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.


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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.


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venison stroganoff

Cheers, deers! Venison stroganoff (with a drop of gin to keep you warm)

Venison. It’s the dish of royalty, beloved of chef’s everywhere and it’s one of the most delicious, full-flavoured meats out there. It’s highly sought after in high end restaurants from London to Barcelona and it’s a must have meal at posh Scottish hunting lodges. But it’s strangely undervalued for every day eating.

However, this delicious meat is increasingly recognised not only for its delicious taste, but for its health giving qualities.  It’s blessed with a low fat content and loads of vital minerals and vitamins. 
Different (and ultimately more flavoursome) than traditional beef and other roasted meats, it’s worth taking a step out of the ordinary when it’s on the menu.

But what makes venison so different?

Venison is very lean with a rich, earthy flavour that generally mimics the landscape on which it has been raised. Often, you can pick up notes of acorns and wild herbs that were its staple diet during its life. Also, due to its lower fat content, it’s not quite as juicy as traditional beef.  But as if to make up for this deficit, it also has a firmer, smoother texture which works perfectly in this rich, creamy recipe.

So, what does all this have to do with gin, I hear you ask?

Well, we love venison and we love gin, so we thought we’d investigate how best to combine these flavours into a beautiful, hearty dish to celebrate the end of winter and the beginning of spring. 
Welcome to our delicious Venison Stroganoff, a warming, spicy, earthy recipe that will heat you up from the inside. Meals like this are best enjoyed in front of a roaring fire in a country pub somewhere in the Scottish Highlands.  But it’s delicious anywhere!

It contains a decent slug of gin to give it a juniper kick and to keep us reminded of the things we like most.  There are some mushrooms, a kick of mustard, some juniper berries and a generous helping of rich double cream to bring it all together. Oh, and did we mention a large portion of gin instead of the traditional Cognac? Honestly, this is a delicious recipe, easy to make and best drunk with a hand crafted Scottish gin from the Highlands for an extra dash of respectability and style.  So, here’s our recipe. 

Dive in and enjoy.

Venison Stroganoff with gin recipe

Ingredients:

  • 1 onion
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 500g tenderloin of venison
  • 250g of field mushrooms
  • 50 ml of Scottish gin
  • 3 juniper berries
  • 1tsp Dijon style mustard
  • 2 tbsp of thick double cream
  • 1 sprig fresh rosemary

Method:

  1. Finely slice the onion and garlic so that it cooks quickly
  2. Heat a shallow frying pan on low heat and add a few drops of oil, the garlic and the onion
  3. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper
  4. Slice the mushrooms and add to the garlic and onions
  5. While they are cooking slice the venison into thin strips and season with salt and pepper
  6. Finely chop the rosemary and sprinkle over the venison
  7. Drizzle with olive oil and rub all the flavours in
  8. Add to the pan and brown evenly
  9. Add the gin, the juniper berries and the mustard
  10. Pour in the double cream and stir
  11. Serve with pasta or sauteed potatoes and green beans
  12. Pour yourself a large Scottish G&T and dig in.

We think you’re going to love this one!


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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St. Patrick's day

Happy St. Patrick’s Day

posted in: Cocktails, Gin and Juniper | 0

St. Patrick’s Day. Today is the day that everyone is Irish.

No matter where you are in the world, Irish pubs will be full of people celebrating. Much Guinness will be drunk, many songs will be sung. In Chicago, the river will be died green. In Dublin, Boston and New York, parades will be held with marching bands and leprechauns. From Ulan Bator to Papua New Guinea, everybody will claim to have a little Irish in them – and why not?

Separating the best from the rest

So, with St. Patrick’s Day on the horizon, we set out to find a perfect gin-based cocktail to accompany the celebrations and general Irish shenanigans. But it proved much trickier than it first appeared. While most of the “St. Paddy’s Day” cocktails that we found were definitely shades of green, many of them achieved their nuclear glow from additives, food colourings or other dubious ingredients. Then there seemed to be a whole swathe of cocktails that had simply added an Irish name to the title – Leprechaun’s Milk or Finnegan’s Rainbow are two that come to mind.
And finally, there are the real gems (but most of them seem to be based on other traditional Irish spirits such as Whiskey or Bailey’s).

