cool down in a creamy gin haze

This versatile gin and tonic ice cream little recipe is easy to whip up and is equally comfortable at a casual cookout as it is at a sophisticated dinner party.  And it’s too good not to share. Plus, this recipe calls for a blast of citrus orange, courtesy of Tanqueray Flor de Sevilla (other brands are available!)

So, when the heat is on, reach for this recipe and cool down in a creamy gin haze.  This is one of the loveliest (and easiest) recipes around and it combines all the elements of our favourite drink including a glug of gin, a dash of tonic and a squeeze of lemon. It’s the perfect antidote for the sunny summer that we all hope lies ahead! 

If you like it a bit sharper…

And for those who prefer their ice cream with a bit more of a citrus edge, you can always swap out the orange juice for lemon or lime juice.  If you go that route, you may also want to swap the Tanqueray Flor de Sevilla for the more limey flavours of Tanqueray Rangpur.  Or even you can try with Larios Citrus.
The beauty of this recipe is its ease and its versatility, so the flavour’s up to you!

Gin and tonic ice cream recipe (courtesy of The Gin Kin)

Ingredients:

  • 200g caster sugar
  • 3 tbsp freshly squeezed orange juice (you could substitute lemon or lime)
  • 3 tbsp Tanqueray Flor de Sevilla gin
  • 130 ml tonic water
  • 600 ml double cream

Method:

  1. In a large bowl, mix the sugar, gin and juice together until the sugar has mostly dissolved
  2. Stir in the tonic
  3. Add the cream and wait until the mix becomes as light as custard
  4. Pour into a container and freeze for 4 hours
  5. Scoop out a large serving, pour yourself a G&T and dig in!

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

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


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ice

Ice, ice baby! It’s crystal clear…

posted in: Gin and Juniper | 0

We all know that it’s always been about the gin.  But recently, it has also become more about the tonic with the explosion of artisan and flavoured tonic water brands that are currently riding the crest of the craft gin wave.  And now, there’s the third part of gin and tonic’s Holy Trinity: ice cubes.

Welcome to the wonderful world of ice. 

Getting the ice right

As gin drinkers, we tend to focus more on the first two ingredients. But look beyond your gin and your tonic. Your ice decisions can have big consequences for the taste of your G&Ts. The ice you choose can even impact the way your drink looks. Old ice can add a stale, rank taste that may ruin an otherwise perfect G&T.
Ice made from tap water doesn’t taste as good as ice made from mineral water. Small cubes don’t cool your drink as quickly as large cubes and cubes that dilute too quickly can radically alter the taste and character of your drink.

Plastic is a waste

For most of us, the problem with ice is that we’re looking to keep our drink extra cold, but none of us like the ice diluting our gin. Some people try to rectify this with “ice stones” or frozen plastic ice cubes.  But for me, all I can taste is the plastic. 

The science

For those who think less ice will avoid dilution, we have news for you – the more ice you put in your drink, the colder it becomes and the less it dilutes. The basic laws of thermodynamics tell us that the more ice you have in your glass, the slower it will melt. So, if you drink your G&Ts at a normal speed, your ice should still be intact and cooling right down to the very last drop.

Mythbusting

We thought we’d help you through the minefield that is ice by busting some myths, offering some easy tips and opening the door on ice – one of the most important elements of a good G&T.
Here are a few bartender’s secrets to ensure your drinks stay cold right to the very last drop. These handy ice tips will help your drink by retaining (and in some cases even enhancing) the flavour of your G&T. 
So, read on as we reveal the secrets of ice.

Big cubes vs small cubes

The perennial debate rages over what size your ice cubes should be. So, here’s the thing.  Science tells us that one large ice cube reduces the temperature of your drink more slowly than several small ice cubes. This is important, because the large ice cube exposes less of its surface area to the drink than lots of small, individual ice cubes. The result is that the slower melting larger ice cube will take longer to dilute. This means that your drink will retain its flavour and won’t be watered down so quickly by the melting ice within.

Round cubes vs square cubes

People often ask why professional bartenders prefer large round ice cubes to small, square ones. And here, as in the previous answer, we turn to science.
Basically, round ice cubes expose less of their surface area to the liquid (for the same amount of volume) than a cube of ice. This reduced exposure means that the sphere of ice melts more slowly. The result is a cocktail that cools down fast and melts slowly. That’s why round ice cubes allow you to sip your drink in a more leisurely fashion, enjoying its undiluted flavour for longer. 

