sloe gin apple and blackberry crumble

Sloe-ly does it: a boozy apple and blackberry crumble to warm your soul

Autumn is always a strange time of year.  The weather lurches from warm autumn sunshine to wet winter winds in what seems like the blink of an eye.  The leaves turn to a golden brown and deliver a satisfying crunch under foot as we try to make the most of what’s left of the summer sun.  But there is an inevitability about the seasons that we just can’t ignore and we know that these months are the start of a gentle transition into the colder, darker, wetter days of winter ahead.

New season, new flavours

Fall in America is accompanied by hot cider and pumpkin pies as the last of the summer harvest is turned into delicious, sweet, spicy desserts.  In the UK, mulled wine, hot toddies and sloe gins begin to make an appearance alongside comfort food that is made to keep your soul and spirit warm for the cold months ahead. Think natural blackberry and apple crumble with sweet, rich custard drizzled lovingly from above.  In Barcelona, the sun still shines in a blue sky but the weather cools and the mood changes to something softer and gentler.  The locals take their city back from the tourists and enjoy the autumn colours from their front row seats on the terrazas and bars, dipping freshly made churros into hot chocolate so thick you can stand your spoon up in it.  Every country and region has its own autumn traditions.

Sloe-ly does it…

Last year, we introduced you to our friends Hamish and Jenny, who put aside time every autumn to forage in the English countryside for ripe sloe berries to star in their amazing home made sloe gin.  If that sounds like something you’d like to try, you might want to check out this little interview we did with them last year, in which they reveal their most closely guarded secrets for making a truly delicious sloe gin.  This warming, sweet, aromatic drink is a perfect drink to beat the chill on those cold days.  It’s rich, fruity warmth is ideal for a hip flask to accompany your outdoor activities.  But it’s also a perfect aperitif before a hearty lunch and is equally at home as an after dinner drink. The perfect end to a convivial dinner.

Or is it?

A taste of autumn with a sloe gin twist

We think that we may have found something even more delicious for you to try.  We’ve searched high and low for a great Autumn recipe that will warm you up from the inside out.  We think this rich, boozy crumble, packed with ripe Autumn fruits is the ultimate comfort food.  The cast of ingredients includes sweet juicy apples, sharp, bright blackberries and the secret ingredient – loads of rich, delicious, boozy sloe gin. This classic autumn dish has a depth and complexity that sets it apart from the rest. Plus, it’s packed with toasted pistachios and almonds for the crunchiest topping ever to offer a nice contrast to the juicy softness of the fruit that lies within.  

We think this sloe gin apple and blackberry crumble is the perfect way to end a long, lazy, Sunday lunch.  One of those lunches when nobody is in a hurry to leave because inside is so much more appealing than outside.  Especially if you’re in a cozy pub, drying out your feet in front of a roaring fire in the company of good friends.

So, here’s a simple, easy to make recipe that will warm you up on those gorgeous autumn days and warm your heart from the inside.

Sloe gin apple and blackberry crumble recipe

Ingredients:

  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 900g apples (Bramley apples are ideal)
  • 100g demerara sugar
  • 250g blackberries
  • 5 tbsp sloe gin

For the crumble topping:

  • 100g plain flour
  • 50g oats
  • 75g butter, cubed
  • 75g demerara sugar
  • ½ tsp allspice
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 tbsp chopped pistachios
  • Handful of toasted almond flakes

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 180c and fill large bowl with water
  2. Add the lemon juice
  3. Peel and core the apples and cut them into chunks
  4. Add them to the water as you cut them to prevent discoloring
  5. Drain and transfer to a baking dish (approx 2.3l)
  6. Toss with the sugar and bake for 20 mins (until tender)
  7. Mix together the flour and the oats and use your fingers to rub in the butter
  8. Stir in the sugar, spices and pistachios and put aside
  9. Add the blackberries and sloe gin to the baking dish and toss to distribute
  10. Scatter over the crumble topping and pack down gently before topping with almonds
  11. Return to the oven and bake for 40-50 minutes until the topping is golden and the fruit juices bubble up around the edges
  12. Remove from oven and serve with generous servings of custard
  13. Pull your chair closer to the fire, pour yourself a glass of sloe gin 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.

Larios Provenzal: the sweet taste of the Med

Let me be clear. Long before I discovered Larios Provenzal. I was a big fan of Larios gin. I have been a fan ever since I first moved to Barcelona, almost a decade ago. With a local heritage and a long tradition, it has been quietly making a name for itself as a great value Spanish gin. It has been offering excellent flavour at a great price for many years. It’s become one of those gins that you should always have behind your bar.  And it’s a gin with a history that goes back to early 19th century Malaga, when the Larios family moved into the distillation business.  

Since then, Larios has been building a solid reputation across Europe before being bought by the Pernod-Ricard Group back in 1997 before ending up with the Beam Suntory group. This partnership has catapulted Larios into the big time and it is now the number one gin in Spain and continental Europe and one of the top 10 gins internationally.

