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Master of Malt Blog

Tag: Gin and Tonic

10 ways to drink less. . . with Fiona Beckett

Yes, it’s that time of the year when people’s thoughts to turn to being a little bit healthier. Whether you’re doing the full Dry January, or just being more abstemious,…

Yes, it’s that time of the year when people’s thoughts to turn to being a little bit healthier. Whether you’re doing the full Dry January, or just being more abstemious, Fiona Beckett’s new book, How to Drink without Drinking, is an invaluable guide to making this process fun.

With her column in the Guardian and her website, Matching Food & Wine, Fiona Beckett is one of the most trusted names in British drink writing. When Beckett recommends a bottle, you know it’s going to be one that she genuinely loves. Contrary to popular belief, drinks writers don’t spend all their time boozing. Beckett says: “Although I have to taste wine or other alcoholic drinks most days, like everyone else I benefit from a break from actually drinking them”. Her latest book, How to Drink without Drinking, is a guide with tips and recipes (we have one at the end) for how to make alcohol-free drinking fun. As she puts it: “It’s important to me that the days when I don’t drink are as pleasurable in terms of what I consume as those when I do.” The vital thing, according to Beckett, is to focus on the positives; she advises: “It’s important to see alcohol-free days as an opportunity, not a deprivation. There are, as you’ll rapidly discover, many advantages, including a better quality of sleep, improved concentration, weight loss, more spare cash and, due to the happy lack of hangovers, more productive hours in the day.” Sounds great. Here are her top ten ways to make cutting back on or cutting out the sauce a breeze. 

Fiona Beckett

Unlike most drink writers, Fiona Beckett does not need to be photographed with a drink in her hand

  1. Set a personal goal

You have to start somewhere, but make it realistic. Two alcohol-free days a week is doable for most of us, most likely after the weekend. Three is better still – preferably in a row.

  1. Don’t make up for it on the days you drink alcohol

On some of the days when you are drinking, you might want to reduce the amount you drink to one drink a day, sipped slowly and mindfully rather than gulped unthinkingly. If you’re trying to cut down, limit yourself to one (modest) glass with dinner or resolve not to drink when alone. Be aware and honest with yourself about what you’re drinking when you do drink. An app may help you keep on track.

  1. Tell your family and friends

Family should be on your side, but one of the biggest battles you’ll face is friends who keep pressing you to drink, maybe implying that you’ve become a party pooper if you don’t. Don’t be embarrassed to explain exactly why you’re cutting down – or out – making it clear that you’re serious. It may even involve changing your social circle. Find a non-drinking pal to go out with if the pressure’s getting to you.

  1. Don’t needlessly put yourself in the way of temptation

On days or periods you’re cutting down or cutting out, avoid your usual boozy haunts. Don’t make having a drink the main reason for going out – unless it’s a coffee. In fact, it may be worth taking the car, which gives you an easy excuse not to drink. If you’re embarking on a longer period of abstinence, clear out the booze from the cupboards and fridge, and steer clear of the wine aisle. Stock up with alcohol-free alternatives instead.

Make your own drink, like this blackberry shrub

  1. B.Y.O. (Bring your own)

If you’re visiting friends and are not sure if there will be something alcohol-free to drink, take it with you, particularly to a party. Alcohol-free beers, which look similar to the full-strength version, are an especially good bet as they won’t make you stand out from the crowd. If you’re away for the weekend, take a bottle of an alcohol-free spirit and some tonic to your hosts.

  1. Think about food 

You’re more likely to crave wine with food from wine-producing regions, especially Italy, France and Spain. So avoid the trattoria or tapas bar on your nights off in favour of your local Indian, Thai or Vietnamese. 

  1. Get into alcohol-free cocktails

It’s hard to find a substitute for wine, but alcohol-free cocktails can be mindblowingly good these days, with many top restaurants offering an impressive selection. I often start the evening with one, whether I’m drinking or no, and end up drinking it with food.

