The Monkey Gland: 1920s Viagra in a classic cocktail

We seem to have developed a bit of a monkey theme this week.  So in that spirit, here’s the bizarre story behind one of the world’s most famous gin cocktails – the Monkey Gland. 

This classic cocktail was first mixed up at Harry’s New York Bar in Paris.   Let’s take a step back in time to the 1920s, when legendary bartender Harry MacElhone was starting to build a reputation for himself in the heart of Paris.  He was well known for mixing up fabulous American style cocktails for his glamorous roster of international clients.  In 1922, in a clever marketing move, he thought he’d collect his best recipes and publish them in a book of cocktails which he called “Harry’s ABC of mixing cocktails”.  The book contained one particular drink with a strange name and a bizarre story. 

Building the legend

The art of cocktail making isn’t simply about mixing the right ingredients, there is also the little matter of building a reputation.  Harry knew that and concocted a wickedly strong cocktail by mixing classic London Dry gin with a little orange juice and a few dashes of Grenadine. To top it off, he added the final detail – 3 dashes of high strength Absinthe to guarantee an out of this world experience.  He mixed it all up, shook it with ice and poured it into a Martini glass. It was delicious, but he knew he had to have a name for it if he was to create a classic cocktail.  He called it the Monkey Gland – and he took inspiration from a bizarre source. 

Monkey glands, Viagra and a Russian scientist

In those pre-Viagra days, a Russian scientist called Serge Voronoff was experimenting with ways of maintaining men’s “staying power” and he hit on a very strange technique.  He grafted monkey glands onto men in a bid to boost their virility.  While this was a bit extreme (and there is no evidence that this technique actually worked) Harry was inspired.  He knew that sex sells, so in honour of Prof. Voronoff, he decided to name his new drink “The Monkey Gland” with all the promises and hope that a stimulating drink like this brings to men of a certain age. 

It has been a bartender’s classic ever since.  While we can’t vouch for the medical benefits of this drink, we can highly recommend it for its flavour and strength. For the prefect pour, we recommend making it with a good, classic London Dry such as Sipsmith [paid link].

Handle with care

Beware of the Absinthe – it’s not to everyone’s taste, but it packs a real alcoholic punch, so handle with care.

Bottoms up!

Here’s our classic recipe for a traditional Monkey Gland:

Ingredients:

  • 3 dashes of absinthe
  • 3 dashes of Grenadine
  • ⅓ orange juice
  • ⅔ London Dry gin

Method:

Shake well (over ice) and stir into cocktail glass. Garnish with an orange slice or a twist of burnt orange peel for a little extra flavour. 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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Two scary and funny halloween pumpkins

Halloween treat: try a Corpse Reviver No. 2

Halloween is here and this evening, it is very likely that you will get a knock on the door. When you answer it, you will probably be confronted with a child dressed as a witch, or a famous superhero or even a headless ghost. They will charm you, and you will fall for their charms. And then, they will demand candy in return for not messing up your front doorstep. This has become the modern Halloween tradition that we all recognise.

But Halloween is not just a contemporary combination of a fancy dress party and a sugar-rush. It is an ancient festival, dedicated to remembering the dead and is thought to have evolved from ancient Celtic harvest festivals with pagan roots.

From pagan roots to hobby horses

Over the years, we have become familiar with the most recent incarnations of those ancient rituals. These include pumpkin carving, costume parties, telling scary ghost stories and generally spooking people out. But before the current tradition of trick or treat began, earlier versions were taking place.

From as early as the 16th century, the tradition of mumming was common in Ireland, Scotland and Wales. People went from house to house exchanging songs and verse for food. In those days, they would dress up as the souls of the dead. At around the same time, over in England, a man with a hobby horse led youths from house to house reciting verses with pagan overtones. And in Scotland people in masks went from door to door threatening to do mischief if they were not welcomed.

Turnips, pumpkins and cross-dressing Scots

Fast forward to the late 19th and early 20th century and it appears that the youth of Glamorgan and Orkney went for a bit of cross-dressing. In the 20th century, the pranks became more common in England as well and naughty kids would hollow out turnips and carve grotesque faces in them to use as lanterns. These in turn became the Jack ‘O’ Lanterns that we now carve out of pumpkins.