Introducing “The Paddy”

But we wanted a gin-based drink on St. Patrick’s Day – and those proved harder to find. After a long search, we stumbled across a good one – no artificial flavours or colours, no whiskey. Just a lovely, easy to prepare green drink using gin as its dominant spirit.
We think it’s delicious and we’ve named it for my Dad, Paddy – who would have been the first to raise a glass in celebration of his Saint’s Day.
So, without any further ado, let’s introduce you to the “Paddy” – a beautifully green drink that will put you in the mood for a party – Irish style.
A refreshingly light and easy to drink cocktail this little gem combines gin and Midori with a squeeze of lime juice, some chunky cucumber and a mint and apple garnish.

It goes down a treat – and it’s really easy to make. So, here we go:

St. Patrick’s Day cocktail: The Paddy

Ingredients:

Method:

St. Patrick's Day
  1. Muddle the cucumber and the gin together
  2. Pour into a shaker with the rest of the ingredients
  3. Add a scoop of ice and shake hard
  4. Strain into a coupe glass
  5. Garnish with mint and apple slice

Slainte!



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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Irish Gins

Bertha’s Revenge vs Dingle: the battle of the Irish gins

Irish gin has come a long way.  Building on ancient traditions of whiskey making, a well-known Irish love of a good drink and the growing reputation of Irish cuisine, it’s not surprising that gin is Ireland’s next big thing.  And now, there is a mini boom as small batch (and larger) distilleries across Ireland get creative.
The result is a plethora of new gins, often based on locally foraged ingredients, creative thinking and hand-picked (sometimes unusual) botanicals.

Ireland’s brave new world of gin

Ireland is blessed with a new breed of distillers who aren’t afraid to experiment. These brave souls are innovators and the result of their work is a myriad of delicious and imaginative gins including gin made from seaweed, gin made with tea and gin made with Irish heather.
Foraging for local botanicals is also a major theme in Irish gins with everything from locally sourced samphire to sweet Irish honey and from wild heather to spruce appearing in local gin brands. In fact, right now there are around 50 distilleries operating in Ireland and many of these small batch brands are finding a significant market in the UK and beyond.

The St. Paddy’s Day challenge: Bertha versus Dingle

Two of my favourite gins of all time are Irish, so today (in honour of St. Patrick) we thought we’d put my two favourite Irish gins head-to-head to see which is the best.
So, here we go with a little competitive gin review to see who wins the battle of the Irish gins.  

We’ve chosen Bertha’s Revenge from County Cork (made in small batches by the Ballyvolane House Spirit’s company using cow’s milk as its base) and Dingle Original Pot Still Gin (made in the Dingle Whiskey distillery on the beautifully rugged Dingle Peninsula in Co. Kerry, South West Ireland).  Both gins are exceptional and brimming with integrity.

But which one tastes better?
Who will win the battle of the Irish gins?

Bertha’s Revenge: ABV 42%

Made in small batches in County Cork, this is an Irish milk gin. That’s right, I said milk. From a cow.
But this was no ordinary cow. This was a cow called Bertha and according to local legend she was at one stage the oldest cow in the world. Having giving birth to around 39 calves during her lifetime, she has now become the inspiration behind one of Ireland’s most unusual (and delicious) gins. Alas, poor Bertha died in 1993. But she lives on in local legend and now she’s been immortalised in the gin that bears her name.
Using whey alcohol, their own natural spring water and locally sourced and foraged ingredients, the team have come up with a truly unique gin that would have made Bertha proud.

