You might just about tempt me with gin-cured salmon during the festive season but, to be honest, the only place I really want to find gin at Christmas is under the tree or in my glass! Here are seven cracking cocktails to see you through the bleak midwinter.
Since I visited in late 2016, Bimber have opened the doors of their relatively small North Acton distillery to the public, allowing everyone to get to know this forward-thinking company that, nonetheless, still respects its past. In homage to its Polish heritage, Bimber produce a wide range of vodkas, including a number of fruit-infused versions. However, these are a cut above the homely Polish home-brew from which Bimber gets its name, as their host of awards – including several medals from this year’s inaugural Bartender’s Brand Awards – testify.
From Aber Falls Marmalade Gin to Malfy Con Arancia (featuring blood orange peel) and Tanqueray Flor de Sevilla (made with Seville oranges and orange blossom), citrus is undoubtedly where it’s at at the moment. And One Time Gin’s April subscription box is no exception. I was lucky enough to receive the “dinky” package, including a 350ml bottle of Marmalade Gin alongside a bottle each of Luscombe’s Devon Tonic Water and Grapefruit Water and a bottle of OTG’s “Curaçao-esque” orange and ginger liqueur. And I was not disappointed. Not one bit.
Judging gin, as I’ve said before, is a curious thing. And much harder than you might imagine. But what I find particularly peculiar is that, because gin is judged blind, you wind up not knowing which you’ve tried or what you thought of them! And so it was, I found myself hosting a table at the final of the 2018 World Gin Awards and meeting Jane Cannon from Newton House Gin, knowing I’d probably tried her product but, at the same time, knowing nothing about it! Nothing except that it had just been awarded a Gold Medal in the UK London Dry Gin category.
2017 was one hell of a year for gin with figures released today showing Britons bought 51 million bottles of our favourite spirit; an increase of 27% on 2016 figures! Sweeter spirits are proving increasingly popular, with fruit gins dominating sales in 2017 and growth only expected to continue well into 2018. Capitalising on this lucrative market, Aber Falls, North Wales’ first whisky distillery in over 100 years, has launched a range of gin and liqueurs while it waits on its whisky to mature.
Anyone who has even half an eye on the gin industry at the moment will know that small-batch limited edition gins are big news. As are gin subscription services. One Time Gin and Sipsmith’s Sipping Society have lead the way and now Batch Brew, Lancashire’s first gin distillery, are getting in on the act too with their monthly Batch Innovations subscription service.
In 2010, John Savage-Onstwedder became one of the first UK recipients of a 350-litre still license, but it wasn’t until 2012 that the Dà Mhìle organic farmhouse distillery was opened in Ceredigion, Mid Wales. Having endured months, if not years, of building works and bureaucracy, success came to the distillery quickly as their first product, the organic Orange 33 liqueur, won a True Taste Award for its very first test batch!
There’s no denying that we are in the midst of an unprecedented surge in the gin industry, with ever more distilleries responding to customer demand for trends such as seasonal gins and locally foraged botanicals. Now, I am not going to suggest that either the gin market or I am reaching saturation point, but you don’t have to look too hard to spot the same botanicals popping up time and time again. It is increasingly difficult to find something that genuinely intrigues and excites; something that is truly unique. But I believe I may have found it at The Spirit Show in the form of Caledonia Spirits.
Rich, warming and slightly spicy sloe gin is, for me, the quintessential festive tipple. It is also the perfect beverage to have in your cabinet at this time of year; a highly versatile drink that can add Christmas cheer to any number of cocktails but is also deliciously comforting, and still rather special, served neat. I love making (and serving) my own sloe gin but it does require a little organisation and a lot of patience. And, although there are ways to improve the standard of your homemade sloe gin, there’s no guarantee of quality or consistency. If it’s quality you want, where better to go than to Sipsmith where the craft gin renaissance began, and where I also happened to begin my own gin journey.
Rejoice, it’s elderflower season! Or it would be at least if it ever stopped raining. For the one time you don’t want to be picking elderflowers is when they are wet. But, assuming you can find a dry day or two, make sure you get out and pick some fragrant elderflower (ideally just as the buds are beginning to open) because it complements many gins wonderfully. You can make a cordial or gin (as below) but make sure you get working as quickly as possible as the elderflowers will start to turn brown within just a few hours of picking.