Spirit in the Sky: EasyJet and Fever-Tree team up with “premium gin bar” at 30,000 feet

posted in: Gin and Juniper, Gin the 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 nice flight attendant duly came to take my order and I asked what gin 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 their in-flight gin selection 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 euros (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 their 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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Toto, our Barcelona gin joint of the month

posted in: Gin and Juniper | 0

Imagine if you could click those ruby slippers and transport yourself to a classic cocktail bar, with a great bartender, a nice selection of gins and the best almonds in town.

You’ve just landed at Toto – one of my favourite places to sip on a gin in Barcelona (and a great place to eat as well!).

Nestled on the corner of Valencia and Balmes (in Barcelona’s elegant Eixample district) and only a block away from Barcelona’s iconic Rambla Catalunya, this is one of the classiest bars in Barcelona. Inside, it’s all art deco and modernism with a classic bar with half a dozen barstools, a stunning and well stocked selection of bottles, antique mirrors and a fab wine and cocktail list.

But the king here is Mathias, their Argentinean bartender, who will mix you up a fabulous drink of your choice. Gins behind the bar include some of the classics – Monkey 47, Gin Mare, G-Vine, Beefeater and Bombay Sapphire.

They also have a delightful little gin trolley that they can wheel out to your table and mix right in front of you. G&Ts are served in giant Barcelona style Copas, ice cubes are round and large and you can choose from Schweppes or Fever Tree tonic to give it that extra fizz. But the star of the show here is the presentation – a beautiful selection of small glass jars adorn the bar and Mathias plunders these regularly to make sure that the ingredients – from dried rosemary to chili peppers, to burned orange peel adorn your drink in the prettiest way possible while adding a unique flavour and character to each drink.

It can take a bit of time to mix one of these babies up, but it’s well worth the wait. Order up a G&T, soak up a little of that fabulous classic cocktail bar atmosphere, listen to the jazzy soundtrack and order a little plate of snacks. Their almonds are delicious, but then so is their cheese, locally sourced dried sausage and giant, juicy olives (in a jar the size of a small child, tantalisingly perched on the edge of the bar).

If you don’t fancy a G&T, then there’s a nice selection of cocktails on offer here – some gin-based and some not, but all good. Ask Mathias for a Lost in Caribbean Sea – they are to die for.  Officially, this is a vodka based drink, but ask him to substitute gin and it becomes the perfect gin cocktail. Spiced up with ginger and dried chilli peppers, it has a lovely sweet/spicy kick that’s a great way to start or end the evening.

This is a great place to sit at the bar and soak up a little classic 1920’s ambiance.

It must be good, since I sat next to Bono at the bar after a U2 gig last year. If it’s good enough for him, it’s good enough for me.

For more information about Toto, click here:


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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100 years of gin making in Menorca: Spanish gin, the old-fashioned way.

posted in: Gin of the month | 0

Most gin lovers have already heard of Gin Mare (paid link) – probably the best known of the Spanish brands. But Spain, having changed the way the world thinks of gin, is now starting to discover a range of new gin brands to add to its traditional gin distilleries. This new attention is also helping to revive the fortunes of some older Spanish gin brands that have been around for a long time.

One of these is Gin Xoriguer, made by Destilerias Xoriguer on the tiny and beautiful island of Menorca, set like a glittering jewel in the beautiful Balearics – it’s the perfect setting for a gin and tonic.

Gin and Menorca

Not something you would always connect, but there is a reason why this little distillery exists.

In the mid-18th century, Menorca was briefly under Dutch and British rule and the locals were encouraged to make gin to keep the naval forces happy. At one stage, there were 5 distilleries on the island, producing a diverse range of gins, but now there’s just one.

In 1910, master distiller Miguel Gusto established a little distillery on the harbour front of Mahon and the Xoriguer distillery is still making 60,000 litres of Mahon gin every year along with a couple of budget gins and almost a dozen local island liqueurs.

