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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barrel-aged gin

Barrel-aged gins: welcome to a world of wonder

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

The gin explosion

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

All shapes, styles and flavours

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

When gin meets whiskey…

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

New ideas and old techniques 

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

The American Revolution

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

What makes barrel aged gins taste so different?

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

Experimentation and innovation

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

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

Roll out the barrel…

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

Barrel-aged gin that is worth seeking out

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

Citadelle Reserve (France): 44% ABV

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

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

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

Twisted Nose (UK): 40% ABV

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

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

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

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

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

Boatyard Double Gin (Ireland): 46% ABV

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


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

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


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gin mussels

Gin mussels – flexing your tastebuds

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

Creamy, bacon sauce, fresh mussels and rosemary

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

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

Add a dash of gin…

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

Gin Mussels recipe

Ingredients:

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

Method:

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

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


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

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


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Gin news

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

posted in: Gin and Juniper, Gin news | 0

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

Get down to earth with a cardboard gin bottle

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

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

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

In the pink with a 3L box of gin…

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

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

How Spain changed the gin and tonic forever

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

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

Unveiling the 14 best gin cocktails for summer sipping

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

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

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

Smile if you want a gin emoji

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


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

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


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American gin

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

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

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

Stepping back in time

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

Ice, ice, baby!

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

A tale of three Harrys

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

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

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

The dawn of the cocktail

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

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

The rest is history

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

The new world of American gin

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

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


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

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


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Gin smoothie

Gin Smoothie: healthy, delicious and fun

posted in: Cocktails, Gin and Juniper | 0

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

Guilt-free drinking…

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

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

Gin smoothie recipe

Ingredients:

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

Method:

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

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

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


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  • Merry Gin-mas everybody: 12 tips for a tipsy holiday!
    He’s been getting ready since January and his big moment is coming soon. The Jolly Old Elf (AKA Santa Claus) is already preparing to sprinkle holiday cheer around the world from his festive fleet of flying reindeer. Christmas is almost here and we’re all looking forward to welcoming Santa down the chimney as we celebrate … Continued

Juniper: the magic berry

Gin is juniper. Without juniper, gin simply is not gin. That’s why juniper is so important. But what is it, where does it come from and why is it found in gin (but not in vodka or rum)? Well, read on as we lift the curtain on this fabulous berry which plays a vital part in our lives.

A tiny pine cone that conquered the world

So, here’s interesting fact number one!

The juniper berry isn’t actually a berry at all. In fact, it’s a tiny pine cone. These little cones can be found on a small, wild shrub called juniperus communis which primarily grows wild in the northern hemisphere. Juniper bushes are, in fact, closely related to the cypress family. These amazing plants can live for as long as 100 years and they can reach a height of 10m.

But that’s not all. Juniper is a hardy plant, with one of the widest geographical reaches of any tree in the world. You can find juniper bushes thriving across different landscapes and climates and a range of countries from Canada to the USA, from Iceland to Greenland, from Europe to North Africa and from Asia to Japan.

No hurry, juniper takes its time!

But juniper is not in a big hurry to flavour your G&T. In fact it takes each juniper bush around 10 years to actually bear fruit. But enough about the mother ship, what about the berry?

Well, this is a weird one. Juniper berries start off green and then, after around 18 months, they start to ripen into a dark purple colour. And they’re quite small – most juniper berries are less than 1cm in diameter. Intriguingly, each berry contains between 3 and 6 rectangular seeds, which birds kindly eat and distribute on juniper’s behalf.

So, where’s the best juniper to be found?

Well, we already know that juniper’s influence spreads far and wide. You can still find it growing in the UK and Spain, but the best stuff comes from Macedonia. And here’s another interesting fact. Juniper is generally harvested directly from the wild, meaning that it is more like foraging than farming. There’s a particular technique for getting the best crop from your tree.
According to long tradition, juniper pickers will circle the tree, beating the branches as they walk around it. They then catch the falling berries in a round, flat basket, often collecting their own body weight of juniper in a single day.