Expanding the brand…

Once the brand was built and established, they did what many gin brands have done over the last decade – look for ways to expand with new flavours and propositions.  I thought I’d tried most of them, including their original London Dry version (now rebranded as Larios Mediterranea). With its subtle notes of juniper and orange peel, this is a gin you should always keep in your cupboard just in case). I’ve also tried the sumptuous Larios Citrus (with a bitter orange sweetness that gives Tanqueray Flor de Sevilla a run for its money) as well as Larios 12, their premium version, with its 12 exotically sourced botanicals and its complex flavour balances. 
I’ve also heard good things about Larios Rose. One day, I’m looking forward to trying Indigo by Larios with its deep blue Macedonian juniper berries and citrus notes.  And I thought that was about it for the Larios range.

And then, I stumbled across Larios Provenzal while perusing the Duty Free store at Gatwick airport. At just over £12 for 1 litre, it was too good a bargain to refuse. I slipped one into my basket and boarded the plane in anticipation of a nice welcome home cocktail once I had landed back in Barcelona.
And I’m pleased to say, that’s exactly what I did.

Larios Provenzal: exclusive and elusive

Larios Provenzal is an unusual and particularly elusive gin – and now I know why it to be “as rare as hen’s teeth”.  This gin appears to be a “one off” that has been created exclusively for travel retail. That’s why it can only be found at duty free stores, so keep your eye out for it as travel starts to open up again.  It comes in the same distinctively shaped bottle as all the other Larios brands, but this one has a particularly attractive green label that somehow transports you to a Provencal forest.  

A corn base for a smoother taste

This gin has been exclusively created for travelers and it features four distillations of wild juniper.  But what makes Larios Provenzal different is that it uses a corn base during distillation.  The purpose of this is to smooth out the flavour profile of the gin. Once they are happy with the smoothness of the base, they then flavour the resulting liquid with a selection of Mediterranean fruits and herbs. The result is an easy to drink gin with a twist that is both unique and exclusive.  Well that’s what the PR material says, but does this drink live up to its promotion?

There’s only one way to find out…

The perfect pour

I tried this as a perfect G&T.  Larios is as Spanish as it comes, so a large copa glass was the obvious choice for my new experience.  I gingerly dropped two giant, round tonic water ice cubes from my mold into the glass. Then, I squeezed a juicy lemon wedge directly over the ice and wiped the wedge around the rim. Then I dropped it into the glass (with a satisfying “plop”) and drizzled a generous double shot of Larios Provenzal over the ice cubes.  Finally, I poured a bottle of Fever Tree Premium tonic water over the blend to naturally shake up and mix it all together before the big reveal.

Citrus notes and herbal overtones: a taste of the Med

The first thing you notice is the colour – the liquid has a lovely herbaceous green tint that works well with the new label. The packaging instantly transports you to Provence. On the nose, this gin delivers instantly with notes of rosemary, thyme and basil up front.  This is all rounded off with a soft injection of citrus from the oranges and lemons that Larios have become known for.  And then, the all important taste test.  Smooth and well balanced (as promised) with an unmistakable Mediterranean character and a refreshing blast of juniper. So far, so good. 

Sweet, smooth and complex

Larios Provenzal has all the ingredients of a great gin. But that corn base gives it a distinctive sweetness that feels a little unfamiliar to a palette more used to drier, juniper forward gins. It’s this subtle sweetness that pervades the overall taste – and sometimes even dominates it.  If you’re looking for a traditional dry, crisp gin this is probably not the one for you.  But if your tastes errs on the side of sweetness and smoothness, this will not disappoint.  

Just the tonic

At first sip, it was not what I’d expected but now that my brain has caught up with my senses, this gin is really growing on me.  I served it with a Fevertree Indian Tonic water, but I suspect this will also go really well with the new generation of flavoured tonic waters such as the delicious Franklin & Sons Rosemary and Olive tonic water. It would also work with a Fevertree Mediterranean or even a ginger beer topper.  Garnishings can range from Basil leaves to toasted Rosemary sprigs and from lemons to oranges depending on your taste.  This will also be an excellent cocktail ingredient for any gin drink that requires smooth, sweet herbal and citrus notes.  

I have a feeling that this is a gin that will divide opinion.  It may not be to everyone’s tastes but give it a chance. I did and I keep going back for more, so it must be good after all.



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

  • Hot gin toddy: cold comfort from an old friend
    The seasons are changing.  The summer heat is now well and truly behind us and we are now in that lovely space where the last of the summer sun still occasionally breaks through. It is a time to hear the leaves crunch beneath your feet, to watch the colors change from green to brown and … Continued
  • Sloe-ly does it: a boozy apple and blackberry crumble to warm your soul
    Autumn is always a strange time of year.  The weather lurches from warm autumn sunshine to wet winter winds in what seems like the blink of an eye.  The leaves turn to a golden brown and deliver a satisfying crunch under foot as we try to make the most of what’s left of the summer … Continued
  • Larios Provenzal: the sweet taste of the Med
    Let me be clear. Long before I discovered Larios Provenzal. I was a big fan of Larios gin. I have been a fan ever since I first moved to Barcelona, almost a decade ago. With a local heritage and a long tradition, it has been quietly making a name for itself as a great value … Continued
  • Let’s drink to our health: 5 reasons why gin is good for you!
    Is gin the elixir of life or the devil’s juice? Alcohol has a rich tradition of medicinal application earned over the centuries. Since its earliest days it has been recognised as having life-restoring properties of its own. Despite early recognition of gin’s medicinal benefits and the reviving qualities of spirits such as brandy and bitters, … Continued

gin is good for you

Let’s drink to our health: 5 reasons why gin is good for you!

