GINAISSANCE - beautiful botanicals!

TOAST takes a look at the gin revival with John Gordons

Gin glorious gin! Once believed to be responsible for the ruin of mother’s everywhere, gin has made a startling comeback. No longer satisfied with the straightforward and simple juniper varieties, UK consumers are crying out for exotic ingredients and unusual flavour combinations. TOAST speaks to gin aficionado Will Duff, of Wine and Spirit emporium John Gordons about the trend in adventurous botanicals, which ones to look out for and his tips for this summers hottest gin cocktails.

Move over craft beer - craft gin is where its at. Incredibly, the number of gin distilleries in Britain has doubled in the past six years, with an eye-popping 49 reportedly opening in 2015 alone, after a huge boost in demand. The even better news for gin lovers everywhere is that the majority of these new distilleries are specialising in small batch, premium and, quite frankly, delicious gins from a wide flavour spectrum.

Britain’s love affair with gin dates back centuries; English soldiers first developed a taste for the juicy juniper spirit whilst fighting in the Netherlands in the 16th century – hence the term ‘Dutch courage’. This drinking habit steadily increased in popularity, and at the height of the “gin craze” in the mid-1700s the UK was putting away a staggering 10 litres per person a year. Gulp. Let’s just say that after this spectacular binge we’d perhaps had enough of the stuff, and so demand for gin dropped off.

But today, the UK’s gin scene is back with a vengeance, with ladies and gin-tleman (ahem) everywhere embracing its revival. As Britain’s ginaissance continues the demand for more interesting flavour combinations and adventurous botanicals being used within the gin making process is resulting in some very popular and not to mention delicious varieties.  

Independent wine and spirit merchant and bar John Gordons in Cheltenham have been serving up tempting tipples for over 10 years – so you could say that they know a thing or two about the strong stuff. They have witnessed the steady rise in demand for gin and responded appropriately; they now stock over 103 different types, and serve up some pretty mean gin cocktails.  

"Gin popularity has blown up so quickly, these days there is a new gin being produced in the UK every six weeks!" explains John Gordons’ co-director and gin specialist Will Duff.

"With sales of gin continuing to rise, a lot of the distilleries that produce whisky or other age-worthy spirits are actually starting to move into the gin market because although it’s not quick and easy, it doesn’t take ten to fifteen years of aging, like a whisky would. These distillers are becoming innovators and trendsetters, and they are producing unique craft gins."

And it is these unusual gins - packed with interesting and exotic botanicals and flavours that are really leading Britain’s gin revival. A trend predominantly started by the likes of Hendrick’s (a premium gin infused with rose and cucumber) and Bombay Sapphire (which contains 10 different botanicals, including liquorice and almonds), these premium gins challenged the market and made people realise that gin is in fact the perfect spirit for ingredient experimentation and flavour enhancement, and so now, no longer satisfied with a straightforward house gin, we want our favourite spirit to be packed full of interesting and usual flavour combinations.

"It’s really exciting to see that juniper is being put into the background a bit more now" explains Will.

"Flavours like elderflower and rhubarb, or really herby flavours using more spice like black pepper, cubeb, or even red chili are now coming together to create a really different drink. There is so much variety on the market now distillers have to be creative and we’re seeing them delve much deeper, to find new and exciting ingredients that make them a unique taste experience."

One perfect example of this is Half Hitch Gin, created in Camden, which uses single estate Malawian black tea leaves and Bergamot from Calabria in Italy. Monkey 47 Gin comprises of a staggering 47 different botanicals from sage to English hawthorn and there is also Bloom, a new floral gin which features honeysuckle, pomelo and chamomile.

But beware - these flavorsome gins are not to be knocked back as a shot; they are carefully crafted spirits, designed for use in long drinks and the occasional premium cocktail. Some can even be sipped neat, if preferred.

