Spanish Gin Digest – 5 Gin Reviewed

Today’s article is a bit of a bumper issue to cover a variety of lesser known gins that I tried in Spain, all of which were under €15 a bottle.

Masters Gin

MastersGin FINALMasters Gin is made by Destilerias MG, producer of liquor since 1940. Bottled at 40.0% ABV, its botanicals include juniper, coriander, cardamom and citrus.
Price: €12 for 70cl

i) On its own
Nose: Minimal, with notes of alcohol and bitter pine.
Taste: Pretty classic, but somewhat lacking overall. This tastes watery, as if it has been watered down. There is a little juniper and citrus upfront, followed by a touch of sweet nutmeg, but that is about it. The finish is long, but faint, with a sort of miscellaneous gin character. Dull.

ii) Gin & Tonic
Okay, but not spectacular. Nonetheless, this is a serviceable drink that ticks all of the basic boxes of what you would expect from a Gin & Tonic. With a fresh citrus garnish, this could be quite refreshing.

iii) Martini
A very basic, entry level Martini, but with nothing that shines. Flavour-wise, there’s a bit of juniper and citrus, but this is below average and a drink that I’d be unlikely to mix again.

iv) Negroni
Again, this is okay, but – like all of the other drinks – rather bland and slightly below average. This drink is in urgent need of a citrus wedge to make it even palatable; it’s not offensive, but certainly forgettable.

In Conclusion
A rather forgettable spirit, lacking complexity and the flavour intensity to stand up well when mixed.

Albertson London Dry Gin

Albertson Gin FINALMade by Commercial Tello S.A. and distilled seven times, this gin has an ABV of 37.5% ABV and its botanicals include juniper, coriander, and citrus. This gin came with a bonus shot glass!
Price: €8 for 70cl

i) On its own
Nose: Almost nothing: just a touch of ethanol and citrus.
Taste: A bit watery to start with, but it’s smooth with a little sweetness. Gradually, some warmth builds as you drink, as does a bit of juniper and a soapy texture. Ultimately, though, there’s not a lot going on; this takes more like a vodka.

ii) Gin & Tonic
Bland and below par. The gin shrinks beneath the tonic; you’d a good, fresh, tasty garnish to make this one palatable.

iii) Martini
Plain, but pretty smooth. This seems more like a vodka Martini than one made with gin. There is a mere hint of juniper and angelica towards the end. There is no wow factor, but the drink is inoffensive and perfectly drinkable.

iv) Negroni
Okay, but a bit disappointing and rather anonymous; you just about get the cocktail’s signature balance of bitter and sweetness, but this is very forgettable.

In Conclusion
Avoid. Gin Giro is the same price, but five times as good.

Gloc Gin

gloc ginMarketed by CIMIN DREAMS, Gloc Gin one of a range of seven different spirits, including tequila, whisky, and rum. It is bottled at 37.5% ABV.
Price: €4 for 35cl

i) On its own
Nose: Lemon and burnt toast.
Taste: Quite odd: dry anise, plenty of coriander, and sherbert-like citrus, followed by a chalky finish. Not spectacular, but passable given that it cost 4 euros.

ii) Gin & Tonic
Intriguing: lots of caraway comes through, as does some celery and cucumber peel. Pretty crisp, with some spiciness towards the end. Unfortunately, a chalky residual flavour spoils the drink.

iii) Martini
Lots of fennel and a fair bit of caraway, too, but not much juniper. The cocktail is a bit on the watery side, but not too bad; it just needs a bit more depth to its flavour. Would not satisfy the aficionados.

gloc range

iv) Negroni
This cocktail has a slight marmalade quality to it, with jamminess and a moderately bitter finish. This has some character and some interesting notes of flamed orange. All-in-all, a Negroni that is just above average.

In Conclusion
Gloc is let down by the chalky flavour that comes through in some drinks; it works best in a Negroni.

Palmbridge

Palmbridge Gin FINALThe cheapest of the gins that we tasted, Palmbridge is produced by Antonio Nadal S.A, a company that has its origins in Mallorca in 1898. The gin is bottled at 37.5% ABV.
Price: €7.84 for 1 litre or €3.50 for 35cl

i) On its own
Nose: A rather a funky smell, not dissimilar to some vintage gins that have not aged well. I put this down to the underlying quality of the alcohol. Beyond that, there are notes of juniper and a little citrus.
Taste: Vanilla and a bit of juniper. There’s not much going on and this hollowness reminds me of the sort of rough spirits that often seem to lead to hangovers. Not a gin I would want to drink much of.

ii) Gin & Tonic
Simple and straightforward: juniper, citrus, and then a very faint hint of vanilla and coconut. It’s okay, but you need a good garnish and a half decent tonic to make it palatable.

iii) Martini
Not much in the way of gin flavour. Again, this is far more like a vodka Martini; there’s only a little citrus, some vanilla, and chocolate notes. There’s a hint juniper on the finish, but it’s really far more akin to a vodka than gin Martini.

iv) Negroni
Pretty good; there’s lots of flavour and, unusually for a Negroni, the vermouth really seems to shine through. There’s some sweetness, but also plenty of herbal notes: anise, fennel, and wormwood, followed by a long, earthy bitterness. Unlike the Martini with this gin, this Negroni is full of flavour and, given the price, rather impressive.