Of course, spherical ice cube trays are a little harder to find, but there are plenty available in bartender’s shops and retailers as well as via Amazon.  We say, get the largest spherical mold you can find. And for best results, use natural spring water for a clean taste and a naturally cool look in your glass. Couldn’t be easier, really.

Fruity ice cubes

Now, here’s a really simple way to jazz up your drinks – fruity ice cubes.  In fact, nothing could be easier.  These work particularly well when the fruit is placed in oversized cubes, but it all depends on the fruit.  This weekend, I added a few frozen blackberries to my large, square ice cube mold.  Within a few minutes, the blackberry had started to change the colour of the ice from clear to a vibrant red.  Within an hour, I had a beautiful, giant ice cube forming in a beautiful shade of berry red. Once I’d popped it into my G&T, it floated in the liquid with the raspberries encased delicately behind a wall of ice.  But as the ice slowly melted, the fruit flavour gently seeped into my G&T infusing it with a “fruits of the forest” taste that added real character to an ordinary gin. 

You can do this with any fruit that fits inside your ice mold.  I’ve tried it with blackberries, a strawberry, a lemon wedge and zest of lime.  Also added a squeeze of lemon juice or lime juice into the mix for a little citrus hit when the cubes start melting. The last one I tried was adding pink peppercorns for a little spice and even juniper berries and cardamom pods.  You are only limited by your imagination.  This is a really simple way to pimp your G&T.

Tonic water ice cubes

For those who complain about that feeling when their ice is watering down their cocktail, there is a better way.  As mentioned previously, if you really want to stop your gin from being watered down unnecessarily, the bigger the cube you can put in your drink, the better.  The larger the cube, the less melting.  But if you really want to remove all risk, try making your ice cubes with tonic water.  All you have to do is swap the water for your favourite Indian tonic water. That way, no matter how quickly it melts, it won’t dilute the taste and there will be no sense of flavour loss as the tonic water in the ice blends seamlessly with the mixer itself. 

But, why limit yourself to tonic water? 
You can add any mixer you prefer, from bitter lemon to ginger beer and from elderflower cordial to ginger beer.  As long as your ice flavour matches your mixer, then G&Ts with a diluted taste will be a thing of the past.   .

Smokey ice cubes

We revealed this tip recently in our “Bartender’s Hacks” downloadable pdf, which contains a collection of great tips for aspiring bartenders.  One of them is smokey ice cubes.

There are several ways of doing this, some of which include complicated steps such as lighting a fire and capturing smoke under glass.  We have a much simpler approach.  All you really have to do is to pop down to your local supermarket or amazon and buy a small bottle of liquid smoke. Simply add a couple of drops to the water you use to make your cubes and let it freeze. 
The result is an ice cube that slowly diffuses its flavours into your favourite gin cocktail adding a complex smokiness that works just as beautifully in a Smokey Martini as it does in a traditional Negroni.

Clear ice cubes

We’ve all seen those ice cubes.  The ones that look cloudy – and sometimes taste just a little bit strange. The ones with cracks in the middle or unidentified objects floating in the centre.  These are bad ice cubes. 

So, here are a few little tips to make your ice cubes look crystal clear and to impart a glassy clarity to your favourite drinks.
The problem is that often the water used to make your ice has been frozen from the outside in. This pushes bubbles to the centre of the cube while the crystallisation process takes place.  One of the key reasons for cloudy ice cubes is the speed at which they set.  As a general rule of thumb the slower they freeze, the clearer the ice will be. Just think of an icicle dripping off a snowy roof.  It’s the same process. 
So, to get this effect at home, simply place a small, insulated cooler inside your freezer. Anything inside the cooler will freeze more slowly, allowing the air bubbles to escape before getting trapped inside the ice.  It’s really simple. 

  1. Place your cooler box inside your freezer. 
  2. Line up some plastic ice cube trays inside the bottom and leave the cooler uncovered. 
  3. Fill the trays with water (bottled, distilled or boiled water works best). 
  4. Fill the bottom of your cooler with water (filling in around the ice tray).  This will seal off your ice cubes and stop cold air from freezing the sides.
  5. Leave the cooler (with lid off) for 24 hours.
  6. Remove the cooler and take out the full block of ice containing the frozen ice molds.
  7. Chip away around the edges and remove your ice cubes.
  8. Leave them out for a minute to let the cloudy water melt off, then quickly drop them into your drink. 

Hey, presto – glacier like ice cubes for the perfect cocktail!


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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Aspersand gin

A great value citrus gin for under 15 euros: it can be done!

