Ukiyo Japanese Blossom gin

UKIYO Japanese Blossom gin: is this my favourite gin ever?

Banzai! I think I’ve just had the best gin I’ve ever tasted. I wasn’t expecting it. In fact it was a gift at a surprise birthday party. And I wasn’t expecting that either.  But this gin has just blown my Christmas socks off! The thing is, there are so many gins around to try now.  And increasingly, they are just variations on a theme. Some of them are just added flavours. Others barely stand out from each other. And then along came UKIYO Japanese Blossom gin.

One sip and I was taken.

A beautiful bottle for a beautiful gin

And what was so special about Ukiyo Japanese Blossom gin?

Well where do I even start? The bottle is an absolute stunner.  A classic rounded shape with a graduated tinted glass where the colours of blue and pink blend into each other in the same way that mountains blend into the sea. This gin is elegantly Japanese and subtly understated. The label is a simple, square with rounded edges and Japanese lettering spelling out its name.  The neck tapers up gently, like the slopes of the nearby Sakurajima volcano and the whole affair is crowned with a gorgeous, chunky flat cap that sets it off beautifully.  Before you’ve even tasted the first sip, you know this is a gin with a difference.

“Floating world” gin for the mindfulness generation

We also love the story behind Ukiyo Japanese Blossom gin.  The term ukiyo literally translates in English to “floating world” and it refers to “a state of mind that emphasises living in the moment, detached from the difficulties of life”.  This is a gin worth concentrating on. It will feed your senses. It’s sort of like a gin for the mindfulness generation.

So, what’s so special about it?

So much. This is not your normal gin.  In fact, this is a gin that all starts with Japan’s national drink, Shochu. This traditional Japanese spirit is distilled from barley and these guys have been practicing their art for more than 130 years.  They have drawn on all that knowledge and experience to distill this Shochu base from scratch. First, they distill the barley in a traditional Japanese pot still, which produces a gentler, more rounded flavour.

The fragrant, complex aroma of cherry blossom

They then redistill the mix with juniper, mandarin and spices before infusing it with the bright, citrus notes of yuzu and the subtle perfume of the sakura flower. The final blend offers up a soft, smooth mouth-feel, making this gin very easy to drink.  The Shochu adds a subtle, earthy flavour to the final product, that’s reminiscent of its more famous cousin Sake. This fragrant base is then redistilled with the required juniper, alongside mandarin and spice.  For the final touch, they infuse the gin with the delicate taste of Sakura flower, resulting in a perfumed, fragrant citrus-forward gin to delight your senses.

And on the nose? Boy, do those aromas tickle your taste buds.  Even before you take your first sip, your senses will be assaulted by a sweet, fragrant complex aroma that mimics the gentle scent of the cherry blossoms adorning the beautiful mountains that surround their beautiful Kagoshima base. And at a standard 40% ABV, this gin has just the right blend of strength and flavour.

So, what does it taste like?  Well, on the nose it is sweet and complex.  There is a fragrance that comes from the Shochu that delivers a perfume punch alongside the fresh, complex flavors of juniper, cherry blossom and orange. And there (f you look hard enough) lurking in the background, you’ll pick up more subtle notes such as woody spice, coriander and even a little Parma violet.

Ukiyo Japanese Blossom gin perfect pour:

This gin is too unusual and has too many contrasting taste sensations to waste on a flavoured tonic water.  This is one for a premium Fever Tree Indian tonic, large, square cubes of ice and a slice of orange.  Best served in a Collins glass, you’ll need to drop a large, square ice cube (the larger the better) into the bottom of the glass. Then, take a wedge of orange, squeeze it to release the juice and wipe it around the rim of the glass.  Pour a generous shot of the gin over the ice cube.  Then pour a premium quality tonic water such as Fever Tree premium into the mix allowing the bubbles to blend the liquids together naturally. Finally, a brief stir and then drop a sliced orange wheel on top and you’re “good to go”. A delicious, G&T just bursting with bright flavour!

But if you’re looking to try this in a cocktail, here’s one you might like to try…

Ukiyo Cherry Cobbler

Ingredients:

  • 40ml Ukiyo Japanese Blossom gin
  • 10ml cherry brandy
  • 10 ml blackcurrant syrup
  • 10ml lemon juice
  • 10ml blackcurrant liqueur
  • 190ml ice
  • 20ml soda

Method:

  • Add ice to a 10oz (300ml) highball glass
  • Pour gin into glass
  • Add cherry brandy
  • Add blackcurrant syrup
  • Pour in lemon juice
  • Top up with a dash of soda water
  • Pour a Creme de Cassis float onto the surface
  • Garnish with a Maraschino cherry
  • Just sit back and enjoy the blossoms…

Kanpai everybody!!


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

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


RECENT POSTS

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    Banzai! I think I’ve just had the best gin I’ve ever tasted. I wasn’t expecting it. In fact it was a gift at a surprise birthday party. And I wasn’t expecting that either.  But this gin has just blown my Christmas socks off! The thing is, there are so many gins around to try now.  … Continued
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Ólafsson Gin

Ólafsson gin: the exquisite, natural taste of Iceland

Icelandic gin is on the rise. I suppose it should come as no surprise that one of the most dramatic landscapes on earth has turned to its natural resources for inspiration. Iceland now creates some of the most interesting new gins available anywhere in the world. From the early days of the gin revolution, brands such as Martin Miller’s spotted the gin potential of this bleak and barren landscape.  They were one of the first to make the connection and marketed themselves as a “super premium gin, distilled in England blended with the purest Icelandic water” . This water is filtered through 800 years of glacial melt, so it is as smooth and pure and clean as water can be.