In Conclusion
For a budget gin, this is a cheap and cheerful choice for both a Gin & Tonic and a Negroni, with both drinks being further improved with addition of a fresh citrus garnish.

Sheriton Dry Gin

Dry Gin Sheriton FINALBottled at 37.5% ABV, Sheriton Dry Gin is made by José Estévez S.A..
Price: €6.97 for 70cl

i) On its own
Nose: Juniper, anise, and fennel.
Taste: Not too bad, but a bit harsh; quite a lot of ethanol comes through and the botanical flavours are a bit weak. There’s some pine and citrus, plus a little liquorice but, personally, I prefer bolder flavours in my gin.

ii) Gin & Tonic
Rather poor: bland, with just a little bit of juniper. It’s dry, but, otherwise, there’s not much going on. There are definitely better Gin & Tonics out there, so I’d avoid this.

iii) Martini
Quite good: smooth, clean, classic, and crisp, with some soft citrus notes, too. There’s no real “oomph” behind it. but it’s perfectly acceptable.

~~ IN SUMMARY ~~

The reader may have guessed that not many of the gins in the line-up had much of a wow factor and, in some cases, they were only just drinkable. The common factor that was the main downfall for these spirits was lack of flavour, which typically comes from using cheap or old botanicals or not using enough botanicals in the first place.

Palmbridge was my favourite of this bunch but Gin Giro (review coming soon) is the best choice for cheap Spanish Gin.

Cocktails with… Jodhpur Gin

JodhpurTitle
Jodhpur Gin is a London Dry Gin made in the UK, either at Thames or Langley; my money is on the latter. It’s made with a base of Neutral Grain Spirit and is made using 13 botanicals, including:

JodhpurBots

Bottled at 43%ABV, Jodhpur Gin received special acclaim when it was awarded a gold medal at the 2011 San Francisco Awards.

1) On its own
Nose: Quite light, with a little juniper and citrus.
Taste: Clean and quite smooth, with plenty of juniper, followed by some coriander, citrus and liquorice. Then there’s a little warmth at the end. I think this will have good mixing potential.

2) Gin & Tonic
i) with Fentimans
A fresh, citrusy nose. In terms of taste, this is a perfectly pleasant and refreshing drink (it would maybe work well with a little bit of lime), but the characteristics of the gin are a little overwhelmed. Regardless, this is a very refreshing and pleasant drink.

ii) with Schweppes
Quite classic and clean, with a reasonable balance between the gin and tonic. Very straightforward, with classic juniper and citrus notes and a notable quinine bitterness at the start. I see this as being something of a blank canvas with which to express yourself using your garnish.

Jodhpur Gin Bottle

#3) Martini
Clean and crisp, with juniper and some sweet spice, like cinnamon or vanilla, and a lift of citrus on the finish. Light, but with plenty of flavour and a sweet middle. Altogether rather classic in style.

#4) Negroni
Well-balanced, with a good level of bitter-sweetness. This is right in the middle of the Negroni spectrum: exactly what you would expect. Full, with a well-rounded flavour.

#5) Gin Buck
This is a great gin for a Gin Buck: not too complicated, but all the boxes are ticked; there’s dry juniper, zesty citrus and a few earthy, herbal notes. All in all, this makes for a very refreshing drink, which is rather quaffable. A little sweet juniper comes through at the end – well-liked by all who tried it.

Jodhpur Pink Grapefruit Gin Tonica

Jodhpur Pink Grapefruit Gin Tonica

#6) GinTonica
i) Pink Grapefruit and Juniper
Excellent: very fresh and juicy, and improves even more with a little squeeze of the pink grapefruit wedge. It makes for a simple, yet attractive garnish in terms of sight, scent and taste. Exceptionally refreshing and rather moreish.

ii) Granny Smith Apple
If you are looking for crispness with a little sweet lift at the end, then this is the drink for you. When drinking, you get the same crispness that you would get from biting into a cool apple. The scent from the apples is also surprisingly prominent.

Jodhpur Granny Smith Apple Gin Tonica

Jodhpur Granny Smith Apple Gin Tonica

In Conclusion
Jodhpur is an example of a gin in the classic style: good and traditional, with no particularly unusual characteristics. This makes it excellent for mixing in a variety of gin drinks; my favourite cocktail was the Negroni.

Cocktails with… Blanc Gin (from Spain!) – The Seaweed Gin

I came across Blanc Gin via the great folks at Infugintonic, the producers of Gin & Tonic infusion bags, which I reviewed here. They recommended a gin called Blanc, which they have been working with recently, creating two exclusive infusion bags to add to their excellent product line.

