botanicals

Botanicals: gin’s secret stars

Why is gin so different to vodka or any other white spirit? What makes gin so special? Well, the secret lies in the botanicals.

What are these botanicals and why are they so important? And how exactly do they turn a colourless, odourless, tasteless liquid into one of the most versatile and exciting spirits on planet earth?

We thought we’d spend a little time looking at these secret ingredients. We want to help us all to understand what makes these little blasts of flavour so important in the world of gin. So, let’s start with the most obvious: juniper.

Without juniper, there is no gin.

For a drink to be classified as gin, Juniper is a must. According to legal definitions, gin must always be a minimum of 37.5% ABV and Juniper must be its dominant spirit. That seems pretty simple and clear. But this is actually where the fun begins! Once the minimum requirements are met, distillers are working on an empty canvas where the art is only as good as the artist. From here on out, all you are limited by is your imagination.

Juniper’s medicinal history

The juniper berries you are most likely to find in your gin are actually a type of pine cone from a shrub called juniperus communis. This is generally found growing wild across most of the Northern hemisphere. It’s what gives gin that distinctive taste of pine, camphor and lavender.

In fact, its medicinal qualities have been recognised for millennia. An ancient Egyptian papyrus from 1500BC refers to juniper as a cure for tapeworm infestations. Juniper berries have also been found as part of the embalming process in ancient Egyptian tombs. Through the ages they were used to cure infections, prevent epilepsy and even cure the plague.
These days, the best juniper is grown on the hillsides of Macedonia and Italy and is rich in aromatic oil. This is one reason why its important for distillers to try a number of different samples to get the mixture exactly right.

Botanicals: a world of fragrant opportunities

Most of the botanicals that we use in gin have medical roots that go back hundreds (sometimes thousands) of years. Some of them are still used for their medicinal qualities.

As we know, juniper berries are integral to creating gin. Unsurprisingly, they feature in every gin that is produced.

As well as juniper, there may be some other common botanicals that may surprise you.
Wormwood (more commonly associated with absinthe) is a popular botanical for many distillers. Others such as coriander are extraordinarily popular and you will see it make an appearance in many gins imparting a fresh, spicy sage and lemon flavour.

Beyond that, you enter a world of opportunities with more fragrant botanicals such as frankincense (sweet and oily) and cassia bark (sharp and pungent) appearing more and more often.

Many other gins feature angelica (woody and earthy), citrus and orris root (aromatic and floral).

But the list goes on to include almonds (marzipan sweetness), bergamot peel (musky, perfumed) and cardamom pods (warm and spicy). These are becoming increasingly popular alongside cubeb berries (peppery), elderflower (sweet and floral).
Citrus peels are always in demand and ginger (spicy and warm) and even licorice (woody and sweet) are making more frequent appearances.

Each of these botanicals help to build up the complex layers of flavours that we enjoy in our G&Ts today. As gin makers experiment and become more comfortable with the possibilities of ingredients that they are using, they have become increasingly bold.

Laverstoke Mill: a temple to botanicals

If you’re interested in learning more about botanicals, it’s worth paying a visit to the stunning Bombay Sapphire distillery in Hampshire.
Here, the main distilling process takes place in Bombay Sapphire’s converted 18th century Laverstoke Mill straddling the crystal clear waters of the River Test. But in a stroke of architectural genius, a swooping glass extension (reminiscent of the river that flows underneath it) covers a fascinating gin museum with wonderful gin tours. You will have the opportunity to taste a wonderful Laverstoke cocktail too!
Inside this extraordinary glass building they grow some of the botanicals that they use to make Bombay Sapphire. They have dozens of different botanicals beautifully presented in jars and bags for guests to touch and smell.

In their Discovery Experience they’ll help you map out your flavour tastes and even offer a well crafted cocktail mixed in their on-site bar. Their drinks are made to recipes by their in-house mixologist Sam Carter – and they’re delicious. The variety of botanicals on display is breathtaking and the flavours so individual and eclectic, that this will definitely need to be on your list for a fascinating visit once life returns to normal.

