Harahorn

Harahorn: the legendary beast behind the gin

We’ve been searching for the Harahorn gin for all our lives – we just didn’t know it.

Somewhere. way up in the rugged mountains of Norway, the Harahorn lives.  But few people have ever seen this mystical beast. In the high mountains, this elusive, shy creature has been glimpsed occasionally, but never captured.  Regardless, the mountain men of Norway have a clear recollection of what this magical creature looks like from their stolen glimpses over the centuries.  And this is what we are told.

Harahorn: The story of the beast

As its name suggests, the Harahorn is a large hare with the horns of a deer. It lives its reclusive existence far up between the majestic beauty of the Fjords and the heavenly show of the Northern Lights.  But this mystical creature is not unique. Similar legends appear in other remote areas across the world.  And for some reason, these mythical beasts have all become associated with gin.
In the USA, they talk about the Jackelope (but the basic story is the same). And, just as with the Harahorn, the Jackelope has also inspired a gin. In fact, Peach Street Distillers in Colorado have named their Jackelope Gin after it. And back in Ireland, one of my favourite distillers has been inspired by a similar legend. This time, it’s Drumshanbo Gin (infused with gunpowder tea and Irish botanicals) who claim to have seen this timid creature tiptoeing around the green fields of Co. Leitrim.

As rare as hen’s teeth…

But back in Norway, while the rugged mountain men have sworn to have seen the Harahorn, this extraordinary creature, nobody has actually managed to capture one on film – yet.
It is this shyness and timidity that keeps this creature so elusive. It is a rare and beautiful thing, like a great gin, waiting to be discovered.  So, imagine our delight when a bottle bearing an image of this mythical beast appeared in front of me on a gin shopping trip. With bunny-like grace, it almost hopped into my basket and this weekend, I cracked open a bottle to see if the gin really is as good as the back story – and I’m delighted to say, it is.

Juniper berries, blueberries and rhubarb

On the slopes of the mountain bearing its name, this mythical creature avoids the hunters. But the Harahorn need not fear them. These Norwegian hunters aren’t coming for him. They’re coming for the berries. Juniper berries, to be precise.
There, beneath the extraordinary majesty of the Northern Lights, on the gentle slopes of this Norwegian mountain, juniper berries grow.  They are picked by hand before being added to hand harvested rhubarb stalks from abandoned farms on the lowland slopes of the mountain. Natural blueberries are then plucked from thorny bushes in the deep forests of the lowlands.  They source carefully measured quantities of angelica and marjoram, which they add to the mix before it is all (as if by magic) transformed into a magnificent and unusual small batch gin from Norway.

What’s it like?

But does this interesting little gin with a big legend really stack up to the tale behind it?  Well, we think so!
And this is why.

Let’s start with the bottle. Small, but perfectly formed, this small, round-necked 50cl bottle is charming. With its blue-tinted glass and a beautiful etched image of the elusive Harahorn taking a starring role on the front, it’s topped by an attractive metallic silver top. This is an elegant bottle that will stand out on any gin shelf.
And it’s chock full of local Norwegian botanicals which contribute to its complex, well-balanced and distinctive flavour profile. The Norwegian juniper and the blueberries complement each other perfectly, while the fruity sharpness of the rhubarb shines through to give it a bit of an edge.
And at 46% ABV, it is strong enough to make you see things. Perhaps that’s the secret of the Harahorn after all?

The real deal – hand made in Norway

So, if you’re looking for a true craft gin experience, then this gin might just be the one for you. The folks at Harahorn are rightly obsessed with quality. That’s why they only make these gins in small batches of 300 litres at a time. And it features more unusual ingredients beyond the juniper and blueberries. You’ll find Bladderwrack seaweed from the Grimstad region, angelica from Oppdal and wild marjoram from Sunndal. The result is a delight for the senses.

Crisp, clear and deliciously complex

On the nose, it has a crisp, clear smell with strong, clean juniper notes backed up by citrus. Take a sip and you’ll unleash the fruitiness of the blueberries amidst the wild spiciness of the bladderwrack seaweed, the tartness of the rhubarb and the subtle and savoury taste of marjoram which comes through at the end.

The verdict:

This is a great drinking gin. Fruity, crisp, smooth and complex, it works beautifully in a simple gin and tonic (but there are a number of other great cocktail recipes on their website). In fact, here’s their recommended mix for the perfect G&T – easy to make in the comfort of your own home.