What does it actually taste like?

This complex botanical (with as many as 70 constituent elements) is most prized for its juniper oil, which represents as little as 3% of the cone. This means you have to squeeze an awful lot of juniper berries to get a decent amount of oil. And just like everything else, juniper has its own unique flavour profile.

Think pine notes, heather and lavender, sitting alongside grassy pepperiness and citrus. These are the dominant flavours that give it such a distinctive, bitter taste. They are also the same notes that make it into your gin once the distillation process is under way. All this work comes at a cost and the average price for juniper right now is around £7 per kg.

How did juniper end up as gin’s main ingredient?

Well, after a long and distinguished career in medieval medicine, in the 16th century, juniper switched seamlessly into gin. It had already been used in health remedies since the Egyptians started using it to make drinks and to embalm their dead pharaohs, so its health benefits had been known for millennia.

By the 1660s, as Amsterdam became the centre of world trade, the Dutch army and navy took to the habit of drinking a daily ration of genever. Then, in a bid to appeal to the growing middle classes, Dutch distillers began to flavour their malt wine with juniper and other spices from the Dutch East India company.
And the news spread, so before long, genever became popular in other European countries including France.

Ready for lift off

By the end of the 19th century, it was being sold in England at half the price of brandy, so its popularity took off rapidly. The rest is history.

The English embraced the idea and adapted it to their tastes and by 1621, there were more than 200 registered gin distillers in London alone.
Since then, it has gone on a journey from the devil’s drink, blighting the social fabric of 17th century London through to the drink of choice in 18th century drinking clubs. Eventually, this spirit became engrained in the history and psychology of England and by the time the G&T took hold in the 19th century there was no stopping it.

Gin goes global!

By the 20th century, this beautiful “juniper juice” had become a cocktail staple and the drink of choice for movie stars, writers, film stars and royalty. But production was still dominated by a few powerful brands such as Gordons and Tanqueray, who did nothing imaginative to this most versatile of all drinks. And then the craft gin revolution arrived in the early 21st century giving birth to a mind-boggling array of flavours and styles that we could only have dreamed of 20 years ago.

So, there it is. This little berry (that isn’t a berry) has taken on the world and won.
Every gin you drink, no matter where you are, will always have one thing in common – the juniper berry. Where would we be without you!

Indian gin

5 great Indian craft gins to watch out for in 2021

Indian gin is having its day in the sun. The world’s largest democracy is host to one of the most complex, diverse and varied cultures on the planet. This enormous and beautiful land is a heady mix of ancient religions, extraordinary food, incredible architecture and rich cultural diversity. Indian history and traditions are legendary and its influence over the centuries has been profound. 

This is a country that is proud to wear its history (and its heart) on its sleeve. Everybody from the Mughal emperors to Genghis Khan to Alexander the Great have left their mark here. The English, the French and the Portuguese took much away, but all added something unique to this rich culture.  The Chinese influence is there for all to see, wherever you go in India.

There is so much richness and diversity that nothing should surprise you – but, in India, it frequently does.

Recently, we posted a link to an article that identified that gin was the perfect pairing for a curry.  And that got us thinking about Indian gin. What is it? Is it any good? Where can I get it? 
The result is our handy guide to Indian gin and a top 5 list for you to try for yourselves. 

So, here’s what we found out…

Gin and India

Gin-making and India are not necessarily the first things that come to mind when you think about the Indian subcontinent.  I know that there are some half-decent Indian whiskey’s out there. I also know (from personal experience) that there are some pretty bad ones!

We all know that gin is usually served with Indian tonic water. In the context of India, it is a drink often associated with staid colonial clubs and wrap around verandas.  
Which is why it came as a bit of a surprise to discover that India has a fast growing (and innovative) craft gin industry.

And the even better news is that some of the Indian gins they produce taste pretty darned good! 