Are you looking for a great value, sub 15 euro gin? If so, you could do a lot worse than keep a bottle of Ampersand London Gin on your shelf for those unexpected visitors. This tasty little number shares its DNA with both the UK and Spain and the result is a delicious, smooth, accessible gin with refreshing citrus notes.

Ampersand London Gin: easy-to-drink gin with citrus zest

Ampersand London Gin is a classic London Dry that has been 4x distilled in the UK before being shipped to Spain for bottling. The predominant taste here is citrus.
Ampersand London Gin gets its flavour from a wide selection of botanicals. These include the obligatory juniper, cilantro, angelica, pepper, hand-peeled sun-dried orange and zesty lemon peels. The result is an easy-to-drink London Dry with intense citrus aromas on the nose.

Smooth and zesty – great for a G&T

But sip on it and you’ll find a smooth, pleasant drink which allows the fruits and citrus to dance on your tongue.  Then there is a lovely, warm spicy finish driven by the pepper that will stay with you long after you’ve finished your sip.  This is a great choice for a G&T, served with a good, freshly opened tonic water. And it comes in at 40% ABV so you still get a blast of alcohol that makes you feel like you’re sipping a proper gin.

Tastes good, looks good..

Plus, this delicious gin comes in an attractive frosted bottle with a narrowed waist. It’s topped off with a cool-looking metallic cap and a striking yellow Ampersand logo reflecting its citrus roots. This is a bottle that will stand proud on your gin bar. Plus, its frosted texture and gathered waist make it very tactile. So much so that your guests will want to pick up and touch it before pouring.

Ampersand London Gin perfect pour

One of the things we like about this gin is its versatility – it’s smooth, citrus notes work well with good quality mixers, premium tonic waters or even juice. It will also work well in citrus based cocktails.
But we like to enjoy this gin in a standard gin and tonic, which allows the citrus and spice up front:

  1. Pour a decent sized measure of Ampersand London Gin into a copa glass filled with large ice cubes.
  2. Cut a wedge of orange and wipe the rim before squeezing dropping into the glass.
  3. Fill to the top with a premium Indian Tonic water such a Franklin & Sons.

Pull up a chair, put your feet up and enjoy.

Please note: this gin is made by Osborne and Co in Europe and should not be confused with gin’s made by Canada’s Ampersand Gin co.


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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Franklin & Sons

Franklin & Sons: mixing it up with a good tonic water

There was a time when choosing a tonic water was really simple. Historically, there were only a few major brands on the market and most of those had been changed beyond all recognition from their original recipes. As tonic water became a mass consumption product in the hands of the big corporates, the recipes changed and more sugar was added, which radically altered their taste. Artificial flavours began to appear alongside a list of chemicals and artificial ingredients as long as your arm. 
And then along came the craft gin revolution, which changed everything and helped tonic water to rediscover its roots. A certain brand saw a gap in the market and made this their clarion call: If 75% of your drink is tonic, make it a good one. 

And they had a point.

Welcome to Franklin & Sons

Since then, there has been an explosion of new tonic water brands and a renaissance of some old ones. We are almost at the point where there’s too much variety on the market. 
So many choices and flavours everywhere we look that sometimes it’s just hard to make the right choice. But it’s an important choice – as they say, why ruin a great drink with an average mixer?
So, we thought we’d help you out a little.  Over the years, we’ve tried many of the famous mixers out there and the jury is in. We have a current favorite.  Welcome to Franklin & Sons.

135 years of experience

Never heard of them?
Well they’ve been around for 135 years and here’s their story.  There were three Franklin brothers – all confectioners by trade.  Inspired by their Dad, who returned to London from the United States in 1886 with tales of innovative carbonated drinks, they decided they’d give it a go at their little sweetshop in Rickmansworth.  And all these years later, they’re still making a premium range of tonics and mixers that will add flavour, sparkle (and a touch of class) to whatever gin you’re drinking. They source only the finest ingredients and hand pick their fruits at the perfect point to ensure maximum flavour.  

Exceptional ingredients

Wherever possible, they use local fruit, roots and herbs in support of their local farming communities. Plus, it’s the best way to make a mixer – fresh and by hand.  They pride themselves on using exceptional ingredients and they only use natural flavours, extracts and colours. And they never use sweeteners or preservatives. The result is a delicious and unique range of mixers and soft drinks that have won industry awards all over the world.  