Martin Miller’s found a niche and made a bit of a name for itself at the vanguard of the gin revolution.  And then, a few years ago, some friends returned from a visit to Iceland. They introduced me to the delights of Himbrimi gin, a deliciously unique Old Tom gin. This unique, sweeter and smokier gin is made with pure Icelandic water, hand picked wild flowers and honey. It appeared that the Icelandic gin revolution was now in full flow.

Ólafsson Gin – made from nature

In fact, there are now more than a dozen craft gin distilleries operating on this island of 350,000 people. And it’s starting to build quite a reputation for itself.  So, when a couple of Icelandic friends visited us in Barcelona recently (bearing a lovely looking bottle of Icelandic gin), we were delighted. The classic label and limited edition batch number just made us even more excited to give this one a try. And, we were not disappointed. Ólafsson gin, with its slogan: “Hreint Og Villt” (loosely translated as “pure and wild”) comes in a striking bottle. It has an etched label featuring an image of Iceland’s most famous explorer, Eggert Ólafsson gazing out dramatically at a scene of geysers, rocks and wild animals.

Driven by a taste for adventure…

In the 18th century, Eggert Ólafsson roamed this island to discover more about its native culture and natural secrets. He wandered the tundras, rocks and hills, discovering geysers and glaciers and waterfalls and volcanoes along the way. In 1772, he recorded his findings in one of Iceland’s most famous books, Travels in Iceland. Since then, he has become a part of Iceland’s folklore and a hero to many.  So, when the folks at Eyland spirits decided they needed a name for their new gin, Ólafsson was the first name they thought of.

Iceland’s gin revolution

So, what is it about dramatic, rugged, cold Iceland that makes it such a popular place for gin making? Well first of all, apart from the pulsing heartbeat of Reykjavík the capital, there’s not much to do on those long Iceland days and nights. So, Icelanders turn to their heritage keeping traditional skills alive.  There is a rich craft history here and this has led to a culture of creativity that extends all the way to gin.  That enthusiasm, combined with the natural gifts of the rugged Icelandic landscape, have come together in a sensational blend.

Pure water and unique botanicals

Pure water direct from glacial melt and unique, hard to find botanicals, some of which are unique to Iceland all combine to create a little gin magic.  There are now more than a dozen distilleries on the island, each with their own unique blend and distinctive style.  And we expect more to come.  Icelandic gin might not be easy to find in your local liquor store. But it’s worth the effort to track some down and the proof is in the taste.  So, how about this Ólafsson gin – how did it all begin?

The taste of Iceland in a bottle

Well, the folks at Eyland spirits were determined to capture the purity of the Icelandic landscape in a bottle of gin. That’s exactly what they’ve tried to do in their Ólafsson gin. Their aim was to harness these fresh, clean tastes in a bottle.  To do this, they began with the crisp, clean notes of juniper and a grain base. They then added a range of complex botanicals to deliver floral and citrus notes and earthy spice.

Getting under the skin of the gin

So, let’s get under the skin of this special gin. With a classic juniper base, the unique flavors of Iceland are brought out by the native notes of Arctic thyme, birch and mountain moss.  All of this is then blended with its pristine arctic water for a unique, smooth and refreshing drink. On the nose, you’ll pick up complex notes ranging from lime zest to kiwi. There are hints of ginger, Earl Grey tea and peppercorns to give it a little extra spiciness and angelica and juniper also shine through.

The taste test

And then, the best bit – the taste. There’s a lovely citrus zest from the lime and the complex warmth of the spices comes through to make this a sophisticated treat for the senses.  The overall impression is of a smooth, complex gin featuring classic botanicals in a refreshing. modern style. As with all gins, we think it goes best with a simple premium tonic water, but Olafsson gin is also a dependable gin for cocktail making.  In fact, we think it works particularly well in a Dry Martini, a Gimlet or even a French 75.

Ólafsson Gin: the perfect pour

While we would normally recommend a classic gin and tonic recipe as our perfect pour, for this gin, we’re going to go with a Dry Martini.  That’s partly because it shows off the complexity of this smooth gin, but it also just happens to have been awarded a Gold Medal as the Best Gin for a Martini by the Beverage Tasting Institute, so we thought we’d go with that.  Here’s all you need for a deliciously smooth Icelandic Martini!

Ingredients:

Ólafsson Gin
  • 2 shots of Ólafsson gin
  • 1/2 shot Extra Dry vermouth
  • 1/2 shot Martini Bianco vermouth
  • Ice
  • Lime twist

Method:

  1. First, find yourself a classic Martini glass (even better if it’s been in the freezer for half an hour!)
  2. Next, pour 2 shots of Ólafsson gin, ½ a shot of extra dry vermouth, a ½ shot of Martini Bianco vermouth into a cocktail shaker.
  3. Half fill the shaker with ice and stir for 20 seconds.
  4. Strain into the martini glass. 
  5. Peel a twist of lime over the glass and drop into the drink. Et voila!

Enjoy this little piece of Iceland. And don’t forget the ice!