  1. M.Y.O. (Make your own)

There’s a real pleasure and satisfaction in making your own drinks. Like home-cooked food, they taste so much better than the shop-bought version and are cheaper, too, making the best of seasonal produce. Make them look as beautiful as they taste. 

  1. Find a non-alcoholc drink to get passionate about

Part of the appeal of wine, beer and whisky, is the knowledge you accumulate about them. But you can apply that type of geekery to other drinks, too. Get into tea, get into coffee, get into fermenting – all fascinating, absorbing worlds.

  1. Learn to love water

Probably your best friend on your sober days – or months – both on its own and as a chaser for any alcoholic drink you’re drinking. Don’t drink because you’re thirsty – drink for the taste. Serve water cool, fresh and flavoured, if you like, with fruit, cucumber or herbs. 

G&T or NG&T?

And now here’s a recipe. . . .  the NG&T!

The N stands for ‘not’. Serve it in a fancy glass with lots of ice and garnishes, and you’ll get much of the pleasure of the real thing. Beckett recommends making a juniper syrup in advance but you can buy it ready made.

75ml juniper syrup (recipe below or you can buy William Fox ready-made)
Tonic water to top up
2 slices of lemon and orange, and 2-3 juniper berries to garnish.

Fill the glass with ice and the garnishes, pour in the syrup, top up with tonic and gently stir. 

Juniper syrup:

400g granulated sugar
475ml water
15 juniper berries, lightly crushed
Finely pared rind of one unwaxed lemon
Finely pared rind of one unwaxed lime

Put the sugar and water in a saucepan. Gently heat and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Add the rest of the ingredients, bring to just below boiling point and simmer for ten minutes. Sieve when cool. It should last in the fridge for two weeks.

How to Drink When You’re Not Drinking by Fiona Beckett is published by Kyle Books, £15.99, www.octopusbooks.co.uk

 

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New Arrival of the Week: Willem Barentsz Mandarin and Jasmine Gin

This week we have been mostly drinking an exotic flavoured gin inspired by a Dutch explorer. To learn more, we spoke with founder of Willem Barentsz gin, Michael Claessens. Barentsz…

This week we have been mostly drinking an exotic flavoured gin inspired by a Dutch explorer. To learn more, we spoke with founder of Willem Barentsz gin, Michael Claessens.

Barentsz is named after a 16th century explorer Captain Willem Barentsz who attempted to find a way through the Arctic to China. He didn’t succeed but gave his name to the Barents Sea somewhere way up north between Norway and Russia. Barentsz’s intrepid nature and never-say-die attitude inspired Michael Claessens to create his own gin.

Drink runs in the family blood: “My father’s business, Claessens, is the foremost specialists for the development and creation of brands for the international beverage industry. It has been developing, re-positioning and creating brands for nearly 40 years,” he told us. So starting his own drinks brand was the most natural thing in the world. And with his Anglo-Dutch heritage, gin was the obvious choice: “Gin has clear ties with my two home countries – UK and Holland. My family’s Dutch roots, blended with my London upbringing, made it appropriate that the new brand should be a gin – which was born in Holland and perfected in London”, he said.

Michael Claessens.

It’s Michael Claessens!

Refreshingly, he is totally candid about where the gin is made, by Charles Maxwell at Thames Distillers in London. Claessens knew exactly what he was looking for when designing his own gin with Maxwell: “Barentsz is different in that we actually spent time looking at the concept of gin from the perspective of ‘mouth feel’. It was very important to us that the harsh and often bitter reputation of gin was overcome, in order that we could create a spirit foundation of the finest quality that was soft enough to allow for more delicate and fresh botanicals – and a gin that could actually be enjoyed neat over ice.” He went on to say: “I spent a long time playing with the formulation of our spirit foundation. I wanted it to be something that tasted smooth before the botanicals were added.” The result was a special spirit made from two grains, golden rye and winter wheat.