"I wouldn’t necessarily use premium gins in cocktails" advises Will. "You can use it for things like martinis because when you add Vermouth you really let the gin shine through, so it’s the main star of the show. But of course if you’re making cocktails with lime, sugar and other alcohols, etc. you essentially lose the pureness of the spirit, and it just becomes a simple gin again."

And what about the humble G&T?

"At John Gordons we actually specialise in bespoke gin and tonics!" explains Will.

"Each gin needs to be appreciated for what it is and a gin and tonic is perfect for that. I suggest that people take time to smell their gin, in very much the same way that you would nose your wine or a whisky. Pour your gin, add your ice and tonic, swirl it around, bring it to your nose and then try and pick up all of those gentle botanicals in there. There are also a lot more flavoured tonics around now that can give the drink that extra bit of flavour and edge - think about pairing a herby gin with a hibiscus tonic, or an elderflower tonic with quite a berry-forward gin, served in a Spanish style goblet!"

And so without further ado, here are Will’s top 3 summery gin cocktails for TOAST readers to try at home;

The Summer Gin & Tonic

For this I like to use Brockman’s gin, a 40% gin filled with berries and summer fruits. It’s incredibly smooth and full of strawberry, raspberry blueberry and blackberry flavours, combined with Orris Root, Cassia Bark, Liquorice, Orange, Lemon, Angelica root, and Almonds.

Serve in a tall glass or goblet over ice with an elderflower tonic (available from Fevertree), garnished with a small amount of strawberry, blueberry, raspberry and blackberry and a sprig of mint to finish. A perfect summer sipper.

The Spicy Cotswold Gin

The Cotswold Dry gin is a very popular gin with some very fresh notes of grapefruit and lavender combined with earthy coriander, backed-up by sweet juniper. The gin has a well-balanced flavour so it’s perfect over ice or with regular tonic water.

I like to serve this with a slice of fresh grapefruit and a black pepper tincture to lift the flavours.

The Cotswold Gin is also robust enough to create a very good gin martini.

Rhubarb Gin & Tonic

Warner Edwards Rhubarb Gin is made using the crop of rhubarb originally grown in the kitchen garden of Buckingham Palace during the reign of Queen Victoria. The Rhubarb is extracted using a traditional fruit press and blended with their Harrington Dry Gin, which is what makes it very [a] smooth and well balanced drink.

It also has a little bit of cardamom spice to it so its subtle at the end but with this big balanced rhubarb. To serve, we like to garnish it with a bit of heat, using some ginger and a slice of apple to bring out the flavours of the rhubarb gin.

Enjoy with plenty of ice and your favourite tonic, or ginger ale.

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Alexs Three Best Gin Cocktails


Garnishing your cocktail is an important element to gin cocktail making, says Will;

"It’s always safe to use citrus flavours as a good gin has always got a nice citrus middle to it, so a lemon or lime zest works well. You can bring florals into it, or herbs and spices. For example when we use Opihr Gin, which is spiced with cubeb berries, coriander, cardamon, [cardamom] juniper, orange, grapefruit zest and ginger, we garnished it off with a red chilli and a crushed stick of lemongrass to freshen it up. You can be really creative and no single garnish is wrong or right - that’s the beauty of it!"

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Will’s top 3 gins to look out for:

  • One of my favourites is Ferdinand’s Saar Dry Gina German dried gin distilled from hand-picked Reisling grapes which gives it a real minerality, and a subtle sweetness too, making it really easy to sip.
  • Whitley Neill Gin also blends highly aromatic herbs like angelica root and cassia bark with a citrusy lemon and orange peel; this balances the spicy coriander and the Baobab Fruit gives a hint of sweetness. 
  • Copper Head Gin has some incredible packaging and branding to start with (see shiny copper bottle!). It’s a Belgian gin which uses only the best botanicals such as juniper, cardamom, orange peel, angelica and coriander, making it a really simple clear cut dry gin, created through a meticulously scientific process created by Yvan Vindevogel, a famous Belgian pharmacist who was very interested in the healing aspects of gin. 



Posted in Inspire Me

by Sophie Farrah
on on 27 August 2016


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