Echoes of these roots can still be glimpsed in our 21st century version of Halloween. And given the year we’re in, strangers knocking on your doors in masks may have a particular resonance.

Manning the barricades

So, if you’re planning on manning the barricades this Halloween, it’s best to be prepared. Obviously, you’ll need a large bag of assorted candy to ward off the ghosts and ghouls – and a strong gin cocktail to keep your own spirits up.

And what cocktail could be better than a Corpse Reviver?

This classic cocktail was invented by the eminent Harry Craddock, original head bartender at the American Bar of the Savoy (and all round legend). It features in his famous Savoy Cocktail Book, first published in 1930. Ever helpful, right underneath the recipe, Harry offers the following advice:

Four of these taken in swift succession will unrevive the corpse again.

Harry Craddock

TOP TIP: We don’t necessarily recommend downing four in a row, unless you really want to see spirits. But one or two won’t do you any harm. And it will help you to deal with those pesky Halloweeners outside your front door.

Harry Craddock’s original recipe for a Corpse Reviver No.2:

Shake well and strain into a cocktail glass

Happy Halloween!


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

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


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a overhead shot of a wooden counter with a wooden spoon, basil leaves, lime wedges and and a cocktail drink

Basil Gimlet: a new twist on a classic cocktail

posted in: Gin and Juniper | 0

In our never-ending search for the perfect gin cocktail, we will spare no effort.  The Barcelona gin team (guided by our faithful gin dog, Ruddles) are constantly searching for new gins and out of the ordinary cocktail recipes that will elevate gin into a thing of pure beauty. And the wonderful thing about gin is that (unlike vodka) its unlimited flavour combinations and subtle infusions mean it is now one of the most versatile cocktail spirits out there. Gone are the days when we simply poured Gordons (paid link) into a gin and tonic with a few lumps of ice. These days, gin is high art.  It is now made from everything from cows milk to seaweed and infused with everything from chili peppers to lobster (yes, really!)

The current wave of talented mixologists know the subtle secrets and closely guarded flavour combinations that bring out the subtle aromas and complex flavours that modern gin now delivers.  Some of these can be extremely fancy (even, dare I say it, pretentious). But, whatever you think about fancy mixologists, they have livened up the gin scene dramatically over the last 5 years.  In fact, we are now only limited by our imagination.

Upgrading an iconic cocktail

But for some of us, we just keep going back to the classics. That’s why we want to share with you a simple recipe that offers a clever slant on an established classic gin cocktail.  Most of us will already be familiar with the iconic Gimlet, full of tart, limey acidity and lots of gin.  But here’s a nice twist on the original which softens the tartness by adding some simple syrup.  And a handful of muddled basil leaves gives it a lovely earth taste which counters some of the acidity. This is the perfect drink to bridge the gap between summer and winter – well worth a try.

Ingredients:

  • Basil leaves
  • 45 ml gin
  • 1 tbsp simple syrup
  • 20 ml fresh lime juice

Method:

  • Muddle the Basil leaves, lime and simple syrup in a shaker
  • Add gin and fill to top with ice cubes
  • Shake for 10 seconds and strain into cocktail glass
  • Garnish with Basil leaf 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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a cocktail shaker pouring a cocktail in a glass with an icecube and some fruits and decoration lights in the backgroud

Negroni cocktail recipe – the Holy Grail!

All good drinks should have a story attached and this classic Negroni cocktail is no exception. 

Some time, way back in the 1920s,  Italian Count Camillo Negroni walked into a bar called Cafe Casoni in Florence looking for a drink that required freshness, acidity and a touch of bitterness.  He asked the bartender for an Americano (equal parts Martini Rosso and Campari, topped with soda water).  But he didn’t think it was quite doing the trick.  So, he took out the soda and put in a shot of gin. The rest is history.

In fact, the Negroni cocktail is the bartenders Holy Grail.

Get it right and it’s a sublime drink. Get it wrong and it can taste a little bitter.

But one thing is certain, it is a true cocktail classic – up there with the Old Fashioned (for Bourbon fans). That’s why it is so important for you to get the Negroni cocktail recipe right.

No more than 20 Negronis per day!

The Negroni  first became popular in the 1920s and has been an iconic, classic cocktail ever since. In fact, Frances Harper of London wrote a letter to the ailing Count in 1920 which was delivered to his hospital bed. It offered some valuable advice:

– “You say you can drink, smoke and laugh just as much as ever. I feel you are not too much to be pitied. You must take no more than 20 Negronis in one day!”