On their ingredients list, they mention everything from juniper to coriander, from cinammon to cloves and from elderflower to almonds. Apparently, they’ve also managed to bottle laughter, love and childish enthusiasm, all of which come through with every sip. So, what does this milk gin actually taste of? Well, there is a soft, creamy fragrance up front on the nose. Complex, rich and creamy you know you’re in for a treat. Then take a sip and warming, spicy notes appear in your mouth bursting with complexity and flavours that will keep you guessing. And then, to end there’s a long, smooth finish that leaves a blast of fruit lingering on the taste buds long after the final sip has been taken. All in all, this is a delicious gin.

The perfect serve

We think you should keep this simple so that all the flavours of the gin come out.

  1. Place some large ice cubes into a highball glass and fill up with ice.
  2. Squeeze a juicy wedge of lime into the glass and wipe the lime around the rim.
  3. Pour a large shot of Bertha’s Revenge over the ice.
  4. Open a fresh bottle of premium tonic water such as Fever Tree and pour gently over the ice.
  5. Garnish with a slice of lime and sip.

You will be amazed!

Dingle Original Pot Still gin: ABV 42.5%

A two hour drive away, dangling on the edge of Europe, lies the Dingle Peninsular.
Blasted and cleansed by the strong winds blowing across the Atlantic, this is a place of fresh air, green hills, craggy cliffs, dramatic landscapes and crashing waves. And those are the feelings that are evoked by Dingle Gin, made by the Dingle Distillery in Co. Kerry. While this gin is officially classified as a London Dry, its unique flavour combinations take it into new territory through a carefully selected botanical range. These include unusual botanicals such as rowan berry, fucshia, bog myrtle, heather and hawthorn.

These unique flavours are macerated first for 24 hours to bring out the depth and complexity of the spirit. Then, when the spirit is ready, the maceration is passed through a basket in the neck of the still which imbues the gin with the subtle and complex flavours that are so reminiscent of the Kerry landscape. The result of all this work is a deliciously well balanced gin combining nine traditional and home grown botanicals. Each bottle is then cut with pure water taken from their own well, 240 feet below the distillery. But what does it actually taste like?

Well, this gin was named the best in the world at the 2019 World Gin Awards, so they must be doing something right. It is quite sweet and bursting with flavour. Leave it in a glass for a bit to fully appreciate its spicy, floral notes. You can taste the summer berries in every sip – it’s almost “jammy”. Then, just when the fruit blast starts to fade, you’ll pick up loads of fresh herbs including peppery ginger and minty eucalyptus. This is a gorgeous gin with loads of character and is perfect in a cocktail or a long G&T.

The perfect serve

  1. Serve this in a large highball glass which you have filled with large ice cubes.
  2. Pour a large measure of Dingle into the glass.
  3. Wipe a grapefruit wedge around the rim of the glass.
  4. Top it up with a premium Mediterranean tonic water and finish it all off with a slice of grapefruit.

This is an absolute delight!

The Verdict:

Two amazing Irish gins, two great stories, two different tastes – but there can only be one winner.

Despite Dingle’s appearance as one of the world’s best gins in 2019, for me, Bertha’s Revenge wins by the smallest of margins.
I love the complex background of different botanicals, the mix of flavours and the fabulous story of Bertha and her offspring. But most importantly, there is a rich creaminess to this drink that really brings out the flavours in a way that no other gin does. It is complex, and bursting with character. For me, this is right up there amongst my very favourite gins in the world.
Well done Ireland – you have much to be proud of on St. Paddy’s Day.

Slainte!


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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Corpen

Corpen’s Brian Burgess: my favourite cocktail

Corpen Week is coming to a close and we’ve loved learning more about this brave new Barcelona gin brand. We’ve heard about how tough it is to open a gin brand in the middle of a pandemic. We’ve reviewed the deliciously complex Corpen Llevant to reveal its complex flavours. We’ve heard why integrity is so important to the Corpen process.

Now, in a final flourish, we’ve invited Corpen’s co-founder Brian Burgess to be Barcelona Gin’s guest bartender for March. 
The team at Corpen have created an extraordinarily delicious gin. It’s bursting with citrus notes, brimming with earthy tones and jam-packed with gentle spice. When you have a gin as good as this, the last thing you want to do is to ruin its unique flavour by drowning it in a sea of sugary cocktail mixes. This is a good gin and it demands respect.