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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  • UKIYO Japanese Blossom gin: is this my favourite gin ever?
    Banzai! I think I’ve just had the best gin I’ve ever tasted. I wasn’t expecting it. In fact it was a gift at a surprise birthday party. And I wasn’t expecting that either.  But this gin has just blown my Christmas socks off! The thing is, there are so many gins around to try now.  … Continued
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    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
  • Gin and tonic lemon tart: getting into the Christmas spirit
    There’s an old English Christmas rhyme that goes something like this: “Christmas is coming, the geese are getting fat. Please put a penny in the old man’s hat.”  And while we wholeheartedly endorse the spirit of generosity and kindness that is the hallmark of the festive period, we suspect that it won’t just be the … Continued
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Oxley Gin

Oxley Gin: the gin that came in from the cold

If you like a classic juniper-forward gin with a twist, then we might have just discovered the perfect gin for you. Welcome to the wonderful world of Oxley Gin, a classic blend of tradition and innovation that delivers one of the most well balanced, smoothest and easiest to drink gins around. With 14 different botanicals (each individual batch is vacuum-sealed and frozen to make sure that the flavour is protected) you’d expect this to be a complex and sophisticated blend – and you’d be right!

So, how did this smooth, juniper-forward classic come about and what’s the secret behind its subtle, elegant flavours?

How it all began

Well, Oxley Gin is now part of the Bacardi family and it all began as an experiment.  In fact, the folks at Oxley spent 8 years developing this beautiful gin.  And along the way, they invented a completely new way of distilling gin. Traditionally, gins are distilled using heat.  This reduces the spirit and the botanicals to vapour.  However, the Oxley team decided to turn conventional wisdom on its head.  Instead of using heat to create the vapour, they did the exact opposite. 

They create an intense vacuum, which reduces the pressure within the still. In turn, this takes the temperature down to around -5C, at which point the spirit (already in its 15th hour of maceration) vapourises.  Then, a cold finger probe (frozen to -100c) is introduced, which returns the vapour back into a liquid with a beautiful, smooth blend of flavours that set this gin in a league of its own

Eight years to make, but worth the wait

Despite being owned by such a big brand, this is still a small batch gin. It took them 8 years and 38 recipes to get it right, but it was worth the wait.  The 14 botanicals include juniper, coriander seeds, vanilla, grapefruit peel, cassia bark, grains of paradise, nutmeg and cocoa nibs.  The cold distilling process means that the gin leads with a big hit of fresh fruit, citrus , herbs and floral flavours for a delightfully smooth, yet complex gin that works very well in a standard G&T but which also adds a rich complexity to cocktails.

Plus, the bottle is as classy as the gin itself. Tall, with a short neck, it tapers into a textured, indented base. It is decorated front and back with a classic rectangular, green edged label which contains the recipe number and the unique batch number

So, what exactly does it taste like?

Well this is one classy gin!  On the nose, you’ll find licorice notes alongside orange and tangerine, followed by a smooth (but unmistakable) juniper blast.  Then, when you take a sip, you start to get a sense of the complexities that lie within. One by one, you start to unravel the botanicals within and peppery notes and complex aromas begin to appear.  It all finishes with a clean, sweet finish that lingers with a delicate mintiness, lengthened by a touch of aniseed, juniper and even a little mace. 

The perfect serve: Oxley classic Dry Martini recipe

This is one of those rare gins that is so smooth and mellow that it can be sipped neat (or with a bit of water to bring out all the tastes).  It also works brilliantly in cocktails that require a smooth, well balanced taste profile that complements rather than detracts from the cocktail itself.  And,  like most classic gins, we think it makes a great G&T. 

At 47% ABV, this gin is no shrinking Violet, but its subtle composition doesn’t allow the alcohol taste to be over dominant, allowing for a great G&T.  But its smooth, subtlety means that it is a perfect companion for a classic Dry Martini.  With its delicate flavours and smooth, mellow tones, it works really well in a 3:1 ratio with a dash of orange bitters that allows the botanicals to shine through delivering a crisp, complex and delicate drink.  Best garnished with a little orange zest to bring out the best of the citrus notes, this could become your “go to” brunch cocktail.  We think you’ll enjoy it…

Ingredients:

  • 45 ml Oxley Gin
  • 15 ml Noilly Prat vermouth
  • Dash of orange bitters
  • Orange zest

Method:

  1. Stir all the ingredients over ice
  2. Strain into a martini cocktail glass
  3. Garnish with orange zest

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

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


RECENT POSTS

  • UKIYO Japanese Blossom gin: is this my favourite gin ever?
    Banzai! I think I’ve just had the best gin I’ve ever tasted. I wasn’t expecting it. In fact it was a gift at a surprise birthday party. And I wasn’t expecting that either.  But this gin has just blown my Christmas socks off! The thing is, there are so many gins around to try now.  … Continued
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    Entropia Gin is back in my life. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised. Looking back, it was probably always inevitable that I would fall in love with gin and tonic. I was born in post-colonial Malaysia, where G&Ts were sipped on whitewashed verandahs by men in Panama hats and linen suits. Later on, as a … Continued

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  • UKIYO Japanese Blossom gin: is this my favourite gin ever?
    Banzai! I think I’ve just had the best gin I’ve ever tasted. I wasn’t expecting it. In fact it was a gift at a surprise birthday party. And I wasn’t expecting that either.  But this gin has just blown my Christmas socks off! The thing is, there are so many gins around to try now.  … Continued
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home-made pimms

Home-made Pimms – put a little sunshine in your life

We’re now well and truly into summer and the social season lies ahead of us.  In the UK we have three of the most social events of the year coming up including Wimbledon this week (where people watch tennis and drink Pimms); the Henley Royal Regatta (where boaters in straw hats row, while people drink Pimms); and the Chelsea Flower Show (where people look at flowers and drink Pimms).  Are you picking up a pattern here?