Is gin the elixir of life or the devil’s juice?

Alcohol has a rich tradition of medicinal application earned over the centuries. Since its earliest days it has been recognised as having life-restoring properties of its own. Despite early recognition of gin’s medicinal benefits and the reviving qualities of spirits such as brandy and bitters, drinking gin is still seen as unhealthy. While we agree that everything is best in moderation, in the interest of balance, we thought we’d do our little bit to restore the medicinal reputation of gin. In fact, we’re even going to try to convince you of its health giving properties.  

So, stick with us as we reveal just why gin is better for you than you might think and allow us to bust a few myths along the way. 

A bad reputation?

Many people link our favourite spirit with social decline and moral decay. Over the years, it has accumulated unflattering nicknames such as “Mother’s Ruin”. Social commentators such as Hogarth depicted the havoc that gin wreaked on 19th century London in his famous “Gin Street” engraving. None of that can be denied. But you might be surprised to discover that gin can actually do you some good.  And these days, every chink of light is worth reaching for!

So here are 5 reasons to drink gin (in moderation, of course!) And some great arguments for you to use the next time someone calls you out for your gin habit.

Under 100 calories a glass of gin

I guess like everything in life, moderation is generally the best policy.  But if you’re really worried about putting on the pounds and don’t want to give up the booze, you’ll be pleased to discover that gin is one of the least fattening spirits you can buy. In fact, it averages a measly 97 calories per shot. 
If you then pair it with a low or zero calorie mixer, you’re getting a decent drink for under 100 calories. That’s way less than the 160 calories contained in an average glass of wine or the 208 calories that you’ll find in a pint of beer.  And there is plenty of very healthy and delicious recipes to enjoy your gin.

Now that’s some good news!

Go wrinkle free

This one, I didn’t expect! Apparently juniper berries are packed full of antioxidants.
Since juniper is the primary ingredient of gin, gin is also believed to help to improve the smoothness of your skin.
The result: a healthier, more youthful appearance. So, as you get older, reach for the gin and make sure you keep those cocktails flowing. If you’re feeling a little adventurous, you could even add a little pomegranate juice (or cordial). This will add even more antioxidants and your drinking should become increasingly guilt free.  And if you really want to “up-the-ante”, there’s even an amazing gin brand that is infused with collagen. Intriguingly, it’s called Collagin. I’m reliably informed that this gin not only tastes good but it gives you smooth skin and helps to fight the wrinkles.
Perhaps we’ve inadvertently stumbled across the secret of eternal youth?  And that’s not the gin talking.

Loosen up your joints

If you’re suffering from joint pain, we have a solution that we think you might like.
For many years, juniper was used as an antidote to joint pain, arthritis and rheumatism. Clearly, there are well established, science-based treatments for conditions like this, but it might be worth adding a little gin to your medicine cabinet.  For generations, gin-soaked raisins have been taken daily as a way of reducing inflammation. 
And once again, don’t just take my word for it. I refer you to the case of 105 year old Lucia DeClerck of New Jersey, who credits her gin-soaked raisins for a happy, healthy and long life.

Skip the hangovers with gin

While my own experience tells me something different, it is often claimed that gin doesn’t give you a hangover. But I guess, like all spirits, it depends on how much you imbibe.
One thing we do know is this: white spirits such as gin, vodka and sake are probably your safest bet if you don’t want to be holding your head in the morning.
But gin has a little advantage. It contains very few congeners. These are the impurities in the alcohol that are produced as a result of the fermentation phase.  The body struggles to process these congeners and as a result, they contribute to the sick feeling and headaches that you might experience the morning after a big night.
In fact, according to research, Bourbon contains 37 times more chemicals than gin.  Plus, gin tastes so much better!

Fight kidney and liver disease

This might sound counterintuitive, but juniper berries can actually help you to stop water retention in your body. 
This means that when you drink gin, it allows you to pass more water through your system than any other form of alcohol. 
This, in turn, helps flush out more of the harmful bacteria and poisons which are consumed in alcohol.
Gin’s juniper content offers an easy way to clear your body of harmful ingredients for a healthier and happier life.

Let’s drink to our health!


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

  • Hot gin toddy: cold comfort from an old friend
    The seasons are changing.  The summer heat is now well and truly behind us and we are now in that lovely space where the last of the summer sun still occasionally breaks through. It is a time to hear the leaves crunch beneath your feet, to watch the colors change from green to brown and … Continued
  • Sloe-ly does it: a boozy apple and blackberry crumble to warm your soul
    Autumn is always a strange time of year.  The weather lurches from warm autumn sunshine to wet winter winds in what seems like the blink of an eye.  The leaves turn to a golden brown and deliver a satisfying crunch under foot as we try to make the most of what’s left of the summer … Continued
  • Larios Provenzal: the sweet taste of the Med
    Let me be clear. Long before I discovered Larios Provenzal. I was a big fan of Larios gin. I have been a fan ever since I first moved to Barcelona, almost a decade ago. With a local heritage and a long tradition, it has been quietly making a name for itself as a great value … Continued
  • Let’s drink to our health: 5 reasons why gin is good for you!
    Is gin the elixir of life or the devil’s juice? Alcohol has a rich tradition of medicinal application earned over the centuries. Since its earliest days it has been recognised as having life-restoring properties of its own. Despite early recognition of gin’s medicinal benefits and the reviving qualities of spirits such as brandy and bitters, … Continued

Gin and elderflower: the new taste of summer

posted in: Cocktails, Gin and Juniper | 0

So, elderflower and gin is fast becoming the taste of summer. For many years, it was a staple ingredient of North Western Europe, but now elderflower cordials, gins and liqueurs are available around the world. But while this pretty flower’s culinary roots go as far back as the Romans, Europeans have been using the flowers of the European Elder to make cordial recipes to refresh thirsty Europeans for many centuries now. These days, it has become a common summer flavour and many people still make it in the traditional way, generally as a cordial, squash or syrup that is mixed with still or sparkling water – and it’s refreshing, healthy and easy to make at home.

