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!)

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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

Mix in an ice filled mixing glass

Method:

Stir gently and pour into an Old Fashioned glass or tumbler

Garnish with chunky orange wedge and drink.

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.

Take:

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

Then:

Put all the ingredients in a mug.

Add 8 oz hot water.

Garnish with a cinammon stick.

Drink.

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.

The Laverstoke

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 as one of my post-tour cocktail 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
  • Add 15 ml of Martini Rosato vermouth
  • Pour in 50 ml of gin (preferably Bombay Sapphire!)
  • 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 (and info about the distillery tour) click here:

www.distillery.bombaysapphire.com

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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? 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, all of these can start you on your gin journey. 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 who include add 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.

Old Tom gin

The precursor to London Dry gin, it’s the oldest style of English gin still produced today. 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). For more information about the fascinating history of Old Tom gin, read our blog post here.

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.

What’s your favourite type of gin and why?

 

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, but here’s one you might not have heard of. Introducing Saffron Gin, imported by Gabriel Boudier from Dijon.

Dijon is more known for its mustard than its saffron, but these guys have they’ve 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.

http://www.boudier.com/gamme/gin/

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

Mix 1 part Pimm’s No. 1 with three parts sparkling lemonade

Add strawberries, cucumber, mint and orange to a large jug

Pour the concoction over ice into a long glass (or a tankard)

Garnish to taste.

Enjoy.

Thank you, Mr. Pimm.

Barcelona’s cocktail corner

posted in: Gin and Juniper | 0

On Barcelona’s cocktail corner, you could be forgiven for think you’ve just entered a time machine and ended up in the sophisticated 1930s (with the occasional time warp nod to the 1970s). This is without doubt the high end of Barcelona’s cocktail scene complete with white jacketed waiters, sophisticated cocktail bars and even a hidden Speakeasy.

Within a few hundred feet, you will find easy access to some of the coolest places in town for a quiet drink, a romantic liaison or just a casual encounter over your favourite gin-based beverage.

So, purely in the interests of science, we thought we’d try them out and let you know what we think:

Dry Martini

A Barcelona classic and often appearing in the top 10 lists of best bars in the world, this is like stepping back in time. The bar is a decent size with panelled walls, leather chairs and banquettes, a long bar, retro and classic artwork and a jazzy, 1930s vibe. As the name suggests, it has become famous because of its excellent Dry Martinis (gin is best, obviously) and they even have a digital counter clocking up in real time every Dry Martini they have served.

Waiters are in white jackets, food is of the elegant tapas variety and prices match the salubrious atmosphere. In addition to their classic martinis, they have a good selection of gins served up in classic tumblers with Schweppes Premium tonic water as standard.

The clientele is generally well heeled – but on the night of our visit, there was a mixture of affluent locals, curious tourists and cocktail fanatics sitting at the bar.

This place gets busy, especially later – so get there early for a seat. Service can be a bit patchy but if you’re patient, you’ll be rewarded with a well-made G&T, a classic evening and a great cocktail. And if you’re in the mood and can get a table, try out the Speakeasy restaurant, hidden behind a door in the panelled wall. Another connection to the 1930s.

Tanqueray 10. We started off the evening with a round of Tanqueray 10s served with tonic and garnished modestly with a thinly sliced lemon wheel and poured down a “gin spoon” over large lumps of cocktail ice.

This seemed like a good choice to start off with at Dry Martini, since it was specifically blended to go into one. But we thought we’d see what it works like in a normal G&T and we all thought they were excellent and set a good benchmark. All the G&Ts were bought to the table by the waiter and presented on a small tray, free poured direct to the glass and with a decent measure of gin in each.

We all agreed that it was a great way to start the evening. Also, Tanqueray 10 was especially created as the perfect gin for a Dry Martini, so we were in the right place and were delighted with the citrus notes, the lime and grapefruit and the heavy juniper, all balanced nicely with the creaminess of the chamomile and the savoury notes from the coriander. Afterwards, we ordered a round of different gins, some of which we had never tried or heard of before. Here are our thoughts:

The Foxtrot – This was the most refreshing and aromatic of our drinks, and what made it special was the roof of frozen tonic and lime that brought out the citrus notes of orange and grapefruit and the powerful lime zestiness. As we drank it, the lime came through loud and clear and for some of us it had notes of mojito, for others it was a bigger hit of lime, similar to a gimlet, which receded after the ice had started to melt, resulting in a better balanced and blended drink that retained its characteristic citrus sharpness. Either way, it was delicious and one of our favourites of the evening.

Star of Bombay – Bombay Sapphire’s flagship gin, like the others, was poured at the table with great fanfare and it ended up being one of our favourites of the evening. Served in the standard Dry Martini tumblers with plenty of ice, it was also (bizarrely) served with a single chocolate (courtesy of the marketing team at Bombay Sapphire). This was a mistake and didn’t seem to go with the gin at all. We picked up a saltiness to this gin (alongside the citrussy taste) which just didn’t work with the gimmicky chocolate), but we concluded that this gin would be delicious on a hot summers day, sipping slowly at a little chiringuito or beach bar on the nearby Med.

Porte des Indes – This was the most disappointing of the gins we tried at Dry Martini. While it received the same presentational treatment as the others, it lacked any distinctive flavour and competed with the Schweppes tonic water for taste. It was also slightly less carbonated than the other drinks (maybe a result of the stirring at the table) and the overall impression was to make the drink taste like diet tonic had been added to it. Won’t be rushing back for this one (but their strawberry version is delicious!)