We are big fans of the standard bottling here at MoM. With its jasmine note, it’s very distinctive but this doesn’t stop it being extremely versatile. It achieves the gin triple crown of being superb in a G&T, a Martini and Negroni. It was honoured with a gold medal at the IWSC in 2018. This new version turns up the jasmine and adds mandarin to the mix. “Once again, we seek to honour the pioneering spirit of the Dutch Arctic explorer, Willem Barentsz,” Claessens said. “Our mandarin and jasmine botanicals are inspired by his quest for a northeastern trading route to China by way of the sea. Mandarin oranges symbolise luck at Chinese new year and our jasmine flowers are sourced from China.”

Willem Barentsz Mandarin and Jasmine Gin takes on some colour and sweetness from the mandarins but, according to Claessens, there is “no artificial colouring or sweeteners and no sugar. All sweetness is natural”. Claessens recommends drinking it neat over ice with a twist of orange but like its brother, it’s lovely with a decent tonic water. So let’s raise a glass to Williem Barentsz and the Anglo-Dutch alliance and himself. Proost!

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Ramsbury Distillery – taking local to a whole new level

Last month we took a trip to the beautiful Wiltshire countryside to visit Ramsbury Estate which grows (almost) everything needed to make gin, vodka, beer and so many delicious snacks….

Last month we took a trip to the beautiful Wiltshire countryside to visit Ramsbury Estate which grows (almost) everything needed to make gin, vodka, beer and so many delicious snacks.

If you want to start making gin, there’s an easy way and a hard way. You could order a little Portuguese still on the internet for £500, get a licence, buy neutral alcohol, some botanicals and off you go. You can make very nice gin this way. Or you can buy a farm, grow your own wheat, ferment it, equip a distillery with an expensive column still to make neutral alcohol, distill your gin and then use the leftover botanicals to cure meat which, of course, you have raised on your farm. No prizes for guessing how they do things at the Ramsbury Estate in Wiltshire.

The estate covers around 20,000 acres and it’s owned by a Swede called Stefan Persson. He’s not the most high profile billionaire but the chairman and main shareholder of H&M, he’s not short of a bob or two. When I visited in April, I was shown around by the estate manager Alistair Ewing, head of marketing and sales Will Thompson and Mats Olsson, who used to work with Absolut Vodka. The estate employs 25 people not including the pub staff.

We began the day with a pint of Ramsbury bitter at the pub on the estate, The Bell at Ramsbury. This was followed by a superb meal cooked by chef Oli Clark using ingredients from the estate as much as possible. To finish we had a Gin & Tonic pudding made with, naturally, Ramsbury Gin.

The Ramsbury ethos in diagram form

The Ramsbury ethos in diagram form

“We are a farm that has a distillery”, Ewing explained to me. He then outlined all the activities that take place on the estate in addition to spirit manufacture. There’s brewery which produces a variety of traditional English beers brewed from estate-grown barley. Apparently the soil isn’t good for hops growing so Kentish hops (with some Czech and New Zealand hops) are used instead. There’s cattle and pigs as well as game like deer and pheasants. The estate produces cold-pressed nutty rapeseed oil and grows rye to be used as biofuel. Waste goes into anaerobic digester, and water used in the distillery and brewery is filtered through reed beds. Not all the sustainable practices have worked: “We tried to reuse yeast waste from fermentation to make bread but the results were revolting”, Ewing told me.

Then it was off in the Land Rover for a tour of the estate with Ewing pointing things out to us in his deadpan Devonian burr. Seeing a hare galloping across the Wiltshire hills on a bright April day was a magical sight. When we couldn’t see any pigs, Ewing said, “they probably had a fight with a badger”. Less amusingly, he pointed out ash trees that are dying from a fungal disease. He expects to lose about 90% of the ash on the estate. These will be cut down and put in a wood chipper to be used as fuel.

Massive column still

Massive column still

After the tour, we had a quick look round the brewery (and yes, some beer) before the main reason for the trip, the distillery! And what a set-up they have! Distiller Dhiraj Pujari showed off his kit: Dominating the room is a 42 plate column still and to the side two pot stills. The neutral alcohol is made from wheat grown on the estate, fermented with a distillers yeast. The wash is first distilled in a pot still and then the low wines go through the column to create a 95% spirit. The fact that they have a pot still means that a whisky is a possibility though they haven’t produced any new make yet. Ewing told me that team are currently experimenting with making casks out of local oak which they might use to age their own whisky.

