classic gins

5 “go to” classic gins you can rely on

In this new world of 1000 gins, sometimes too much choice can be your enemy.  We all know about the recent explosion of craft gins and often they can be quite expensive.  So, it’s good to have a handful of “old faithfuls” classic gins that you know you can rely on for a good, standard G&T.  There are times in life when it’s okay to  be a little adventurous.  And these days, there is literally a gin for everybody.  Whether you want gin with gold flakes floating around or gin made from crushed ants, you can simply log in and order one for next day delivery.  Whether you want an ordinary gin in a beautiful bottle  or a beautiful gin in an ordinary bottle, there’s one for you. 

Spoiled for choice

These days, we are spoiled for choice.  But sometimes, these gins can be a little expensive.  The Anty-Gin  for example sells for around £220.  But there are other times when you just want a simple, recognisable flavour that does the basic job well.  These are the gins that everybody should have in their bar, the “go to” gins.  They might not set the world on fire with their innovation or impress your friends with their complex infusions, but these are classic gins that won’t let you down.  And that’s good to know. 

Here are 5 of our “go to” favourite classic gins that are always worth keeping in the cupboard for when the posh stuff runs out.  In the end, it’s all a matter of personal taste, but we think these standard gins are well worth keeping in reserve.

Beefeater: 40% ABV

Beefeater ginA classic London Dry, Beefeater has been synonymous with gin since 1876. Surprisingly complex it combines the piney notes of juniper with the hoppiness of angelica flowers.  There’s a blast of coriander somewhere in there and lots of fresh citrus notes delivered by the orange peels.  You’ll also find notes of almond and liquorice to give it a rich, complexity. 

All of this results in a well balanced gin perfect for long lunches or early evening G&Ts.  This is a classic gin that doesn’t try to do too much and what bit does, it does very well.  This is a great drink for anybody who loves a classic G&T, but it also works well in cocktails such as a Negroni.

The perfect pour: Fever Tree Indian tonic Water, loads of ice and a slice of lemon

 

Bombay Sapphire: 40% ABV

The brand that kick-started the gin revolution in the UK with its lighter, more subtle recipe, Bombay Sapphire has a delicate nose with a refreshing blend of citrus, pepper and angelica along with plenty of juniper.  Most people think that this totemic gin has been around for centuries, but it actually first saw the light of day in the 1960s when New York lawyer Allan Subi saw an opportunity to create a brand new “English” gin to take on the likes of Tanqueray and Beefeater in the USA. 

He approached Greenalls to create the gin to match his brand and they built a drink based on an old Greenalls recipe from back in the 1760s.  This gin took off fast and its easy-to-drink blend of 8 botanicals includes cassia bark, liquorice and almonds.  Then in the 1980s, chef Michel Roux got involved in creating a new version of the gin that used Bombay Original Dry as a base to which he added 2 kinds of pepper, Grains of paradise and Cubeb berries resulting in a floral, peppery tasting gin with a sweet nose and a fresh clean taste. And that was how Bombay Sapphire came to be.

Fragrant and spicy, this is a great gin for a Negroni, but it really works best in a long, tall glass filled with ice and a slice.  You can’t go wrong with a bottle of this beauty. And if you’re ever in Hampshire, pop in for a fascinating gin tour in their award winning distillery on the banks of the beautiful River Test.

The perfect pour: Schweppes Premium Tonic Water, loads of ice and a slice of lime

Tanqueray: ABV: 43.1%

One of the classic gin brands, Tanqueray have been tickling our taste buds with this bone dry gin for centuries. With its notes of pine and coriander building on a strong juniper base, it all works well together. Its Christmas tree notes have made it a classic and reliable “go to” gin for all occasions. Made for a Dry Martini (with just the smallest drop of vermouth) or equally good in a long, refreshing G&T. Charles Tanqueray began distilling spirits in 1838 but it took him a few more years to come up with his classic gin recipe, which has stood the test of time and is as good now as it ever was.

In the 1950s, Tanqueray joined the Gordons family and was used to spearhead a marketing drive to secure it as a prestigious gin in the United States. It soon became the favourite tipple of evergreen stars such as Bob Hope, Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Junior.  We think it’s one of the best classic gins out there and it’s a favorite of bartenders worldwide.