The Indian craft gin revolution

The same couldn’t have been said 5 years ago. Since 2015, the gin revolution in India has gone full throttle. India’s artisan gin makers are now producing some really interesting gins to sip alongside your curry and kebabs.

After all, India is where Indian tonic water first made an appearance as a way of making the antimalarial ingredient quinine, an easier sell. When added to their favourite imported gin tipple, this new “tonic” mixture became increasingly popular – and without it, there would be no gin and tonic! In 1870, Schweppes launched its first tonic water to the Indian market and since then, the G&T has never looked back.

The G&T is now one of the most widely drunk cocktails on the planet. As British colonial rule continued over the centuries, G&Ts became the preferred cooling drink for hot days at the colonial clubs and villas of Calcutta and Delhi.

From middle class tipple to cool craft cocktail

Over the last decade or so, gin has transformed itself from a middle class drink beloved in suburban English golf clubs to the sophisticated drink we know and love today.  Gin has become an exciting, dynamic drink that has captured the imagination of drinkers and distillers the world over.

Luckily for us, it has also led to a breathtaking variety of choice.  As the craft gin movement exploded, thousands of small craft gin distilleries began to appear around the world and India was no exception. Now there are a number of innovative new gin brands who are all tapping into the uniqueness of India.

So, here are some of the top Indian gins starting to make a name for themselves in the sub-continent and beyond. However, please be aware that many other brands use Indian names or references in their product names. But there are still only a dozen or so serious craft gin contenders in India, so choose your Indian gin carefully.

Get ready for a Gin-dian summer!

1. Terai: ABV 42.8%

This gorgeous Indian gin comes from Rajasthan, one of the most exotic and exciting parts of India.
It comes in a very attractive, ribbed glass bottle and is made by the India Craft Spirit Company. 

The team behind the gin took their inspiration from the countless local feasts and religious celebrations that India celebrates daily. They wanted the bottle to tap into this vibe without it becoming a pastiche of Indian cliches.

The result is attractive and sophisticated, inspired by temple architecture, local handicrafts and religious icons. And as for the gin, Terai takes a “grain-to-glass” approach using home-made rice grain spirit as its base.

It’s distilled in a handmade German still before being infused with 11 botanicals including fennel and coriander. This brings a unique green freshness to the gin. There are also strong perfumed notes, driven by lavender and rose. And then there is a distinctive nutty flavour at the end. 

All the botanicals have been sourced from within India, with the exception of the juniper which is imported from Europe.  This dominant juniper taste places it firmly in the London Dry camp.

2. Hapusa: ABV 43%

Hapusa is Sanskrit for juniper.  And that’s what the team at Nao Spirits have called their latest premium Indian gin creation to avoid any doubt that this is an Indian gin.

With juniper berries sourced directly from the Himalayas, this unusual gin also includes coriander seeds, turmeric, almonds and even mango as its key botanicals.  The delicious result of all this hard work is a unique premium gin that tantalises with delicate floral notes up front before taking you on a journey towards an earthy spiciness that works beautifully in a fresh, ice-filled G&T. 

This gin is building quite a reputation in India and is currently only available in New Delhi, Goa and Mumbai.  But keep your eyes peeled, I think it might break out of the subcontinent soon! 

3. Stranger and Sons: ABV 42.8%

Stranger and Sons is a great gin.  It’s been around since 2018. It’s made by the Third Eye distillery in Goa, but it has gathered botanicals from across the country as well as some produced in their own garden. 

As with most Indian gins, there’s a healthy hit of juniper.  But then comes the spice – black pepper, mace, nutmeg, coriander seed, angelica, licorice, cassi and citrus peels all make an appearance.  The result is an intriguing mix of citrus and spice that makes an extraordinarily complex G&T. It has a citrus forward character, driven by Gondhoraj lemons from the East. sweet limes and nimbu from Goa.