The gin is a classic London dry style partly distilled using juniper growing outside the distillery though they do buy in some too. Other botanicals include cinnamon, orange, lemon, and quince (which comes from the estate). Barrie Wilson, owner of Scotch and Limon, knocked up some drinks including Gin and Tonics and delicious beetroot Martinis, which were a meal in a glass. All the time snacking on delicious meats cured by smoke from leftover botanicals. Other products include a fruity, peppery vodka and a damson gin.  Your bottle will you not only when your spirit was made, but also when the cereal was harvested and which part of the estate it came from. Can’t get more local than that?

All this commitment to sustainability and localism doesn’t come cheap. According to Ewing, the estate owner “takes a long view on profit”. But Ramsbury Estate is much more than a rich man’s plaything. “We are custodians of the land”, Ewing said, “we’re not doing anything people weren’t doing 300 years ago. . . Except with more health and safety.”

Reeds at Ramsbury

Reed beds outside the distillery clean waste water and provide a habitat for birds

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Cocktail of the Week: The Iceberg Slim

Gareth ‘G’ Franklin is on a mission to bring liqueurs out from the back of the drinks cupboard and put them centre stage. His creation, the Iceberg Slim, shines a…

Gareth ‘G’ Franklin is on a mission to bring liqueurs out from the back of the drinks cupboard and put them centre stage. His creation, the Iceberg Slim, shines a spotlight on Luxardo Bitter Bianco.

The first rule of cocktails is that they are built around spirits. First pick your spirit gin, vodka, rum or whiskey and then make a Sour, Martini or whatever you fancy. Liqueurs, vermouths, bitters etc. are there to provide seasoning. Luxardo, however, has other ideas. The Italian drinks firm has just launched an initiative to make liqueurs the star.

The company is probably best known for its Maraschino liqueur, a great friend behind the bar, but today’s cocktail, the Iceberg Slim, is based around Luxardo Bitter Bianco. Launched in 2016, Bitter Bianco has a flavour profile similar to Campari (try it in a White Negroni along with Dolin Dry vermouth and gin) but it’s less sweet with a higher ABV at 30%. I loved its clean, bright flavours of bitter orange, rosemary and peach blossom with a nice bite from bitter botanicals including wormwood.

luxardo

Brand ambassador Gareth ‘G’ Franklin never leaves home without a bottle of Luxardo Maraschino liqueur

Brand ambassador Gareth ‘G’ Franklin told us a bit about the production process: Bitter Bianco is made by macerating all the botanicals separately, blending and then redistilling the resulting spirit. But, according to Franklin, “some things like wormwood when you distill them, they lose their bitterness so we do a separate maceration, and we add that to it.” Which is why Bitter Bianco isn’t actually white, it’s more of a pale yellow colour. Bitter Giallo Pallido doesn’t have quite the same ring to it.

Franklin was born and brought up near Cambridge, and, after a stint in Australia, is now working back in the city. He’s been with Luxardo for nearly six years now but his interest in liqueurs goes way back: “When I was growing up, my father and I used to go hiking”, he said, “I guess nowadays you’d call it ‘foraging’ but back then we used to just pick stuff. And we’d make liqueurs from it: all sorts of things, like rosehip liqueur, blackberries, greengages, stuff like that”.

He thinks that in Britain we have a prejudice against liqueurs. I certainly associate the word with sticky bottles at the back of my parents’ drinks cupboard. Franklin blames it on what he calls the ‘the Midori effect’. He elaborates: “don’t get me wrong, I’m not slating Midori. But in the late ‘70s everyone who was making liqueurs at that time just went ‘hey, we need to do this too!’ So what they did was they started synthesising flavours and then using big artificial colours. And I think that has just tarnished the category for most people”.

The Iceberg Slim

Behold, the Iceberg Slim!

