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.


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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.

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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.


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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.


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Aspersand gin

A great value citrus gin for under 15 euros: it can be done!

Are you looking for a great value, sub 15 euro gin? If so, you could do a lot worse than keep a bottle of Ampersand London Gin on your shelf for those unexpected visitors. This tasty little number shares its DNA with both the UK and Spain and the result is a delicious, smooth, accessible gin with refreshing citrus notes.

Ampersand London Gin: easy-to-drink gin with citrus zest

Ampersand London Gin is a classic London Dry that has been 4x distilled in the UK before being shipped to Spain for bottling. The predominant taste here is citrus.
Ampersand London Gin gets its flavour from a wide selection of botanicals. These include the obligatory juniper, cilantro, angelica, pepper, hand-peeled sun-dried orange and zesty lemon peels. The result is an easy-to-drink London Dry with intense citrus aromas on the nose.

Smooth and zesty – great for a G&T

But sip on it and you’ll find a smooth, pleasant drink which allows the fruits and citrus to dance on your tongue.  Then there is a lovely, warm spicy finish driven by the pepper that will stay with you long after you’ve finished your sip.  This is a great choice for a G&T, served with a good, freshly opened tonic water. And it comes in at 40% ABV so you still get a blast of alcohol that makes you feel like you’re sipping a proper gin.

Tastes good, looks good..

Plus, this delicious gin comes in an attractive frosted bottle with a narrowed waist. It’s topped off with a cool-looking metallic cap and a striking yellow Ampersand logo reflecting its citrus roots. This is a bottle that will stand proud on your gin bar. Plus, its frosted texture and gathered waist make it very tactile. So much so that your guests will want to pick up and touch it before pouring.

Ampersand London Gin perfect pour

One of the things we like about this gin is its versatility – it’s smooth, citrus notes work well with good quality mixers, premium tonic waters or even juice. It will also work well in citrus based cocktails.
But we like to enjoy this gin in a standard gin and tonic, which allows the citrus and spice up front:

  1. Pour a decent sized measure of Ampersand London Gin into a copa glass filled with large ice cubes.
  2. Cut a wedge of orange and wipe the rim before squeezing dropping into the glass.
  3. Fill to the top with a premium Indian Tonic water such a Franklin & Sons.

Pull up a chair, put your feet up and enjoy.

Please note: this gin is made by Osborne and Co in Europe and should not be confused with gin’s made by Canada’s Ampersand Gin co.


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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  • Hot gin toddy: cold comfort from an old friend
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  • Larios Provenzal: the sweet taste of the Med
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