Tasting notes

This local gin doesn’t get much airplay outside of the island and is heavily juniper dominant. In fact, that’s the only botanical they use in their domestic version. The berries, hand picked from the Pyrenees, are stored in hampers for a couple of years to concentrate the oils before being macerated and added to the neutral grape based spirit.

While the ingredients and the process are simple and the product perhaps lacks some of the complexity of a Monkey 47 or a Silent Pool, it packs a big juniper punch with a hint of pine sap and a soft, oily palate. Peppery and with a hint of tobacco, it’s a great drink to sip on while watching the sun set over the Mediterranean, nibbling on local cheese and sucking on plump, juicy giant olives.

Drink it with tonic, by all means.

But to drink it like a local, have a “Pomada”, traditionally made by mixing the gin with freshly squeezed local lemon juice. And at only 38% ABV, you can afford to have a couple of them!

 


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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GINRAW: Barcelona in a bottle

posted in: Gin of the month | 0

Barcelona: the capital of gin and one of the design centres of the world.

Think Gaudí, Miró, Picasso, Tàpies and more, Barcelona is a design classic. It’s so laid back, they even named a chair after it, so why wouldn’t they name a gin?

GINRAW

GINRAW (paid link) isn’t actually made in the city of Barcelona but in a little town down the coast called Vilafranca del Penedès by four avant garde, Barcelona-born entrepreneurs with a real passion for their city.

Either way, this gin is a design classic that deserves its place in your cocktail cabinet, for looks alone. This 42.3 ABV gin packs a reasonable punch and its bottle and label will make you look twice.

The striking design is a tall, thinnish bottle with a curved necknad a subtly frosted exterior. It is topped by an extra wide ash wood cap, covered by a subtle metal band. The label is a trendy sideways one . A little leather tag on the neck gives it that extra edge in the style stakes. But gin isn’t just for looking at, it’s for tasting as well, so what’s this one like?

Distilled at low temperature in a traditional copper still it’s made in small batches of 5000 (my bottle is labelled 953 out of the first batch they produced!)

Tasting notes:

The labels describes it as a gastronomic gin and claims a low temperature distillation process to make the most of the botanicals. Tasting notes  include lemon peel, kaffir lime, laurel leaves, black cardamon and coriander seeds. This mix delivers a citrus twang and the notes from the spices such as the smokey black cardamon and coriander lifts it from the ordinary.

How to serve it:

Serve this with some ground black pepper, a generous slice of lemon or maybe even some burned rosemary to give it an extra Mediterranean twist. Sit back, pour into a long glass, add your favourite tonic water and ice, garnish to taste – and drink. You’ll love this on a hot summer night in Barcelona – and it will add an extra element of style to your gin cabinet. Enjoy!!

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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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Ice cream made with gin: a very refreshing recipe for the summer!

posted in: Gingredients | 0

The dog days of Summer are here and we’re sure that the gins are already out and the ice cubes are stacking up in the freezer. But sometimes, just drinking gin isn’t enough. What if you could eat it?

Never fear, your dreams have just come true.

So, as the temperature climbs, why not cool down with some delicious gin and tonic ice cream.

Here’s one of our favourite recipes for you to try out at home (in 5 easy steps).

Give it a whirl and let us know what you think. You could even stick a couple of flakes in the top and pretend it’s just a 99 from Mr. Whippy (although you may not fool your friends, who will all want to try this cool G&T treat!)

5 steps to a perfect gin and tonic ice cream

  1. Pour one cup of sugar directly into a mixing bowl, then add 2 tablespoons of lemon juice, 125ml of tonic water and 3 tablespoons of gin
  2. Stir all ingredients together until they start to dissolve
  3. Pour in 600ml of cream
  4. Whip it good! Beat the cream with a whisk until it thickens up like a decent milkshake (think McDonald’s). Try not to over do the whipping!
  5. Transfer the contents into a freezer-proof container and allow to freeze.

It really is as easy as that – so whip some up for your friends and relatives and let us know what you think of the ultimate summer cooler!