Welcome to the classic Harahorn G&T – a few of these and you might start seeing things as well!

The perfect pour: the Harahorn G&T

Ingredients:

  • 4cl Harahorn gin
  • 2 cl freshly squeezed lemon juice (or lime juice)
  • Ice cubes
  • Premium tonic water (dry is better)
  • Blueberries

Method:

  1. Take a large highball glass
  2. Pour in 4cl of Harahorn Gin
  3. Fill with large ice cubes
  4. Wipe the rim of the glass with a wedge of lemon or lime
  5. Squeeze in the fresh lemon or lime juice
  6. Top up the glass with a freshly opened, premium, dry Indian Tonic water (such as Franklin and Sons)
  7. Garnish with blueberries (or your preferred choice of herbs or botanicals).

Sit back and sip (and keep your eyes peeled for giant, horned rabbits – you never know when one might pop up!)

As they say in Norway, Skol!



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.

Gin smoothie

Gin Smoothie: healthy, delicious and fun

posted in: Cocktails, Gin and Juniper | 0

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

Guilt-free drinking…

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

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

Gin smoothie recipe

Ingredients:

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

Method:

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

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

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


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GinCity London

GinCity, London: the star of your bar

I love GinCity.
Every so often, you come across a gin that takes you by surprise. So, when I received a bottle of GinCity London this Christmas, I was initially seduced by the beautiful bottle.  Elegant and tall, the glass is intricately etched with a map of my home city in exquisite detail.  Every London street seems to exist and I had some fun finding all the different places I had lived over the years.  And then, I discovered the disco button.

Under an adhesive strip on the bottom of the bottle is a little bump.  Push it once and this beautiful bottle lights up with a gentle, blinking, pulsing red glow. Push it twice for a slower, gentler vibe. Or push it three times for a steady glow of red. Whichever you choose, with a simple push, this bottle is turned into a talking point. GinCity, will be the undoubted star of your bar.

The real deal…

But here’s the thing. My experience with gimmicks and promotions isn’t good.  Generally, the hype gets you in the door and the taste often makes you want to lock the door from the outside.  That’s why I didn’t rush to open this bottle.  I knew that its time would come. And so, this weekend, I turned the lights down low, switched the bottle to disco mode and poured.  I was pre-conditioned to be disappointed.  But I couldn’t have been more wrong.  Not only is this a stunning addition to my collection, but it tasted delicious.  And that’s what really matters.

So, what is this new gin, where does it come from and what does GinCity taste like?

A tale of two cities

GinCity London is one of two GinCity branded gins from their collection.  The one I tried is red and is etched with a detailed map of London. The other one is yellow and is etched with a beautiful street map of Valencia.  GinCity gins have been made by the team at Bodegas Vegamar, who have made their reputation from wine, but have recently turned their attention to gin. Their GinCity brand currently features the two gins we have mentioned.  Each of them have been meticulously produced and each has a completely different character. 

The Valencia version is the sweeter of the two and is made from a Muscat base that has been infused with the sweet aromas of orange blossom. Mediterranean flavours are then added, including chamomile, thyme and marcona almonds to give it a real warmth and softness.  Or at least that’s what it says on the website.  We haven’t tried it yet, but we will.

GinCity London – it’s all in the detail!

On the other hand, we’ve dived straight into the London version and we were deliciously (and pleasantly) surprised. This is no average gin in a novelty bottle. This is actually a delicious gin in a beautiful bottle. So, let’s take a look beyond the flashing lights and find out what it’s all about. 

This is a modern London Dry gin. It’s elegant and contemporary, with a beautifully blended selection of botanicals that include ginger, cardamom, cilantro, angelica, orange and lemon peel and mint. There’s also plenty of juniper, which helps retain its London Dry characteristics. This is a good thing. The result is a delightful gin, that despite being named after London, is actually packed full of Mediterranean flavour, as befits its birthplace, sunny Valencia.  But it’s not just that Spanish sunshine that makes this gin special. 

Five macerations…

These guys do it properly.  They divide the base spirit into three separate tanks, each of which macerates a different selection of botanicals.  In the first batch, they mix up juniper, cardamom, cilantro and angelica root.  In the second tank, they macerate a mixture of ginger and peppermint. And in the third tank, they macerate the citrus fruits including the lemon and orange peel. 