So, next time you try your latest gin, see which ones you can identify and raise a glass to our secret botanicals. They are the reason the magic happens.



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 gifts for Christmas

5 gin gifts: beyond the Christmas stocking

You might have already seen our recent article on the best gin-related stocking stuffers for this Christmas. This week, we’re going to turn things up a notch. We’ve upped the budget just a little bit to move beyond traditional Christmas stocking territory and into the realm of proper Christmas gin gifts. The sort of stuff that is too good to be stuffed into a Christmas stocking, but possibly not quite enough to be your main gift. Here are a few last minute gin ideas that you can still have delivered to your home. Hopefully you’ll find something here for the the ones you love (and especially for the ones who love gin!) The most expensive gift on our “dialled up” list costs a little more than £35 – but there are plenty of ideas here for under a tenner too! These are the best 5 gin gifts, just selected for you.
Merry Christmas everybody!!

1. Gin doormat

This Christmas, make sure your all your guests know the rules before letting them in. This classic welcome doormat delivers a crystal clear message in the strongest possible terms: DON’T COME IN IF YOU DIDN’T BRING GIN. This has the advantage of making your house rules clear, thereby avoiding any unnecessary blushes once your guests are inside. This durable, heat resistant non-slip outdoor/indoor floor mat has a non-woven fabric top and a sturdy non-slip rubber back. It’s really easy to clean, machine washable and the perfect Christmas or birthday gift for the gin lovers in your circle of friends. Guaranteed to make your visitors smile before they even set foot in your house!
After all, there’s no excuse for not knowing the rules…

gin gifts

2. Gin trivia

There’s nothing better than a game of naked twister at Christmas (or so I’ve heard!). But there are some other gin-related games you could play that (we think) are just about as much fun as you can have with your clothes on. This great value trivia game, the Talking Tables Gin Trivia Quiz, comes in a beautiful gift box. It’s a great way to get the conversation flowing as you open up yet another bottle of your “favourite” Christmas gin.

Test how well you really know your favourite spirit with these deviously difficult gin trivia questions that will separate the true “gin afficionados” from the “fakes”. This is the perfect party table game for gin lovers with questions that will test your knowledge on everything from gin cocktails, to garnishes to gin distilling. So, this year, ditch the Trivial Pursuit (so 2019!) and go for the Gin Trivia Quiz instead – even more fun if you add a few drinking penalties for wrong answers!!
You know you’ll love it!

gin gift

3. Gorgeous gin copa glasses

It’s been a long time since it was okay to serve gin in a smudged glass with a couple of pieces of ice and a bit of old lemon. These days, gin is the real star of the show with a huge selection of extraordinary craft gins of every size, strength and flavour on the market and tempting us on every occasion. Choosing your gin is hard enough, but never let down a great gin by serving it in an average glass.
Instead, add to your experience by gifting a set of these elegant Ginology Iris Copa glasses.
Uniquely crafted, these gorgeous glasses are the perfect gin gift for those who recognise that drinking gin requires a proper sense of occasion. These stunning, hand crafted glasses feature a pretty iris pattern that is sure to make you stand out from the crowd. There are a variety of other patterns available and these are hand wash only, but they will definitely put a smile of the faces of some lucky gin lovers this Christmas.

gin gift

4. Gin taster pack

If you’re like me and you just can’t decide, then this gin taster pack could be just the perfect gin gift for you. No more dithering in the off-licence. All the dithering has been done for you. This gin tasting set includes 10x 30cl miniature bottles of gin including: Edinburgh Gin Rhubarb and Ginger; Tobermory Isle of Mull gin; Kokoro London Dry gin; Gin Lane gin; Victoria Pink Gin; Berry Bros and Rudd London Dry; Portabello Road gin; 171 Gin; Puerto de Indias Sevillan Strawberry gin and The Botanist Islay Dry gin.