What exactly is an elderflower?

Elderflowers generally grow between May and June, making them the perfect solution to summer heat and they can generally be found across Europe, North Africa and S.W. Asia. 
Making the cordial is actually a very simple process which involves steeping the flower heads in a solution of concentrated sugar which infuses the flavour directly into the syrup.  Some people add a little lemon juice to help add a little sharpness before covering it and allowing the infusion process to begin.  Once the flavours have really blended, it’s then a relatively simple process of straining the resulting product to extract as much juice as possible before mixing it with water, sparkling water and even gin. 

Keeping things cordial

Or, if you prefer, simply buy some commercial elderflower cordial and mix it up to your taste. For centuries, this light, refreshingly delicious summer drink has been served up at summer events and picnics.  And then, when the craft gin revolution began and distillers and craft gin producers started looking for ways to improve and enhance their gin, elderflower became the perfect match. It’s light, citrus sweetness made it an ideal partner for gin and a fabulous alternative to the standard choice of Indian tonic water to provide a refreshing, easy to drink mixer.  Many brands are available these days, from Belvoir to supermarket own brands. But we like the very French St. Germain which uses hand picked flowers that are taken back to the village by bicycle.

Just the tonic…

Most of the premium tonic brands now offer an elderflower alternative.  From the ubiquitous Fever Tree with their plain elderflower tonic to old standards such as Schweppes, it seems everybody now recognises this new flavour as a legitimate alternative to standard tonic.  One of our favourite tonic brands, Franklin and Sons, now offers elderflower and cucumber tonic water which is cooling and light and a perfect way to enhance your summer gin of choice.  Versions are available at all levels and prices.

Elderflower gins…

But, you could dispense with the commercial versions altogether if you choose an elderflower gin. My personal favourite is from JJ. Whitley – a refreshing, fragrant gin with a distinctive honey, orange and elderflower taste and at a great price.  It’s not overly strong at around 38.6% ABV, but that may not be such a bad thing since it’s so easy to drink.  Other brands to look out for include the Warner Edwards Elderflower gin which clocks in at a slightly stronger 40% ABV, but is almost twice the price. Gordon’s even does an elderflower version of their gin. 

Gin liqueurs – keeping things sweet

Then there are the elderflower gin liqueurs which are sweeter and more concentrated but can be a lovey aperitif or add a blast of summer to your cocktails. There are tasty versions of these over at Edinburgh Gin with a blend of elderflower, lavender. Orange peel and lemongrass (other brands are available).

Perfect for summer cocktails

And then, there is the elderflower as a gin cocktail ingredient, increasingly appearing in summer gin coolers, martinis and long cocktails topped up with soda or sparkling wine. But we could talk about the theory all summer long, but what you really want is an easy recipe to get your summer rolling.  So, we’ve found a really easy to make (and easy to drink) recipe for a Gin and Elderflower cooler that will impress your friends and give you an extra reason to get your shorts on, slip into the garden or terrace and elevate yourself smugly above those gin and tonic drinkers.

Welcome to the Gin and Elderflower Cooler.

Gin and Elderflower cooler recipe

Ingredients:

  • 100ml elderflower cordial
  • 150 ml gin (use JJ. Whitley to pump up the flavour)
  • 400 ml of soda (or sparkling water)
  • Ice cubes
  • 8 cucumber circles (thinly sliced)
  • 2 apple circles (thinly sliced)
  • 3 sprigs of fresh mint
  • 1 litre jug or pitcher

Method:

  1. Pour the elderflower cordial and gin directly into the jug
  2. Top up with the soda or sparkling water
  3. Scrunch up the mint leaves in your hands (bruising them lightly to release the flavour)
  4. Add it to the pitcher along with the cucumber and apple
  5. Add ice last and then give it all a good stir
  6. Leave it for a few minutes to infuse and when you’re ready, pour 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.