BlancGinBottle

Blanc Gin is owned by the luxury gastronomie group “Blanc”, whose products include “Pearls of Aphrodite” (white caviar), as well as a range of other high-end food goods such as Souflé, Creme de Huevo, Olive Oil and, now, Gin.

Blanc Gin is bottled at 40%ABV and contains 11 botanicals, which are listed below. The spirit is distilled a total of three times, using a water bath to heat it.

Juniper
Gentian
Coriander Leaf
Angelica Root
Lemon Verbena
Cinnamon
Orange
Lemon
Key Lime
Bergamot

The final botanical is rather unique and inspired by the sea:

Salicornia.

The Taste

1) On its own
Nose: A rich, citrus nose with orange and bergamot, plus some bitterness like that of dark chocolate.
Taste: Rather smooth, with plenty of orange upfront, followed by some darker herbal notes, including hints of dark cocoa. There’s some dry pine and then a little warmth, followed by creamy notes of chocolate orange on the finish. Very unusual, but a real pleasure to drink.

2) Over ice
Increasingly, more gins are being designed to be drunk over ice and Blanc Gin works well in this serve. The pine and chocolate orange come over well, along with the fragrance of the lemon verbena, as does a slight saltiness; this would seem particularly fitting if it was drunk on some decking on a terrace overlooking the sea.

3) Gin & Tonic
Very zesty with a citrus-heavy flavour to start, with dry quinine and juniper towards the end, with a finish of creamy orange verbena and a final, bitter lift. A lot could be done, in creative terms, with the garnish of this drink and I know that Infugintonic have made two infusion bags exclusively for this gin.

4) Negroni
A lovely Negroni with plenty of orange. This is quite sweet, but still has some bitterness, hints of herbs and dark chocolate. Quite festive, with warm, spicy notes.

5) Martini
A good flavour: clean, but with a fair bit of sweetness; the flavour develops over time, with hints of violet, orange, vanilla and chocolate all appearing against a backdrop of dryness. Your choice of dry vermouth is important – I’d recommend Dolin.

6) Alexander
Superb – rich and indulgent, with notes of chocolate (both white and bitter, dark chocolate) and orange. Most definitely dessert-like and brilliant!

7) French ‘75
Very unusual – hints of chocolate and orange, again, as well as a touch of freshly heeled shoes, but not in a bad way. Whilst this isn’t classic, it’s nonetheless very interesting and good for a different style of drink.

In Conclusion
Not only does Blanc Gin have an unusual botanical at its heart, but it also has an unusual flavour, which means that it adds something new to gin cocktails. Notably, the verbena-chocolate notes are great in sweet or dessert-like cocktails, whilst the additional warm, spiced notes produce a particularly festive drink in the Negroni, which was very good.

Infugintonic – Gin & Tonic Infusion Bags

I’ve written a fair bit about Gin Tonicas and am quite keen on this very different way of serving the traditional Gin & Tonic. My enthusiasm is also shared by Bombay Sapphire, who held an event for the Jubilee and have also been running a free glassware promotion.

The Gin Tonica uses a balloon glass, plenty of ice and – usually – rather outlandish garnishes. Up until now, one of the issues with making them at home would be the need to have these outlandish garnishes readily available at home; how many of you regularly have rose petals on hand, for instance?

Well, perhaps the answer can be found over in the home of the Gin Tonica, Spain. Infusgintonic have come up with some nifty little flavour or infusion bags. They look very much like teabags and contain various mixes of dried fruit, flowers and spices. You steep them in the gin for a minute or two, before adding your tonic, and, as a result, you get the flavours you would gain from an elaborate garnish without the preparation and expense.

Here is an illustration:

There are ten flavours of bags, each designed to complement different types of gin. I decided to try each of them out.

#1) Beso de Frutas with Cool Gin
(“Kiss of fruit” – Blackcurrants, blackberries, redcurrants, strawberries and raspberries)

The gin has berry notes anyway and the infusion bag adds even more, both in terms of scent, sight and taste. It also adds a lot of berry flavours without sweetening the drink. Fruity and refreshing.

Other gins recommended: Brockman’s, Fifty Pounds, Monkey 47

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#2) Brisa de Trafalgar with GinSelf
(“Breeze of Trafalgar” – Lemon peel, orange peel and pieces of orange)

This made an exceptionally citrusy Gin Tonica with plenty of orange to match the 6 citrc botanicals in the gin; it was as if the flavour of these zesty fruits had been turned up to 11. Pink grapefruit and orange blossom come through in particular. This is a very intense drink that complements the gin well and results in a refreshing, dry beverage that would be great to sip before dinner.

Other gins recommended: Beefeater, Beefeater 24, 6 O’Clock

#3) Ragos Árabes with Tanqueray 10
(“Arab Traits” – Apple, cinnamon and almonds)

Wow! Just great – this really illustrates the value of the infusion bags. The apple and cinnamon contrast, yet complement the gin’s dry citrus notes rather well to make an unexpected, but superb drink. It would be difficult to get this flavour any other way. Very good, indeed.