The unmistakable taste of the English summer

Yes, the Pimm’s Cup is truly the drink of the English summer and you will find it on any sunny day being served and drunk in large glasses filled with fruit, ice, lemonade and the unmistakably herby taste of Pimms.  Pub gardens will be full of Pimms drinkers and large jugs of the stuff will be perched on bar tables around the country for the authentic taste of the English summer. For those who don’t know, Pimms is a gin cup first made in London by James Pimms way back in 1820. He actually owned an oyster bar and created this herbal concoction to settle the stomachs of any customers who might have over-indulged on his shellfish.

Introducing Pimms No. 1

The restaurant chain grew and his drink became increasingly popular, so he developed a version of the mix that he could sell to other restaurants – and he named it the No. 1 Cup.  Today, we just know it as Pimms.
But Pimms comes in different shapes and sizes including the No. 2 Cup (made with Scotch whiskey); the No. 3 Cup (or Pimms Winter) was relaunched in 2008; the No. 4 Cup (made with Rum); and the No. 5 Cup (made with Rye). Then comes the No. 6 Cup (made with Vodka) which is the second most popular of the variants. But this article isn’t about Pimms.  It’s about an alternative.  What if we could share a recipe for home-made Pimms that is even more delicious than the original and really easy to make?

Well, say no more – your wish has just come true. Here’s an amazing, easy to drink recipe that you can make at home.

Home-made is always best…

This recipe requires first making a fruit cup syrup, which is then mixed with gin and sweet vermouth to give your summer potion an unmistakable and distinctive character.  But to do this properly, you’re going to need to gather some ingredients.  You’re going to need a little caster sugar, some fresh strawberries, a cucumber, some grapefruit peel and some mint. And then, to spritz it all up you’ll need a juniper-forward gin, some vermouth (rosso), plenty of ice and some fizzy lemonade or ginger ale. It’s already making my mouth water just thinking about it. So, without further ado, here’s the recipe!

Home-made Pimms recipe

Ingredients:

For the fruit cup syrup

  • 300g of caster sugar
  • 200g of thinly sliced strawberries
  • 150g of sliced, peeled cucumber
  • 30g of grapefruit peel
  • 10g of mint leaves
  • 300 ml water

For the fruit cup

  • 200 ml fruit cup syrup (see above)
  • 400 ml of juniper forward gin
  • 400 ml of red vermouth
  • Sparkling lemonade or ginger ale
  • Sliced strawberries, oranges, lavender leaves and bay leaves to garnish

Method:

  1. Sprinkle the sugar over the strawberries, cucumber, grapefruit, mint and lavender
  2. Place in refrigerator overnight (to draw moisture from the fruit)
  3. Add the water, then pour everything into a resealable plastic bag
  4. Heat a pan of hot water to a steady 55C (you may need a temperature probe for this)
  5. After 4 hours, remove from the pan and strain through a sieve

For the fruit cup:

  1. Once the syrup has cooled, mix it with the gin and vermouth and store in the fridge, where it should last for up to 6 months
  2. Mix one part of fruit cup with two parts of lemonade or ginger ale (or both) over plenty of ice
  3. Garnish as extravagantly as you like – game, set and match

Anyone for tennis?


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

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


RECENT POSTS

  • UKIYO Japanese Blossom gin: is this my favourite gin ever?
    Banzai! I think I’ve just had the best gin I’ve ever tasted. I wasn’t expecting it. In fact it was a gift at a surprise birthday party. And I wasn’t expecting that either.  But this gin has just blown my Christmas socks off! The thing is, there are so many gins around to try now.  … Continued
  • 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
  • Gin and tonic lemon tart: getting into the Christmas spirit
    There’s an old English Christmas rhyme that goes something like this: “Christmas is coming, the geese are getting fat. Please put a penny in the old man’s hat.”  And while we wholeheartedly endorse the spirit of generosity and kindness that is the hallmark of the festive period, we suspect that it won’t just be the … Continued
  • Entropia Gin: lift your spirits with a little ginseng and guarana
    Entropia Gin is back in my life. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised. Looking back, it was probably always inevitable that I would fall in love with gin and tonic. I was born in post-colonial Malaysia, where G&Ts were sipped on whitewashed verandahs by men in Panama hats and linen suits. Later on, as a … Continued

RECENT POSTS

  • UKIYO Japanese Blossom gin: is this my favourite gin ever?
    Banzai! I think I’ve just had the best gin I’ve ever tasted. I wasn’t expecting it. In fact it was a gift at a surprise birthday party. And I wasn’t expecting that either.  But this gin has just blown my Christmas socks off! The thing is, there are so many gins around to try now.  … Continued
  • 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
  • Gin and tonic lemon tart: getting into the Christmas spirit
    There’s an old English Christmas rhyme that goes something like this: “Christmas is coming, the geese are getting fat. Please put a penny in the old man’s hat.”  And while we wholeheartedly endorse the spirit of generosity and kindness that is the hallmark of the festive period, we suspect that it won’t just be the … Continued
  • Entropia Gin: lift your spirits with a little ginseng and guarana
    Entropia Gin is back in my life. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised. Looking back, it was probably always inevitable that I would fall in love with gin and tonic. I was born in post-colonial Malaysia, where G&Ts were sipped on whitewashed verandahs by men in Panama hats and linen suits. Later on, as a … Continued
Suffering Bastard