This awesome collection will either be a pathway to discovery for you or a lovely reminder of exactly what gin you like and why. A great selection of distilleries and a wide range of flavours here for you to try. And enough bottles to keep trying while the holidays last!

gin gift

5. Gin Mule copper mugs

Lest year, I was in London meeting a friend for a Christmas drink at The Booking Office bar at St. Pancras Station in London. The scene was all set for an atmospheric Christmas drink. The carols were playing in the background, the tree was up and the festive atmosphere was building. I ordered one of my favourite drinks, the Gin Mule (gin, lime juice, ginger beer and ice) and was delighted when it was served to me in a small, handbeaten copper mug, overflowing with lavish garnish. It put me in the Christmas mood right away. And now, these pretty little hand beaten copper mugs can be yours .
You can get 4 nickel hammered 560ml Moscow Mule glasses (ideal for your home made Gin Mule) for less than £20.
Not only do these mugs look pretty, but they have an added secret. Apparently cold copper has a tendency to increase bubbles in the carbonated ginger beer, ensuring that your Christmas remains sparkling, from the first sip to the last drop, thus guaranteeing yourself a merry little Christmas.

gin gift

From all these gin gifts, which is the one you’d like to find in your Christmas stocking?


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

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


RECENT POSTS

  • The Ruddles Report: February 2021 Gin News
    Ruddles has been at it again. As the hairy “face” of Barcelona Gin, he’s very easy to like – and his opinions carry weight. He’s lent his marketing power to a few Barcelona Gin posts recently and every time, they beat all our records for engagement. We think he’s our secret weapon. That’s why, in … Continued
  • Gin Sea: born in London, raised in Spain
    Gin Sea’s 5-times distilled base spirit is sourced from England and imported directly to Manuel Barrientos’ little gin project in Galicia. All the best gins start with the best ingredients and this is no exception. It’s the highest quality neutral grain spirit around and is sourced overseas before a touch of Galician magic is added … Continued
  • The Ginger Tom: a spicy twist on a cocktail classic
    Here’s a fabulous cocktail recipe based on one of the most famous gin drinks of all time. Introducing the Ginger Tom. But before we share the recipe, we thought it would be a good idea to check out the heritage and history of this delicious drink. The Cat’s Whiskers The Ginger Tom is one of … Continued
  • Botanicals: gin’s secret stars
    Why is gin so different to vodka or any other white spirit? What makes gin so special? Well, the secret lies in the botanicals. What are these botanicals and why are they so important? And how exactly do they turn a colourless, odourless, tasteless liquid into one of the most versatile and exciting spirits on … Continued

Ginraw: an avant-garde gin packed with Barcelona style

Barcelona is a city known for its avant-garde style, creativity and sophistication. Over the years it has nurtured artistic geniuses such as Pablo Picasso and Joan Miro.
But visionary engineer Ildefons Cerdà really put it on the map at the end of the 19th century as he designed the beautiful Eixample area in all its modernist beauty. The city extension that he created was recently named the best neighbourhood to live in the world according to Time Out magazine. And the flair doesn’t end there.
We couldn’t possibly talk about Barcelona without mentioning its extraordinary cuisine and its disproportionate clutch of Michelin starred restaurants. This is the place where some of the best chefs in the world have set up shop and built their reputations. This includes some run by the world famous Ferran Adrià who championed molecular gastronomy, right here in Catalunya.
Add to that heady mix, the classic cocktail of blue Mediterranean skies, sunshine, music, beaches, countryside and culture. You even have a ready selection of stunning rooftop terraces to choose from when you decide to sip your drinks.

Ginraw: a stunning gin, a stunning bottle

If this all sounds inspiring, it shouldn’t surprise you to hear that when a chef, a sommelier, a mixologist and a perfumier all got together they wanted to celebrate their city in all its creativity. And they did so with a gin. Ginraw is a true triumph of both style and substance. Barcelona’s modern design heritage is apparent in the striking, semi-frosted tall, thin bottle with its distinctive wide-brimmed wooden cap and aluminium band.