The perfect pour: Fever Tree Mediterranean tonic water, loads of ice and orange zest

Gordon’s (export strength): ABV: 47.3%

While we, in the UK, get to drink standard Gordon’s gin, this one is available overseas (or in duty free) so it’s worth keeping an eye out while you’re on holiday. It is considerably stronger than its domestic cousin (which clocks in at a rather feeble 37.5%).  It is also a very different beast as far as taste is concerned. With top notes of lemon peel and bittersweet lime, warming coriander, lavender and juniper in the mix and a lovely, lemony edge, this is a great gin. 

While regular Gordon’s gin struggles to retain its place in this brave new world of artisan gin, this one is still worth seeking out.  In the UK it may still be sold as Gordon’s Yellow Label, but you’re most likely to find this in a duty free shop somewhere around the world.  It’s a great gin for taking on holiday or for drinking on your return. Try this if you’re looking for an extra strong, extra spicy Tom Collins or in a Negroni.

The perfect pour: Britvic Indian tonic Water, loads of ice and a slice of lime

Plymouth: ABV: 41.2%

As befitting its Naval connections, Plymouth Gin once supplied more than 1000 casks of its Navy Strength gin to the Royal Navy but it fell out of fashion. The brand was revived in the late 1990s by Charles Roll, who went on to found the ubiquitous Fever Tree brand.  He increased the strength and created a heathery,  juniper gin with a lovely balance of savoury sage, sweetness and smoothness.  This has become a gin classic with its piney finish and well judged injection of citrus. 

Light, balanced and smooth, this is a great gin if you’re into G&Ts.  Strong enough to have some character but not so strong it will knock you out.  And great taste is not its only claim to fame – it was the favourite gin of Winston Churchill, it was the gin used in the world’s first Martini recipe and is the official gin of the Royal Navy. Keep a bottle of this in your cupboard at all times.

The perfect pour: Fentiman’s Premium Indian tonic water and a slice of grapefruit.

So, there you have it. Five classic gins that you can rely on. Like an old friend, these gins will be with you forever, ask no questions and never let you down. 

Now, how about a G&T?

 


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 nut

NUT gin: the clue is in the name!

We stumbled across a lovely little gin the other day. It’s from right here in Catalunya and frankly it was too good for us not to share.

Go nuts!

Introducing NUT gin, craft-distilled in the Emporda region of Catalunya nestled between the rugged drama of the Pyrenean mountains and the cooling breezes of the Mediterranean coast. This is an area that is sure to inspire you with its natural beauty. The guys at NUT have created a unique gin in the traditional London Dry style and have infused it with a special blend of locally grown fruits, flowers, herbs and Mediterranean spices. The result is a distinctive tasting gin that really stands out from the crowd. At 45% ABV, NUT gin doesn’t hold back on the alcohol, yet it still delivers a smooth tasting, unusual and delicious gin with a long, smooth orange finish.

Inspired by rugged beauty and local botanicals

Like most Catalans, the team at NUT have a deep respect for beauty and nature. The rich, productive soils here allow flora and fauna to both survive and thrive. So, what is it that makes this London Dry style gin so special?

Only the best ingredients

They only use the best base alcohol, distilled four times. They then infuse it with a delightful combination of locally sourced botanicals, which they macerate for a minimum of 24 hours. These include the required juniper, but also 12 others including coriander, cardamom, angelica root, lemon peel, orange peel, rosemary, thyme, olive leaves and licorice. Then it gets interesting. They’ve added some local ingredients that are not often found in gin and which give it a unique character. The clue is in the name. In a stroke of genius, the guys at NUT have added walnuts and bitter almonds.

Complex, smooth and just a little bit nutty…

So, what does this unusual gin actually taste of? Well, the first impressions on the nose are that it has an elegant intensity. There are strong notes of citrus (in a nod towards its Mediterranean origins). There is also a noticeable herbaceous element. This brings out the best of all the other spices just waiting to be released into your mouth. And finally, there is a smooth, long finish to this gin where you should pick up traces of orange peels for a bittersweet ending.