RECENT POSTS

  • Hot gin toddy: cold comfort from an old friend
    The seasons are changing.  The summer heat is now well and truly behind us and we are now in that lovely space where the last of the summer sun still occasionally breaks through. It is a time to hear the leaves crunch beneath your feet, to watch the colors change from green to brown and … Continued
  • Sloe-ly does it: a boozy apple and blackberry crumble to warm your soul
    Autumn is always a strange time of year.  The weather lurches from warm autumn sunshine to wet winter winds in what seems like the blink of an eye.  The leaves turn to a golden brown and deliver a satisfying crunch under foot as we try to make the most of what’s left of the summer … Continued
  • Larios Provenzal: the sweet taste of the Med
    Let me be clear. Long before I discovered Larios Provenzal. I was a big fan of Larios gin. I have been a fan ever since I first moved to Barcelona, almost a decade ago. With a local heritage and a long tradition, it has been quietly making a name for itself as a great value … Continued
  • Let’s drink to our health: 5 reasons why gin is good for you!
    Is gin the elixir of life or the devil’s juice? Alcohol has a rich tradition of medicinal application earned over the centuries. Since its earliest days it has been recognised as having life-restoring properties of its own. Despite early recognition of gin’s medicinal benefits and the reviving qualities of spirits such as brandy and bitters, … Continued
gin and tonic granita

Gin and tonic granita: a cool drink to get you through the “dog days” of summer

Now the heat is on, it’s time for a gin and tonic granita – the perfect way to beat the summer sun. We’re into the “dog days” of summer now. That generally means that we’re either complaining that it’s too hot or too cold.  But for many of us, we’re doing what we always do – taking the time to leave the city and find somewhere cooler to relax.  Some of us will be heading to the hills for a chilled out vacation surrounded by nature and endless views. Others will be flocking to the beaches so they can dive into cool, clear water to escape the heat of the sun or simply to top up their tan.  But whether you’re chilling out gazing at an infinite skyline from your perch up in the high hills or soaking up the sun and swimming on your favourite beach, you’re likely to have a G&T somewhere near by.
It’s the perfect summer drink for when the stress all becomes just a bit too much. 

A refreshing gin and tonic granita from a chef with a Michelin star

But gin in the summer is a very versatile beast and it doesn’t just go with tonic. Not only are there a panoply of delicious, easy-to-make, refreshing gin cocktail recipes for you to tap into, but these days, gin is increasing its popularity in summer recipes. Some of the world’s greatest chefs are now incorporating gin’s distinctive flavours in food recipes that will open up a whole new world of opportunity for anybody looking to give their gin habit an extra dimension. 

One of those chefs is Marcus Wareing.  Wareing has a proud pedigree which includes Michelin starred restaurants such as Le Gavroche, Petrus and Aubergine in London.  Currently, he is the main judge on the UK’s version of Masterchef and he runs The Gilbert Scott restaurant in London’s spectacularly extravagant St. Pancras Hotel.  Wareing is also the chef proprietor of his eponymous restaurant, Marcus, where he has been awarded yet another Michelin star.

So, this man knows a thing or two about cooking.  And he’s turned to our favourite drink, gin, for his latest summer recipe. This simple recipe is guaranteed to keep you cool as a cucumber over the hot weeks that we know lie ahead.

6 easy steps to a perfect gin and tonic granita

So, let’s take a look at Marcus Wareing’s delicate, refreshing and boozy gin and tonic granita recipe. Easy to make, more refreshing than ice cream and a nice alternative to a G&T on a hot summer’s day. This could become a mainstay of your summer. We think this recipe goes well with a juniper forward gin with citrus notes (such as Silent Pool) or for an extra blast of lemon, break out the Malfy Limone to dial up the taste.

Ingredients:

  • 100 ml water
  • 200 g of caster sugar
  • 150 ml of gin
  • 500 ml of premium Indian tonic water
  • 2 lemons (juiced)
  • 1 handful of edible flowers

Method:

  1. Heat the water with the sugar for about 5 minutes until dissolved
  2. Add the gin, two lemons and tonic water
  3. Pour into a freezer proof container
  4. Cool to room temperature and freeze for two hours (whisking after the first and second hour)
  5. Before serving, break up the granita with a fork to give it a softer, texture
  6. Top it off with some edible flowers such as Viola for an extra touch of style
  7. Sit back and sip…c

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

  • Hot gin toddy: cold comfort from an old friend
    The seasons are changing.  The summer heat is now well and truly behind us and we are now in that lovely space where the last of the summer sun still occasionally breaks through. It is a time to hear the leaves crunch beneath your feet, to watch the colors change from green to brown and … Continued
  • Sloe-ly does it: a boozy apple and blackberry crumble to warm your soul
    Autumn is always a strange time of year.  The weather lurches from warm autumn sunshine to wet winter winds in what seems like the blink of an eye.  The leaves turn to a golden brown and deliver a satisfying crunch under foot as we try to make the most of what’s left of the summer … Continued
  • Larios Provenzal: the sweet taste of the Med
    Let me be clear. Long before I discovered Larios Provenzal. I was a big fan of Larios gin. I have been a fan ever since I first moved to Barcelona, almost a decade ago. With a local heritage and a long tradition, it has been quietly making a name for itself as a great value … Continued
  • Let’s drink to our health: 5 reasons why gin is good for you!
    Is gin the elixir of life or the devil’s juice? Alcohol has a rich tradition of medicinal application earned over the centuries. Since its earliest days it has been recognised as having life-restoring properties of its own. Despite early recognition of gin’s medicinal benefits and the reviving qualities of spirits such as brandy and bitters, … Continued
classic gins

5 “go to” classic gins you can rely on

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

Spoiled for choice

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

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

Beefeater: 40% ABV

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

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

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

 

Bombay Sapphire: 40% ABV

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

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

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

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

Tanqueray: ABV: 43.1%

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Plymouth: ABV: 41.2%

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

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

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

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

Now, how about a G&T?