This classic Negroni cocktail is the perfect drink for before (and after) dinner, but (like the Count) you can drink it any time.

Welcome to the king of drinks. Here is our version of the classic, simple  Negroni cocktail recipe that the Count inadvertently created back in the 1920s.

Negroni Cocktail Recipe

Ingredients:

  • Equal parts of gin, Campari and Italian red vermouth

Method:

  • Mix in an ice filled mixing glass
  • Stir gently and pour into an Old Fashioned glass or tumbler

Garnish with chunky orange wedge and drink.


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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Warm your cockles on a cold Autumn weekend with a Hot Gin Toddy – a hug in a mug!

Autumn is definitely in the air and we all know that Winter is just around the corner.

So, while you’re feeling the comforting crunch of fallen leaves beneath your feet and before the cold Winter wind drives you towards the mulled wine, how about something a little different – a nice warming Hot Gin Toddy to get you through the weeks between now and Christmas.

Hot gin might sound a bit weird but it’s delicious.

Why not give it a try this weekend if you need a little “gin hug” to revive your spirits..

There are some great seasonal gin cocktail recipes that are perfect for the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness. They are easy to make and guaranteed to warm you up from the inside out as the nights grow colder, longer and darker.

You can even drink them from a coffee cup – nobody will ever know!

Here’s one of our favourites, a simple recipe, full of Autumn goodness and gingery warmth.

Wrap up warm, put the kettle on and enjoy.

Hot Gin Toddy Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 1 ginger tea bag
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 oz. gin
  • 8 oz hot water
  • 1 lemon

Method:

Put all the ingredients in a mug.

Add 8 oz hot water.

Garnish with a cinammon stick.

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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5 beautiful gin bottles

posted in: Gin and Juniper, Gin the news | 0

We all know that gin is a thing of beauty, but beauty exists not only on the inside but the outside too.

Packaging is increasingly important as the gin revolution gathers pace, so here are our top 5 gins that both look good and taste good.

Let us know what you think are the most beautiful bottles out there and send us some pictures.

Here’s our personal top 5.

1. Silent Pool gin

A  true work of art, it reflects the colours of the legendary pool itself, nestled in the Surrey Hills in the south of England.

A pale blue wash on the bottle and a stunningly embossed exterior etched with bronze Autumn leaves (like the pool itself), it’s a real stunner. Plus, they do beautiful copa glasses to match!


2. GINRAW

As befits a city with Barcelona’s design heritage, this bottle breaks the rules with its elegant shape, subtly frosted exterior, hand-made ash wood stopper and aluminium ring to top it all.

This is a modern design classic and will stand out on any gin bar.


3. Opihr 

A bulbous, squat, rounded bottle with a richly coloured exterior with gold and purple and a gold cord around the top, there’s something “fez like” about this presentation.

Eye-catching, exotic and bold, it makes a statement, and that statement is “drink me”.


4. Beefeater 24

Its confident straight lines, heavy glass base and big blob of red glass anchoring its bottom, this is a gin bottle that looks stunning.

With a little light shining from behind and that red blob, it always reminds me of a lava lamp from the 60s.

A bottle fit for a cocktail bar (and a great gin as well).


5. Saffron 

A classic French bottle that feels like it’s been made for an 18th century pharmacy.

But the real star of the show is the golden orange saffron colour of the gin itself. Liquid gold, this one lets the gin do all the talking.


What’s the prettiest bottle of gin you ever saw?

Drop us a line or even better, post a photo in Instagram tagging @barcelonagincommunity and mentioning #myfavouriteginbottle.


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 Laverstoke cocktail

posted in: Cocktail of the month | 0

On a recent tour of the beautiful Bombay Sapphire distillery in Hampshire (highly recommended by the way!), I stumbled across the Laverstoke cocktail as one of my post-tour choices.

It’s been my “go to” Summer drink ever since, because it combines some of my favourite ingredients including elderflower, lime, ginger and gin. Mixed together it is the lightest and most refreshing of summer cocktails.

Perfect for sipping on a summer’s day overlooking the clear waters of the trout stream that flows swiftly under the amazing converted mill deep in the Hampshire countryside – now home to the Bombay Sapphire distillery (and one of the best and prettiest gin tours in the UK).