The Suffering Bastard: handle with care

When you’re young, you see things differently.  New experiences pile up all around you and you want to try everything.  And with the sharp, social competitiveness of youth, you want to test your limits to see if you can outdo your friends.  It’s all a part of discovering who you are. My teenage years were spent between the UK and the USA. In the UK, it was all about how many pints of beer I could drink and how hot my curry would be afterwards. It was a badge of honour and it took me many years to step out of that phase.
Too many, actually!  

How it all began

Then I went to college in the USA – and that’s where I found out that I had a taste for cocktails.  It wasn’t a very refined taste in those days. Some would say it still isn’t! All I know is that in those early days, I tended to gravitate towards the ones that were either easiest to drink or contained the most alcohol. 

So, after a few years on the “Long Island Iced Tea Diet”, I found myself on a road trip to Chicago, sitting at the bar of Trader Vic’s Tiki Lounge at the Conrad Hilton, when somebody bought me a  cocktail I had ever tried before.  It was called a Suffering Bastard (and I can only assume that it was named after the hangover that I had the morning after). If so, it’s the most appropriately named drink I’ve ever had.

And over the years, these deceptively strong drinks have been the source of some of my best evenings (and worst mornings) ever since! So, what is in this delightfully named drink that makes it so appealing?  Well, let’s take a look under the hood of this cocktail classic and see if you like it. If you do, it could easily become the taste of summer.

Legendary hotels and their cocktails

As we know, all good drinks contain a legend. And many of the greatest cocktails began their lives behind the bars of some of the world’s most legendary hotels. They often changed the lives and fortunes of the bartenders who invented them as well, many of whom went on to become household names.  We’ve recently written some articles about hotel cocktail classics such as the Singapore Sling, invented at the historic Raffles Hotel in Singapore.  But now it’s time to reveal the story behind the legendary Suffering Bastard and how it got its unique and dramatic name. So, here’s the deal…

Originally invented as a simple hangover cure by the bar team at Cairo’s Shepheard’s Hotel, the Suffering Bastard gained a small, local reputation before the hotel burned to the ground in a fire in1952.  But wind the clock back 10 years to see where the story really begins.  

A legend is born

It’s 1942, Cairo and the Shepheard Hotel is fast becoming party central for British troops based in North Africa and the press corps that were covering the war. They had seen a lot and often found their solace in drink. The head bartender at the Shepheard, a guy called Joe Scialom, was on duty at the bar when he heard some officers complaining about the size of their hangovers.  His ears pricked up and it got him thinking. 

He began playing around with some recipes that might cure the hangovers of some of the troops who were his regulars.  Joe tried a variety of combinations before deciding on his final mix, which combined two liquors with lime juice, bitters and the curative qualities of ginger beer. Apparently this drink became instantly popular.  Before long it was being shipped to the front lines to fortify the troops and to keep their spirits up for the hard times ahead.

An unholy alliance

The most common recipe combination for a Suffering Bastard calls for an unholy alliance of bourbon and gin.  To this day, that remains the favourite combination but many variants exist which substitute brandy for bourbon.  Rum also sometimes makes an appearance.  And sometimes ginger ale is substituted for ginger beer (which is harder to find in some places).  For those who like to tone down the spice or who prefer a dryer, more refreshing drink, this might be the combo for you. 

Tiki culture

After the war, news of the Suffering Bastard spread beyond Egypt and into the post-war cocktail culture before being hijacked by the burgeoning Tiki Culture of the 60s and 70s. Polynesian bars were popping up everywhere and fruit-based cocktails, served in giant ceramic bowls paying homage to Hawaiian culture became all the rage.  

The leader of this cocktail fad was the infamous Trader Vic (otherwise known as Victor J. Bergeron). His recipes leaned more towards rums and he added a slice of cucumber for garnish. But, he also added orgeat (for sweetness) and a splash of curacao liqueur (for some extra fruitiness).  Whichever version you prefer, is entirely up to you. But remember, these are strong drinks that are deceptively easy to drink. So, if you have too many the night before, expect to be suffering in the morning.  And we all know the best way to beat a hangover.  Have a taste of the hair of the dog that bit you. 

The Suffering Bastard – the legend lives on

And what happened to the legendary bartender responsible for creating this infamous concoction? Well, after the original hotel burned down in 1952, Joe decided to remain in Egypt.  Unfortunately after a while he was arrested on a charge of espionage and eventually, after the Suez crisis, he was exiled from Egypt by President Nasser. On arrival in the US, he ended up being hired by a certain Conrad Hilton, founder of the Hilton hotel chain. Joe spent the rest of his career opening bars for Conrad Hilton in Puerto Rico and Havana.  But he’ll always be known for one thing in particular – the Suffering Bastard.  And that’s the way it should be.

