St George's Cross

This Friday will be St George’s Day and, as always, it’s a great excuse for some unabashed celebration of all things blighty. With flights across Europe pretty much written off for some time, we can only employ our trademark stiff upper lip and make the best of this glorious sunshine that’s been sweeping the nation.

It’s important to remember St George’s greatest deed, and so we’ll kick start this with the tale of St George and the dragon…

The story begins – according to medieval bestseller Jaobus de Voragine’s classic The Golden Legend – once upon a time in ancient Libya, in a place called Silene.

All was not well in Silene, though, because there was a pretty dastardly dragon which plagued the people and rampaged about the place in the way that all infamous dragons do.

The King, looking distraught about the imminent consumption of his daughter.

To keep the dragon at bay the locals had to feed it sheep or, when there were no sheep, children (chosen by way of lottery) – times were hard, especially for the kids.

One day, the king’s daughter’s number came up, so the king, stricken with worry, promised all of his gold and silver and half of his kingdom to the people, should she be spared.

The people of Silene weren’t playing ball, so the king’s daughter, dressed as a bride, was sent off to the dragon (probably looking pretty dejected about the whole situation).

By happy coincidence St George was out on an afternoon horse ride when he happened upon the princess. She was a rather altruistic lass and told him to flee, but St George was made of sterner stuff.

He used the Sign of the Cross as a sort of shield and he rode at the dragon and gave it a near mortal wound with his lance (it’s starting to sound like a Carry On film).

He leashed the dragon, popped the king’s daughter on his horse and returned to the people of Silene. They promptly converted to Christianity, slew the dragon and all lived happily ever after.

Today, St George is one of the world’s most famous patron saints. His emblem was adopted by Richard the Lion Heart, who brought it to England in 1108 AD and since then it has graced our beloved flag. Actually, in the time of the Crusades, the French knights originally wore a red cross, but the English complained until Philip II of France gave in and agreed that the English and French knights should swap their respective crosses.

Hundreds of years later, in modern day Norfolk, spirit was first distilled at England’s only working whisky distillery. It was November of 2006, and since its inception, the English Whisky Company has had some pretty incredible fortunes. The first batch of commercially available single malt was released last year, and it sold out remarkably quickly. They produce about 13 casks of spirit a week and age it in Jim Beam bourbon casks – and we’ve loved everything we’ve tried from them. Click here to read about our trip to the distillery.

As great as English whisky is, there is still something intrinsically Gaelic about it, and whilst we love all things Gaelic, St George’s Day calls for something else, something that’s as well suited to cooling you off on the lawn as it is to medicating the troops as they go out in the midday sun.

You guessed it, the humble G&T.  And here’s how we make ours…

Master of Malt’s Perfect Gin and Tonic

 The Perfect Gin and Tonic

The drink was first introduced in India as a good means of taking quinine – a classic malarial preventative (actually we’d recommend a combination of anti-malarials, mosquito netting and repellent, but if all you’ve got is gin and tonic you’ll have to make do). The quinine comes in the form of tonic water and, thanks to quinine’s bitter flavour, complements the citrussy, juniper-laden flavour of the gin. The result – perfect refreshment.

The key to a good GandT is the order in which you “build” it. It’s all about preserving the ice and preventing it from melting too much. The reason being, it dilutes the drink.

 Martin Millers Westbourne Strength

Make sure you chill your tonic, and use a fresh, healthy lime. We prefer our Gin and Tonic with Martin Miller’s Westbourne Strength. It was rated the best gin in the world and spirit of the year at the Beverage Tasting Institute. It’s made in London  and sent off to Iceland, where it is blended with soft, pure Icelandic spring water and has a final secret ingredient added. The result is a phenomenal gin, bursting with tangy citrus and herbal flavours.

Method: Pop a couple of segments of lime in a highball glass, pour in a double measure of Martin Millers Westbourne Strength Gin, fill the glass with ice and top with chilled tonic water. Garnish with a straw and a swizzle stick and recline on the decking…

Happy St George’s Day!

– The Chaps at Master of Malt –