We asked Brian to suggest his favourite cocktail. Something that would make the most of the gorgeous flavour combinations in Corpen Llevant. 

This is what he came up with…

“For me, it’s the Martini – a cocktail classic that stands the test of time and showcases the flavour of the gin. For me, the perfect mix is a 50/50 Martini. “
“The classic version can sometimes be a bit intimidating. There’s a hard core of drinkers whose use of vermouth is, shall we say, minimal. I think we all know these people. We may even be these people. The common view is that drier is better. Just wave a bottle of vermouth in the general direction of the glass and you’re done. Some martini lovers think that you should simply rinse the glass with vermouth and then pour out the contents before adding the gin. Others pass a bottle of vermouth over the mixing glass without even taking the cap off the bottle. Winston Churchill used to just wave his glass of gin in the general direction of France!”

“Don’t get me wrong, this is fine and each to their own. We love our gin and serving it cold on ice is still delicious, but it’s not for everyone. We think the vermouth can add some delicious flavours and we don’t want to miss out on them. We use Dolin Dry as our vermouth and a squeeze of lemon, which we think makes this a much more accessible drink than the ultra dry version. We don’t add any bitters. It’s a less boozy version of the classic and we think it’s a great entry level Martini. We hope you enjoy it!”

Corpen’s 50:50 Martini

Ingredients:

Method:

  1. Add the gin and dry vermouth to a mixing glass
  2. Fill with ice and stir until well chilled
  3. Strain into a chilled Martini glass
  4. Squeeze some lemon into the glass
  5. Garnish with a lemon twist

Cheers!

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

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


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khao san

Khao San gin: a fiery trip back to Thailand

Khao San Gin – the spirit of South East Asia and named after a street I remember well. 
It was many years ago now when I flew to Thailand to meet my girlfriend. She’d been backpacking across Asia for 6 months.  I’d heard her saying how she had been dreaming of hot showers and clean sheets. I thought I’d surprise her with a couple of nights at a smart hotel for a bit of soul-reviving luxury. She met me at the airport with a big banner welcoming me to her world and after a giant hug, I told her my plan to whisk her off for a few days of comfort. But the look on her face was not at all what I expected. 

The street that changed my life…

Instead of a broad, happy smile, an unmistakable look of disappointment appeared.  When I asked her what was wrong, she was very clear. She didn’t see the point of coming all the way to South East Asia and then staying in a cookie-cutter American hotel.  The whole point of travelling, she said, was getting in among the people and experiencing life a bit differently.  She told me about a street called Khao San Road, where adventures were to be had.  That conversation changed my life and led to 20 years of backpacking that I still find hard to give up.

The next day, we checked out of our characterless, modern hotel and checked in to a small, Chinese B&B just off the main Khao San strip, built around a pretty courtyard.  It had the best banana pancakes in town and it was less than $10 a night.  And that was where our adventure really began. So, imagine my excitement when I discovered that Tarsier were bringing out Khao San Road gin, infused with red chili peppers, lemongrass and kaffir lime leaf (three of my favourite ingredients). I just had to try it. And this is what I found.

The back (packer) story

Well, here’s the thing. It seems like the folks behind Khao San gin had a similar experience to my own. Inspired by the sights, smells and sounds of this buzzing backpacking district, they harnessed the flavours they found on the street and created an amazing gin.
They cold-distill their three prime ingredients separately in a vacuum still before blending it with an additional 10 botanicals. Everything in the gin is carefully selected to conjure up the sights, smells and sounds of Thailand. In fact, the gin has been bottled at exactly 41.2% ABV, a little nod towards the length of the street which is exactly 412 metres long. 

Virtual reality

But, not satisfied with real world senses such as taste and smell, they’ve also come up with another clever idea to take you right to the heart of this buzzing street. Point your mobile phone toward the QR code on the back label of Khao San gin and click.  You’ll immediately be transported to a fabulous collection of content that is iconic to this famous road. See photos, videos and recipes that will allow you to enjoy the sights and sounds of Bangkok without leaving the house.  Very handy in these quarantine times. 
But enough of the marketing – the real question is does it taste good. And the answer is a resounding YES!