Good enough to drink alone

All in all this is a great value treat, delivering confidently on all its promises. In fact, this gin is so good that it actually tastes rather nice all on its own. Just pour a measure into a rocks glass over a large ice cube and add a twist of orange peel. And if you’d like even more Mediterranean adventure in your drink, simply swap the orange peel for a sprig of burned rosemary. You could even a little fig for added sweetness.

However, drinking gin neat is not necessarily to everyone’s taste. You’ll be relieved to know that this gin is outstanding in a Mediterranean style G&T and is a great gin if you’re looking to give your cocktails a unique twist.

The perfect pour

This is a Mediterranean gin and we think it should be served in the Mediterranean style. Take a large copa glass and fill it to the top with big ice cubes (the bigger, the better!) Pour in a decent slug of gin (you decide what that means!) Fill it up to the top with a high quality Indian tonic water such as 1724 or a subtly flavoured premium tonic such as Fevertree Mediterranenan. Add a garnish such as a cinammon stick or a fresh orange wedge to bring out the best of the botanicals. You could even add a pinch of nutmeg if you’re feeling really adventurous. Your reward will be a distinctive gin, packed with intense Mediterranean flavours. Take that first sip and prepare to be instantly whisked away to the beautiful heart of Catalunya.

Saludos!


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 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

Jinzu gin

Jinzu (Japan/Scotland): Scottish gin with a Japanese twist

Dee Davis has created Jinzu, a lovely gin. Inspired by a visit to Japan and a lifelong interest in flavour combinations, she’s managed to  create a classic British gin with an elegant and subtle Japanese twist. The resulting gin (named after a Japanese river surrounded by cherry blossom trees) is a subtle triumph.  Dee has managed to blend fragrant Japanese Sake with a traditional gin. 
This Scottish gin is built on a solid base of traditional Juniper (from Tuscany).  Dee then allows the citrus flavours of Yuzu lemon and a hint of cherry blossom in to the gin. And then she adds the magic ingredient, distilled Junmai sake from Japan. The result: an elegant, creamy and refreshing gin that hits just the right spot.

A winning combination

jinzu gin cherry blossomThis gorgeous fusion of East and West was developed by Dee after she won Diageo’s “Show Your Spirit” competition, way back in 2013.  Distilled in traditional copper stills it is an innovative gin, perfectly blended to reflect the characteristics of its dual heritage. 
At 41.3% ABV, this is strong enough to show its character but not so strong that you can’t keep sipping.
Delicate on the nose, you may smell oranges and coriander seeds with a long, lingering juniper finish, taking you on a sweet, spicy journey to the East.  This is a great gin if you’re thinking of rustling up a “Bee’s Knees” cocktail (recipe coming soon!). 
Plus, it comes in a beautiful bottle featuring a Japanese Mejiro bird under an iconic British umbrella and a beautiful branch from a cherry blossom tree. This image is designed to reflect the idea that this gin has its “head in Britain and its heart in Japan” and pays homage to the dual traditions of this exceptional drink.

Perfect serve:

  1. Take a large highball glass and fill it to the top with ice cubes (the bigger, the better!)
  2. Pour in 50ml of Jinzu gin, straight over the ice
  3. Fill to top with Fentimans premium tonic water (or Yuzu premium tonic water for a citrus lift)
  4. Garnish with a slice of apple poured into a highball glass full of cubed ice.
  5. Sit back and enjoy. Kampai!


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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happy new year with a gin punch

Adiós, 2020. This year, we’re getting punch drunk!

posted in: Cocktails, Gin and Juniper | 0

Congratulations. You are a survivor. You’ve just made it through one of the most challenging years in living memory and that in itself is quite an achievement. It’s been tough, many of us have not been so lucky. We’ve been separated from our families, isolated from our communities and normal life has been put on hold until this virus has been beaten. So, in a year where it doesn’t seem like we have a lot to celebrate, there is one thing we know we can raise a glass of gin punch to – the start of 2021!

Keeping your spirits up

And while we recognise that this New Year’s Eve will be a slightly more modest affair than usual and the big parties have been put on hold, there is still every reason to keep your spirits up with a few gin-based drinks. We’ve already introduced you to the delights of the Spanish 75 (a twist on the French 75 using cava instead of champagne for a smoother, better balanced drink).