To challenge these preconceptions, Luxardo and Franklin are doing a cocktail roadshow called ‘Modify This’ to show how versatile liqueurs can be. Franklin will be travelling around the country conducting liqueur masterclasses to bartenders. One of the cocktails he will be showing is the Iceberg Slim. Franklin explained how he invented it: “Luxardo Bianco is like a gin liqueur that contains no juniper”, he said, “And, for me, especially when it comes down to consumers that’s the easiest way for them to understand it because in England we don’t have this cultural association to the bitter palate, like Campari. So what do we understand? We do understand gin. So, essentially we’re just simply mixing it with the tonic and then we’re thinking about the different flavours which are quite reminiscent of an aquavit.  So I’ve added dill to accentuate those notes and lemon is always going to work with those sorts of fresh flavours. “

Franklin told he that it’s all about “synergy”, when the different flavours “marry together and kind of assimilate into one flavour.” And what about the name? He was surprised that his cocktail shares a name with a notorious American pimp turned author. According to Franklin, the name comes from the cocktail’s freshness and colour, or rather lack of it; “I did not realise it was the name of a famous pimp!”, he said.

Enough talking, let’s make this thing!

50ml Luxardo Bitter Bianco
200ml 1724 tonic water
Lemon twist
A sprig of fresh dill

Muddle fresh dill in the bottom of a collins glass or tumbler, fill with ice, add the Luxardo Bitter Bianco, top up with tonic water and stir. Express a piece of lemon peel over the glass, twist and drop in.

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Cocktail of the Week: The Gin and Tonic

As I am sure you all were aware, yesterday was National Gin & Tonic Day. Any excuse to look a little closer at a drink that is often made extremely…

As I am sure you all were aware, yesterday was National Gin & Tonic Day. Any excuse to look a little closer at a drink that is often made extremely badly…

I’ve had many terrible Gin and Tonic experiences, so to get me in the right frame of mind for this article, I thought back to three particularly great ones:

1) A bar in Barcelona in the mid ‘90s, I’ve just ordered a Gin Tonica. The barman fills a tall Collins glass with ice, then free pours Larios Gin almost to the top, adds a slice of lime, adds a splash of tonic on the side, and I marvel as the UV light turns the drink blue (something to do with the quinine) while Ritmo de La Noche bangs away.

2) Sunset over Lake Malawi, the heat of the day has faded a bit, I’m sipping a G&T made with the local gin (which is excellent, why does nobody import it?) and thinking about dinner. The drink is extremely cold and alive with limes that taste as if they’d just come off the tree. Probably because they had.

3) At my grandfather’s house. Him explaining to me in his pedantic grandpa way how to make a G&T. The method involved Beefeater gin, lots and lots of ice, good quality heavy tumblers and Schweppes tonic water out of tiny bottles so that they were bursting with fizz. My grandfather made a mean G&T, much better than my father.

Gin Mare

The Spanish do make a cracking G&T (photo courtesy of Gin Mare)

These stories illustrate how a G&T should be: majestic, refreshing and invigorating. Now think of those pub versions you’ve had: watery ice, flat tonic, and sad dried out lemon, if you get any citrus at all. The whole thing tasting sickly sweet. Here I turn to the words of the great Victoria Moore in her book How to Drink (it was published in 2009, we really need an updated version): “Some people think that there is no need for instruction when it comes to making Gin and Tonic. Those people are wrong.” Making a good G&T isn’t difficult but it does require care.

When it comes to ingredients, we’re now spoiled for choice. You can go for classic gins with a big whack of juniper (Tanqueray) or floral lighter ones (Bombay Sapphire) or even ones that don’t really taste like gin (looking at you, Gin Mare). I’m using Ramsbury Gin from Wiltshire which contains quince as one of its botanicals. Tonic water has exploded recently with every variety under the sun from Fever Tree and its rivals. Don’t, however, ignore Schweppes. For many G&T fanatics, it’s the only one that will do. Which gin or tonic you use, however, is largely a matter of taste.

