gin punch

Gin punch: a giant cocktail served in a bowl

posted in: Cocktails, Gin and Juniper | 0

We all like a cocktail. But 200 years before the term was invented, we had to resort to other creative ways of getting our alcohol fix. In those days, there were no cocktail glasses, fancy recipes or bartender’s tools in those days – so they turned to punch! In its earliest days, in the 18th century, a typical punch would contain ingredients that were considered exotic for the time. Often, these would include fruits that seem normal to us now, but which were extremely rare and expensive three centuries ago.
These included rare treats such as oranges from Asia, fragrant spices from the East and sugar, all the way from the Caribbean, which became the perfect match for the strong flavours of rum and brandy. The trouble was that rum and brandy were very expensive. On the other hand, English gin was increasingly affordable. It wasn’t long before gin became recognised as a better value concoction than some of its contemporary spirits and that was when it entered the mainstream world of punch.

A drink for the middle classes

The relative accessibility and affordability of gin quickly made punch more accessible to the burgeoning English middle classes.
However, strangely enough, the 18th century reveals no published gin punch recipes at all. According to a contemporaneous journal, “a hornful of punch should be administered to cattle in a bid to cure their distemper”. This is a clear indication that in those early days punch was initially considered something of low quality and not of much use to actual humans. However, towards the end of the 18th century, reports of its human medicinal qualities began to appear alongside suggestions that it could help to treat a variety of ailments. Gin Punch was soon believed to be a cure-all for everything from dissolving kidney stones, to curing Berri-Berri. It was also (bizarrely) considered a great way to encourage toxins to leave the body efficiently, in the form of sweat.

1776: the punch revolution

In 1776, at around the same time as the American’s were plotting their revolution, diarist James Boswell wrote (after a particularly good night on the town) that he: “drank rather too much gin punch. It was a new experience to me and I liked it much”.
By the end of the 18th century gin punch had elevated itself from its humble position at the heart of the local gin palace, into something more fitting. This elevation made it suitable for the more sophisticated and rarified atmosphere of London’s gentleman’s clubs. Stalwarts such as the Garrick or Limmer’s Hotel became the places that finally established punch as a popular and respectable, middle class drink. In fact, one of the first gin recipes at the turn of the 18th century, sounds rather nice (but very strong):
two pints of gin, oranges, lemons, orange sugar syrup and white wine.

Punch goes upmarket

A few decades later, London’s Garrick Club added a new twist to its own “house punch” – soda water. The original Garrick Club Punch recipe called for:

half a pint of gin, lemon peel, lemon juice, sugar, maraschino, a pint and a quarter of water and two bottles of iced soda water.

It didn’t take very long for its fame to spread around London and before you know it, punches and punch bowls were popping up everywhere. Over time, these punches evolved into more complex single serve variants which were popularised by Americans in the 1870s. They gave them personal names such as the John Collins and the classic Tom Collins. By the end of the century, punch had been truly established in English culture and English Dry Gin had become a mainstay of many of the best punches. But why is punch served in a punch bowl?

Why is punch served in a bowl?

It’s simple, really. As strong punch loosened inhibitions, it helped reserved Englishmen come out of their shell. It helped them to add a little well-lubricated wit to social gatherings, political discussions and business occasions. Drinking punch was always a fabulous social occasion and gathering around the punch bowl ended up becoming the popular focus for many a high spirited evening, loosening inhibitions and encouraging conviviality, conversation and sharing in a way that had never been seen before.

From simple punch bowl to sophisticated cocktails

These days, punches have fallen out of fashion, but that’s a real shame since these simple-to-make, sociable drinks can be a lot of fun. And they can be deceptively strong. Over the years, people’s tastes evolved once more and the simple punch bowl morphed slowly into the next big alcoholic fad in the 19th century – cocktails. Bartenders began to mix drinks to suit their specific customers and the approach to alcohol became increasingly bespoke and sophisticated. Now, the cocktail is definitely king – of that there is no doubt. But there are still some great gin punches out there – and it would be a great shame to let this fabulously simple tradition die out. Check out our recent article on a classic New Year’s Eve punch. And here’s another variant on the gin punch for when the weather gets a bit better.

Gin Punch recipe

Ingredients:

Method:

  1. Cut and combine all the fruits into a large punchbowl
  2. Add the gin, juice, syrups, creme de framboise (or alternative fruit liqueur) and water
  3. Refrigerate for 4-5 hours
  4. Before serving: add ice, fill to top with cava and stir
  5. Ladle into punch glasses with plenty of fruit (and ice)
  6. Repeat frequently!


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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The Monkey gland cocktail.

The Monkey Gland: 1920s Viagra in a classic cocktail

posted in: Cocktails, Gin and Juniper | 0

We seem to have developed a bit of a monkey theme this week.  So in that spirit, here’s the bizarre story behind one of the world’s most famous gin cocktails – the Monkey Gland. 