After 24 hours, each tank is redistilled with its own botanicals and with each distillation, the “heads and tails” of the gin mixture are discarded, leaving only the best of the gin in three new, high quality distillates.  Then, in a final flourish, all three mixtures are distilled for a fifth and final time, resulting in a fresh, powerful and flavour-packed gin that is easy to drink and deceptively intricate.

The verdict: oranges and lemons (and a hint of Yuzu)

Well, I was pleasantly surprised. I absolutely loved this gin. It is a complex mixture but its five distillations ensure a smooth, rounded and sophisticated drink that will suit most tastes. On the nose, there are the distinct floral notes of orange blossom. The lemon and orange peel lends it a citrus aroma that is a lovely signpost to the treat that awaits you. You can certainly smell the juniper bitterness, which is softened with hints of verbena and almond. These delicate notes linger on long after you’ve put the glass down.

And then when you taste it, you’ll probably pick up the silky smoothness of the blend that releases big, fruity citrus notes and a rich flavour that is rounded off by the sweet warmth of the Marcasa almonds. Long after I took my last sip, I was tasting the citrus notes, which almost tasted like Yuzu. The result is a gin to remember.

GinCity London: the perfect pour

This worked well as a Spanish style Gin and Tonic. I served a double shot in a copa glass filled with large, round ice cubes. Ice in first, then a gentle stir. Pour in your preferred amount of gin. Then cut a wedge of lime, squeeze the juice into the glass, wipe the rim with the wedge and drop it in. Top up with a freshly opened bottle of Franklin and Sons Premium Indian tonic water, sit back and enjoy. This is a gin to sip and respect.

The Gin Apple cocktail recipe

But, while this works really well as a G&T, it’s also a great gin for cocktail making with its lemony/ginger roots and yuzu like taste, it lends itself to your imagination. The folks at Gin City have recommended a few cocktails and we’ve chosen one to share with you if you fancy pushing the boat out one of these days. Introducing the Gin Apple, from the good people at Gin City.

Ingredients:

  • 30ml of GinCity London gin
  • 30ml of apple liqueur
  • 120ml of premium Indian tonic water
  • Plenty of ice
  • 4 apple slices

Method:

  1. Pour the ice, the gin and the apple liqueur into the glass
  2. Stir gently and add tonic
  3. Garnish with 4 apple slices
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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key lime pie

Gin Key Lime Pie: a taste of summer sunshine

Summer is on its way!

It’s that time of year when the weather likes to tease us.  We’re offered little glimpses of sunshine before the warmth is dampened by the clouds.  We enjoy walking on the sunny side of the street, but freeze in the shade.  We have warm spells but we know we can’t rely on them. Yet!

But our time is coming.  Beyond spring lies summer – a time of long, hot sunny days, warm evenings, outdoor cocktails and barbecues. So, we have something good to focus on while we wait for the retreat of winter and dream of the better days that lie ahead. Some of us are dreaming of freedom to travel, others are dreaming of reuniting with loved ones.  I’m dreaming of Key Lime Pie.  That’s the space that I inhabit. 

Key Lime Pie – a Florida classic

Key Lime Pie is one of the great contributions of America to world cuisine. This amazing, tangy, sweet dessert is simple to make and delicious to eat. If you have lime juice, eggs, condensed milk and digestive biscuits in your larder, you can whip one of these up, no problem.  Some of us may be more familiar with lemon meringue pie, its better known cousin.  But this younger family member is even better. Sharper, tangier and lighter, it’s a great summer treat.  

Fire up the grill, load up those plates with sausages, burgers and steaks – and save enough room for a little dessert.  After all that heavy, rich food this light, citrus tart cuts through all those heavy flavours with a little lime goodness that immediately let’s you know that summer is coming.  Key limes are a special type of lime, mostly found in Southern Florida. The juice is yellow instead of green – and so is the pie.  But the taste is pure lime and wonderfully unique. 

No history, but a great tradition

There is no clear history to this pie – and nobody quite knows when it was actually invented.  But it first gained fame in the 1950s when it began to be promoted as “Florida’s most famous treat”. Once this glorious dish had achieved its initial fame and notoriety, it has never looked back.  But one thing could make this dish even better – the addition of a well chosen gin to this Florida favourite.

So, with that in mind, here’s an easy to make Key Lime Pie recipe that won’t challenge casual cooks too much. It’s simple, delicious – and with the addition of a large measure of gin to the recipe, it is almost as good as a gin and tonic. 