And don’t forget to share all your photos on our fabulous instagram pages!

Recommendation: Any gin will do for this recipe, but we recommend Bertha’s Revenge from Ireland (see Gin of the Month). This gin is rich and creamy (just as well since it’s made fermented from real Irish milk). The perfect base for a gin ice cream. 

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Thank you Bertha!


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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Barcelona’s cocktail corner: Dry Martini, Solange and Tandem

posted in: Gin and Juniper | 0

On Barcelona’s cocktail corner, you could be forgiven for think you’ve just entered a time machine and ended up in the sophisticated 1930s (with the occasional time warp nod to the 1970s).  The Dry Martini cocktail bar.

This is without doubt the high end of Barcelona’s cocktail scene complete with white jacketed waiters, sophisticated cocktail bars and even a hidden Speakeasy.

Within a few hundred feet, you will find easy access to some of the coolest places in town for a quiet drink, a romantic liaison or just a casual encounter over your favourite gin-based beverage.

So, purely in the interests of science, we thought we’d try them out and let you know what we think.


Dry Martini

A Barcelona classic and often appearing in the top 10 lists of best bars in the world, this is like stepping back in time. The bar is a decent size with panelled walls, leather chairs and banquettes, a long bar, retro and classic artwork and a jazzy, 1930s vibe. As the name suggests, it has become famous because of its excellent Dry Martinis (gin is best, obviously) and they even have a digital counter clocking up in real time every Dry Martini they have served.

Waiters are in white jackets, food is of the elegant tapas variety and prices match the salubrious atmosphere. In addition to their classic martinis, they have a good selection of gins served up in classic tumblers with Schweppes Premium tonic water (paid link) as standard.

The clientele is generally well heeled – but on the night of our visit, there was a mixture of affluent locals, curious tourists and cocktail fanatics sitting at the bar.

This place gets busy, especially later – so get there early for a seat. Service can be a bit patchy but if you’re patient, you’ll be rewarded with a well-made gin and tonic, a classic evening and a great cocktail. And if you’re in the mood and can get a table, try out the Speakeasy restaurant, hidden behind a door in the panelled wall. Another connection to the 1930s.

Tanqueray 10

We started off the evening with a round of Tanqueray 10s (paid link) served with tonic and garnished modestly with a thinly sliced lemon wheel and poured down a “gin spoon” over large lumps of cocktail ice.

This seemed like a good choice to start off with at Dry Martini, since it was specifically blended to go into one. But we thought we’d see what it works like in a normal G&T and we all thought they were excellent and set a good benchmark.

All the G&Ts were bought to the table by the waiter and presented on a small tray, free poured direct to the glass and with a decent measure of gin in each.

We all agreed that it was a great way to start the evening. Also, Tanqueray 10 was especially created as the perfect gin for a Dry Martini, so we were in the right place and were delighted with the citrus notes, the lime and grapefruit and the heavy juniper, all balanced nicely with the creaminess of the chamomile and the savoury notes from the coriander.

Afterwards, we ordered a round of different gin cocktails, some of which we had never tried or heard of before. Here are our thoughts:

The Foxtrot 

The Foxtrot  was the most refreshing and aromatic of our drinks, and what made it special was the roof of frozen tonic and lime that brought out the citrus notes of orange and grapefruit and the powerful lime zestiness.

As we drank it, the lime came through loud and clear and for some of us it had notes of mojito, for others it was a bigger hit of lime, similar to a gimlet, which receded after the ice had started to melt, resulting in a better balanced and blended drink that retained its characteristic citrus sharpness.

Either way, it was delicious and one of our favourites of the evening.

Star of Bombay 

Bombay Sapphire’s flagship gin, Star of Bombay, like the others, was poured at the table with great fanfare and it ended up being one of our favourites of the evening.

