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.
I suspect we’ve all had days when we’ve travelled to work and dreamt of better ways to spend our time. Alan Bottomley, an engineer, was driving to his job when the idea struck him to “make gin and grow Christmas trees”! Although it took a little while to win round his partner, Amy Conyard, his idea wasn’t quite as crazy as it may first sound. His father, Stansfield Bottomley, used to make whisky in the mid-1950s and Alan grew up watching him, fascinated, before learning the process himself in the early 1990s. So it was that, in 2016, Alan and Amy decided to take the plunge and Bottomley Distillers was born.
They say good things come to those who wait. Well, I’ve just received something very good and I didn’t even know I was waiting for it. Which is just as well, as it would have been a very, very long wait! For I’ve just received 6 O’Clock Gin‘s new Five Year Aged Sloe Gin!
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!
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.
As the nights draw in and the temperatures begin to drop, the promise of picking sloes from the hedgerows to transform into a deep mid-winter treat can set the spirits soaring. The first thing you’ll have to do, though, is find a Blackthorn tree – and if you’re not confident, please do some research. You really don’t want to end up with Deadly Nightshade gin by mistake! I picked mine in deepest, darkest Dorset with all the family, kids and dogs in tow (there’s nothing quite like a bit of child labour after all!), but if you can’t find them in the wild you should be able to pick them up at a market or even online.
Now, more than ever, people like to know the provenance of the food and drink they consume and you can’t argue with the provenance of 6 O’Clock Gin. 6 O’Clock Gin is produced by Bramley & Gage, a family-run business still going from strength to strength after 28 years. Now a working distillery based outside Bristol, Bramley & Gage was cultivated on a fruit farm in South Devon in the mid-1980s. The farm itself wasn’t doing particularly well so founders, Edward Bramley Kain and Penelope Gage, started experimenting with surplus fruit to make strawberry, raspberry and blackcurrant liqueurs using a traditional french maceration method. The liqueurs were a great success and it wasn’t long before a sloe gin was added to the range.