Here’s how to make one (courtesy of Bombay Sapphire’s head bartender, Sam Carter).

  • Squeeze 2 freshly cut lime wedges into a large copa (balloon) glass then drop in
  • Pour in 10 ml of Elderflower cordial (paid link)
  • Add 15 ml of Martini Rosso vermout (paid link)
  • Pour in 50 ml of gin, preferably Bombay Sapphire! (paid link)
  • Fill glass completely with large ice cubes and stir well to chill
  • Pour ginger ale (or ginger beer) down a twisted bar spoon over the ice and gently stir cocktail at same time
  • Garnish with a snapped ginger slice and an awoken mint leaf
  • Sit back, put your feet up and enjoy…

For more of Sam’s delicious gin cocktail recipes click here

Guardar


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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5 types of gin: do you know the difference?

posted in: Gintriguing facts | 2

Gin is gin. But is it?

We all love gin – that’s why we’re here. But do we know what gin really is? Can we spot the difference between London Dry and Old Tom? How many types of gin are there? Do we know why you don’t add tonic to a Genever? Probably not.

So here’s a simple guide to the 5 most important types of gin.

Try them all, figure out your own personal gin style – and stock your cupboard accordingly. After all, where gin is concerned, variety is the spice of life…

Gin

The humble gin starts its journey as a neutral spirit, distilled from anything you like: grain, potatoes, milk, apples…

But to be classified as a gin, the resulting liquid has to have a juniper flavour and juniper must be the predominant taste. It must also have a minimum ABV of 37.5% (40% in the US). So, in theory, you could simply pop down to your local shop, pull a bottle of vodka from the shelf, add a handful of juniper berries and “Hey Presto!”

Within a few hours, you’ll have turned it into gin.

Once you have the base in place, you can have some fun – add some flavourings, infuse it with berries, add some spice – and start sipping. Or you could stay “old school” and simply pour it over some ice add some tonic and drink away. Your call…

Distilled gin

This starts off as above, but with one important difference  – it has to be made using distilled botanicals.

The juniper-based gin needs to be “re-distilled” with those carefully chosen botanicals to become a neutral spirit of at least 96% ABV (and water).

Distilled gin is increasingly popular around the world, especially in the boutique distillery movement and includes well known brands such as Martin Miller’s and Hendricks (paid links) who include more  flavours once the distillation process is done.

London Dry gin

London Dry gin can be made anywhere in the world – it’s a style, not a geographical location.

London Dry follows the same basic rules as a distilled gin (see above) but it must only be flavoured with distilled natural botanicals.

Once the distillation process is over, that’s it. No further flavourings can be added after the distillation process except for neutral spirit, water and a maximum of 0.1g of sugar per litre. Popular brands include Beefeater, Tanqueray, Bombay Sapphire (paid links).

Old Tom gin

The precursor to London Dry gin, it’s the oldest style of English gin still produced today: Old Tom.

Old Tom has no rules imposed on it by the EU or any other regulatory body, so it can vary widely in its tastes and flavours, but it is sweeter than some of its more well known rivals and makes itself very amenable to cocktails.

It is still the favourite of bartenders around the world, who like its infinite variations and who respect its pedigree as one of the oldest forms of gin still being made. Old Tom is the staple ingredient of some amazing cocktails that go back as far as 100 years. It was out of fashion for a while, but it’s on a comeback as part of the gin revival and is now being made by small batch producers and big brands alike.

Always good to keep a bottle of this in your cocktail cabinet. Some of the more successful brands of Old Tom include: Hayman’s Old Tom (40% ABV) and Jensen’s Old Tom (43% ABV) (paid links).

For more information about the fascinating history of Old Tom gin, read our blog post here.

Genever gin

Genever gin: the grandaddy of them all.

Way before gin became associated with England, the Dutch created the original juniper based spirit.

Also known as Jenever gin, Ginebra gin or Dutch gin, it must be produced in the Netherlands, Belgium or certain parts of France and Germany.

There are two main types: Jonge Genever and Oude Genever.

Jonge Genever is closest to London Dry and is made from neutral spirit and juniper with additional flavourings as desired. It can contain up to 10g of sugar and up to 15% of malt wine. Oude Genever should be made with malt wine, juniper and other botanical flavourings as well as neutral spirits. Sometimes it is matured in casks to provide colour and flavour.

