Garnishes, How To Guides

How To: Garnish Your Gin

Remember when we only used to drink G&T’s with lime?

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Coldplay were the hottest thing since sliced bread, beards were out and cucumber was reserved for tiny sandwiches at The Ritz. The only way to serve our favourite tipple was with a green wedge of fresh lime. OK, you’d have a slice of lemon, at a push…. Fast forward to 2015 and we are far more familiar with elaborate garnishes that range from exotic fruits to fresh herbs to bacon – so what’s happened? Hint: there’s method to the fabulousness. It’s not *just* for decoration…

If we look back into the history of the gin & tonic, some suggest that in fact lime was added to help fight scurvy in the mid-1800’s, however this cannot be verified. But it could be why we have since so faithfully remained wed to lime. (For a an in-depth look at this history of the G&T, this is a very good article)

Then, Hendrick’s Gin was introduced with wildly unusual rose and cucumber botanicals – arguably kick-starting the craft gin alternative botanical trend. And they did something unheard of…. They recommended we drink their gin with a slice of cucumber! This was revolutionary!

What most of us didn’t (and arguably some still don’t) realise is that this wasn’t just marketing fluff or an attempt to be different; the reason Hendrick’s is served with cucumber is because it enhances the botanical profile of the gin. Ah-ha!

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Garnish is to gin as food is to wine – some things just go better together. My top recommendation for garnish experimenters would be to visit Julia and the team at The London Gin Club – these guys really know their gin. Coppa glass, premium ice and intelligently selected garnishes will open your palette to a whole new world of wonderful. Indeed, I will never forget enjoying my first GinMare garnished with basil and cherry tomato – it blew my mind and really made me think I could be more selective with my garnish choices.

Photo courtesy of The London Gin Club website (thelondonginclub.com)

Photo courtesy of The London Gin Club website (thelondonginclub.com)

If you can’t get down to London, here are the basic principles of garnish pairing:

  1. Complimentary flavours – a garnish that is the same or similar to the predominant botanical and enhances the botanical note i.e. Hendrick’s Gin’s predominant botanical is cucumber, therefor serve with a slice of cucumber
  2. Contrasting flavours – a garnish that is the opposite to the predominant botanical that provides a unique take on the entire profile of the gin i.e. Sacred Cardamom is spicey, dry and peppery and served with a sweet slice of orange or ruby red grapefruit gives you a different perspective on the flavours

Additionally, our friends at The Craft Gin Club have been collating responses from distillers to create a definitive list of garnishes – a great place to start. Who knows better than the distillers themselves?

Finally, an important thing to say is let’s not get too puritanical here… garnish as you please and go for things you like. I can’t handle too much gin snobbery… let’s be aware, and then do as we like. Gin is much more about personal preference and enjoyment than rules. If you discover something that works really well, drop us a line on Twitter and tell us about it  @the_gin_club

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Oh so sloe-ly: how to make sloe gin.

There is little more satisfying than sitting fireside in December and pouring a rich, fruity, sweet, sloe gin made by your own fair hands. Sloe gin is easy and enjoyable to make, makes great gifts for friends and family and quintessentially English.

You need to start making sloe gin at least 2 months before Christmas, so now is the perfect time to get started. The heavy rains and drop in temperature this year means that there is a healthy slug of sloes about in Surrey and I enjoy nothing more than foraging the hedgerows near my home to find these glorious berries. This weekend I went out with official Gin Club mascot, Charlie Noodle dog, to hunt out some sloes and we came home very happy with a solid crop.

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What if you can’t find any sloe’s near you? Easy. Pop onto ebay and a lovely kind farmer will send them to you! If you live near London, try using The Fruit Map (although bear in mind most foragers don’t like sharing where the top spots are!).

It’s so simple… Rinse your sloes well, score or freeze the sloes to break the skin and add them to a glass bottle or jar. They should be added until almost half full. Top up with gin. Taste before bottling and add a simple sugar syrup to taste.

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The recipe

  • Ripe sloe berries (enough to fill 1/3 – 1/2 of the bottle you are making the sloe gin in)
  • A good quality gin
  • Sugar (I use muscovado sugar as I prefer the flavour – the above shows my two types of sloe gin – the one on the left has sugar, the one on the right has none as I will sweeten that one to taste)

Added extra: A vanilla pod or a crushed, raw almond.