Bloomsbury – not bad at all, but definitely not the best that we’ve had this evening. Made by Tanqueray, it is the latest of their Limited-Edition gins and to us it felt like it was tangy, dry, citrussy with floral notes that smelled almost like lavender. The angelica bark, cassia and juniper add some woody notes to the small, but when added to the Schweppes tonic water, it became almost piny with a pleasant bitterness that lasted until the bottom of the glass.

No gin list.

Note: Dry Martini also run a cocktail school and have opened the Dry Martini terrace next door, so sign up if you’re interested in knowing their tricks and secrets.

http://www.drymartiniorg.com/

Solange

Right across the street from Dry Martini is one of the latest additions to the cocktail scene in Barcelona. Solange sits on the opposite corner, looking out at its more well-known neighbour. But this place is cosy, intimate, jazzy and sophisticated (in a sort of 1970s, chicken Kiev kind of way). The gin selection is awesome and features prominently on their bar display with some established brands and some more unusual ones all waiting there, tempting you to try them out.

Speak to the head bartender and you’ll find he has history (some of the Savoy bar staff popped in to check things out on my last visit there), this is a classic place with a growing reputation and while it might be trying too hard for some people’s tastes, it’s ideal for a pre-dinner drink or a post-dinner nightcap (or frankly anything in between). One thing is for sure, this is a place that takes real pride in every drink they pour. And it shows.

Talk to the knowledgeable staff about any cocktail and they’ll happily share their insight and knowledge with you while offering handy tips about things to do in Barcelona. This is probably my favourite bar in town. It’s not cheap, but worth every penny if you want a sophisticated haven to escape the Barcelona heat in the Summer or for a warming drink in the winter.

Il Gin del Professore Monsieur/Madame (The Professor) – this was dry, citrussy with notes of lemon peel and it tasted like a proper gin. It had a slightly bitter edge, which reminded us of lime marmalade or bitter orange. It was Juniper dominant and after a few sips, its spicy, aromatic side came through which worked well with the cardamom camomile, cinnamon and vanilla. Soft, with jammy feel in the mouth, we loved it Delicious.

Old Raj – This was a classic gin with loads of botanicals, including juniper, citrus, coriander, cassia. It had a slight golden tint delivered by a hint of saffron. Served with a twist of lemon rind, it was slightly bitter but we felt it lacked some of the structure and complexity of other gins available. All in all, it was a bit disappointing bitter die to its lack of depth and neutral flavour balance.

Tandem

This was the last classic cocktail bar on our list but it was definitely last but not least. In fact, all four of us (and I swear it wasn’t just the gin kicking in!) looked at each other and said it was our favourite.

With some of the classic pedigree of Dry Martini, but less of the slightly tourist touristy vibe of Solange, this felt like it was an old school cocktail bar that has got it just about right. A long bar, 1930s artwork and atmospheric lighting add to the art deco mood and while we weren’t able to access a menu, their gin selection is extensive and they know their stuff.

Our waitress guided us to the gin wall where we selected 4 gins that we had never tried before and we were delighted with the results. The crowd was low key and happy and it felt like this was tapping into the local neighbourhood for many of its customers. Classy and full of charm, this is the bee’s knees, the top banana and the dog’s bollocks all rolled into one.

You get the feeling that this place is the sort of place you stumble across once and then make a pilgrimage time and time again to get more. The music was low key, the crowd were chilled out and the bar staff were the most knowledgeable.

While Dry Martini felt like it had become a bit of a business and might be resting on its reputation, and Solange looks like it’s parked its tanks on the lawn opposite to stake its claim and build its reputation, the easy ambiance and relaxed vibe of Tandem felt like we’d discovered the real deal. Definitely our top pick for a classic cocktail bar and one of the best places to drink gin in Barcelona.

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Bertha’s Revenge Gin: gin made from milk!!

posted in: Gin of the month | 2

In our relentless quest to find the most unusual and interesting gins from around the world, let me introduce you to Bertha and tell you a story about her revenge. Bertha was a lovely cow from the beautiful green fields of Co. Kerry in Ireland. She lived a happy life, chomping her way through the famous green grass of her homeland and was so well looked after that she lived to the ripe old age of 48. By the time she passed on to chomp on the Elysian fields, she had become the world’s oldest cow and gave birth to a staggering 39 calves over her lifetime.

She became a living legend in Ireland and her memory now lives on in Bertha’s Revenge, a fantastic, flavour packed small batch gin made by the Ballyvolane House Spirits Company, who have honoured her existence by creating a unique Irish gin made from (wait for it…) MILK.

Using whey alcohol from Irish dairy farmers, and incorporating a formidable mix of locally foraged and grown botanicals including many of the usual suspects (and some unusual ones such as sweet woodruff, elderflower, almond) alongside other listed ingredients such as “love”, “laughter” and “childish enthusiasm”, this is a delicious drink full of complex flavours. But don’t try pouring it on your cornflakes, since it packs a decent punch at 42% ABV.

But all the clever marketing in the world can’t disguise a bad gin, so what’s it like?

We had a little gathering to find out and in a blind test of 4 of our favourite small batch gins, this was our runaway favourite with a unanimous 4 out of 4 tasters making it their top choice.

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