Flagship brands include Bols and Genevieve Genever Gin..

What’s your favourite type of gin and why?


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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Saffron Gin: Vive la France!

posted in: Gin of the month | 2

France and gin are not two words that you’d often put together. But the land of the grape is starting to make some pretty decent gins including the well known Citadelle and the delicious G-Vine(paid links), but here’s one you might not have heard of. Introducing Saffron Gin (paid link), imported by Gabriel Boudier from Dijon.

Dijon is more known for its mustard than its saffron, but these guys have  infused one of the most distinctive and expensive ingredients in the world into a beautiful old school bottle to give the gin a golden colour more suited to a scotch whiskey or an Irn Bru than a simple gin.

The result: an unusual gin, probably best for a special occasion to impress your friends rather than as a cocktail cabinet staple.

Gabriel Boudier have been making Cassis in the French countryside since 1874, and you can see that in the bottle.

But why France and gin?

For many years, the French and the British had competing interests in the Indian subcontinent, especially in Southern Indian cities such as Pondicherry.

Somewhere in that period exotic spices started turning up in France, the culinary centre of the world, and some of these recipes were recently discovered into the Boudier archive and were resurrected to make this startling gin.

The look is dramatic and the saffron is quite forward and gives the gin a dry, savoury taste which dominates any tonic water. In addition to the Saffron other botanicals in the mix include Juniper, Coriander, Lemon, Orange Peel, Iris, Angelica seeds and Fennel.

When mixed, it takes on a golden colour but despite its unusual history, I like it as an occasional drink and it’s complex enough to be drunk “on the rocks”. It’s only 40% ABV, so it’s not a heavy hitter in the alcohol department, but as a curiosity and a talking point, it’s well worth a go.

 


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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Anyone for Pimm’s?

posted in: Cocktail of the month | 0

There’s nothing more delicious on an English summer day than a long, refreshing jug of Pimms, served with lemonade, ice, mint, cucumber, sliced oranges and lemons and poured over a pile of ice cubes.

It is the drink of Wimbledon and Ascot, Henley Regatta and the Chelsea Flower Show – but it’s at its best in your back garden on a (rare) English summer’s day. So why is it so hard to find in the land of Sangria and Tinto Verano? Well maybe that’s just it – there are so many established alternatives in Spain, so why should they bother with an English version off what they already do well?

I’ll tell you why – because its got gin in it and it’s absolutely delicious.

So what is it and how did it come about?

The original Pimms was invented in 1840 by James Pimm of London town. He was a restaurant owner with several establishments across the city and experimented by blending gin with liqueurs, spices and other special ingredients, which he then served in pint tankards. It proved so popular with his customers, that he saw an opportunity and he took it. He started bottling his concoction and his customers loved it. That began a great British love affair with this delicious, easy to drink gin-based spirit.

Shortly after the bottling started, so di the journey of Pimms itself. One of its first ever shipments was to the Galle Face hotel (I was there earlier this year and I can vouch for the fact that there can be no finer place in the world to sip it than on the verandah of this classic colonial, eating a fine curry and gazing out at the Indian Ocean). In 1898, a shipment of Pimms was sent up the Nile by boat to Sudan. Its mission: to help to quench the thirst of the forces who were digging in to defend Khartoum. I can only imagine General Gordon having a last glass of Pimms before his last stand at the Battle of Omdurman guaranteed his place in the history books forever.

Since then, Pimms has gone from strength to strength and a number of different Pimms Cups are now available including Pimms No. 2 (based on scotch); Pimms No. 3 (based on rum); Pimms No. 4 (based on rye whiskey); and Pimms No. 5 (based on vodka). But the Daddy of them all is still Pimms No.1 and it stll tastes of Summer.

Hard to find in Barcelona, but availabe at Colmado Quilez

Classic Pimm’s No. 1 Cup recipe

  1. Mix 1 part Pimm’s No. 1 with three parts sparkling lemonade
  2. Add strawberries, cucumber, mint and orange to a large jug
  3. Pour the concoction over ice into a long glass (or a tankard)
  4. Garnish to taste.

Enjoy!

Thank you, Mr. Pimm.


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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