Other gins recommended: Port of Dragons Pure, William Chase, Ish

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#4) Classic Gin-tonic with Bombay Sapphire
(“Classic Gin & Tonic” – Lemon peel and juniper berries)

Undoubtedly, the impact of this bag is more subtle than some of the others, but what it does do is add some extra gin fragrances and some extra juniper and citrus to the taste. The finish also seems dryer and is longer than usual, intensifying the flavour. Definitely one for the traditionalists.

Other gins recommended: Zuidam, Jodhpur, Fifty Pounds

#5) Fruta Refrescante with Bulldog Gin
(“Refreshing Fruit” – Strawberry and mint)

The bag adds some lively freshness to the gin and the mint and strawberry work well with the dry fruitiness of Bulldog. A rather pleasant drink with this variety having a faint bit of potential for other gins.

Other gins recommended: Blackwoods, River Rose, Brockmans
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#6) Sabor a Azahar with Sacred Gin
(“Taste of Orange Blossom” – Strawberry, orange and orange blossom)

Jammy and fruity notes from the bag works well with the juniper and spice of Sacred. This is a good example of how the bag can modify, but also complement the flavour profile of a gin.

Other gins recommended: Brokers, No:209, Pink47
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#7) Sueño Andalusi with Port of Dragons Floral
(“Andalusia dream” – Roses and orange peel (floral))

This has a refreshing amount of cardamom, making for a very crisp and floral Gin Tonica. The citrus and rose excentuates these elements of the gin. Very good and Spanish in style.

Other gins recommended: Bloom, G’Vine Flouraison, The Botanist

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#8) Pasión Afrodisiaca with Whitley Neill
(“Aphrodisiac passion” – Ginger, cinnamon, pineapple, coconut, mango, papaya and tangerine peel (Cocktail gin))

A rather exotic drink with complex fruit and floral flavours, quite exciting and the amour quality does some how seem to be captured. Most interesting.

Other gins recommended: G’Vine, Ish, Mombassa
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#9) Angélica Gin with Millers
(“Angelica Gin” – Juniper, angelica and liquorice)

Very fragrant nose of angelica and citrus: the angelica infusion really pays well off of the fresh cucumber notes of the gin and adds a slight sweetness, but also a crisp, vegetal note reminiscent of celery and liquorice root. This intensifies the gin without taking away from the overall balance, making a very interesting drink that improves even as you continue drinking it.

Other gins recommended: Seagram’s, Geranium, Oxley

#10) Caricia Prohibida with Plymouth
(“Forbidden Caress” – Flower vine, grapes, orange, tangerine and lemon peels)

Lots of lemon, with some floral notes and juicy grapes, too, which all work well with the spicy notes of Plymouth and the slight sweetness of the spirit. Lively notes of lemon sherbet are prominent.

Other gins recommended: No:3, South, Beefeater 24

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In Conclusion
From my evangelism of  various Thomas Henry products it is pretty clear that I am rather a fan of Gin & Tonic innovation and I think that the Infugintonic are excellent.They solve a problem and contribute a good amount of flavour to the gin without overpowering the spirits’ characters.

My favourite flavours were “Angelica” and “Ragos Árabes”; the latter, I’d really like to try with rum or brandy, too.

http://infugintonic.com/

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Cocktails with… 1211 Gin (from Spain!)

The sister of COOL Gin, Gin 1211 is more classic in style and was create by the same folks. The recipe of the gin they decided on was the 12th they tried and it contains 11 botanicals. Hence 1211.

#1) On its own
Nose: More classic than COOL Gin, with plenty of juniper and pine, some vanilla and citrus and some spicy notes towards the end Finishes with hints of anise or cardamom.
Taste: Very smooth initially, with a gradually building warmth of flavour. It is quite bold, but relatively smooth overall and, I think, rather good: lemon citrus, with a touch of vanilla. The finish is medium in length and tastes predominantly of pine and coriander.

#2) Gin & Tonic
This has a slight sweetness and vanilla on the nose. Taste wise, it is pretty classic, but with a slight, sweet, creamy vanilla lift. Fresh, with a good amount of juniper and citrus, this is very pleasant: refreshing and cooling, and not too heavy.

#3) Martini
Very crisp, but also rather intense; this easily tastes stronger than 42.5%ABV. There’s some citrus, a little spice, and some spicy coriander.

#4) Negroni
Far more classic in style, this is quite crisp, with some distinctive citrus sourness. Clean and juicy, this makes a refreshing drink that is very enjoyable.

#5) Sweet Martini
Very crisp with plenty of lemon citrus and some herbal notes. Rather rousing to the appetite and good before a meal. Lovely and extra flavoursome.

#6) Gin Buck
Very good and very juicy, the gin comes through and the ginger ale adds a nice twist of spice. A great way to enjoy this classic gin in a long drink.