The verdict

Khao San Gin is made by the team at Tarsier Spirits and they’ve packed a big blast of flavour into a beautiful bottle. The result is a fragrant, spicy gin with plenty of juniper up front. There’s loads of citrus in there from the Kaffir lime, which cuts through the peppery heat from the chilli peppers. There is also a subtle, fragrant lemongrass flavour that is unmistakably Thai and which is a nice counterpoint to the fire of the chilli. But running through it all, there is still an unmistakable piney juniper reminding you that this is, after all, primarily a London Dry gin.

Plus, the squat, white bottle is as beautiful as the gin it contains, with a show-stopping red label featuring a large chilli, so you will be in no doubt of what the main ingredient is here. The bottle is then finished off elegantly with a stylish wooden stopper. It is bound to enhance any gin shelf and the virtual reality label offers an extra level of fun and fascination.

The perfect serve

We think this is so good, you really won’t want to dilute it with a flavoured mixer. Instead, we say serve this tall, in a Collins glass.

  1. Fill up your Collins glass to the top with large ice cubes.
  2. Pour in the required amount of Khao San Gin.
  3. Cut a large fresh lime wedge and squeeze it directly into the glass.
  4. Rub the rim of the glass with what’s left of the lime.
  5. Fill the glass to the top with a freshly opened premium Indian tonic water such as Fentimans or Fever Tree.
  6. Then garnish it with a thin lime wheel or a spicy, dried red chilli pepper.
  7. Take a sip, turn on the VR and you could almost be back in Thailand.

This may be as close as we all get for a while.



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

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botanicals

Botanicals: gin’s secret stars

Why is gin so different to vodka or any other white spirit? What makes gin so special? Well, the secret lies in the botanicals.

What are these botanicals and why are they so important? And how exactly do they turn a colourless, odourless, tasteless liquid into one of the most versatile and exciting spirits on planet earth?

We thought we’d spend a little time looking at these secret ingredients. We want to help us all to understand what makes these little blasts of flavour so important in the world of gin. So, let’s start with the most obvious: juniper.

Without juniper, there is no gin.

For a drink to be classified as gin, Juniper is a must. According to legal definitions, gin must always be a minimum of 37.5% ABV and Juniper must be its dominant spirit. That seems pretty simple and clear. But this is actually where the fun begins! Once the minimum requirements are met, distillers are working on an empty canvas where the art is only as good as the artist. From here on out, all you are limited by is your imagination.

Juniper’s medicinal history

The juniper berries you are most likely to find in your gin are actually a type of pine cone from a shrub called juniperus communis. This is generally found growing wild across most of the Northern hemisphere. It’s what gives gin that distinctive taste of pine, camphor and lavender.

In fact, its medicinal qualities have been recognised for millennia. An ancient Egyptian papyrus from 1500BC refers to juniper as a cure for tapeworm infestations. Juniper berries have also been found as part of the embalming process in ancient Egyptian tombs. Through the ages they were used to cure infections, prevent epilepsy and even cure the plague.
These days, the best juniper is grown on the hillsides of Macedonia and Italy and is rich in aromatic oil. This is one reason why its important for distillers to try a number of different samples to get the mixture exactly right.

Botanicals: a world of fragrant opportunities

Most of the botanicals that we use in gin have medical roots that go back hundreds (sometimes thousands) of years. Some of them are still used for their medicinal qualities.

As we know, juniper berries are integral to creating gin. Unsurprisingly, they feature in every gin that is produced.

As well as juniper, there may be some other common botanicals that may surprise you.
Wormwood (more commonly associated with absinthe) is a popular botanical for many distillers. Others such as coriander are extraordinarily popular and you will see it make an appearance in many gins imparting a fresh, spicy sage and lemon flavour.