This is best served in a delicious G&T, with a slice of lemon if you want to bring out the citrus. Alternatively, add a little piece of ginger to release some of that warming spice. However you try it, this is delicious.

4. Jaisalmer: ABV 43%

Now, here’s something a bit different.
Jaisalmer gin from the Golden City – one of the most exotic and beautiful places in the whole of India.  Rising out of the Thar desert lies a walled fortress city of gold, peaked with crenellations, towers and turrets. Inside the city gates lies a vibrant citadel city packed with twisted alleys, hidden surprises and stunning views across the desert towards the Pakistan borders in the far distance.
This is a place straight out of the Arabian Nights and one of the most unique and atmospheric towns in all of India. 
The last place I would expect a modern craft gin brand to appear.

Made by the Rampur Distillery, this gin features botanicals such as lemongrass, Darjeeling Green Tea, juniper, citrus peels and other Indian herbs.


This gin is triple distilled in a copper pot still and was recently named the Best gin in Asia in 2019 by the Gin Guide Awards, UK so it is building quite a reputation internationally.

It’s packed with complex spicy notes from the pepper and the tea and balanced with citrus and floral notes from the orange and lemon peel.  Then, it’s all rounded off with a little blast of licorice from the angelica, licorice and caraway seeds. A gorgeous blend of flavours, this gin has something for everyone.

5. Jin Jiji: ABV 43%

This beautiful gin is from Goa, an area rich in Portuguese heritage as well as its reputation for partying backpackers. In fact, this gin is appropriately named.  The name JiJi is a derivation of the world jijivisha, which is an ancient Hindi word used to describe a lust for life. 

The JiJi team wanted a gin that would showcase the extraordinary diversity of India’s botanicals. They started with Himalayan juniper, foraged in some pretty hard to reach places on the highest mountain range on earth.  The guys add some unique local ingredients including high quality, locally grown cashew nuts, which were first introduced here by Portuguese rulers over 400 years ago. Other ingredients such as tulsi (basil) and chamomile are distilled in a copper pot still in Goa resulting in a beautiful sipping gin. 

Juniper dominates here, but backing it up are citrus notes, floral chamomile and spicy cloves and peppers.  All of this is rounded off with spicy black pepper and tea and a distinctive nutty aftertaste from the cashew nuts. This is not a subtle gin and it packs a lot of flavour in tribute to all corners of the great Indian subcontinent. 

Keep an eye out for these Indian gins. When the world’s largest democracy, with the world’s fastest growing middle class catches on, Indian brands are bound to make their mark. 
Try them now and be the first to tell your friends.

Fascinating fact: Apparently, there’s no specific word for cheers in India. They just say cheers.

Cheers!



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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venison stroganoff

Cheers, deers! Venison stroganoff (with a drop of gin to keep you warm)

Venison. It’s the dish of royalty, beloved of chef’s everywhere and it’s one of the most delicious, full-flavoured meats out there. It’s highly sought after in high end restaurants from London to Barcelona and it’s a must have meal at posh Scottish hunting lodges. But it’s strangely undervalued for every day eating.

However, this delicious meat is increasingly recognised not only for its delicious taste, but for its health giving qualities.  It’s blessed with a low fat content and loads of vital minerals and vitamins. 
Different (and ultimately more flavoursome) than traditional beef and other roasted meats, it’s worth taking a step out of the ordinary when it’s on the menu.

But what makes venison so different?

Venison is very lean with a rich, earthy flavour that generally mimics the landscape on which it has been raised. Often, you can pick up notes of acorns and wild herbs that were its staple diet during its life. Also, due to its lower fat content, it’s not quite as juicy as traditional beef.  But as if to make up for this deficit, it also has a firmer, smoother texture which works perfectly in this rich, creamy recipe.

So, what does all this have to do with gin, I hear you ask?