#7) Basil Smash
Really really good, this gin work superbly with the basil not too overpowering but still adding a lot of flavour. Very crisp, invigorating and well recommended.

#8) Gin Collins
A classic collins, zesty with pine and citrus from the gin. Excellent to quench your thirst and if you are looking for a good example of gin collins, this is worth a try.

In Conclusion
If you are looking for a flavourful, balanced and traditional style gin that can rival some of the best that UK produces then 1211 is worth looking trying. My favourite drink was the Basil Smash.

Cocktails with… GinSelf Gin (from Spain!)

Continuing our latest spate of Spanish gin reviews, today we’re looking at Ginself, which is made in an artisan distillery in Valencia. It is produced in batches of 500 litres in an 18th Century still, using a combination of 9 botanicals that are macerated for 24 hours prior to distillation. The gin is brought down to bottling strength (40%ABV) with spring water from the Sierra de Espadán.

The mix of 9 botanicals are:

The Taste

1) On its own
Nose: Juniper, with spicy, floral coriander and zesty, floral orange. There’s also a slight, biscuity nuttiness from the angelica, too.
Taste: With lots of orange blossom upfront, it reminds me of orange shortbread. These notes are followed by lemon, coriander and a finish of dry, floral pininess. It’s quite smooth, with a little warmth at the end.

2) Gin & Tonic
Full of citrus and floral notes, this has orange and orange blossom right upfront. It’s very juicy, tasting like it has fresh orange in it, even though I didn’t use any garnish at all. For this reason, I think it’s better to stick to using the cleaner, rather than more citrus-heavy, tonic waters with this gin.

3) Dry Martini
Clean, with lots of orange, as well as some floral orange blossom. Unlike some other gins the orange notes in this one are quite dry and not sweet like triple sec. Perhaps a twist of pink grapefruit would work well as a garnish? It was a good match for the gin in a Gin & Tonic.

4) Negroni
This makes a lovely drink that is packed full of flavour. There are a lot of orange and other citrusy botanicals in this drink and they work well, which is understandable, given that orange is a typical garnish to a Negroni. I think this more accessible than most Negronis, but it still has the familiar bitter-sweetness that fans of the drink crave.


5) Gin Tonica
This is quite simple to make: combine an approximate two-to-one ratio with about a teaspoon of Pink Grapefruit Juice, a twist of Grapefruit oil and a wedge of fruit. It’s very colourful, but also complements the floral orange blossom and other citrus in the spirit. This drink has a refreshing, zesty bite to it, making it perfect for a hot summers day or even a hot autumnal evening inside (when someone has been a bit over-eager with the heating).

6) Sweet Martini
Sweet, herbal and citrusy; too sweet for a pre-dinner drink, I think, but it would work well as a digestif, with its bold flavour and complexity. There’s plenty of orange, too.

In Conclusion
I really enjoyed Ginself and it certainly has its own character. It has a lot of floral and citrus in its flavour profile, although this is in the form of a warm orange flavour, as opposed to a zesty or bitter lemon one, which makes a difference. I like the Gin Tonica especially – so crisp, so delicious.

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Cocktails with… COOL Gin (from Spain!)

I am always keen to keep abreast of the latest innovations in gin, tonic and garnishes in Spain; it’s quite an exciting place, with lots of innovation going on, so imagine my excitement when I contacted COOL Gin about the possibility of trying their gin and they sent me a bonus bottle of their sister gin, 1211, too.

COOL Gin is made by Benevento Global and is a self-styled contemporary gin, although it suggests that it has gone even further and is simply cool gin.

It is made using 12 botanicals, notably including wild strawberry and blackberry, and is also violet in colour.

#1) On its own
Nose: Floral, with lots of vanilla and notes of jelly; fruity and jammy. Juniper also makes an appearance, accompanied by the berry freshness.
Taste: Very unusual for a gin: sweet vanilla and fruit to start, followed by more classic gin flavours: juniper and coriander. Additional sweetness then appears in the form of jammy blackcurrant and strawberry, before a long finish of rose and violet, much like Parma Violets or crystallised violets.

#2) Gin & Tonic
Being light violet in colour, this is a most intriguing drink. Again, there’s quite a lot of vanilla, making this taste almost like a gin & cream soda, but the finish is quite dry, with juniper and quinine. The fruity, berry and floral notes reminds me of the Camp David Gin & Tonic.

#3) Martini
Intense and floral, with some sweetness and notes of vanilla. This is a very, very unusual drink, but an attractive violet colour and very smooth, too; nice and clean.

#4) Negroni
Slight violet on the nose. Rather pleasant, with a good balance of bitterness and sweetness and a creamy violet and vanilla strand throughout that’s nonetheless not overpowering. Whilst not 100% traditional, this is still rather tasty and has a subtle difference that I quite like.

#5) Sweet Martini
Cool Gin makes a sweeter Sweet Martini than usual, with more floral notes and being, generally, more dessert-like. There’s also lots of vanilla, reminding me of cupcakes; as such, this is definitely a drink for after, rather than before, dinner.