We recommend using Tanqueray Rangpur for a little extra lime zestiness.  Plus, if you keep a bottle nearby while you’re cooking, it’s even simpler to cut up a few extra limes and fix a large G&T.
You’re the chef. Nobody deserves it more!

Gin Key Lime Pie Recipe

Ingredients:

key lime pie
  • 200g digestive biscuits
  • 100g sugar
  • 50g butter
  • 4 limes
  • 1 can of condensed milk
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 4 oz Tanqueray Rangpur gin

Method:

  1. Crumble the digestive biscuits into a blender.
  2. Blitz into a nice, crumbly mixture.
  3. Melt the butter and pour it into the blender.
  4. Grate it into the zest from the limes and mix together.
  5. Press the crumbs into the bottom of a greased cake tin.
  6. Bake at 200c for 10 minutes.
  7. Pour the gin, condensed milk and sugar into a bowl.
  8. Grate the zest from two of the limes into the mixture and the zest from the third into a bowl.
  9. Place the bowl in the fridge.
  10. Squeeze the juice from all four limes into the mixture.
  11. Add the egg yolks.
  12. Whisk together until smooth.
  13. Place some parchment paper around the edges of the cake tin.
  14. Pour the mixture on top of the biscuit base and smooth off the top.
  15. Bake for 25 minutes at 180c.
  16. Chill in the fridge until cool and serve with the remaining zest.
  17. Pour out a large Rangpur and tonic and enjoy!


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

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


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Easter egg

White House switches eggs for gin in new Easter tradition.

posted in: Gin and Juniper, Gin news | 0

Apparently, Joe Biden has upgraded the annual White House Easter Egg hunt.  After a few years of complaints from parents that it was “no longer as fun as it once was”, the White House has reacted with a statement on April 1st which will make us gin lovers very happy.
According to White House spokesperson Gordon Gin: “Easter is a time for everyone.  For too long, kids have had it all their own way.  Many parents told us that while they pretended to enjoy watching their kids run around in search of Easter eggs what they really wanted was a strong cocktail.  That’s why this year, while the kids are roaming around looking for eggs, we’ll be holding a separate event in the Rose Garden.  

“We’ve hidden 100 bottles of craft gin and 100 bottles of premium tonic water in “hard to find” locations around the grounds.  The idea is that we’ll meet up afterwards. The kids can work off their sugar rush and their parents can chill out with their own cocktail”.

Responding to the White House announcement, 35 year old mother of two, Tina Tanqueray confirmed: “This is a great move from a progressive administration.  The kids have had it their own way for too long.  Now it’s our turn. We’ve spent much of the year sourcing treats for Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving, Halloween – the list goes on.  Now it’s our turn to have some fun”.

Kid’s Union of America spokesperson April Fewell said: “This is fine by us.  Anything that involves chocolate without parental supervision is a great idea. If we can distract them with G&Ts for a few hours, the more chocolate there is for us.  And a happy parent is a good parent. We’re off on a chocolate hunt”.

PS – Happy April Fool’s Day!


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

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


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Gin news

The Ruddles Report: March gin news!

posted in: Gin and Juniper, Gin news | 0

Notes from a gin dog

He’s been at it again! Our faithful gin dog, Ruddles has had his nose to the ground this month. He’s been hunting down all the gin news that might have passed us by.
Now, we’ve pulled it all together in our monthly news roundup, The Ruddles Report.  He’s dug up a bunch of stories on everything from the best gin Easter eggs to why Ryan Reynolds’ launched a football-inspired limited edition gin in Wales.
Ruddles has all the answers.  He’s also found an interesting report on something that is increasingly important for each of us – sustainable gin making. This article should make it just a little bit easier for us all to make conscious choices about the gin brands we buy. 

Plus, we’ve shared a story from the UK’s Consumer’s Association who have taken an independent look at the UK’s best gins. There are so many opinions out there, so it’s refreshing to get a fully independent review. Finally, we round off this month’s Ruddles Report with a review of some of the best online gin clubs – are they still a good deal and which ones are the best?

So, let’s get going with this…

Gin and chocolate – Happy Easter!

We all know that Easter is coming – and that means chocolate! But what if we could  combine two of our favourite things into one deliciously festive treat? Well, we can. 
Welcome to the Marks and Spencer’s Gin and Tonic Easter egg

If you’re a chocolate lover and a gin drinker, then this is the perfect treat. Plus, if you like the gin/chocolate combination, you might also want to try Salcombe Gin’s chocolate flavoured spirit. It still tastes of chocolate but it won’t melt in your hands!

