gin

The Gin Thing

Somebody asked me recently if I thought there was any mileage in a particular variety of gin they were thinking about producing. Obviously there’s some commitment and expense involved in producing a gin of any description, so I gave it some consideration!

So gin appears to have been the new ‘in thing’ for the last couple of years, which given the fact that it’s one of the oldest and most traditional of beverages out there, is kind of ironic. Barely a week goes by without a new ‘micro-gin’ appearing , each one purporting to have the purest process and ultimate mix of botanicals to tempt you to their door. Novelty flavours adorn our shelves, some almost too preposterous to contemplate, but actually, so easy to drink. And the merchandisers have jumped on the band wagon as well! Shopping bags, aprons, door plaques all suggesting that gin is the lifestyle drink of our time! That most classic of British cocktails has become a modern trend that shows no sign of slowing down. (And yes, I know the Dutch invented it!)

Ably assisted by the equally meteoric rise of the tonic market undoubtedly pioneered by the remarkable story of Fever Tree tonic, the gin market continues to spew previously unimaginable combinations claiming to be ‘gin and tonic’. Rhubarb gin and ginger tonic, cardamon gin and Mediterranean tonic, coconut gin and elderflower tonic..the list goes on!

And the bi-products don’t stop there! An off the cuff quip on Facebook about ‘gin and crisps for tea’ when my husband was away has somehow marked me down as a hardened gin-drinker, an expert in the field!  The reality was that my most daring deviation from a simple Gordon’s and tonic prior to that, had been one of my favourite product innovations – gin in a tin! For a busy mum, there is no sweeter thing than a perfectly chilled version of a perfectly mixed G&T that requires nothing more than a pull of a ring and a pour over ice! And portable too for those emergencies/picnic opportunities.

Friends quickly introduced me to the joys of Bombay Sapphire – and there my journey through the magic Gin-dom began! Every single ‘gin-ovation’ on the market has been tagged on my Facebook page – sorbets, crisps, cakes, tarts, face scrubs, lip balms, you name it! I’ve even had a gin and tonic cake baked for me.

I am naturally very grateful, and can boast a fabulous collection of gins on my shelf, and and a merchandise collection I’m proud of.

But for me, it has increasingly become about the aesthetics! The packaging can outweigh the flavour when it comes to the look of that gin shelf, and for any prospective gin producer, I think that is the thing to invest as much time and energy into, as the taste of the stuff itself.

A gin shelf really can be a thing of beauty these days. With gin brands old, micro and new bringing in the big boys of branding to perfect their visual image!

I mean, who doesn’t love a Silent Pool bottle – can anyone bear to put one in the bin? It is a thing of design brilliance, evoking not only the unique colour of the ‘Silent Pool’ in the Surrey Hills from which it is hails, but also the turquoise of an Asian sea across which gin drinkers of yesteryear must have surely gazed with their sundowner in hand!

Brighton, Monkey and Portobello gins rank highly for me in their design beauty giving us a taste of vintage glamour, with the Hoxtons, the Pinksters and the Opi adding to the wild and whacky both in bottle design and flavour.

Of course, images like these are social media gold, and Instagram, or ‘Gin-stagram’ as I like to call it have done their part to encourage the gin revolution, and as Spring turns to Summer I can only imagine the frequency with which #gin will appear in our feeds in some form or another! The rise of the gin craze in my opinion is far from over. A humble gin and tonic has become an art form, and a mouth watering one at that. And all I can really say is, I’ll drink to that!

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IT’S ALL IN THE BOTANICALS..APPARENTLY!

Allow me to introduce you to my NBF – his name is Hoxton, he’s unique, exotic and quite frankly surprisingly delicious.  How did we meet?  Well it was a hot Summer’s night in Wisborough Green and I’d decided that the exceptionally well stocked gin collection at my local, The Three Crowns, really needed some serious investigation.  Because the truth is, that although I have a slightly alarming reputation as a gin-soaked housewife, I have always been a Gordon’s girl. A Gordon’s and Schweppes tonic was always enough to sooth my cares away and if I am honest, I had probably always assumed that all gins were pretty much the same.

Until, one fateful night last July when I was introduced to the magic of Bombay Sapphire.  I confess, my head was turned.  This was a whole new experience, and Mr Gordon seemed somewhat dowdy in comparison – although perfectly acceptable if that was all that was available don’t get me wrong!  And then I am  shown the wonders of Fever Tree tonic, including the Elderflower version, by my knowledgable and enthusiastic landlord, Tim, who also gives me a peek at his wondrous gin collection.  Trendy looking bottles, funky and evocative sounding names – Geranium Gin, Sipsmith, Six O’Clock.  An Aladdin’s cave waiting to be discovered.

So, accompanied by my trusty drinking mummas, we decided to use the excuse of my annual birthday festival to educate ourselves.  And the Three Crowns really played the game.  We had our own gin tasting menu with detailed descriptions of how, where, when, what and why and I began to understand that basically all gins are the same – a pure spirit at heart, laced and infused with any magical combination of ‘botanicals’ that one may care to desire or mention.  Botanicals, you see, are the key.  The traditional juniper berry has been ousted in favour of exotic combinations such as cardamom, coconut, coriander and nutmeg.  And trust me, this is nothing like the flavoured vodka experience.  This is far more subtle, and some would even say sophisticated.  Although if you work your way through the entire gin list at the Three Crowns, your sophistication may leave you towards the end of the evening.10483312_736365983088579_2930369829236482359_o

Our night started cautiously with a Monkey Gin – a tried and tested favourite with no quirky flavours, but shockingly and surprisingly German.  Who knew Charlotte Roenchen my little gin drinking German!  Infused with Indian spices and Black Forest herbs it offered a solid start to proceedings as one would expect.  We then headed a little more off piste with an Aviation Gin – floral, American and drunk with soda!  Even the barmaid thought that was hard core.  And finally to the surprise of the night.  What could possibly be worse than grapefruit and coconut at the heart of a beautiful and pure spirit such as gin – sacrilege surely.  Malibu meets Mother’s ruin.  But no, this is the work of a gin genius.  Hoxton Gin is a delight.  Refreshing, fruity and as the name would suggest developed in London’s trendiest part of town, so home grown to boot..almost.  Well alright, it was invented by an Italian and is based on a spirit made of French Summer wheat, but British all the same.

So to my companions, Emily-I’ve-brought-a-gin-and-tonic-cake-too Cooper, Theresa-I’ll-make-sure-you-get-home-in-one-piece Baker, Cathy-mine’s-a-large-one-of-whatever Williams, Holly-first-night-on-the-lash-since-birth-of-4-week-old-baby-and-my-husband-won’t-stop-ringing-me-to-tell-me-the-baby’s-screaming Appleton, Annabel-Jack-Daniels-Diet-Coke-no-Ice McQuillan and Nicki-I’m-driving-because-I-know-I-have-no-self-restraint Hewitt, I thank you from the bottom of my heart for your company, companionship, presents and for joining me on a journey of Gin discovery!  This is only the beginning.  According to my new Complete Guide to Gin & Tonic, we’ve got about another 300 to go!  Cheers to that.