Ingredients:

  • 1 oz bourbon
  • 1 oz London dry gin
  • ½ oz freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 2 dashes Angostura Bitter
  • Ginger beer
  • Mint sprig to garnish

Method:

  1. Add the bourbon, gin, lime juice and bitters into a shaker with ice
  2. Shake until well chilled (about 30 seconds)
  3. Strain into a Collins glass over fresh ice
  4. Top up with ginger beer (or ginger ale)
  5. Garnish with a sprig of mint

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

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


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Barrel-aged gin cocktail

Barrel-aged gin cocktails: our guilty pleasure?

posted in: Cocktails, Gin and Juniper | 0

There are some gins that tick all the boxes on paper, but when it comes down to the perfect serve, it can be hard to know how to get the best from your gin. 
Last week, we took a look at barrel-aged gins.  We focused on the history and process of making these delicious gins. So this week, we’re looping back to share some perfect cocktail blends that are bound to get the best out of your barrel-aged gins.

Roll out the barrel

The Scots got the ball rolling by ageing their gins in leftover whiskey barrels.  There are plenty of those lying around Scotland. Then America took up the baton, ageing gins in old bourbon and rye whisky casks. But anywhere there are innovative distillers, there are bound to be barrel-aged gins somewhere nearby.  Last week, we suggested 5 barrel-aged gins that are worth adding to your wish list. But what’s the best way to drink these beauties, if sipping neat gin isn’t your thing?

Subtle and smoky

Well, we thought we’d help by suggesting a few delicious barrel-aged gin cocktails that will help you to get the very best out of your gin. Barrel-aged gin combines the subtle botanicals of gin with the smooth smokiness of a whisky, which all sounds great on paper, but how are you supposed to drink it?
In the last decade or so, these hybrid gins are slowly and steadily building a reputation. But they’re not for everyone.

The early days

One of the early pioneers was the French gin company Citadelle, who launched their Reserve gin way back in 2008. Since then, many other players have followed in their footsteps, with up to 100 varieties available in the market as we speak.
Some of them are scooping up big awards and they’ve become quite a talking point in the industry. But the public are confused. Some people are fooled by the light gold colour and expect it to taste like whiskey (which is understandable). Others assume it must be an Old Tom gin. But in reality, barrel-aged gins are not a new thing. In fact, Genever (the world’s original gin) was made and transported in a barrel of malt liquor to give it a unique characteristic.

The great experiment

These days, it’s all about experimentation, with distilleries trialing new varieties of wood, new barrels and new techniques to get the very best out of the gin. And some of the snobbery of only drinking barrel-aged gins “on the rocks” is also disappearing as drinkers increasingly understand the infinite variety and complexity that these gins possess. Some people claim that their gins are a perfect substitute for cocktails that would normally require a bourbon or whisky base, such as an Old Fashioned (particularly useful in the summer months when you want something a bit lighter or more refreshing). Others prefer lighter gins to add depth to the more subtle flavours of a Bee’s Knees or an Aviation.

It’s a rum thing…

Stronger flavoured barrel gins also work particularly well as a substitute for rum. Think rum cocktails, Mai Tai’s and even traditional rum drinks such as a Dark and Stormy. The depth of flavour of barrel-aged gins works well with the spicy and ginger notes that favour rum and it can be a real delight to drink. But these gins are made for drinking neat or adding complexity to cocktails. They don’t work so well in a standard G&T. So, after last week’s suggestions of some great barrel-aged gins to get into your collection, here are some great cocktail recipes to help you mix things up a little.

You’re welcome!

3 (easy) barrel-aged gin cocktails to make your spirits soar

The New Fashioned

  • 2 oz Citadelle Reserve gin
  • 0.75 oz of simple syrup (infused with orange, lemon and rosemary)
  • 4 dashes of Angostura bitters
  • A sprig of Rosemary for garnish
  1. Stir the gin, simple syrup and bitters over ice
  2. Serve over ice in a rocks glass
  3. Garnish with a rosemary sprig

Classic Tom Old Fashioned

  • 2 oz New Riff barrel-aged gin
  • 0.5 teaspoon of Demerera syrup
  • 3 dashes of Angostura bitters
  • Lemon or orange twist (for garnish)
  1. Combine all ingredients into a mixing glass
  2. Add ice and strain over ice into old fashioned glass
  3. Squeeze citrus twists into drink and garnish

Over a barrel (cask-aged gin cocktail)

  • 1.5 oz barrel-aged Big Gin
  • 0.5 oz of maple syrup
  • 0.3 oz sherry
  • 2 dashes orange bitters
  • 1 dash aromatic bitters
  • Ice
  • Blood Orange wheels (for garnish)
  1. In a cocktail shaker, stir the gin, maple syrup, sherry and bitters with plenty of ice
  2. Pour into an ice filled glass
  3. Garnish with orange wheels and serve

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

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


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Gin Sangria

Gin Sangria: the best of both worlds

posted in: Cocktails, Gin and Juniper | 0

Some people think it’s impossible to have the best of both worlds.  At Barcelona Gin, we respectfully disagree.  Barcelona and London. Gin and tonic. Sun and sea…
But there’s a magical combination that combines all of these things in one delicious, refreshing jug of summer loving.  For most people, Sangria is a drink mostly tasted on holiday in Spain.  From Malaga to Madrid and from Barcelona to the Balearics, Sangria has become a tourist favourite. 
Easy to drink and easy to get drunk on, for some people it’s the perfect holiday cooler.  The trouble is that most tourists get to drink the tourist version. It’s fine, but the locals spin their Sangria any number of different ways.