 


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

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


RECENT POSTS

  • Hot gin toddy: cold comfort from an old friend
    The seasons are changing.  The summer heat is now well and truly behind us and we are now in that lovely space where the last of the summer sun still occasionally breaks through. It is a time to hear the leaves crunch beneath your feet, to watch the colors change from green to brown and … Continued
  • Sloe-ly does it: a boozy apple and blackberry crumble to warm your soul
    Autumn is always a strange time of year.  The weather lurches from warm autumn sunshine to wet winter winds in what seems like the blink of an eye.  The leaves turn to a golden brown and deliver a satisfying crunch under foot as we try to make the most of what’s left of the summer … Continued
  • Larios Provenzal: the sweet taste of the Med
    Let me be clear. Long before I discovered Larios Provenzal. I was a big fan of Larios gin. I have been a fan ever since I first moved to Barcelona, almost a decade ago. With a local heritage and a long tradition, it has been quietly making a name for itself as a great value … Continued
  • Let’s drink to our health: 5 reasons why gin is good for you!
    Is gin the elixir of life or the devil’s juice? Alcohol has a rich tradition of medicinal application earned over the centuries. Since its earliest days it has been recognised as having life-restoring properties of its own. Despite early recognition of gin’s medicinal benefits and the reviving qualities of spirits such as brandy and bitters, … Continued

home-made pimms

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

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

The unmistakable taste of the English summer

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

Introducing Pimms No. 1

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

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

Home-made is always best…

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

Home-made Pimms recipe

Ingredients:

For the fruit cup syrup

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

For the fruit cup

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

Method:

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

For the fruit cup:

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

Anyone for tennis?


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

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

RECENT POSTS

  • Hot gin toddy: cold comfort from an old friend
    The seasons are changing.  The summer heat is now well and truly behind us and we are now in that lovely space where the last of the summer sun still occasionally breaks through. It is a time to hear the leaves crunch beneath your feet, to watch the colors change from green to brown and … Continued
  • Sloe-ly does it: a boozy apple and blackberry crumble to warm your soul
    Autumn is always a strange time of year.  The weather lurches from warm autumn sunshine to wet winter winds in what seems like the blink of an eye.  The leaves turn to a golden brown and deliver a satisfying crunch under foot as we try to make the most of what’s left of the summer … Continued
  • Larios Provenzal: the sweet taste of the Med
    Let me be clear. Long before I discovered Larios Provenzal. I was a big fan of Larios gin. I have been a fan ever since I first moved to Barcelona, almost a decade ago. With a local heritage and a long tradition, it has been quietly making a name for itself as a great value … Continued
  • Let’s drink to our health: 5 reasons why gin is good for you!
    Is gin the elixir of life or the devil’s juice? Alcohol has a rich tradition of medicinal application earned over the centuries. Since its earliest days it has been recognised as having life-restoring properties of its own. Despite early recognition of gin’s medicinal benefits and the reviving qualities of spirits such as brandy and bitters, … Continued
angostura bitters

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. As we mentioned in our article, bitters have been a bartender’s friend for many years now.  And with the recent explosion in interest in all things gin, new and interesting brands have emerged to put their latest spin on this classic concoction.

The “Daddy” of all bitters

And that got us looking at the “Daddy” of all bitters – Angostura. And the more we looked, the more intrigued we became.  We noticed that the label on a bottle of Angostura Bitters is way too big for the bottle itself. It almost looks like it’s been taken from a bigger bottle and simply slapped onto a smaller bottle, despite its overgrown proportions.  It looks a bit like a teenage boy wearing his Dad’s over-sized shirt.
So, after a little bit of research, we discovered the reason – but you’ll have to wait until the end of the article before we reveal it.
First, here’s the story of Angostura bitters and how a little bottle with a big label changed the way we think about drink.

What are bitters?

Just a little reminder, bitters are alcoholic preparations flavoured with carefully chosen botanicals and characterised by a highly concentrated bitter or bittersweet flavour.  Many of the famous brands of bitters began their life as medicines. But most are now sold as digestifs or cocktail flavourings.  A small drop of bitters can radically alter the taste of your drink bringing out flavours that you might not have noticed before. They also add layers of complexity to give your drink a richer, more rewarding  flavour profile.

But amongst all the bitters out there, one stands tall and proud.  It is the “Daddy” of them all and it is called Angostura.  We thought we’d take a look at this little beauty and see just why it has become the most popular brand of bitters on the market – and why it has a label that is much too big for its tiny bottle.

Angostura bitters – the original (and still one of the best!)

Angostura bitters are made by the House of Angostura in the Caribbean island of Trinidad and Tobago, but the bitters were originally produced in a little town called Angostura, in Venezuela. It is there that the liquid first got its name.  Interestingly, Angostura Bitters (unlike many of its rivals) does not actually contain any Angostura bark (yet another quirky fact about this interesting and long-lasting brand).

So, how did it all begin?

There was a German surgeon called Dr. Siegert who served in the Venezuelan army of Simon Bolivar.  It was he who originally developed the recipe as a medical remedy and in 1824, Siegert began to sell it commercially. By 1830, he had opened up a distillery exclusively for the production of these bitters and he used local knowledge about botanicals from the indigenous people who lived in the area of the town.  By 1853, bitters began to become popular abroad and by 1875, the plant was moved to its current location in Port of Spain.  At this point, Angostura bitters was growing its reputation. It even won some prestigious medals (which are still displayed on the legendary oversized label, which also features a profile image of Emperor Franz Joseph 1 of Austria).

