American gin

Gin’s brave new world: the story of American gin

As an international, Barcelona-based gin blog, we tend to have a small, unwitting bias in favour of British and Spanish gins. They are two of the most innovative gin traditions and we have easy access to those brands.  But as we grow and welcome more North Americans to the group, we thought it was worth spending a little time looking at the contribution of America and Canada to the history of gin. These countries have had a long love affair with gin. They are now starting to have an influence on the development and future of our favourite drink.  We know that we have not yet reached “peak gin” in North America. But there are an increasing number of gin connoisseurs over the pond. And an increasing collection of new, innovative American and Canadian gins for us all to try.

So, let’s take the wraps off the American gin story. Let’s pay tribute to the increasing contribution of our transatlantic cousins to this great and glorious international drink.

Stepping back in time

Let’s wind back a bit to the 19th century.  In those days, New York was a bustling, growing city and the Dutch had a big influence.  In fact, Manhattan was originally known as New Amsterdam. And when the Dutch came to town, they brought with them their favourite drink.  Dutch immigrants brought high quality genever from the old country. It was far superior to anything they could get locally. It was also better than the stuff the English were bringing with them.
In fact, in the 19th century, 5 times as much “Holland Gin” was imported to the US than English gin. 

Ice, ice, baby!

Then, some time in the 1830s, ice started to make an appearance – and it was a gamechanger. Ice soon became a vital (and innovative) way to keep drinks cool in New York’s hot summer months.  Its widespread availability helped to inspire a new kind of drink, called a cocktail. Most Americans made their cocktails with whiskey at first. But gin wasn’t far behind and by the mid-1800s, there were as many as 6 distillers in New York. Brooklyn alone was distilling almost 3 million gallons of grain spirit per year, most of it used to fuel the American gin revolution.  By 1870, the first London Dry style gin distillery was opened in Cincinnati, Ohio and slowly, slowly the switch to a drier type of gin began.  In those days, the malty, sweet taste of Genever and Old Tom gin was perfect for mixing with punches or slings, but not so good for the more subtle and evolving art of cocktail making.

A tale of three Harrys

By 1888, Harry Johnson’s Bartender’s Manual contained 19 different gin drinks, all of which required either Genever or Old Tom gin. By 1908, the gin switch was on with the appearance (and soon dominance) of drier gins.  And then after the end of World War 1, came prohibition and everything changed. 
For the next 13 years, alcohol was illegal in the US. The result was the closure of thousands of bars, breweries and distilleries as the cocktail revolution imploded stateside.  On the other hand, this elevated the status of stylish new international bars such as the Savoy’s American Bar in London to The Ritz in Paris. 

The United States elite simply sailed over to Europe to sip their alcohol in style and freedom. These sophisticated establishments created the world’s first superstar mixologists such as Harry Craddock and Harry McElhone, who carved themselves a permanent spot in cocktail’s hall of fame.  

Just as an aside, why are all the best bartenders called Harry?

The dawn of the cocktail

By the early 20th century, classic cocktails had started to build themselves a reputation with drinks such as the Aviation, the Negroni and the Dry Martini first making an appearance.

These are all classic gin drinks that we still sip on today.  But back in the UK, enterprising Brits started looking for ways to protect their potential post-prohibition market. They did this by bootlegging their gins to the US to fuel the illegal speakeasy gin trade that was thriving.  However, this bootleg gin did not come cheap, so DIY “bathtub gin” began to fill the void. This was often dodgy (to say the least). But those commercially savvy Brits had established a “brand bridgehead” in the States. This was to pay off post-prohibition when big players such as Gordon’s and Gilbey’s opening their first US distilleries.

The rest is history

The rest, as they say, is history and ever since, gin has remained a staple cocktail ingredient across North America. From the Dry Martini to the classic G&T, gin has found a serious niche for itself in the biggest consumer market in the world.  Gin can be found in cocktails across the US from Long Island Iced Teas to Gimlets and from Singapore Slings to Hanky Pankys.

The new world of American gin

Not long ago, the craft beer revolution transformed the beer market in North America forever. Now, there are signs that the craft gin revolution is parking its tanks on the lawn. Great small batch gins such as Brooklyn’s No.209 Gin, New York’s Dorothy Parker, Washington’s Death’s Door and Ryan Reynold’s Aviation Gin.
And, in true New World style, new genres of gin are being created all the time. These include an increasing number of barrel-aged gins that are leading the charge for new flavour sensations that we can all enjoy!

Stay tuned for an article in the next few weeks with some of the best gins from New York and Canada. We think you’ll be pleasantly surprised!


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 smoothie

Gin Smoothie: healthy, delicious and fun

posted in: Cocktails, Gin and Juniper | 0

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

Guilt-free drinking…

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

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

Gin smoothie recipe

Ingredients:

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

Method:

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

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

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


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GinCity London

GinCity, London: the star of your bar

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

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

The real deal…

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

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

A tale of two cities

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

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

GinCity London – it’s all in the detail!

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

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

Five macerations…

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

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

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

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

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

GinCity London: the perfect pour

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

The Gin Apple cocktail recipe

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

Ingredients:

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

Method:

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

Gin Sangria: the best of both worlds

posted in: Cocktails, Gin and Juniper | 0

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

Good, old fashioned bloodletting…

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

Punch and Sangria – cousins, separated at birth

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

The gin is in!

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

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

Gin Sangria recipe

Ingredients:

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

Method:

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

Salud!


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

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


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key lime pie

Gin Key Lime Pie: a taste of summer sunshine

Summer is on its way!

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

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

Key Lime Pie – a Florida classic

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

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

No history, but a great tradition

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

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

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

Gin Key Lime Pie Recipe

Ingredients:

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

Method:

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


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

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


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easter cocktail

Mini-Egg Martini – the perfect Easter cocktail!

posted in: Cocktails, Gin and Juniper | 0

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

From Hot Cross Buns….

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

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

…to milk and cinnamon-soaked Torrijas!

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

Eggs are everywhere…

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

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

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

Easter cocktail recipe: Mini Egg Martini

Ingredients:

Method:

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

Happy Easter, everyone!


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

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


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Easter egg

White House switches eggs for gin in new Easter tradition.

posted in: Gin and Juniper, Gin news | 0

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

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

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

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

PS – Happy April Fool’s Day!


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

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


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Gin news

The Ruddles Report: March gin news!

posted in: Gin and Juniper, Gin news | 0

Notes from a gin dog

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

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

So, let’s get going with this…

Gin and chocolate – Happy Easter!

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

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

Ryan Reynolds honours Wrexham AFC with special edition gin

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

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

Sustainable gin – something worth supporting!

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

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

Which gin? Independent gin reviews you can trust

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

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

In the club? – the best vs the rest

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

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



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

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

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Juniper: the magic berry

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

A tiny pine cone that conquered the world

So, here’s interesting fact number one!

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

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

No hurry, juniper takes its time!

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

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

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

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

What does it actually taste like?

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

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

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

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

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

Ready for lift off

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

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

Gin goes global!

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

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

Indian food

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

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

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

Which is the best Indian food to eat with gin?

1. Lamb Rogan Josh

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

Indian food

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

2. Paneer Tikka (with chutney)

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

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

3. Chicken Biryani

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

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

4. Onion bhaji

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

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

5. Curried cashew nuts

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

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

Gin and curry: made for each other

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

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



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

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


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