#6) Aviation
This is a perfect match for this gin: the fruity, berry notes and hints of floral bring a lot to this drink and make it intense, but delicious. If you are a fan of an Aviation cocktail, then this is surely for you.

#7) Gin Buck
I find this a bit sweet and that the ginger clashes with the berry and floral flavours. It’s not an awful drink, but there are better ways to enjoy this gin.

#8) Gin Collins
A very clean and exceptionally light Gin Collins, with only a hint of juniper and some jammy blackberry and violet floral notes. There’s some sweetness, but not too much, making this a great, lighter drink to enjoy COOL Gin in, especially given the hint of purple in its colour.

In Conclusion

From first appearances, COOL Gin is unusual and this may put off some who prefer their gins to be more traditional, but it’s well worth trying. The floral and berry flavours bring something new, whilst maintaining the character of the gin and ensuring that its flavours are well-balanced. If you are a gin adventurer, a fan of the Aviation, or both, then this is most certainly a gin worth trying.

My favourite drinks were the Aviation and the Gin & Tonic

Cocktails with… The Botanicals Gin

Gin is popular in Spain – very popular – and gin made in the UK is seen as being particularly prestigious, although there are some excellent gin produced in Spain itself. Brands such as Knockeen Hills and Brokers enjoy great success in Spain and there are even a number of brands that are produced in the UK for the Spanish market, but not actually sold here.

One such brand is the focus of today’s article: The Botanicals, which is made at Langley Distillery and contains 14 botanicals. It is bottled at 42.5% ABV.


On its own
Nose: Sweet, creamy orange, like Triple Sec.
Taste: Very fruity, with sweet orange, vanilla and a touch of anise. Very smooth and quite unusual, but rather nice.

Gin & Tonic
Lots of citrus on the nose leads you into a smooth, yet zesty Gin & Tonic. With primary flavours of juniper and orange, this is fresh, juicy and vibrant.

Martini
Quite sweet, with floral notes and, again, a good deal of orange. I would say that this is more of a citrus Martini than a Classic one and works rather well with a twist of pink grapefruit peel.

Negroni
Again, this was quite sweet, with a good burst of orange. It reminds me of the sweetness of Crodino or bottled Campari Soda. That said, it is very, very smooth. If the sweetness is an issue, I’d suggest adding a dash of lemon juice to maintain the cocktail’s balance.

Sweet Martini
This made a complex and intense Sweet Martini that had lots of citrus and bitter, herbal notes; it almost seems one step towards a Negroni, in terms of the bitterness. Deliciously refreshing and rousing to the appetite.

Fruit Cup
A fresh and citrusy Fruit Cup, in which the gin works very well with the herbal vermouth. It is also a little more complex than most gin Fruit Cups, with the flavours of the gin really standing out. Lovely.

In Conclusion
The Botnaical’s Gin is very citrus and thus lends itself well to certian drinks such as the gin and tonic and fruit cup although it’s sweet, which can be used as an asset, needs to be considered when mixing.

Gin Tonica Tasting – 15 Spanish Gin & Tonics for World Gin Day

The Gin industry, like almost any other, is subject to changes and trends over time. One such trend that I have recently noted with interest has come over from our neighbours in Spain and has been taking British gin bars and brands by storm. I am talking of the the Gin Tonica: the method of serving a Gin & Tonic in a large balloon glass (sometime known as a coupe glass), over either a copious amount of ice or a single, large ice ball.

With some gin bars now serving all their G&Ts in this style by default and with branded glassware becoming available from many big British brands, I thought it was time to take a closer look at what some call a phenomenon and others, a craze.

One of the purported advantages of using a balloon glass over a highball is that the drink has more room to breathe, allowing the aromas of the gin, mixer and garnish to be more concentrated and easier to enjoy. The larger glass also gives you a bigger canvas to be creative with the garnish. In addition, the increased volume of ice keeps the drink cooler for longer and helps to prevent ice melt.

I’ve spoken to a variety of different brand representatives to try and get the preferred Gin Tonica serve for their gins, although some of the following are of my own invention/modification.

Bloom
Nearly two years ago, this was the first gin that I came across that had specially-designed glasses for a Gin Tonica.
[40ml Bloom, 100ml Fevertree Tonic. Garnish with strawberry, lime & chamomile flowers.]
Summer in a glass! A lovely fruitiness comes from the strawberries and the lime stops the drink from being too sweet. The gin contains chamomile as a botanical, which the flowers in the garnish are a nod to. They look very unusual, but I wouldn’t suggest you  eat any of them; if you do, you’ll certainly have fresh (perfumed) breath.