Beyond that, you enter a world of opportunities with more fragrant botanicals such as frankincense (sweet and oily) and cassia bark (sharp and pungent) appearing more and more often.

Many other gins feature angelica (woody and earthy), citrus and orris root (aromatic and floral).

But the list goes on to include almonds (marzipan sweetness), bergamot peel (musky, perfumed) and cardamom pods (warm and spicy). These are becoming increasingly popular alongside cubeb berries (peppery), elderflower (sweet and floral).
Citrus peels are always in demand and ginger (spicy and warm) and even licorice (woody and sweet) are making more frequent appearances.

Each of these botanicals help to build up the complex layers of flavours that we enjoy in our G&Ts today. As gin makers experiment and become more comfortable with the possibilities of ingredients that they are using, they have become increasingly bold.

Laverstoke Mill: a temple to botanicals

If you’re interested in learning more about botanicals, it’s worth paying a visit to the stunning Bombay Sapphire distillery in Hampshire.
Here, the main distilling process takes place in Bombay Sapphire’s converted 18th century Laverstoke Mill straddling the crystal clear waters of the River Test. But in a stroke of architectural genius, a swooping glass extension (reminiscent of the river that flows underneath it) covers a fascinating gin museum with wonderful gin tours. You will have the opportunity to taste a wonderful Laverstoke cocktail too!
Inside this extraordinary glass building they grow some of the botanicals that they use to make Bombay Sapphire. They have dozens of different botanicals beautifully presented in jars and bags for guests to touch and smell.

In their Discovery Experience they’ll help you map out your flavour tastes and even offer a well crafted cocktail mixed in their on-site bar. Their drinks are made to recipes by their in-house mixologist Sam Carter – and they’re delicious. The variety of botanicals on display is breathtaking and the flavours so individual and eclectic, that this will definitely need to be on your list for a fascinating visit once life returns to normal.

So, next time you try your latest gin, see which ones you can identify and raise a glass to our secret botanicals. They are the reason the magic happens.



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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how gin is made

The secrets of the stills: how gin is made

A few years ago, I was having dinner with some friends in London. One of them had been pontificating about wine. It was getting to the point at which he was describing how different soils in neighbouring fields can produce radically different grapes and wines with completely unique flavours. That was when I brought up gin and its infinite variety. I started the conversation making the point that gin was essentially a flavoured vodka. But he was adamant that I was wrong.
“Gin is gin”, he said. “Completely different!”
For the sake of the evening, I didn’t challenge him but it got me thinking. While we all love drinking it, most of us don’t know how gin is made. So, this is for all of us gin lovers who have managed to master the art of drinking the stuff but haven’t yet mastered the art of distilling it.

What is gin?

There are three basic rules that gin has to follow to be classified as gin:

  1. Gin must be based on a neutral spirit (unflavoured vodka, ethanol etc).
  2. It must also be bottled at a minimum alcoholic strength of 37.5% ABV.
  3. Finally, it must contain juniper as its dominant flavour.

The rest is up to you. Some prefer London Dry gins, others prefer Genever gin or Old Tom. Some prefer fruity gins or glorious floral infusions. Others prefer citrus or earthy tones. And there’s now a huge industry churning our what we call “flavoured gins” (some good, some not so good!).

Complex flavours, infinite variety

But the real beauty of a good gin is its complexity and its infinite variety. There is a subtlety to a good gin that is almost an art form on a par with Scotch whiskey.
This complex, sophisticated mix is achieved through the expertise of each individual distiller working diligently to achieve the exact flavour profile that they prefer. For many of us, we either picture big brand distilleries such as Bombay Sapphire pumping out industrial quantities of gin (think the big brands here!) Or, you could be imagining something more niche – a bit more like Breaking Bad, with people in white coats staring at bubbling potions to create their own small batch gin delights. The truth is it’s both of those (and everything in between).