Well, we love venison and we love gin, so we thought we’d investigate how best to combine these flavours into a beautiful, hearty dish to celebrate the end of winter and the beginning of spring. 
Welcome to our delicious Venison Stroganoff, a warming, spicy, earthy recipe that will heat you up from the inside. Meals like this are best enjoyed in front of a roaring fire in a country pub somewhere in the Scottish Highlands.  But it’s delicious anywhere!

It contains a decent slug of gin to give it a juniper kick and to keep us reminded of the things we like most.  There are some mushrooms, a kick of mustard, some juniper berries and a generous helping of rich double cream to bring it all together. Oh, and did we mention a large portion of gin instead of the traditional Cognac? Honestly, this is a delicious recipe, easy to make and best drunk with a hand crafted Scottish gin from the Highlands for an extra dash of respectability and style.  So, here’s our recipe. 

Dive in and enjoy.

Venison Stroganoff with gin recipe

Ingredients:

  • 1 onion
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 500g tenderloin of venison
  • 250g of field mushrooms
  • 50 ml of Scottish gin
  • 3 juniper berries
  • 1tsp Dijon style mustard
  • 2 tbsp of thick double cream
  • 1 sprig fresh rosemary

Method:

  1. Finely slice the onion and garlic so that it cooks quickly
  2. Heat a shallow frying pan on low heat and add a few drops of oil, the garlic and the onion
  3. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper
  4. Slice the mushrooms and add to the garlic and onions
  5. While they are cooking slice the venison into thin strips and season with salt and pepper
  6. Finely chop the rosemary and sprinkle over the venison
  7. Drizzle with olive oil and rub all the flavours in
  8. Add to the pan and brown evenly
  9. Add the gin, the juniper berries and the mustard
  10. Pour in the double cream and stir
  11. Serve with pasta or sauteed potatoes and green beans
  12. Pour yourself a large Scottish G&T and dig in.

We think you’re going to love this one!


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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Irish Gins

Bertha’s Revenge vs Dingle: the battle of the Irish gins

Irish gin has come a long way.  Building on ancient traditions of whiskey making, a well-known Irish love of a good drink and the growing reputation of Irish cuisine, it’s not surprising that gin is Ireland’s next big thing.  And now, there is a mini boom as small batch (and larger) distilleries across Ireland get creative.
The result is a plethora of new gins, often based on locally foraged ingredients, creative thinking and hand-picked (sometimes unusual) botanicals.

Ireland’s brave new world of gin

Ireland is blessed with a new breed of distillers who aren’t afraid to experiment. These brave souls are innovators and the result of their work is a myriad of delicious and imaginative gins including gin made from seaweed, gin made with tea and gin made with Irish heather.
Foraging for local botanicals is also a major theme in Irish gins with everything from locally sourced samphire to sweet Irish honey and from wild heather to spruce appearing in local gin brands. In fact, right now there are around 50 distilleries operating in Ireland and many of these small batch brands are finding a significant market in the UK and beyond.

The St. Paddy’s Day challenge: Bertha versus Dingle

Two of my favourite gins of all time are Irish, so today (in honour of St. Patrick) we thought we’d put my two favourite Irish gins head-to-head to see which is the best.
So, here we go with a little competitive gin review to see who wins the battle of the Irish gins.  

We’ve chosen Bertha’s Revenge from County Cork (made in small batches by the Ballyvolane House Spirit’s company using cow’s milk as its base) and Dingle Original Pot Still Gin (made in the Dingle Whiskey distillery on the beautifully rugged Dingle Peninsula in Co. Kerry, South West Ireland).  Both gins are exceptional and brimming with integrity.

But which one tastes better?
Who will win the battle of the Irish gins?

