Last weekend saw York welcome the UK’s largest Gin Festival. On its travels around the UK, the next stop is Milton Keynes later this month before moving to Manchester, Bristol, Leeds and beyond!!
If you’ve got a penchant for G&T, it’s well worth a visit. Tickets are only £7 and you can pop in on any of the informal ‘gin chat’ sessions delivered by clued up representatives from the attending gin producers or mooch around each of the stands, which are all manned by friendly and experienced staff who are more than happy to converse with you about their gins as well as let you try ‘mini-taster’ sized samples of them too. There are also several different ‘something for everyone’ gin bars stocking an amazing plethora of diverse gins in terms of style, colour and taste. So whatever takes your fancy, you just buy a ‘gin credit’ card for £20 (cash only folks), which allows you 5 gins of your choice. The bar staff are brilliantly knowledgeable and, if you want, they will help you with ideas before serving them with the correct garnishes and accompaniments. Perfect!!
Word of warning, these events are selling out quick e.g. the next one in Milton Keynes is already sold out so if you fancy it, get booking!!
How’s gin made? A neutral high strength (minimum 96% abv) spirit e.g. a Vodka, is flavoured with a range of botanicals: – juniper, coriander, citrus peels, angelica root, orris root etc. Just like chefs will prepare and cook a dish differently, each gin distiller will use their own ‘botanical cocktail’ on the proviso that juniper holds the significant ‘upper hand’ so to speak.
What types of gin are there?
London Gin. Despite the name, London Gin can be made anywhere. Legislation means that the neutral spirit has to be redistilled in a pot still in the presence of juniper and other botanicals. Flavours can’t be added post distillation, but distillers can ‘play’ with the power and concentration of flavour by a variety of methods e.g. to increase the intensity they can steep the botanicals in the neutral spirit for longer to elicit and marry the oils and aromas together more and/or extend the maceration time or perhaps to create more subtle flavours, the botanicals can be placed in a basket in the head of a ‘Carterhead’ pot still so that the vapours pass through the basket absorbing the flavours and so on.
Distilled Gin? Distilled Gins are made the same way as London Gin, however, flavours are permitted to be added post distillation. These styles of gin have become very popular with bartenders/mixologists and the general public and can be pricier.
Cold Compounded Gins This is the easiest and cheapest way to flavour a gin. Essential oils or artificial flavourings are added to the base spirit and, whilst these can have an immediately powerful nose, that can diminish with ‘Usain Bolt’ speed and they tend to taste rather synthetic.
Our Gin Festival favourite? Brockmans gin by far. This premium gin, made in Birmingham and bottled in the north west, retails around £28.90 and lives up to its ‘Intensely Smooth Premium Gin Infused With Exquisite Botanicals’ label. Brockmans use eleven botanicals, which they source from far and wide: juniper from Italy; coriander from Bulgaria; lemon and orange peel from Murcia; almonds from Spain; liquorice from China, cassis bark from Indo China and it goes on. Two of the more unique components that get added into the mix in Brockmans gin are the northern European blueberries and blackberries, which truly crafts a real gentle smoothness into this fabulous gin. How? All the botanicals are left to steep in 100% pure grain spirit for many hours allowing the alcohol to help the botanicals release their essential oils before both being put to work in Brockmans 100 year old traditional copper still.
Each consumer is different with some liking their drinks stronger than others. We want people to enjoy their Brockmans as they see fit. The (Lejay Lagoute) Crème de Mûre I use is just a very small amount drizzled over the ice after topping up with the ginger ale. The Mûre helps to bring out the blackberries from the gin…..(Mike Whatmough, Brockmans)
Cocktail Recipe Brockmans rocks on the (big) rocks, but it’s also sensational with ginger ale and the ‘marriage made in heaven’ Crème de Mûre (blackberry liqueur).
- 50ml of Brockmans gin
- Ice cubes – the bigger the better
- Ginger ale (ideally use a good quality ginger ale like Fever-Tree)
Crème de Mûre (Lejay Lagoute is the perfect addition and available from TheDrinkShop.com)
- 4 or 5 fresh blueberries
- Use a well chilled large (round looks good) bowl glass
- Add ice to fill just over half the glass
- Add the 50ml of Brockmans gin
- Pour in some ginger ale to just below the ice level
- Drizzle over a little Crème de Mûre
- Pop in the blueberries and finish the garnish with a couple of small pieces of grapefruit
Sit back, relax and enjoy!
Some facts about gin:-
- The 1730s, saw the average Londoner consuming around 14 gallons of spirit every year resulting in a decrease in the birth rate as some men becoming impotent and some women sterile.
- The term ‘Dutch courage’ was coined during the Thirty Years’ War, British troops noticed that their brave Dutch contemporaries took their ‘Jenever’ alcohol allowance just before battle and followed suit.
- The Gin Riots broke out in response to the Gin Act of 1736, which introduced the need for licences to sell gin, and increased the duty levies in an attempt to tackle the spiralling gin consumption.
- Gin, known as ‘Mother’s Milk’ from the 1820s, later became known as ‘Mother’s Ruin’.
- Gin Palaces, lavish and imposing bars selling gin, were introduced around 1930 as the spirit fraternity’s answer to the plethora of beer shops ‘home from home’. Within 30 years, London alone had around 5000 of them.
- Gin was mixed with lime cordial by the Royal Navy to stop scurvy.
- Tonic water with quinine has anti-malaria properties.
- Gin starts its life as a vodka.
- The oldest working distillery in the world is in Plymouth.
- London Dry Gin can be made anywhere, however, Plymouth Gin has to be made in Plymouth.
- 80% of UK produced Gin (and Vodka) is made in Scotland
- 70% of UK produced Gin is exported (44% to the USA, 21% Spain, 9% Germany etc re HMRC)
- Early Australian settlers paid for their imported Gordon’s London Dry gin in gold dust.