Ryan Reynolds honours Wrexham AFC with special edition gin

In a world of celebrity gins, Ryan Reynolds was amongst the first to put his influence and celebrity status behind a gin brand. A few years ago, he invested in Aviation gin.  Since then, his gin has gone from strength to strength. Ryan himself often features in little comedy vignettes that are charming, tongue in cheek and often very amusing.   All good for the brand (which is now owned by drinks giant Diageo) .  But it was a big surprise when he recently announced a bid to buy local Welsh football club Wrexham AFC, from the junior leagues.  So, I guess none of us should be surprised that he has now combined his two passions into a limited edition gin for the club’s supporters.

In partnership with the club, he’s releasing a run of 6000 bottles of Wrexham AFC/Aviation gin. They’ll be snapped up fast, but one day, if you get your hands on a bottle, these could be collectors items.

Sustainable gin – something worth supporting!

The last few years have really brought the climate crisis to the fore – and for good reason. Thankfully, the eco-message is getting through – we only have one planet and we need to look after it. 
So, it’s really refreshing to see the gin industry get behind the idea of sustainability. Last month, Ruddles told you about how Beefeater are making their bottles fully recyclable. We also talked about local innovations such as reusable gin pouches from Eden Mill. 

But how do you know if your gin is sustainable or not?
Here’s an article that lists the major sustainable gin brands out there. Some may surprise you!  Sustainable drinking – we think that’s something worth supporting.

Which gin? Independent gin reviews you can trust

We’re always looking out for great gins and new ideas. But at the end of the day, there are a million different opinions out there and often, it boils down to a matter of personal taste – which gins do you like and not like.

Impartiality and independent views are often hard to find, so when Which? magazine (the journal of the UK Consumers Association) decided to do an independent test of 2021’s best gins in the UK, we thought it was worth paying attention to.  If you want to know which ones they reckon are the best, this is the article for you.

In the club? – the best vs the rest

And finally, many people subscribe to gin clubs – and they are not always satisfied.  In fact, there is a sense that the novelty might be starting to wear off a little bit as unusual gins are increasingly available (at great prices) from local retailers, distillers and on-line sellers. We’re not sure if this is a temporary dip or if there is a sustainable shift.
Either way, Gin Clubs are still very popular, so we thought we’d share a little article that might help you to separate the best from the rest.

That’s all for this month, everybody.  Spring is in the air – and that means it’s gin and tonic season!!!



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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Juniper: the magic berry

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

A tiny pine cone that conquered the world

So, here’s interesting fact number one!

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

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

No hurry, juniper takes its time!

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

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

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

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

What does it actually taste like?

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

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

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

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

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

Ready for lift off

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

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

Gin goes global!

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

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

Indian food

Hot stuff: 5 Indian treats (and the gins that make them shine!)

You might have read our recent article introducing 5 amazing craft gins from India.  And that got us thinking of food. Indian food. The stuff we love.
We’ve recently reported that Japanese scientists have now officially given gin the seal of approval as a curry buddy.  We’ve also discovered a burgeoning craft gin industry thriving in the subcontinent. 

So, we thought it was time for us to take the next step and answer the question you’ve all been waiting for…

Which is the best Indian food to eat with gin?

1. Lamb Rogan Josh

This is a traditional Indian curry with a bit of a kick. Lamb Rogan Josh doesn’t have the nuclear heat of a Phall or the vinegary fire of a Vindaloo, but it’s still a spicy curry worthy of respect! 
Its rich flavours and fiery heat means that this works really well with a gin offering a dose of sweetness to soothe the palate. Just as the fiery spice tries to heat it up, the sweetness of the gin brings things back into balance. Buttery or creamy gins work well with spicier dishes like this.

Indian food

Gin’s with sweeter notes such as Bertha’s Revenge (with its milk whey spirit base) initially deliver creamy flavours to balance the heat of the curry. Sweet woodruff, cloves and almonds follow, making it the perfect match for a spicy lamb dish like this.
We recommend mixing up a large traditional G&T and garnishing it with a vanilla pod or a clove to keep the sweetness up front. Just where you need it!