Bertha’s Revenge: ABV 42%

Made in small batches in County Cork, this is an Irish milk gin. That’s right, I said milk. From a cow.
But this was no ordinary cow. This was a cow called Bertha and according to local legend she was at one stage the oldest cow in the world. Having giving birth to around 39 calves during her lifetime, she has now become the inspiration behind one of Ireland’s most unusual (and delicious) gins. Alas, poor Bertha died in 1993. But she lives on in local legend and now she’s been immortalised in the gin that bears her name.
Using whey alcohol, their own natural spring water and locally sourced and foraged ingredients, the team have come up with a truly unique gin that would have made Bertha proud.

On their ingredients list, they mention everything from juniper to coriander, from cinammon to cloves and from elderflower to almonds. Apparently, they’ve also managed to bottle laughter, love and childish enthusiasm, all of which come through with every sip. So, what does this milk gin actually taste of? Well, there is a soft, creamy fragrance up front on the nose. Complex, rich and creamy you know you’re in for a treat. Then take a sip and warming, spicy notes appear in your mouth bursting with complexity and flavours that will keep you guessing. And then, to end there’s a long, smooth finish that leaves a blast of fruit lingering on the taste buds long after the final sip has been taken. All in all, this is a delicious gin.

The perfect serve

We think you should keep this simple so that all the flavours of the gin come out.

  1. Place some large ice cubes into a highball glass and fill up with ice.
  2. Squeeze a juicy wedge of lime into the glass and wipe the lime around the rim.
  3. Pour a large shot of Bertha’s Revenge over the ice.
  4. Open a fresh bottle of premium tonic water such as Fever Tree and pour gently over the ice.
  5. Garnish with a slice of lime and sip.

You will be amazed!

Dingle Original Pot Still gin: ABV 42.5%

A two hour drive away, dangling on the edge of Europe, lies the Dingle Peninsular.
Blasted and cleansed by the strong winds blowing across the Atlantic, this is a place of fresh air, green hills, craggy cliffs, dramatic landscapes and crashing waves. And those are the feelings that are evoked by Dingle Gin, made by the Dingle Distillery in Co. Kerry. While this gin is officially classified as a London Dry, its unique flavour combinations take it into new territory through a carefully selected botanical range. These include unusual botanicals such as rowan berry, fucshia, bog myrtle, heather and hawthorn.

These unique flavours are macerated first for 24 hours to bring out the depth and complexity of the spirit. Then, when the spirit is ready, the maceration is passed through a basket in the neck of the still which imbues the gin with the subtle and complex flavours that are so reminiscent of the Kerry landscape. The result of all this work is a deliciously well balanced gin combining nine traditional and home grown botanicals. Each bottle is then cut with pure water taken from their own well, 240 feet below the distillery. But what does it actually taste like?

Well, this gin was named the best in the world at the 2019 World Gin Awards, so they must be doing something right. It is quite sweet and bursting with flavour. Leave it in a glass for a bit to fully appreciate its spicy, floral notes. You can taste the summer berries in every sip – it’s almost “jammy”. Then, just when the fruit blast starts to fade, you’ll pick up loads of fresh herbs including peppery ginger and minty eucalyptus. This is a gorgeous gin with loads of character and is perfect in a cocktail or a long G&T.

The perfect serve

  1. Serve this in a large highball glass which you have filled with large ice cubes.
  2. Pour a large measure of Dingle into the glass.
  3. Wipe a grapefruit wedge around the rim of the glass.
  4. Top it up with a premium Mediterranean tonic water and finish it all off with a slice of grapefruit.

This is an absolute delight!

The Verdict:

Two amazing Irish gins, two great stories, two different tastes – but there can only be one winner.

Despite Dingle’s appearance as one of the world’s best gins in 2019, for me, Bertha’s Revenge wins by the smallest of margins.
I love the complex background of different botanicals, the mix of flavours and the fabulous story of Bertha and her offspring. But most importantly, there is a rich creaminess to this drink that really brings out the flavours in a way that no other gin does. It is complex, and bursting with character. For me, this is right up there amongst my very favourite gins in the world.
Well done Ireland – you have much to be proud of on St. Paddy’s Day.

Slainte!


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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