A closely guarded secret

And, like many brands, its recipe remains a closely guarded secret. Rumour has it that only one person knows the full recipe and that it is passed down by word of mouth to each new generation. Angostura makes a range of different bitters now, including an orange one.  But it’s the original that sets the standard and has remained in charge for almost 200 years.

Reach for the Angostura…

Bitters are more popular than ever now and everyone from top mixologists to casual drinkers should keep a bottle close to the bar – if you like Pink Gins, Old Fashioneds or Manhattans, you’ll need to reach for the Angostura. So, that’s a little bit about the story behind the brand.  But what about that oversized label?

So, what’s the story behind the over-sized label?

Well, here it is. It was actually a mistake that has stood the test of time. When Dr. Siegert died in 1870, he passed the business on to his sons. They decided it was time to get some publicity, so they decided to do a rebrand of their precious product. One of the brothers set to work designing the new bottle while the other went about designing the new label.  Unfortunately, they didn’t bother to talk first and by the time the competition entry was due, they had no time for a redesign, so they left it how it was. The rest, as they say, is history. History tells us that the brother’s didn’t end up winning the competition.  But apparently, on the advice of one of the judges, they kept the oversized label going forward so they would stand out from the competition.

To this day, the tradition continues and it has now become an intrinsic part of the character of this little drink that packs a big punch.  Now, there is a new generation of imitators, but none have taken the crown from the King. Some have even tried to replicate the over-sized label.  But this is a case where the original retains its pole position at the forefront of its category.

So, in tribute to the longevity of this cocktail classic, here’s a little Angostura bitters recipe that you might enjoy.  In a world where Pink Gin seems to simply refer to a colour, we return to the original Pink Gin with a classic recipe that might be worth revisiting.  Over to you!

Pink Gin cocktail – the classic

This drink works best with a strong, Navy Strength gin such as Tarquins Navy Strength.  The point of this mix was originally to help make the strong alcohol taste a little easier to drink.  Sometimes, dilution can actually be your friend in a cocktail – it’s not always about the strongest.  In this version, the strong gin is “cut” by water from the melted ice to help to improve the flavour of over-strength gin. And it works a treat.

Ingredients:

  • 2 oz Navy Strength gin
  • Angostura Bitters
  • A twist of lemon (for garnish)

Method:

  1. Gather your ingredients
  2. Express the oils of the lemon peel over the drink and drop the peel in
  3. Add a dash (or two) of Angostura bitters to a mixing glass filled with ice
  4. Swirl this “bittered” ice and water around in a cocktail glass
  5. Dump out the water, leaving the glass with a bitters rinse
  6. Back in your mixing glass, pour a large measure of gin (2 oz is good) and fill it with ice
  7. Stir well and strain into a cocktail glass
  8. Serve 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

  • Hot gin toddy: cold comfort from an old friend
    The seasons are changing.  The summer heat is now well and truly behind us and we are now in that lovely space where the last of the summer sun still occasionally breaks through. It is a time to hear the leaves crunch beneath your feet, to watch the colors change from green to brown and … Continued
  • Sloe-ly does it: a boozy apple and blackberry crumble to warm your soul
    Autumn is always a strange time of year.  The weather lurches from warm autumn sunshine to wet winter winds in what seems like the blink of an eye.  The leaves turn to a golden brown and deliver a satisfying crunch under foot as we try to make the most of what’s left of the summer … Continued
  • Larios Provenzal: the sweet taste of the Med
    Let me be clear. Long before I discovered Larios Provenzal. I was a big fan of Larios gin. I have been a fan ever since I first moved to Barcelona, almost a decade ago. With a local heritage and a long tradition, it has been quietly making a name for itself as a great value … Continued
  • Let’s drink to our health: 5 reasons why gin is good for you!
    Is gin the elixir of life or the devil’s juice? Alcohol has a rich tradition of medicinal application earned over the centuries. Since its earliest days it has been recognised as having life-restoring properties of its own. Despite early recognition of gin’s medicinal benefits and the reviving qualities of spirits such as brandy and bitters, … Continued
the Hugo

Gin and summertime: introducing The Hugo

posted in: Cocktails, Gin and Juniper | 0

Gin and summertime are a perfect match. They go together as naturally as strawberries and cream.  In fact, there’s  nothing better on a hot summer’s day than a deliciously long, sparkling gin and tonic made in a Spanish copa glass. Especially if it’s filled with extra large ice cubes to keep you refreshed until the last sip.  But gin lends itself to so much more than just gin and tonics.  And maybe there is another way…

In the summertime, long cocktails become more popular than at other times of year and you can mix them up to match your mood. Whether you’re sunning yourself by a pool in the Mediterranean or sipping them gently by the BBQ in your back garden, they can make a lovely, easy to drink alternative to a cold beer and a more sophisticated way of drinking your gin than in a standard gin and tonic.

Summertime (and the ginning is easy…)

We know that as we ease into the summer social season, there will be lots of people reaching for that bottle of Pimms they’ve had since last summer.  They’ll be thinking about cutting up all that fruit, getting the proportions right and whether or not they have a jug or a punch bowl in the kitchen that’s big enough to mix up a summer batch.