What isn’t a matter of taste is the proper way to make the thing. First the glass: use a heavy tumbler, a Collins glass or one of those Spanish fishbowl things. You need lots of ice, the cubes should be as large as possible. Try to avoid ice bought in bags as the cubes have holes in which makes them melt quicker. Both your gin and tonic should be chilled. I keep a bottle of gin in the freezer for emergency Martinis. Now the citrus fruit: it can be lemon, lime, grapefruit or orange (particularly nice with Brighton Gin) but it must be freshly cut. It sounds a bit pretentious but you will really notice the difference with Amalfi or Sicilian lemons as they have a floral perfumed quality rather than just being sharp.

Got your ingredients ready? Is your gin in the freezer? Let’s have a bloody Gin Tonica!

50ml Ramsbury Gin
100ml 1724 Tonic Water
Quarter of lemon

Fill a Collins glass or tumbler with ice, pour in the gin and top up with half the tonic water. Rub a quarter of lemon around the rim, drop in and stir. Serve with the rest of the tonic on the side so you can dilute to taste. Don’t forget the salty snacks.

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Are these Britain’s smallest gin distilleries?

Some people build a garden shed and store a lawnmower in it. Others think, ‘I could make gin in that’. We like those people. Here, we celebrate five of Britain’s…

Some people build a garden shed and store a lawnmower in it. Others think, ‘I could make gin in that’. We like those people. Here, we celebrate five of Britain’s smallest gin distilleries – proof (geddit?) that great things come in small packages.

What makes a distillery ‘small’? Still capacity in litres, perhaps, or the number of batches produced each week? Or do you judge each site quite literally, by floor space? These things don’t exist independently of course the folks at Beefeater aren’t running one of the world’s best-selling gin brands from a garden shed but they spark competition among small-scale operations that choose to use their size as a selling point.

For the sake of this listicle, we’ve considered a mix of the aforementioned factors to determine the ‘smallest’ all-round sites. It’s important to remember that we’re not Guinness World Records inspectors, we’re just a bunch of people who really, really like spirits. We did not traverse the UK with a clipboard questionnaire and a juniper-sensitive Basset hound. Nor did we break and enter any distilleries with a measuring tape and jug to confirm or dispel any claims about capacity.

Without further ado, here we’ve unearthed five of the UK’s smallest gin distilleries right now… well, the ones we know about, anyway. Have you noticed a curious juniper-y smell wafting out of your neighbour’s conservatory? Or perhaps your postie has started a side hustle? Share any fledgling distillers we’ve missed in the comments below!

Shed 1 Distillery

Andy and Zoe Arnold-Bennett with their shed

Shed 1 Distillery, Lake District, Cumbria

Peer inside Andy and Zoe Arnold-Bennett’s 7ft x 7ft garden shed on the outskirts of the Lake District and you won’t find a rusty tandem bicycle – you’ll unearth something far more interesting: bucketloads of gin. Established back in October, 2016, the Shed 1 range consists of three core bottlings: Giggle in the Ginnel, Fancy Frolic, and Cuckold’s Revenge, with 36 x 500ml bottles produced in every run. The duo is partial to a seasonal tipple too – their most recent limited edition bottling, Shed Loads of Love, combines “rose petals, lavender and strawberries with a delicate hint of chilli”.

Second Son Distillery

Second Son gin from Cheshire

Second Son Distillery, Norley, Cheshire

Established in 2016, Second Son Distillery which claims to be the smallest licensed distillery in the UK is the brainchild of former pub landlord John (depicted on the label) and graphic designer-slash-gin-aficionado Anna. Together the business partners distil, label and bottle their three creations – Cheshire Gin, Winter Spiced Gin, and Summer Edition Gin – in 250-year-old pub The Tigers Head on the edge of Delamere Forest, producing just 32 bottles per batch. You can bet the place serves a cracking G&T, too.