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Plymouth
This recommendation for serving Plymouth Gin came from Spain.
[50ml Plymouth Gin, 100ml Fevertree Tonic. Garnish with lemon and lime twists and juniper berries.]
Although you can’t see it, the oil from the twist of lemon adds a great fragrance to the drink and gives it a little pizazz. The juiciness of the juniper berries works well with the juniper in the gin and makes that flavour seem even fresher than in a regular Gin & Tonic. This is a simple, yet effective serve and very easy to do at home (most supermarkets sell juniper berries; they can be usually be found in the herbs and spices section).

Bombay Sapphire
This was recommended to me by Sam Carter and Sean Ware of Bombay Spirits. Balloon glass serves were an integral part of their Ginbilee Celebrations.
[50ml Bombay Sapphire, 100ml Fevertree. Squeeze a lime wedge into the drink and add the wedge as a garnish.]
Rather limey, notes of vanilla and coconut also come out. Definitely thirst-quenching and is a drink that could stay cold for a long time; not that that should matter, because you can finish it quickly. Bombay Sapphire’s glasses are also relatively sturdy, making the drink easy-to-drink in more ways than one!

Hayman’s London Dry Gin
[50ml Hayman’s London Dry Gin, 100ml Fevertree Tonic. Garnish with a lime spiral.]
Fresh and zesty, with a crisp bitterness from the lime peel. Very pleasing visually, too.
Crisp and refreshing, the bold, classic flavour of the gin creates a simple, but very sippable drink.

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Bombay Sapphire EAST
In the Autumn of 2011, this cocktail accompanied the launch of Bombay Sapphire East in New York and Las Vegas.
[Slice 4 inches of lemon rind thinly and twist it around the inside of the glass, before dropping it in. Add one ice sphere, some juniper berries, one whole, edible flower (no petals), one very thin lime wheel and one verbena sprig. Pour 2oz gin over the sphere.]
The original recipe specifies lemon verbena, but I had none to hand; I thought that lemongrass was a suitable substitute. The lemongrass brings out the floral citrus of the gin, whilst the lime gives it a little zestiness that contrasts well with the gin’s peppery fire, coming from the black peppercorns in its botanical mix. Very spicy, but lovely all the same.

Tanqueray
To accompany their branded glassware, Tanqueray have developed the Quatro Serve:
[50ml Tanqueray Gin (43.1%), 100ml Fevertree Tonic. Take a slice of lime and wipe around the rim, before adding to the drink. Swirl and serve.]
A strong & powerful Gin Tonica. Very clean, with strong juniper flavours and some earthiness. The high chill-factor from the copious amounts of ice works particularly well with this particular gin and tonic mix. The lime adds a zesty liveness to the drink for the palate, nose and eyes.

It was whilst drinking the Tanqueray from the copa (balloon) glass that I realised the degree to which the glass cools down your hand and wrist, which obviously adds to its chilling effect.

Martin Miller’s
I spoke to some chaps from Miller’s at the recent Feather Gin World Record Event and their suggestions included lime and grapefruit (both of which work well), but I was most captivated by a recommendation to try strawberries and cracked black pepper.
[40ml Martin Miller’s Westbourne Strength, 100ml Fevertree Tonic. Add three halved strawberries and freshly cracked black pepper to taste.]
On paper, this seems questionable, but, in reality, it was very good indeed. The freshness and crispness of the Miller’s gin works really well with the juicy strawberries, and the peppercorns add a contrasting savoury and peppery element. A very well-balanced drink, this is both imaginative and lovely.

Beefeater
[50ml Beefeater, 120ml Fevertree Tonic. Before adding the ingredients, add a twist of lemon peel oil to the bottom of the glass and garnish with a slice of lemon and orange peel.]
Quite a zesty drink, with the more earthy notes of the gin being apparent; there is a pleasant bittersweet (tonic-gin) character, making this more than your average Gin & Tonic. The zestiness stays as you sip (it starts at the bottom of the glass with the twist and gradually works its way up). The orange garnish is not essential to the flavour, but it does add visual appeal and its juicy smell provides hints to the orange in the gin.

Knockeen Hills Elderflower Gin (43%)
A twist on the drink outlined by Fleming in the book Dr. No, this is a James Bond Gin Tonica.
[Add the juice of a whole lime, followed by the spent shells, to a glass. Pour in a double measure of gin, fill the glass with ice, and top-up with tonic.]
Superb; this is one of the best ways there is to cool down on a hot afternoon. The lime, surprisingly, does not overpower the gin, being balanced by the slight sweetness that comes from the elderflower in the gin. Fevertree Tonic works very well in this drink, as it is clean and doesn’t interfere with the other flavours. Served in the Gin Tonica style, the drink is even colder than usual; I think 007 would be impressed.

Boodles
[40ml Boodles Gin, 100ml Fevertree Tonic. Garnish with two slit cardamom pods and a lemon spiral.]
I’m a big fan of both the cardamom notes of this gin and the slit cardamom pods in this drink’s garnish, which gradually make their presence known. The drink is lively, with the citrus and herbal garnish accentuating the flavours of the gin. It is also quite dry and sharp for a Gin & Tonic, with a touch of bitterness, partly due to the character of the gin, but also the earthy quinine of Fevertree. You know you’re drinking a proper, adult drink without a trace of soda pop sweetness or fizziness.