Good, old fashioned bloodletting…

Sangria is a traditional alcoholic drink that originated in the Iberian peninsula and that remains popular across both Spain and Portugal.  In fact, only those two countries are officially entitled to use the name Sangria, so make sure you’re trying the real stuff.
And here’s an interesting fact – the word Sangria literally means “bloodletting” and it began to be popular as early as the 18th century. 

Punch and Sangria – cousins, separated at birth

It generally belongs in the punch family of drinks and is most often served in a large jug, filled with red (or white) wine, chopped fruit and ice. 
But often, other ingredients make an appearance including spirits. In fact, there are any number of variations of this delicious drink across Spain. It’s traditionally made with Rioja red wine. But it can also be made with white wine or cava.
Fruit is generally added to the mix depending on seasonality and region. Peaches, nectarines, apples and pears are common ingredients, but you’re only limited by your imagination.
In recent years, Sangria from white wine is becoming increasingly popular. And for those looking to add a bit of strength to their mixture, feel free to add a splash of brandy or a fruit liqueur.

The gin is in!

And this is where our good friend gin enters the scene. As usual, while we fully respect the tradition of a Sangria (and we know we might be breaking some of the rules), we think gin is the missing ingredient. It is the thing that links Spain and London. It makes regular appearances in old fashioned punches and it can add a little boost to the spirits. This is a drink that truly bridges both worlds.

So, here’s a cheeky Gin Sangria recipe that is really easy to make and that makes use of a little gin to pep up this traditional Spanish drink.

Gin Sangria recipe

Ingredients:

  • 2 bottles dry Spanish red wine
  • 6 oz gin (Gin Mare or Gin Xoriger Mahon)
  • 3 tablespoons of sugar
  • 4 oranges (3 juiced, 1 whole)
  • 2 limes (1 juiced, 1 whole)
  • 4 lemons (3 juiced, 1 whole)
  • Ice
  • 24 oz guarana soda

Method:

  1. Combine the wine, gin, sugar and the juice from the 3 oranges, 3 lemons and one lime
  2. Slice the remaining orange, lemon and lime and add them to the pitcher as well
  3. Stir the pitcher and let it sit overnight in the refrigerator
  4. Pour the sangria into glasses filled with ice and top up with guarana soda
  5. Sit back and drink.

Salud!


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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easter cocktail

Mini-Egg Martini – the perfect Easter cocktail!

posted in: Cocktails, Gin and Juniper | 0

There’s a little debate going on now in gin circles. With all the flavoured gins out there, when does it become too much? For the purists, the very idea of a strawberry-flavoured gin send shivers down the spine. On the other hand, the advent of flavoured gins has opened the door to millions of gin lovers who might have been initially put off by the bitterness of a G&T. The debate will rage forever, but from our perspective, a good gin is simply the one you like. There are plenty of gins and different gin cocktails out there for everyone.
What about an easter cocktail?

From Hot Cross Buns….

This Easter, we thought we’d combine a few of our favourite Easter treats to create the perfect Easter cocktail worthy of celebrating the sunnier days ahead.

Obviously, Easter has many traditions – and they differ from country to country.
Living in Barcelona, I’ll be missing hot cross buns, the traditional soft, spiced buns that are served in the UK in the run up to Easter.
Amazingly, there are even “hot cross bun” available in the UK right now – which may be a step too far, even for us.

…to milk and cinnamon-soaked Torrijas!

In Spain, they’ve never heard of a Hot Cross bun. Instead, they’ll spend Semana Santa chewing on milk and cinnamon-soaked Torrijas, a sweet Easter treat prepared throughout Spain at this special time of year.
There are lots of different variations of this dish (with honey, sweet wine…), depending on what part of Spain you’re in. They’re sort of like a bite-sized version of what Americans call “French toast”. And they’re delicious.
Unfortunately, as far as I’m aware, there are no gin derivatives of Torrijas yet. But who knows, maybe there’s a niche.

Eggs are everywhere…

One Easter treat that does appear everywhere seems to be the chocolate Easter egg. There’s something about chocolate and Easter that go together easily. And while I can’t get some of my traditional English Easter favourites easily here in Barcelona, I can find clever ways of creating those same flavours with some gin and some local ingredients. That’s why we thought we’d brighten up your Easter weekend with a special Easter gin cocktail.

We call it the Mini Egg Martini – and it’s delicious.

So, without further ado, here is a simple recipe to put you in good spirits for the holiday weekend. It’s really easy to make, really easy to drink and makes a lovely, boozy complement to all the other chocolate goodness of the weekend.

Easter cocktail recipe: Mini Egg Martini

Ingredients:

Method:

  1. Crush the mini eggs in a pestle and mortar, then tip onto a small plate
  2. Brush the rim of a Martini glass with a little of the honey, using a pastry brush
  3. Dip the glass into the crushed mini-eggs to stick them on to the rim
  4. Place the glass in the fridge until required
  5. Pour the creme de cacao, Baileys and gin into a cocktail shaker with a handful of ice
  6. Shake until the outside of the shaker feels ice cold
  7. Strain into your Martini glass and serve

Happy Easter, everyone!


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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Ginger Tom

The Ginger Tom: a spicy twist on a cocktail classic

posted in: Cocktails, Gin and Juniper | 0

Here’s a fabulous cocktail recipe based on one of the most famous gin drinks of all time. Introducing the Ginger Tom. But before we share the recipe, we thought it would be a good idea to check out the heritage and history of this delicious drink.