According to Alf (their irrepressible Brand Ambassador) all Franklin and Sons drinks use only natural extracts and colours. And they never include artificial flavours or sweeteners, so you can always be sure of a clean, natural taste. It all started with a home made ginger beer. Now there is a full range with something to suit all tastes.

It’s only natural….

Franklin and Sons’ range of mixers are made from the finest ingredients using natural spring water from Staffordshire, England. The high mineral content of this water makes it the perfect base to bring out the natural flavours and botanicals in the spirits. The result is one of the cleanest, crispest and most natural tonic waters around. The Franklin and Sons range has been awarded 5 stars at The Great Taste Awards (the Oscars of the food industry). The tastings were done blind and the results speak for themselves.

The taste test

Recently, on a visit to our friends at Corpen gin, we had a tasting of the Franklin & Sons range right here in Barcelona. They are now available in 56 countries around the world.  In addition to their classic Indian Tonic water, we tried some of their other award winning drinks.  With more than 15 flavours available, we can’t review them all. But we’ve picked out a few favourites – the ones that we think will go best with a high quality gin.

Franklin & Sons: the verdict

Natural Indian tonic water

This was a delight. The light effervescence of the Staffordshire spring water is mixed with Ecuadorean Cinchona bark and British sugar. The result is a crisp, clear tonic with a subtle bitterness that is carried across the palette by natural carbonation. This is a great tasting, natural and pure tonic water. It rightly belongs in a classic G&T, preferably a classic London Dry gin such as Sipsmith. With the perfect blend of fizz and flavour, this will elevate any good gin to a higher place. Pure class in a glass!

Natural Light tonic water

This one uses the same ingredients as the regular tonic water, but it relies on only half the sugar. The result is an easy to drink mixer with a slightly more bitter edge to it. We think it works really well with floral gins such as Silent Pool or Bloom. You could also use it as a mixer for sweeter gins such as Old Tom – its natural bitterness offers a nice counterbalance.

Sicilian Lemon tonic water

Now this is where things change up a gear. This unique blend of Staffordshire spring water and gently pressed whole Sicilian lemons is a revelation. They use all the peel and flesh of the fruit ensuring that every last drop of zesty oil is captured and the flavour balance is just the right blend of sweet and sour. This works really well with a traditional London Dry gin such as No.3 London Dry and it even peps up a Sloe gin, if you’re in the mood for something a bit different.

The Flavour Collection

Franklin & Sons have recently introduced their Flavour Collection with four unique dual-flavoured mixers made to the same high standards as their normal tonic waters. Developed in collaboration with some of the world’s best mixologists, each one has been specially created to complement the best spirits in the world and are highy carbonated to lift the lid on the most delicate flavours.

Pink Grapefruit Tonic with Bergamot

Grapefruit gins seem to be having a moment right now, so this blend of natural sparkling spring water, natural bergamot and pink grapefruit which results in a high quality, citrusy mixer that suits floral gins such as JJ Whitley Elderflower gin or tea-based gins such as Drumshambo, which will help to bring the bergamot to the fore.

Rosemary Tonic with Black Olive

This is the one that stands out from the crowd. Rosemary Tonic water with Black Olive has a gorgeous, savoury, briny taste that is unmistakably unique. Its savoury notes make it the perfect match for both savoury gins such as Gin Mare and sweeter gins such as Haymans Old Tom. It has a unique flavour that brings you immediately back to the Mediterranean making you think of olive groves, al fresco dining and good times. This was unusual and stunning and we can’t recommend it highly enough!

Rhubarb Tonic Water with Hibiscus

For those who enjoy a bit of tartness, this Rhubarb Tonic Water with Hibiscus offers the perfect balance. The sharpness of the rhubarb is tempered by the subtle sweetness of the hibiscus flower. This pink-hued tonic works really well in spiced gins or ginger-flavoured gins. We think it could be a perfect match for Ophir lovers, but we’re sure you’ll find the pairing you like best.

Elderflower Tonic water with Cucumber

This one is quite unique – a subtle blend of elderflower, tonic water and cucumber which manages to be both light and naturally sweet. The result is a refreshing tonic water that brings the best out of any mixed drink. It has a hint of cucumber sweetness that cuts through the bitterness of the quinine making it the perfect match for citrus forward gins that favour lemon, lime or grapefruit notes. we think this is a perfect match for a summer citrus gin such as Malfi Limone from Italy

So, there we go – a fantastic, natural mixer range designed for gin lovers. It’s time for the tasting to begin. And when we’ve worked our way through this little lot, we can’t wait to try their ginger beer and ginger ale. But that’s another story, for another day.


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

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