Back to basics

So, let’s start at the beginning.
Gin is one of a group of spirits that include Akvavit and a number of anise-flavoured products that get their character directly from the supplemental flavours added during the distilling process instead of the raw material they are made from.
Essentially gin is simply a neutral spirit to which juniper and other flavours have been added. The base spirit can be fermented from a wide rage of things from grain to milk (and plenty in between). The resulting clear, neutral alcohol gives the distiller a blank canvas on which to create a masterpiece.

Maceration, distillation and infusion

Flavours can then be added through any one of three recognised methods:

  1. Maceration: Firstly, through a process of simple maceration which extracts both flavour and colour from the ingredients to give its own unique profile. For a clear colour, the maceration liquid still needs to be distilled.
  2. Distillation: The second approach is known as “re-distillation”. Once the product has gone through an initial distillation to create its neutral spirit, it is then “re-distilled”. During this process, the vapours that boil off carry selected flavour-frequencies on into the final product, while leaving the colour behind.
    The result is an aromatic mix of complex compounds within a clear liquid, with a distinct concentrated smell.
  3. Infusion: The third approach is to add “off the shelf” compounded flavours to a neutral spirit, mixing it up in the same way as you would mix your own bespoke cocktail. This is the easiest method and the result is the sort of cheap gin that you find on the bottom shelves of supermarket.

So when does the magic start?

Well the first stage is fermentation. This is where the alcohol is created before it is distilled into gin. Alcohol can be created from a huge range of foodstuffs including grain, grapes, potatoes and even milk. Grain is the most common source and it is often ground down to help it to release starch, which then converts into sugar. These sugars are then mixed with water to make a mash before being transferred to the mash “tun”. This is where the fermentation fun starts.

Fermenting fun

Fermentation is simply the natural process of decomposition. But you’ll need to add some yeast for the real fun to begin. The yeast feeds on the sugar and produces alcohol and carbon dioxide. This can take anywhere from a few hours to a few weeks depending on the process used. The resulting liquid is a low alcohol brew, commonly known as the “mash”. It’s not dissimilar to beer.
But how does this beer-like liquid become distilled alcohol?

The distillation process

And now we can reveal the secrets of the stills.
The fermented wash is heated to boiling point in a “still”. During this process, the “wash” evaporates before condensing at lower temperatures. These vapors are then captured by the distillers and separated to create a new mixture.
After several distillations, the resulting spirit is generally filtered through charcoal or carbon to remove any remaining sediment and impurities. The resulting clean, pure, alcoholic spirit is now ready for bottling, flavouring, aging or drinking.

Adding the ingredients

As we know, gin is essentially vodka that has been distilled with added botanicals. But, while Juniper berries have to dominate the flavour for your spirit to qualify as gin, other common botanicals are generally added at this stage including cumin, wormwood and coriander. More unusual ones include cassia root and frankincense.
With the rise of craft gin, ingredients are becoming increasingly exotic with the rise and rise of flavoured spirits. The final blend is only limited by the distillers imagination.

The stills: tradition vs efficiency

But to make all this come together, you need a still.
If you’re interested in trying this out at home, you can actually purchase individual desktop stills from Amazon for under 100 euros.
However, for the professionals, there are only two main types – pot stills and column stills.

Pot stills: smaller and more traditional. They’re generally made from copper and they can be quite labour intensive requiring regular cleaning . But actually, the process is quite simple. Heat the mix up in the boiler and watch it vapourise and separate. This happens because alcohol and water boil at different temperatures.
This results in the alcohol vapours condensing to leave behind a strong alcoholic liquid. Generally, this liquid is then redistilled again for a smoother taste.

Column stills: more efficient but more industrial and less historical.
Multiple chambers allow the producers to enable fractional distillation – or separate distillations within the still.
This gives distillers more flexibility and precision and they produce higher alcohol spirits. Some producers also pass steam directly through the ingredients to distil alcohol or to extract essential oils from the plants or botanicals.
The final mixture is then mixed with water before bottling to reduce it to the final desired strength. Definitely more efficient (but less character).

Know what you’re drinking!