Duck and-Crutch Kensington

The tiny still at Duck and Crutch in Kensington

Duck and Crutch Distillery, Kensington, London

Such is the London property market that a Kensington shed could be marketed as a studio flat and no one would bat an eyelid. Instead, couple Hollie and George (and to a certain extent, their dachshund Meryl) kitted out their 6ft x 4ft space with a lovely shiny copper still and launched Duck and Crutch gin, featuring vanilla pod, fresh lemon, Darjeeling tea, fresh thyme, orange peel, cardamom pod and nutmeg botanicals. If you like a punchier gin, Duck and Crutch releases 33 bottles of Kensington Overproof Dry Gin each month, which comes in at a respectable 57% ABV.

Culpeper Gin

Culpeper Gin, serving suggestion

The Nicholas Culpeper Pub & Dining, North Terminal, Gatwick Airport

If you’re looking for an excuse to book your next holiday, we’ve found one. But you won’t need to travel thousands of miles to sample The Nicholas Culpeper London Dry Gin more or less straight off the still in fact, you need not even go through security. Named in honour of the 17th century English botanist, herbalist and physician who once lived nearby, this creation is produced in the world’s first airport gin distillery. The still is named Judith after Culpeper’s ill-fated fiancée, and makes just 12 bottles per run. N’aww.

Carnoustie Distillery

Note clan tartan

Carnoustie Distillery, Carnoustie, Scotland

At this point I’m starting to feel like the only person in Britain who doesn’t own a shed, but even if I did, I can’t promise I’d use the space as wisely as the father and son distilling team behind Carnoustie Distillery. From white chocolate-flavoured vodka to toffee apple rum liqueur (and, of course, gin) Billy Duncan and his son Jory create a variety of craft spirits in a 10 ft x 8 ft distillery in their back garden the bottles of which are bedecked with the Duncan family tartan and motto. At the age of 21, Jory is thought to be one of the UK’s youngest distillers.

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Cocktail of the Week: The Elderflower Collins

To make your evening go with a swing, this week we have a twist on the Tom Collins. Yep, it’s basically an upmarket gin and lemonade. But why is it…

To make your evening go with a swing, this week we have a twist on the Tom Collins. Yep, it’s basically an upmarket gin and lemonade.

But why is it called a Tom Collins? Who was this Tom Collins fellow? As with most things in cocktails, it’s complicated. The Tom Collins is probably derived from the John Collins, a drink named after the head waiter at Limmer’s Hotel in Mayfair in the early 19th century. There’s even a poem written about him by Frank and Charles Sheridan:

My name is John Collins, head waiter at Limmer’s,
Corner of Conduit Street, Hanover Square,
My chief occupation is filling brimmers
For all the young gentlemen frequenters there.

The John Collins consisted of sweet Old Tom gin, lemon, sugar and soda water. Doesn’t that sound a lot like the modern Tom Collins? The Cocktail Book (originally published in 1900) has something almost identical which calls for Dutch gin. But Jerry Thomas’s Bartenders Guide (published in 1876) has something called a Tom Collins that consists of gin, lemon, soda and sugar though it doesn’t specify which kind of gin.  

Cambridge Elderflower Collins

The Cambridge Elderflower Collins

So what gives? Why the name change? Well, it might be related to a hilarious hoax that began in New York in 1874 and quickly spread across America.  People would go up to someone in a bar and say to something like, “have you seen Tom Collins? He’s in the bar down the road and he’s been saying unpleasant things about you.” The hoaxee would then with any luck run into the bar in question spoiling for a fight saying, “have you seen Tom Collins?” And then everyone would fall about laughing. As I said, hilarious. And so the name changed, at least in America. Then the new version came over to Britain and, like the grey squirrel taking over from the native red, Tom pushed out John.

Tom or John, it’s one of only a handful of cocktails so famous that it has a glass named after it. The Collins glass is narrower and taller than a Highball, though I don’t think anyone will notice if you use the latter. You can make your Tom/John Collins with Old Tom Gin or traditional Dutch gin, which is sweeter and richer than English gin, for that proper 19th century feel. You could even substitute gin for Tequila which makes it a Juan Collins, or pisco which makes it a Phil Collins (for some reason.) But we’ve got something a bit different for this week’s cocktail. The recipe comes from the good people at Cambridge Gin. Rather than just use dry gin and then sweeten it with sugar syrup, some of the sweetness comes from their Elderflower Liqueur which also provides fragrance and chimes particularly well with the lemon.