Ginraw

El Clásico…

Its beautifully designed leather information tag tops it all off in style and the bottle is truly unique. But quality is everything here and Ginraw is distilled at a low temperature for a smooth, easy to drink gin, simply packed with flavour. Fresh botanicals including lemon peel, kaffir lime and laurel leaves combine with smoky black cardamom and savoury coriander seeds. The result is a true Barcelona classic. With strong notes of juniper up front, there are also hints of peppercorn, coriander and lime zest. On the palate, the early indicators are savoury, before a citrus wave wafts in to save the day. And the cardamom seeds add some welcome spice to the finish of this exquisite, smooth and beautifully designed bottle of gin.
We highly recommend this Barcelona classic, preferably sipped on one of our gorgeous Barcelona roof terraces watching the sun go down over the terracotta rooftops of the old town.

The perfect pour: serve Ginraw over loads of ice in a large copa glass and garnished with a lemon leaf or a slice of lime. And if you want to spice things up a bit, you could try pairing it with a slice of apple or a little bit of ginger for some added heat.

baked salmon

Gin baked salmon: full of buttery, juniper goodness

Gin seems to be everywhere these days and increasingly, it’s popping up in delicious, easy to prepare recipes.
Whether you’re looking for a booze-soaked cake to cheer you up on a dark autumn afternoon or a hearty stew to keep the cold winter weather at bay, somewhere there’s a gin recipe for you. And when gin does make an appearance, its junipery bitterness and complex botanicals can elevate even the most ordinary dish into something a bit special. Gin delivers an extra layer of character that will keep your guests coming back for more. Some people have more of a sweet tooth and prefer gin-soaked trifles or gin and lemon drizzle cakes. Others are partial to more savoury treats such as casseroles and even curries.
All of these delicious dishes (and many more) are suitable candidates for gin cooking.

10 minutes to prep, 60 minutes to sip

That’s why we wanted to share a quick and easy baked salmon recipe that is healthy and can be knocked up with as little as 10 minutes prep time.
This is important, because it leaves you with a full 60 minutes in which to select a decent gin, find an appropriate garnish and top up your favourite glass with a freshly poured tonic water. Then sit back and watch while the salmon slowly roasts in the oven. This is the perfect way to enjoy cooking with gin and this recipe is so easy to make.

Bertha’s revenge?

First of all (and most importantly) choose a decent gin – the more aromatic the better. This easy gin recipe will infuse your salmon with a gin flavour that perfectly complements the creamy richness of the salmon. We recommend using a bottle of Bertha’s Revenge (paid link). This is a complex, charismatic gin from Ireland made from milk provided by the offspring of Bertha, Ireland’s most famous cow (check out our recent review of Bertha’s Revenge to get the full details).

But for now, all you need to know is that it will infuse your salmon with a buttery, juniper-rich flavour, balanced by the soft citrus notes from the gin. Bertha’s revenge says on the label that their final ingredient is “plenty of laughter” – a sentiment that we heartily endorse every time you put your chef’s apron on.

So, here’s the simple recipe – and don’t forget to pour that chef’s drink as soon as the oven door has closed!

Gin baked salmon recipe

Ingredients:

  • ⅓ cup coarse sea salt
  • ⅓ cup sugar
  • zest of one lemon
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 teaspoon of coarsely ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon gin (Bertha’s Revenge highly recommended)
  • 2 x 8oz salmon fillets
  • 1-3 tablespoons of cooking oil

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 225F.
  2. To prepare the fish, rinse the fillets and pat dry with paper towel. Rub lightly with cooking oil
  3. Mix together the salt, sugar, lemon zest, thyme and pepper. Add gin. The mixture should resemble wet sand. Remember, this rub can be stored for one week (in an airtight container).
  4. Rub the salmon fillets with the mixture using around 1 tablespoon per fillet.
  5. Wrap fillets tight in plastic wrap and refrigerate for between one and two hours.
  6. Cook fish right away (or store in fridge for one day). Bake at 225F for 25-30 minutes. Begin to check fish after 20 minutes.

Pour yourself another well deserved G&T and eat your baked salmon while still piping hot!