Get the party going with a gin punch!

We also mentioned that we’d be sharing a gin punch recipe for New Year’s Eve that is easy to make, deceptively strong and gets the party off to a quick start. Plus, it has the added advantage of eliminating the need to constantly go back and make fresh drinks. Just make a big batch in advance and dip in whenever you need a refill. So, after some exhaustive research, here’s a really easy and delicious gin punch recipe that is guaranteed to get the party going. With only around 200 Kcals per glass, this recipe will serve 8 people and can be rustled up in as little as 10 minutes. It is fruity, spicy and strong and the gentle heat of the ginger beer along with the sweetness of the pomegranate gives it a lovely, warming winter feel – just right for New Year’s Eve.

Easy to make, easy to scale!

Plus, it can easily be scaled up by doubling (or tripling) the ingredients. All you need is a bigger bowl. We think this recipe lends itself to a Twisted Nose gin. This Hampshire-gin is distilled with the gentle warmth of locally grown watercress for a little extra peppery depth. We think this is the perfect way to dial up the flavour this New Year’s Eve – and we’re pretty sure that after a few of these, you’ll be dancing at midnight. Just make sure you’re socially distanced!!

Happy 2021, gin lovers – you deserve the best!

Gin punch recipe

Ingredients:

  • 400g of gin (Twisted Nose will work well with this)
  • 180ml Chambord (or raspberry liqueur)
  • 160ml pomegranate juice
  • 4tbsp ginger sugar syrup (from a jar of stem ginger)
  • Grated zest and juice of 2 limes (plus extra wedges)
  • 320ml (or more) to taste of chilled, peppery ginger beer (we recommend Fentimans or Fever Tree)

Method:

  • Half fill a punch bowl with ice.
  • Pour in the gin, Chambord, Pomegranate juice, ginger syrup and lime juice.
  • Then stir, before adding a few more lime wedges
  • Top up with ginger beer (add as much as you like to achieve your preferred taste)
  • Ladle the drink into 8 punch glasses or heavy tumblers
  • Make sure everyone gets loads of ice
  • Garnish with a lime zest
Gin punch



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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Inflight gins: EasyJet and Fever-Tree team up with premium gin bar

posted in: Gin and Juniper, Gin news | 0

Last month, I found myself on an EasyJet flight to London. I’d paid a few quid extra for some for a front-row seat and was dreaming of my first gin and tonic as the cabin crew prepared their service. The flight attendant duly came to take my order. I asked what inflight gins they had.

What happened next took me by surprise. “Which gin would you like, sir? I’ll bring you the gin menu.”

Gin menu? On EasyJet? I kid you not!

I was presented with a beautifully produced, well-designed, glossy bar menu featuring high-class photos of the inflight gins, which included Bombay Sapphire, Bloom, Hendricks and The Botanist (paid links). All 50 ml bottles. All paired with specially selected Fever-Tree tonics. And all priced under €9 (including the tonic).

Now I know this isn’t cheap – but it is fun.

They even had a small section devoted to vodka and whiskey (but that’s for another blog).

So, back to the gin

I was thirsty, so I ordered two: Bloom and The Botanist.

According to the menu, The Botanist is a “small-batch Islay Dry gin, made with 22 hand-picked local botanicals, paired best with Fever Tree naturally light tonic.”

Despite the plastic airline glass, it tasted delicious. Dry and fragrant. And the lightness of the Fever-Tree tonic gave it just the right amount of zest, while allowing the complex flavours from the botanicals to shine through on the palette. It worked a treat, so I thought I’d break out the second one.

This time, I ordered Bloom, described by EasyJet as “refreshingly light and delicate, enriched with honeysuckle, chamomile and pomelo, paired best with Fever-Tree Elderflower tonic.”

This was a triumphant combination. The fruity notes from the gin were enhanced and enlivened by the subtle notes of elderflower from the tonic water, making it refreshingly easy to drink and the perfect accompaniment for my short journey between Barcelona and London.

Hats off to EasyJet and Fever-Tree for this aerial tribute to gin – and for elevating my humble budget airline seat into a true luxury experience.