Cambridge Gin/ Elderflower Liqueur

The Cambridge two

I’ve poshed it up a bit by shaking the ingredients first with and then adding to a glass of fresh ice and fizz. This makes everything really cold and adds oxygen for extra fizziness. But you can just put all the ingredients in a glass with ice and stir. Finally, the Cambridge Gin recipe calls for tonic water which results in a kind of G&T/ Collins mash-up. Instead, I’ve used fizzy water to make a more traditional Collins but the tonic water version is excellent too.

Right, here’s the recipe!

40ml Cambridge Elderflower Liqueur
20ml Cambridge Dry Gin
20ml fresh lemon juice
10ml sugar syrup
100ml sparkling water (or tonic if you prefer)

Fill a Collins glass with ice and add the sparkling water (or tonic). Shake the first four ingredients quickly with ice (you don’t want too much dilution), strain into the glass on top of the fizzy water, and garnish with a piece of lemon rind.

You can buy Cambridge Gin and Elderflower Liqueur together at a discount price while stocks last.

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CO2 shortage: What’s going on with my fizzy drinks?!

All week there have been doom and gloom reports of CO2 (carbon dioxide) shortages affecting everything from our beloved summer pints and G&Ts to soft drinks and beyond. But what’s…

All week there have been doom and gloom reports of CO2 (carbon dioxide) shortages affecting everything from our beloved summer pints and G&Ts to soft drinks and beyond. But what’s actually going on, and should we be stockpiling all things fizzy? We investigate…

The CO2 shortage just got real yesterday as in a statement Coca-Cola announced it will be “temporarily pausing” some of its fizzy drinks production. This is a problem that has been bubbling up (sorry!) all week, with all kinds of stories and rumours that without carbon dioxide there might be no beer, which combined with the hot weather and some sort of football tournament going on in Russia, could lead to anarchy on Britain’s streets and, possibly, the end of civilisation as we know it.

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Your top 10 awesome gins for World Gin Day!

Prep the ice and ready the tonics, folks – this Saturday is the 10th World Gin Day! Yep, on 9 June, juniper fans across the globe will be sipping, shaking…

Prep the ice and ready the tonics, folks – this Saturday is the 10th World Gin Day! Yep, on 9 June, juniper fans across the globe will be sipping, shaking and sampling their way through the finest gins to ever grace the planet. Why not join them? We’ve scoured the shelves and picked out a tasty selection of your top gins to help you celebrate in lip-smacking style…

All set for World Gin Day this Saturday? If you’re still looking for some botanical-based inspo, we’ve got your back – right here we’ve picked out 10 of the best gins from across MoM HQ, according to you, our discerning shoppers.

With literally thousands of gins in stock, it’s no easy task to curate a list of MoM-approved tipples. What to do? Check out what you, our judicious juniper devotees, make of them, of course! Here you’ll find our top picks, backed up by your reviews, so you know these bottlings are as tasty as it gets.

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Gin-finity and beyond: The ultimate gin and mixer combo

From botanical sodas to small-batch colas, premium mixers are having more than a moment – as such, it seems borderline criminal to pair a great gin with one-size-fits-all bargain bin…

From botanical sodas to small-batch colas, premium mixers are having more than a moment – as such, it seems borderline criminal to pair a great gin with one-size-fits-all bargain bin tonic. But with such a wealth to choose from, knowing how to make the spirit sing can be tricky. We quizzed drinks experts for their gin and mixer recommendations…

Will our love affair with gin ever end? Each week brings some bold new flavour innovation (clotted cream? Moon rock from a lunar meteorite? Literal ANTS?), distilleries are cropping up left, right and centre, and you could probably fulfil your weekly supermarket shop with ‘gin-fused’ food and toiletries alone.

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