But there is another way.  There are loads of refreshing, easy to make summer coolers that we think you might enjoy as the heat gets turned up and the summer starts to deliver on its early promise.  From standard summer punches to Singapore Slings and from Tom Collins‘ to Pomegranate coolers and Gin Fizzes, there’s something for everybody. 

But we thought we’d share a recipe for a delicious, refreshing summer drink called a Hugo
I like to think it’s in honour of one of my favourite teenagers, but he assures me that it’s nothing to do with him.

So, what is a Hugo and how do I make one?

This drink is so easy to make, it’s almost embarrassing.  It’s the perfect cocktail for summer sipping in the back garden, or for gathering around the pool for a cool down.  And it only has three key ingredients: gin, cava and elderflower cordial. It seems so simple and such easy flavours to combine. So, where did this refreshing drink originate? Well, according to legend it first appeared in Austria in the region of South Tyrol.  According to Mixology magazine, the first sighting of a Hugo was in 2005, when a barman called Roland Gruber was looking for an alternative to a Spritz Venetiano (prosecco, Aperol and soda water).  

In Roland’s version, he mixed gin, prosecco, lemon balm syrup and sparkling water and stirred it over ice.  As time went by, it became clear that elderflower syrup was easier to get than the lemon balm syrup (and tasted just as good).  Elderflower joined the party permanently and is now a standard ingredient of the Hugo. And in these days of flavoured gins, you can subtly switch up your flavour by choosing a gin. While a classic London Dry works really well with this mix, you could experiment with a few other trusted flavours. Dial up the citrus with a limey blast of Tanqueray Rangpur or give it a lemony lift with a shot of Malfy Limone. Add a little cucumber freshness with a classic Hendricks. Or make the most of that elderflower taste with a JJ Whitley elderflower gin.

Nobody quite knows why this cocktails is called a Hugo and we don’t really care.  It is sweet, refreshing, delicate, easy to make and easy to drink. It’s absolutely perfect for summer – and that’s good enough for us!

The Hugo recipe

Ingredients:

  • 1 measure of gin (to taste)
  • One Collins glass (half filled with ice)
  • A good splash of elderflower cordial
  • A handful of mint leaves
  • Lime wedge
  • Cava
  • Soda water

Method:

  1. Pour a generous measure of gin into a glass half-filled with ice
  2. Add a good splash of elderflower cordial
  3. Place several mint leaves into the drink
  4. Squeeze the juice of a lime into the drink and drop the wedge in
  5. Top up with cava
  6. Add a splash of soda water
  7. Serve chilled…

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

  • Hot gin toddy: cold comfort from an old friend
    The seasons are changing.  The summer heat is now well and truly behind us and we are now in that lovely space where the last of the summer sun still occasionally breaks through. It is a time to hear the leaves crunch beneath your feet, to watch the colors change from green to brown and … Continued
  • Sloe-ly does it: a boozy apple and blackberry crumble to warm your soul
    Autumn is always a strange time of year.  The weather lurches from warm autumn sunshine to wet winter winds in what seems like the blink of an eye.  The leaves turn to a golden brown and deliver a satisfying crunch under foot as we try to make the most of what’s left of the summer … Continued
  • Larios Provenzal: the sweet taste of the Med
    Let me be clear. Long before I discovered Larios Provenzal. I was a big fan of Larios gin. I have been a fan ever since I first moved to Barcelona, almost a decade ago. With a local heritage and a long tradition, it has been quietly making a name for itself as a great value … Continued
  • Let’s drink to our health: 5 reasons why gin is good for you!
    Is gin the elixir of life or the devil’s juice? Alcohol has a rich tradition of medicinal application earned over the centuries. Since its earliest days it has been recognised as having life-restoring properties of its own. Despite early recognition of gin’s medicinal benefits and the reviving qualities of spirits such as brandy and bitters, … Continued
Suffering Bastard

The Suffering Bastard: handle with care

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

How it all began

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

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

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

Legendary hotels and their cocktails

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

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

A legend is born

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

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

An unholy alliance

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

Tiki culture

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

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

The Suffering Bastard – the legend lives on

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

Ingredients:

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

Method:

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

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

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


RECENT POSTS

  • Hot gin toddy: cold comfort from an old friend
    The seasons are changing.  The summer heat is now well and truly behind us and we are now in that lovely space where the last of the summer sun still occasionally breaks through. It is a time to hear the leaves crunch beneath your feet, to watch the colors change from green to brown and … Continued
  • Sloe-ly does it: a boozy apple and blackberry crumble to warm your soul
    Autumn is always a strange time of year.  The weather lurches from warm autumn sunshine to wet winter winds in what seems like the blink of an eye.  The leaves turn to a golden brown and deliver a satisfying crunch under foot as we try to make the most of what’s left of the summer … Continued
  • Larios Provenzal: the sweet taste of the Med
    Let me be clear. Long before I discovered Larios Provenzal. I was a big fan of Larios gin. I have been a fan ever since I first moved to Barcelona, almost a decade ago. With a local heritage and a long tradition, it has been quietly making a name for itself as a great value … Continued
  • Let’s drink to our health: 5 reasons why gin is good for you!
    Is gin the elixir of life or the devil’s juice? Alcohol has a rich tradition of medicinal application earned over the centuries. Since its earliest days it has been recognised as having life-restoring properties of its own. Despite early recognition of gin’s medicinal benefits and the reviving qualities of spirits such as brandy and bitters, … Continued