The Cat’s Whiskers

The Ginger Tom is one of a family of gin cocktails that have all derived from a common source: the Tom Collins.
The original Tom Collins drink actually started its life as a John Collins. Apparently, John was a waiter at the infamous Limmer’s Old House in London’s Mayfair. The drink itself dates back as far as 1876, when it was first served by John in its original format.
The original classic began as a simple recipe that combined gin, fresh lemon juice, sugar and soda water. Served in a tall glass (now known as a Collins glass) it was traditionally topped off with a maraschino cherry.
Since those early days, more than 18 variations on the Collins theme have evolved as tastes and ingredients changed over the years. But the original Tom Collins remains one of the all time classics.

The Ginger Tom

With all that choice available, it’s always hard to pick a favourite family member, but the Ginger Tom stands out.
It was adapted in 2003 from a standard Tom Collins recipe by legendary bartender, Jamie Terrell from Lab, London.
Since then it has become the stuff of gin legend! It’s full of fiery warmth and citrus sweetness. And the good news is that it’s really easy to make at home using common ingredients that you probably already have in your kitchen.
So, what’s in this delicious drink? Let’s take a look.

The Ginger Tom cocktail recipe

What do I need?

The first thing you need to do is to find a Collins glass (although any tall, skinny glass will do!) Then get your hands on some sliced root ginger and choose your gin (we recommend an Old Tom, of course!) The only other things you’ll need are simple syrup, lime juice and some freshly opened soda water. Sparkling mineral water will work just as well.
Here’s how easy it is to make this gorgeous drink:

Ingredients:

  • Two slices of root ginger
  • 2 shots of Old Tom gin (or your preferred choice)
  • 1 shot of freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1/2 shot of rich simple syrup (2 sugar:1 water)
  • Soda water

Method:

  1. Muddle the ginger in the base of a cocktail shaker
  2. Add two shots of gin
  3. Squeeze in fresh lime juice
  4. Add two shots of simple syrup
  5. Shake with ice and “fine strain” into a Collins glass
  6. Top up with a premium soda water
  7. Garnish it with an orange slice and a maraschino cherry on a cocktail stick
  8. Sit back and raise a glass to Tom, John and Jamie for creating this divine concoction

Sometimes the sequel can be even better than the original!



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

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gin mule

Gin-Gin Mule: a gin cocktail with a kick!

posted in: Cocktails, Gin and Juniper | 0

Many of us will have heard of the legendary Moscow Mule.  It’s a classic cocktail and it’s been around forever.  It is a cocktail made with vodka, spicy ginger beer, and lime juice, garnished with a slice or wedge of lime.  The Moscow Mule is generally served in copper mugs and is one of the simplest and most delicious cocktails ever.
But what does all this have to do with gin, I hear you ask? Well, there is a special variation of this drink for gin lovers and, just like the city it was born in, it was so good, they named it twice.  It’s called (for obvious reasons), the Gin-Gin Mule.

The beautiful “love child” of a Moscow Mule and a Mojito

Invented in New York in the year 2000, this delicious drink is the beautiful love child of a Moscow Mule and a Mojito, so it has good genes! But this is more than just a change of booze.  The subtle difference is that it substitutes gin for vodka and adds the muddled mintiness of a Mojito to create a gorgeous taste and flavour combination that, in my opinion, far exceeds the beauty of its two elderly parents.
Just imagine this – a muddle of sugary mintiness at the bottom, offset by the spiciness and bubbles of a freshly opened bottle of ginger beer (we recommend Fentimans or Fever Tree) with a little citrus tartness to give it a refreshing edge and a big blast of a decent london dry gin such as Beefeater or Bombay Sapphire.

The serve

Traditionally, a Moscow Mule is served in a small, handbeaten  copper mug, but this drink works almost as well in a highball glass or a tumbler.  But the copper mug is better for sure. Not only does it look good but it adds a bit of novelty to your regular drinking approach.  And apparently, drinking from a cold copper mug maintains and even increases the bubbliness of the ginger beer, ensuring that your drink will be sparkling every time.  You can pick up a set of four of these beautiful, hand beaten copper mugs for less than £20 and guarantee that the sparkle will remain right up to the last drop.

The verdict

Wow, Gin-Gin Mule is a great drink and its parents should be proud.  No wonder this quickly became a contemporary classic when it was first introduced to customers at New York’s Pegu Club 20 years ago. Deliciously spicy and citrusy at the same time, the fresh, muddled mint takes it to another level altogether.  We cannot recommend this cocktail highly enough, but make sure you use freshly opened,  high quality ginger beer to make sure the fizz is truly fizzing!

Gin-Gin Mule recipe

Ingredients:

  • 4 mint sprigs
  • 1/2 oz of fresh lime juice
  • 1/2 oz of simple syrup
  • 2 oz gin (Bombay Sapphire)
  • 2 ounces of high quality ginger beer (Fever Tree or Fentimans)
  • Garnish with lime wedges and a sprig of mint

Method:

  1. Muddle the mint leaves in the bottom of the mug/glass using a wooden spoon
  2. Add the lime juice, simple syrup and gin
  3. Stir to combine
  4. Add ice and fill to top with ginger beer.
  5. Stir gently
  6. Wipe the rim of the glass with a lime wedge
  7. Garnish with lime and mint (or a slice of ginger root)

gin mule

Calories per serving: 177