Method:

  • Score sloes and add to bottle or Kilner lock top jar – fill 1/3 the way up (warning: sometimes using tapered neck bottles can be a pain as getting the sloes out can be painful, but it’s up to you)
  • Add vanilla pod & almond
  • Add sugar (now, two schools of thought here – some add sugar upfront, some prefer to add it at the end, to taste. If it’s your first time, try both methods and see which you prefer).
  • Pour gin in to the top – fill as high as you can
  • Leave for at least 2 months out of direct sunlight, turning the jar every couple of days
  • Bottle just before Xmas (Read our guide to filtering and bottling your sloe gin here)

Here are 3 top tips to really make a good sloe gin:

1. Ripe Sloe’s

If when you press the sloe between your finger and thumb, it gives and feels like it might burst, it’s ripe. If you use unripened sloes, you will have a very bitter sloe gin on your hands.

2. Freeze or score the sloe’s

The sloes need to have their skin scored slightly to let the gin in and the flavour out. There are a few ways of doing this, but by far the best is to freeze the sloes overnight so the skin bursts. This replicates the first autumn freeze if it hasn’t been yet.

Some prefer to prick the skin with a clean pin or, as legend would have you believe, it should be done with a thorn from the same bush you collected the sloes from. Some score the skin gently with a knife – but be careful – fingers are vulnerable!

3. Use a good gin

It doesn’t have to be a craft, boutique, top shelf gin, but it really shouldn’t be a supermarket own name brand. Sloe’s are wonderful things, but they can’t disguise poor quality gin. The better the gin you start with, the better your sloe gin, of course. We used Bombay London dry here, which was just fine, but do try a bottle of two of top shelf gin once you get more experienced!

And that’s it. Enjoy making your sloe gin! For those who don’t feel like making their own, my favourite is Sipsmith Sloe Gin.

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Bombay Sapphire, Gin Events

The Bombay Sapphire Ultimate Gin Terrace

Summer in London is one of the most wonderful times of year – the City is alive with tourists, the hanging baskets on every street are in full bloom, the open park spaces are full of sunglassed, beautiful people and, most importantly, our National drink of choice flows freely around the Capital.

When The Gin Club heard that Bombay Sapphire had teamed up with The Rosewood to bring a most delightful gin experience to London, we of course knew we would be heading over to check it out. The Bombay Sapphire Ultimate Gin & Tonic Terrace is inspired by the exotic botanicals in Bombay Sapphire and is definitely worth a visit.

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The venue and dressing of it is comfortable and subtly branded – a welcome respite from the usually brash branded events and pop-ups around the City. Each of the tables and chairs are adorned with an exclusively commissioned fabric design created by Jonathan Chadwick that showcased the story of the gin.

A menu of serves (each priced at £14.50 per drink) surprised and delighted with a detailed description that emotively evoked the elegant flavour profiles to come. Thank goodness the menu was strong because our server from The Rosewood had not actually tried any of them so was unable to recommend or talk us through them. No problem though, the good folk at Bombay Sapphire picked up on this immediately and promptly sent a complimentary round to the table.  Well played, Bombay. Well played.

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With botanicals that are less outspoken than those in the Hendrick’s and Sacred’s of this world, Bombay really lends itself to innovative serves. For example,the ‘Indonesian Twist’ was complemented by a tea bag of pink peppercorns, star anise and lemongrass. Whilst some gin lovers may have recently overlooked Bombay Sapphire in favour of one of the many craft or boutique gins on the market, these serves really brought Bombay back to life and reminded us how versatile and rich a gin it really is (and always has been).

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The terrace at The Rosewood is quiet and hidden away so there is absolutely no need to rush, we sipped slowly and just enjoyed the colonial ambience reminiscent of days gone by. We stayed late into the evening when the tea candle lanterns were lit and the temperature dropped, which simply added to the atmosphere.

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Those tweeting and instagramming with #UltimateGT are currently being entered into a prize draw to win a night at The Rosewood too – a lovely way to inspire and thank guests for sharing. We would have loved to see some suitable food pairings, but in absence, you can order from the usual Holborn Dining Room menu.

The terrace is still open until August 28th, so you’ve still time to pop in.We definitely recommend booking as when we arrived at 6.30, the terrace was already full and we had to wait a little while for our table. For enquiries visit: www.rosewoodhotels.com/London BYO Pith Helmet and Plus Fours!

Gin Club rating: 4 junipers/ 5.

Chat to us on twitter:  @The_Gin_Club

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