Who needs a business class seat with a budget bar service like that?

 


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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Toto, our Barcelona gin joint of the month

posted in: Gin and Juniper, Gin bar reviews | 0

Update: Toto closed in 2019. See our gin bar reviews for other great bars in Barcelona.

Imagine if you could click those ruby slippers and transport yourself to a classic cocktail bar, with a great bartender, a nice selection of gins and the best almonds in town.
You’ve just landed at Toto – one of my favourite places to sip on a gin in Barcelona (and a great place to eat as well!).
Nestled on the corner of Valencia and Balmes (in Barcelona’s elegant Eixample district) and only a block away from Barcelona’s iconic Rambla Catalunya, this is one of the classiest bars in Barcelona. Inside, it’s all art deco and modernism with a classic bar with half a dozen barstools, a stunning and well stocked selection of bottles, antique mirrors and a fab wine and cocktail list.
But the king here is Mathias, their Argentinean bartender, who will mix you up a fabulous drink of your choice. Gins behind the bar include some of the classics – Monkey 47, Gin Mare, G-Vine, Beefeater and Bombay Sapphire.

They also have a delightful little gin trolley that they can wheel out to your table and mix right in front of you. G&Ts are served in giant Barcelona style Copas, ice cubes are round and large and you can choose from Schweppes or Fever Tree tonic to give it that extra fizz. But the star of the show here is the presentation – a beautiful selection of small glass jars adorn the bar and Mathias plunders these regularly to make sure that the ingredients – from dried rosemary to chili peppers, to burned orange peel adorn your drink in the prettiest way possible while adding a unique flavour and character to each drink.

It can take a bit of time to mix one of these babies up, but it’s well worth the wait. Order up a G&T, soak up a little of that fabulous classic cocktail bar atmosphere, listen to the jazzy soundtrack and order a little plate of snacks. Their almonds are delicious, but then so is their cheese, locally sourced dried sausage and giant, juicy olives (in a jar the size of a small child, tantalisingly perched on the edge of the bar).
If you don’t fancy a G&T, then there’s a nice selection of cocktails on offer here – some gin-based and some not, but all good. Ask Mathias for a Lost in Caribbean Sea – they are to die for.  Officially, this is a vodka based drink, but ask him to substitute gin and it becomes the perfect gin cocktail. Spiced up with ginger and dried chilli peppers, it has a lovely sweet/spicy kick that’s a great way to start or end the evening.

This is a great place to sit at the bar and soak up a little classic 1920’s ambiance.
It must be good, since I sat next to Bono at the bar after a U2 gig last year. If it’s good enough for him, it’s good enough for me.

For more information about Toto, click here:


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 Xoriguer

Xoriguer and 100 years of gin making in Menorca: Spanish gin, the old-fashioned way.

posted in: Gin and Juniper, Gin reviews | 0

Most gin lovers have already heard of Gin Mare (paid link) – probably the best known of the Spanish brands. But Spain, having changed the way the world thinks of gin, is now starting to discover a range of new gin brands to add to its traditional gin distilleries. This new attention is also helping to revive the fortunes of some older Spanish gin brands that have been around for a long time.
One of these is Gin Xoriguer, made by Destilerias Xoriguer on the tiny and beautiful island of Menorca, set like a glittering jewel in the beautiful Balearics – it’s the perfect setting for a gin and tonic.

Gin and Menorca

Not something you would always connect, but there is a reason why this little distillery exists.
In the mid-18th century, Menorca was briefly under Dutch and British rule and the locals were encouraged to make gin to keep the naval forces happy. At one stage, there were 5 distilleries on the island, producing a diverse range of gins, but now there’s just one.
In 1910, master distiller Miguel Gusto established a little distillery on the harbour front of Mahon and the Xoriguer distillery is still making 60,000 litres of Mahon gin every year along with a couple of budget gins and almost a dozen local island liqueurs.

Tasting notes

This local gin doesn’t get much airplay outside of the island and is heavily juniper dominant. In fact, that’s the only botanical they use in their domestic version. The berries, hand picked from the Pyrenees, are stored in hampers for a couple of years to concentrate the oils before being macerated and added to the neutral grape based spirit.