Served in the standard Dry Martini tumblers with plenty of ice, it was also (bizarrely) served with a single chocolate (courtesy of the marketing team at Bombay Sapphire). This was a mistake and didn’t seem to go with the gin at all. We picked up a saltiness to this gin (alongside the citrussy taste) which just didn’t work with the gimmicky chocolate), but we concluded that this gin would be delicious on a hot summers day, sipping slowly at a little chiringuito or beach bar on the nearby Med.

Porte des Indes

This was the most disappointing of the gins we tried at Dry Martini.

While it received the same presentational treatment as the others, it lacked any distinctive flavour and competed with the Schweppes tonic water for taste. It was also slightly less carbonated than the other drinks (maybe a result of the stirring at the table) and the overall impression was to make the drink taste like diet tonic had been added to it.

Won’t be rushing back for this one (but their strawberry version is delicious!)

Bloomsbury 

Bloomsbury gin was not bad at all, but definitely not the best that we’ve had this evening.

Made by Tanqueray, it is the latest of their Limited-Edition gins and to us it felt like it was tangy, dry, citrussy with floral notes that smelled almost like lavender. The angelica bark, cassia and juniper add some woody notes to the small, but when added to the Schweppes tonic water, it became almost piny with a pleasant bitterness that lasted until the bottom of the glass.

No gin list.

Note: Dry Martini also run a cocktail school and have opened the Dry Martini terrace next door, so sign up if you’re interested in knowing their tricks and secrets.


Solange

Right across the street from Dry Martini is one of the latest additions to the cocktail scene in Barcelona: Solange.

Solange sits on the opposite corner, looking out at its more well-known neighbour. But this place is cosy, intimate, jazzy and sophisticated (in a sort of 1970s, chicken Kiev kind of way).

The gin selection is awesome and features prominently on their bar display with some established brands and some more unusual ones all waiting there, tempting you to try them out.

Speak to the head bartender and you’ll find he has history (some of the Savoy bar staff popped in to check things out on my last visit there), this is a classic place with a growing reputation and while it might be trying too hard for some people’s tastes, it’s ideal for a pre-dinner drink or a post-dinner nightcap (or frankly anything in between). One thing is for sure, this is a place that takes real pride in every drink they pour. And it shows.

Talk to the knowledgeable staff about any cocktail and they’ll happily share their insight and knowledge with you while offering handy tips about things to do in Barcelona.

This is probably my favourite bar in town. It’s not cheap, but worth every penny if you want a sophisticated haven to escape the Barcelona heat in the Summer or for a warming drink in the winter.

Il Gin del Professore

Monsieur The Professor gin was dry, citrussy with notes of lemon peel and it tasted like a proper gin. It had a slightly bitter edge, which reminded us of lime marmalade or bitter orange. It was Juniper dominant and after a few sips, its spicy, aromatic side came through which worked well with the cardamom camomile, cinnamon and vanilla. Soft, with jammy feel in the mouth, we loved it

Delicious!

Old Raj 

Old Raj gin was a classic gin with loads of botanicals, including juniper, citrus, coriander, cassia. It had a slight golden tint delivered by a hint of saffron.

Served with a twist of lemon rind, it was slightly bitter but we felt it lacked some of the structure and complexity of other gins available.

All in all, it was a bit disappointing bitter die to its lack of depth and neutral flavour balance.


Tandem

Tandem was the last classic cocktail bar on our list but it was definitely last but not least. In fact, all four of us (and I swear it wasn’t just the gin kicking in!) looked at each other and said it was our favourite.

With some of the classic pedigree of Dry Martini, but less of the slightly tourist touristy vibe of Solange, this felt like it was an old school cocktail bar that has got it just about right.

A long bar, 1930s artwork and atmospheric lighting add to the art deco mood and while we weren’t able to access a menu, their gin selection is extensive and they know their stuff.

Our waitress guided us to the gin wall where we selected 4 gins that we had never tried before and we were delighted with the results. The crowd was low key and happy and it felt like this was tapping into the local neighbourhood for many of its customers. Classy and full of charm, this is the bee’s knees, the top banana and the dog’s bollocks all rolled into one.