So, there you go – a brief guide to distillation.
If you’re inspired to have a go yourself, then pick up a still and have fun experimenting with your own flavours. Otherwise, just carry on drinking the gin, smug in the knowledge that you actually know (and appreciate) exactly how this beautiful, complex and subtle drink is made.



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 and tonic cupcakes

Gin and Tonic cupcakes: sweet dreams are made of this!

OMG. I don’t think it gets much better than this. We’ve already delved into the delights of cooking with gin. We’ve shared recipes for gin trifles, we’ve told you how to make gin scampi and we’ve given you an easy recipe for gin baked salmon. But that was all just a preamble to this moment. We are giving you the gin and tonic cupcakes recipe!
All joking aside, this recipe will make you feel like you’ve died and gone to gin and tonic heaven. If you like gin and tonic and have a sweet tooth (guilty!), then this is a gin lovers dream come true. A huge thank you to Janet patisserie for publishing this gorgeous (and easy) recipe that is perfectly suited to any Mad Hatters looking for a tea party.

Soft, sweet (with loads of gin and a buttercream topping)

These little gin and tonic cupcakes are simply delicious. Soft and sweet, these delicious bundles of gin delight are packed with flavour. From an almost impossibly light sponge base to an extraordinary buttercream frosting, with a little hint of lime, this could fast become your go-to Sunday treat.
The buttercream dominates but the gin comes through clearly. And the lime really brings it all together with a gratuitous burst of citrus that will pep you up in a moment. So, without further ado, here is the recipe you’ve been waiting for. This recipe makes around 12 cupcakes and you can rustle up a baker’s dozen of these in as little as 30 minutes.
Plus, it’s always a good idea to keep the gin bottle near you on these occasions. Just in case the chef needs that little extra bit of gincouragement!
I hope you’re as excited as I am about this…

Gin and tonic cupcakes recipe:

Ingredients

The cupcakes

  • 150g unsalted butter
  • 150 caster sugar
  • 3 medium eggs
  • 200g self raising flour
  • 3 tbsps of gin (very important!)
  • 3 tbsps of tonic water

The buttercream

  • 150 g unsalted butter (room temp)
  • 375 g icing sugar
  • 3 tbsps gin
  • 2-3 tbsps tonic water

The gin syrup

  • 50 g caster sugar
  • 3 tbsp of gin
  • 3 tbsp of tonic water
  • Decorations: lime zest, lime slices

Method

For the cupcakes

  1. Heat the oven to 180c/160 fan and line a cupcake tin with 12 large cupcakes cases.
  2. With a stand mixer, beat the butter with the caster sugar until light and fluffy.
  3. Combine the eggs and self-raising flour with the butter/sugar mix until well combined. It won’t take too long!
  4. Add in the gin, tonic and beat again. Don’t worry if the mix looks runnier than usual – that’s why we add more flour.

For the buttercream

  1. Beat the butter with an electric mixer for a few minutes (to loosen it).
  2. Gradually beat in the icing sugar until well combined (this can take up to 5 minutes).
  3. Add in the tonic and gin, one tbsp of each at a time and beat fully each time. The mixture will be slightly slacker than usual, so be aware. This is where the flavour comes from!
  4. Spoon the mix into the cupcake cases evenly and bake in the oven for 18-20 minutes (or until a skewer comes out clean and they are springy to touch).
  5. Leave them to cool fully on a wire tray.
  6. If making the gin syrup, add the sugar, gin and tonic water to a pan on boil for a minute so the sugar dissolves.
  7. Brush/spoon over the cupcakes.

For the decoration

  1. Once iced, add a lime or lemon wedge to the cupcake.
  2. Sprinkle on some lime/lemon zest 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.


RECENT POSTS

  • The rise of Canadian gin: 5 of the best from the Great White North
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  • The rise of Canadian gin: 5 of the best from the Great White North
    Canadian gin is on the rise.  This week, we thought we’d take a look at some of the best brands from the Great White North (with a little inspiration from our Barcelona Gin friend, Sylvia Short).  Here in Barcelona, we’re blessed with a beautiful year-round climate.  But, like everyone, we complain about the weather even … Continued
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