While the ingredients and the process are simple and the product perhaps lacks some of the complexity of a Monkey 47 or a Silent Pool, it packs a big juniper punch with a hint of pine sap and a soft, oily palate. Peppery and with a hint of tobacco, it’s a great drink to sip on while watching the sun set over the Mediterranean, nibbling on local cheese and sucking on plump, juicy giant olives.

Drink it with tonic, by all means.

But to drink it like a local, have a “Pomada”, traditionally made by mixing the gin with freshly squeezed local lemon juice. And at only 38% ABV, you can afford to have a couple of them!

 


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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Barcelona cocktail bars

Barcelona cocktail bars: Dry Martini, Solange and Tandem

posted in: Gin and Juniper, Gin bar reviews | 0

Looking for Barcelona cocktail bars? Then head to the city’s cocktail corner, on the corner of Aribau and Corcega, and enjoy the best Barcelona has to offer without moving a block. For starters, head to the king of Barcelona cocktail bars, the Dry Martini. There 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. It comes 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, the king of Barcelona cocktail bars

A classic among Barcelona cocktail bars, often appearing in the top 10 lists of best bars in the world, Dry Martini is like stepping back in time. The bar is a decent size with panelled walls, leather chairs and banquettes. It has 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 it even has a digital counter clocking up in real time every Dry Martini served.

Waiters are in white jackets, food is of the elegant tapas variety and prices match the salubrious atmosphere. In addition to classic martinis, they have a good selection of gins served up in classic tumblers. Schweppes Premium tonic water (paid link) is 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 get a well-made gin and tonic, a classic evening and a great cocktail. And if you’re in the mood and can get a table, try out the Speakeasy restaurant. It’s 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 (paid link). The drinks came with tonic, 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.

The waiter brought all the G&Ts to the table and presented them 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. Tanqueray 10 was especially created as the perfect gin for a Dry Martini, so we were in the right place. We enjoyed 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 gin cocktails, some of which we had never tried or heard of before. Here are our thoughts:

The Foxtrot 

The Foxtrot  was the most refreshing and aromatic of our drinks. 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. 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, Star of Bombay, like the others, arrived at the table with great fanfare. 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). The overall impression was to make the drink taste like diet tonic.

Won’t be rushing back for this one (but their strawberry version is delicious).

Bloomsbury 

Bloomsbury gin was not bad at all, but definitely not the best that we 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 smell. But when added to Schweppes tonic water, it became almost piny with a pleasant bitterness that lasted until the bottom of the glass.

Note: Dry Martini also runs a cocktail school. Plus it has opened a Dry Martini terrace next door. Sign up to our blogs if you’re interested in knowing their tricks and secrets.


Solange

Right across the street from Dry Martini is one of the latest additions to the Barcelona cocktail bars scene: Solange.

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. It 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 The Professor gin was dry, citrussy with notes of lemon peel. It tasted like a proper gin. Plus 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 

Old Raj gin 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 due to its lack of depth and neutral flavour balance.


Tandem

Tandem was the last of the classic Barcelona cocktail bars 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) 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, the gin selection is extensive. And they know their stuff.

All the range

Our waitress guided us to the gin wall where we selected four 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 Barcelona cocktail bars to drink gin in.

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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 made from milk: Bertha's Revenge

A gin made of milk: Bertha’s Revenge

posted in: Gin and Juniper, Gin reviews | 1

In our relentless quest to find the most unusual and interesting gins from around the world, let us introduce you to Bertha, her revenge, and a gin made from milk.

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. She 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. She 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 (paid link), a fantastic, flavour packed small batch gin made by the Ballyvolane House Spirits Company. They have honoured her existence by creating a unique Irish gin made from (wait for it…) milk.

A gin made from milk?

Using whey alcohol from Irish dairy farmers, this is a delicious drink full of complex flavours. It incorporates 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). Plus it lists ingredients such as “love”, “laughter” and “childish enthusiasm”. 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 this gin made from milk like?

We had a little gathering to find out and in a blind test of four of our favourite small batch gins, this was our runaway favourite with an unanimous four out of four tasters making it their top choice. Why don’t you try it too and let us know what you think?

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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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