You get the feeling that this place is the sort of place you stumble across once and then make a pilgrimage time and time again to get more. The music was low key, the crowd were chilled out and the bar staff were the most knowledgeable.

While Dry Martini felt like it had become a bit of a business and might be resting on its reputation, and Solange looks like it’s parked its tanks on the lawn opposite to stake its claim and build its reputation, the easy ambiance and relaxed vibe of Tandem felt like we’d discovered the real deal. Definitely our top pick for a classic cocktail bar and one of the best places to drink gin in Barcelona.

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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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Bertha’s Revenge Gin: gin made from milk!!

posted in: Gin of the month | 2

In our relentless quest to find the most unusual and interesting gins from around the world, let me introduce you to Bertha and tell you a story about her revenge.

Bertha was a lovely cow from the beautiful green fields of Co. Kerry in Ireland. She lived a happy life, chomping her way through the famous green grass of her homeland and was so well looked after that she lived to the ripe old age of 48. By the time she passed on to chomp on the Elysian fields, she had become the world’s oldest cow and gave birth to a staggering 39 calves over her lifetime.

She became a living legend in Ireland and her memory now lives on in Bertha’s Revenge (paid link), a fantastic, flavour packed small batch gin made by the Ballyvolane House Spirits Company, who have honoured her existence by creating a unique Irish gin made from (wait for it…) MILK.

Using whey alcohol from Irish dairy farmers, and incorporating a formidable mix of locally foraged and grown botanicals including many of the usual suspects (and some unusual ones such as sweet woodruff, elderflower, almond) alongside other listed ingredients such as “love”, “laughter” and “childish enthusiasm”, this is a delicious drink full of complex flavours. But don’t try pouring it on your cornflakes, since it packs a decent punch at 42% ABV.

But all the clever marketing in the world can’t disguise a bad gin, so what’s it like?

We had a little gathering to find out and in a blind test of 4 of our favourite small batch gins, this was our runaway favourite with a unanimous 4 out of 4 tasters making it their top choice.

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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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The Singapore Sling: classic and exotic

posted in: Cocktail of the month | 0

The Singapore Sling classic cocktail was invented in Singapore’s Raffles Hotel where it started off as a Straits Sling.

However, this appeared a little too dry for the contemporary taste buds, so the head bartender decided to sweeten it up a bit. Kirsch was replaced with cherry brandy and the drink was lengthened to make it more refreshing.

The result:  one of the most famous gin-based cocktails in the world, ready to refresh your taste-buds on a hot day and transport you to a fan cooled veranda on a hot and humid Singapore day. Aaaah! I can taste it now…

Singapore Sling recipe

Ingredients:

Method:

Build the first 4 ingredients in a tall ice-filled glass, then stir, top up with soda water and add the bitters.

For a spicy twist on the classic recipe, replace soda water with ginger beer or ginger ale, sit back and pretend you’re in Singapore.

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

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Gin Sling?

posted in: Gintriguing facts | 0

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.

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…

The Cotton House Barcelona roofterrace

posted in: Gin and Juniper | 0

Following our colonial theme, try out the roof terrace at the Cotton House hotel for a classic colonial vibe, sipping a nice G&T looking up at the rooftops of Barcelona.

We went there on a recent early Summer evening and swept up the grand staircase towards the lift, which whisked us up to their classic roof terrace where we ordered a round of classic and unusual gins and soaked up the atmosphere…

Despite a slow start to service, the terrace itself is a hidden treasure, full of colonial ambiance with cane chairs and hanging flowers. We went in for dinner (the most amazing pop up Indian restaurant by Atul Kulchar) before returning after dinner to try another round of G&Ts chosen from their reasonable selection of gins.

Verdict: lovely atmosphere and ambiance in a stunning hotel. Only let down by confused and disorganised service and very expensive drinks (although I guess that should be expected at a 5 star hotel on one of the main streets in Barcelona). We would return, for the atmosphere, not for the service.

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