This classic cocktail was first mixed up at Harry’s New York Bar in Paris.   Let’s take a step back in time to the 1920s, when legendary bartender Harry MacElhone was starting to build a reputation for himself in the heart of Paris.  He was well known for mixing up fabulous American style cocktails for his glamorous roster of international clients.  In 1922, in a clever marketing move, he thought he’d collect his best recipes and publish them in a book of cocktails which he called “Harry’s ABC of mixing cocktails”.  The book contained one particular drink with a strange name and a bizarre story. 

Building the Monkey gland legend

The art of cocktail making isn’t simply about mixing the right ingredients, there is also the little matter of building a reputation.  Harry knew that and concocted a wickedly strong cocktail by mixing classic London Dry gin with a little orange juice and a few dashes of Grenadine. To top it off, he added the final detail – 3 dashes of high strength Absinthe to guarantee an out of this world experience.  He mixed it all up, shook it with ice and poured it into a Martini glass. It was delicious, but he knew he had to have a name for it if he was to create a classic cocktail.  He called it the Monkey Gland – and he took inspiration from a bizarre source. 

Monkey glands, Viagra and a Russian scientist

In those pre-Viagra days, a Russian scientist called Serge Voronoff was experimenting with ways of maintaining men’s “staying power” and he hit on a very strange technique.  He grafted monkey glands onto men in a bid to boost their virility.  While this was a bit extreme (and there is no evidence that this technique actually worked) Harry was inspired.  He knew that sex sells, so in honour of Prof. Voronoff, he decided to name his new drink “The Monkey Gland” with all the promises and hope that a stimulating drink like this brings to men of a certain age. 

It has been a bartender’s classic ever since.  While we can’t vouch for the medical benefits of this drink, we can highly recommend it for its flavour and strength. For the prefect pour, we recommend making it with a good, classic London Dry such as Sipsmith [paid link].

Handle with care

Beware of the Absinthe – it’s not to everyone’s taste, but it packs a real alcoholic punch, so handle with care.

Bottoms up!

Here’s our classic recipe for a traditional Monkey Gland:

Ingredients:

  • 3 dashes of absinthe
  • 3 dashes of Grenadine
  • ⅓ orange juice
  • ⅔ London Dry gin

Method:

Shake well (over ice) and stir into cocktail glass. Garnish with an orange slice or a twist of burnt orange peel for a little extra flavour. 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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Inflight gins: EasyJet and Fever-Tree team up with premium gin bar

posted in: Gin and Juniper, Gin news | 0

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

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

Gin menu? On EasyJet? I kid you not!

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

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

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

So, back to the gin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 


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

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


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gin drinking countries

Gin drinking countries: the top 5 in the world

So, which are the 5 gin drinking countries in the world? Prepare to be surprised!

  1. The Philippines tops the list drinking a massive 1.4 litres of gin per person per year (almost 6 times as much per head than the USA)
  2. Slovakia comes in an impressive second place in the gin drinking table, clocking up an impressive 1.2 litres per person per year
  3. The Netherlands lands at number 3 with around one standard 70cl gin bottle per person consumed every year
  4. Spain is in 4th place and consumption is on the rise, driven by its leading role in the gin revolution, its huge copa glasses and its dramatic garnishes, Spain has elevated drinking gin in to an art form
  5. The UK comes in at a lowly number 5. Despite being synonymous with all things gin. Brits drink around 400 ml of gin per person, per year. However, let’s put this in some sort of perspective. I have many friends who could easily quaff that much in an afternoon

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

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


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types of gin

5 types of gin: do you know the difference?

Gin is gin. But is it?
We all love gin – that’s why we’re here. But do we know what gin really is? Can we spot the difference between London Dry and Old Tom? How many types of gin are there? Do we know why you don’t add tonic to a Genever? Probably not.
So here’s a simple guide to the 5 most important types of gin.
Try them all, figure out your own personal gin style – and stock your cupboard accordingly. After all, where gin is concerned, variety is the spice of life…

Gin

The humble gin starts its journey as a neutral spirit, distilled from anything you like: grain, potatoes, milk, apples…
But to be classified as a gin, the resulting liquid has to have a juniper flavour and juniper must be the predominant taste. It must also have a minimum ABV of 37.5% (40% in the US). So, in theory, you could simply pop down to your local shop, pull a bottle of vodka from the shelf, add a handful of juniper berries and “Hey Presto!”
Within a few hours, you’ll have turned it into gin.
Once you have the base in place, you can have some fun – add some flavourings, infuse it with berries, add some spice – and start sipping. Or you could stay “old school” and simply pour it over some ice add some tonic and drink away. Your call…

Distilled gin

This starts off as above, but with one important difference  – it has to be made using distilled botanicals.
The juniper-based gin needs to be “re-distilled” with those carefully chosen botanicals to become a neutral spirit of at least 96% ABV (and water).
Distilled gin is increasingly popular around the world, especially in the boutique distillery movement and includes well known brands such as Martin Miller’s and Hendricks (paid links) who include more  flavours once the distillation process is done.