2. Paneer Tikka (with chutney)

Paneer tikka is the perfect dish to be nibbling on while sipping your favourite gin.
These gorgeous little cheesy Indian snacks are the perfect finger food. It couldn’t be easier – you can snack with one hand and hold your glass in the other!
This is a classic Indian snack, made of chunks of Indian paneer cheese (somewhere between cottage cheese and Haloumi) marinated in spices including capsicum, chili, mustard oil, garlic paste and Garam Masala.
It’s then traditionally grilled at high temperature in a tandoor oven (although your home oven is fine).

This gorgeous little snack is a perfect vegetarian treat and goes really well with a honey gin.  We recommend Keepr’s London Dry, infused with British honey.  The perfect balance for the spicy cheese!

3. Chicken Biryani

This perfect chicken biryani rice dish from India is a little beauty.  It keeps the spicy warmth of a curry, but doesn’t rely on the rich, creamy sauces that often sound delicious on the menu but end up being too rich.
This spiced rice dish originated in Muslim India and is generally a mix of Indian spices, rice, meat and vegetables. It often features dried fruits, nuts and even eggs and potatoes.  Layers of Basmati are flavoured with Indian spices before being prepared with cooked chicken or spiced meat. 
This is the jewel in the crown of Indian food and we think it deserves an equally good gin to sip on while you’re taking in all those lovely tastes. 

Silent Pool’s complex botanicals, juniper forward taste and floral layers of lavender and chamomile really bring out the best in the biryani.  And the sweetness of local honey mixed up with the citrus notes of kaffir lime takes the heat out of some of the dish, which can be a welcome relief.  A gorgeous gin for a gorgeous dish.  Enjoy!

4. Onion bhaji

We all love an onion bhaji.  What’s not to like? Little fried balls of sweet, shredded onions, dipped in a gorgeous spicy batter mix and then deep fried to a golden crisp.  The crisp, spicy batter on the outside and the soft onions inside are just made to be dipped into a sweet, spicy chili sauce or a mellow yoghurt marinade.
These fabulous little treats are made to be served with gin.

We recommend something crisp and refreshing such as a Bombay Sapphire gin and tonic. Garnish with a traditional slice of lemon or cool it down with a mint leaf.  Either way, it will be delicious!

5. Curried cashew nuts

These curried cashew nuts are a taste of my childhood in Calcutta. Served warm on a shallow plate, these are my favourite snacks with a G&T. Crisp, large cashew nuts are lightly spiced with oil, curry powder and paprika.  They’re then tossed in a shallow tray and bake for 45 minutes. These are the perfect complement to a pre-dinner G&T and we think something light, dry and citrusy would work really well. 

We suggest a Tanqueray Rangpur for a sharp blast of lime to cut through the spicy nuttiness of the cashews. Don’t forget a lime garnish (and a big squeeze of lime into the glass before you drink!)

Gin and curry: made for each other

So, now you have it.  Proof that gin and Indian food were made for each other.  Some great Indian gins to drink.  And 5 great Indian recipes to match your favourite gins with.

Now, all we need is for the skies to open up again and we can try some of these in person!



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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    When the heat is on and you just want something light, healthy and easy for lunch you could do worse than reach for a chilled bowl of home made Gazpacho soup.  But we started thinking about making this traditional Spanish summer soup with the help of a little gin, so we began looking for recipes … Continued
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Indian gin

5 great Indian craft gins to watch out for in 2021

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

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

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

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

So, here’s what we found out…

Gin and India

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

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

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

The Indian craft gin revolution

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

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

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

From middle class tipple to cool craft cocktail

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

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

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

Get ready for a Gin-dian summer!

1. Terai: ABV 42.8%

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

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

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

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

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

2. Hapusa: ABV 43%

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

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

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

3. Stranger and Sons: ABV 42.8%

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

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

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

4. Jaisalmer: ABV 43%

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

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


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

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

5. Jin Jiji: ABV 43%

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

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

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

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

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

Cheers!



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

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


RECENT POSTS

  • 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 … Continued
  • Gin Gazpacho: for when the heat is on!
    When the heat is on and you just want something light, healthy and easy for lunch you could do worse than reach for a chilled bowl of home made Gazpacho soup.  But we started thinking about making this traditional Spanish summer soup with the help of a little gin, so we began looking for recipes … Continued
  • 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 … Continued
  • Small bottle, big label: the story behind Angostura bitters
    We recently published a little article about gin and bitters (including Angostura) – a pairing almost as old as gin itself. As cocktails become more daring and our tastes become more and more exotic, we are constantly searching for new twists and flavours to make sure we get the very best out of our drinks. … Continued