London Dry gin

London Dry gin can be made anywhere in the world – it’s a style, not a geographical location.
London Dry follows the same basic rules as a distilled gin (see above) but it must only be flavoured with distilled natural botanicals.
Once the distillation process is over, that’s it. No further flavourings can be added after the distillation process except for neutral spirit, water and a maximum of 0.1g of sugar per litre. Popular brands include Beefeater, Tanqueray, Bombay Sapphire (paid links).

Old Tom gin

The precursor to London Dry gin, it’s the oldest style of English gin still produced today: Old Tom.
Old Tom has no rules imposed on it by the EU or any other regulatory body, so it can vary widely in its tastes and flavours, but it is sweeter than some of its more well known rivals and makes itself very amenable to cocktails.
It is still the favourite of bartenders around the world, who like its infinite variations and who respect its pedigree as one of the oldest forms of gin still being made. Old Tom is the staple ingredient of some amazing cocktails that go back as far as 100 years. It was out of fashion for a while, but it’s on a comeback as part of the gin revival and is now being made by small batch producers and big brands alike.
Always good to keep a bottle of this in your cocktail cabinet. Some of the more successful brands of Old Tom include: Hayman’s Old Tom (40% ABV) and Jensen’s Old Tom (43% ABV) (paid links).
For more information about the fascinating history of Old Tom gin, read our blog post here.

Genever gin

Genever gin: the grandaddy of them all.
Way before gin became associated with England, the Dutch created the original juniper based spirit.
Also known as Jenever gin, Ginebra gin or Dutch gin, it must be produced in the Netherlands, Belgium or certain parts of France and Germany.
There are two main types: Jonge Genever and Oude Genever.
Jonge Genever is closest to London Dry and is made from neutral spirit and juniper with additional flavourings as desired. It can contain up to 10g of sugar and up to 15% of malt wine.
Oude Genever should be made with malt wine, juniper and other botanical flavourings as well as neutral spirits. Sometimes it is matured in casks to provide colour and flavour.
Flagship brands include Bols and Genevieve Genever Gin.

What’s your favourite type of gin and why?


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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What is a Gin Sling?

So, what exactly is a Gin Sling?
We’re not talking broken arms or hammocks here. The Sling is one of the best things to do with your gin and it’s been around for ages.
A “sling” drink started out in 18th century America as a long alcoholic drink, composed of spirit and water, sweetened and flavoured and served cold.

But it took a Hainanese bartender called Ngiam Tong Boon to make it famous when he was working at The Long Bar at Raffles Hotel. One day, some time before 1915, he decided to create a drink for his colonial clients at the famous hotel bar.

It was originally simply called the “Gin Sling” but as its fame developed, local ingredients such as the juice of Sarawak pineapples was added and word of this delicious concoction soon spread across the empire.
Sometime around 1930, it took its current name, the “Singapore Sling” and the recipe settled based on the memories of the hotels bartenders until eventually it was listed in the Savoy Cocktail book (paid link) and became the classic cocktail that it now is (check out all our cocktail recipes here).

Over the years, it has had many incarnations with many variations on the original recipe
The most well-known is the Singapore Sling but variations are plentiful and include the Gin Sling, the Singapore Sling, the Straits Sling (a punch version that can serve up to 6 people).

We love a bit of history and folklore and this is a great story, redolent of classic colonial Singapore. Mix one up and let us know what you think…

old tom

What is Old Tom gin?

Gin has been around in different forms for a long time – but how much do you know of the history of your favourite drink?
How did gin change the world? Do you know which famous people liked a good G&T? And why did cats dispense gin to Londoners in the 18th century? Or,  why was gin known as “mother’s ruin”?
All will be revealed in our regular Gin-triguing facts segment – updated every month with quirky and totally irrelevant Gin-formation that you can impress your friends with.

Gin dispensed by cats

When Captain Dudley Bradstreet wanted to avoid paying excessive taxes on his gin sales in 18th century London, he came up with a cunning plan. He nailed a wooden sign to his door in the shape of a cat with a little pipe hidden inside its paw. When customers put a coin inside the cat’s mouth, Captain Dudley would return the favour by pouring gin down the pipe directly into their outstretched cup. This became known as Old Tom gin after the Tomcat sign from whence it came.
Old Tom style gin is now back in fashion with its sweeter taste making it perfect for light and refreshing cocktails – so much so that the Dorchester Hotel in London recently commissioned its own unique Old Tom Gin especially for its signature cocktails including its most recent creation, a delicious Coriander and Lemongrass concoction whipped up by head bartender Giuliano Morandin.

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

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


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