The Gin Tonica originated from Spain, so it only seems right to also feature some Spanish Gins:

Port of Dragons 100% Pure

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This is recommended by Port of Dragons; the recipe can be found here.
This was very enjoyable: the gin seemed more lively and the tonic more crisp than in a normal Gin & Tonic. The high volume of ice helped considerably, too. The cardamom was still there, but more balanced with additional zing. Very good, indeed.

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"Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication."Port of Dragons 100% Floral

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Recommended by Port of Dragons, this recipe can be found here.
Fresh, floral and fruity. This was very refreshing and reminded me of a spring or summer garden. As well as being visually attractive, the flavours of the gin were really enhanced by the luscious fruits in the garnish, which are an excellent alternative to the usual slice of lemon or lime.

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Number Zero Gin

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This had a bitter, earthy start, courtesy of the quinine in both the tonic and the gin. Dry juniper notes followed, then the sweet, floral and citrus notes: lavender and violet, and, finally, the dry, slightly bitter, tannins of the tea. This was really a rollercoaster of flavours that left me rather impressed. Mrs B described it as a “Perfect combination of a Gin & Tonic and iced tea”.

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G’Vine Floraison
This serve actually came from Munich, so it’s German rather than Spanish. I’ll let this video explain:

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Emperor’s New Clothes?

I’ve been researching this article for a little over a month now and the subject matter has been met, in the UK at least, with mixed reactions. Evidently, some gin folks remain sceptical about the Gin Tonica’s application in the UK and I can see why.

Over the past six months, the enthusiastic acceptance of the serve has bordered almost on a craze (Bloom were way ahead of the curve), but questions have been raised on the practicality of the glassware in bars and at home (some of the glassware is very delicate). The point has also been made that few households will have sufficient quantities of ice or stocks of exotic garnishes to make the drinks at home.

But maybe that is a strength of the Gin Tonica? It DOES provide folks with something that they can’t easily get at home and, as a result, it makes having a Gin & Tonic out-and-about special again and makes the experience more unique.

Some folks are certainly behind it; I noticed in the supermarket (Sainsbury’s) the other day that, if you buy a 70cl bottle of Bombay Sapphire and send off the tag to a specified address, they will send you two free balloon glasses (they are good and sturdy, too). One London Gin Bar have even switched to serving all of their Gin & Tonics in balloon glasses by default (you can, of course, request a highball or tumbler if you’d prefer).

So is the Gin Tonica a fad? I don’t think so. It’s done well in Spain and I think that, in the high-end gin bars, this serve could become a star, particularly with some more imaginative garnishes. For folks drinking at home, I’m not so sure that it will become commonplace, but the glasses are certainly talking points (so long as they don’t break!).

Epilogue

The sharp-eyed amongst you may have realised that I have only covered fourteen Gin Tonicas. Number fifteen is a bit of a wildcard and has been included because I have drawn a similarity between this new way of serving Gin & Tonic and the old 1970s, English-pub style. Notably, both are served in wine glasses (big or small), rather than tumblers. Sarah Mitchell, The Modern Madame Genever, was kind enough to provide a recreation.

The Mitchell (Queen Vic) Gin & Tonic

Recipe
50ml Beefeater, one can of Britvic Tonic (preferably at room temperature and slightly flat).
3 pieces of partially melted ice.
Add ingredients to a large, smeary wine glass with a wafer-thin slice of 3-day-old lemon.
Serve on top of a lager-stained bar top.

This is the complete antithesis of the other 14 drinks that we have featured today, with quality not being key to the drink, but – perhaps it’s Sarah’s impressive mixing ability, or the use of a good quality gin – this was not that bad and, I’m afraid to say, was still a far cry from the worst Gin & Tonic that I have ever had.

Cocktails with… Number Zero Gin, from Spain

When it comes to gin, I always have my ear to the ground to find out about new products, in particular if they have something unique about them. Some have unusual botanicals, such as Gilpin’s, with its borage, whilst others are different in other ways: Nevada Distilling’s Gin, for example, uses an alcohol base that is a mix of three grains, and Port of Dragons Gin who, in addition to having some of the best packaging I’ve seen, have created a range of gins, using a sort of “A gin for every occassion” model.

Number Zero Gin has not only a curious name, but also a very unusual botanical; notably, quinine, the essential ingredient of tonic water. I was fascinated and eager to see how including quinine in the gin would affect the cocktails that it made.

Number Zero Gin (and Number Zero Rum) bill themselves as “Low-cost Premium”. This may seem contradictory, but I believe that it is possible to have a competitive balance of both quality and value for money. Examples of gins in a similar category are: Limbrey’s, Taurus and, of course, Plymouth.

Here is Number Zero’s own explanation:

“The concept aims to provide the general public with a special selection of the best recipes for the preparation of spirits from some of the most prestigious and oldest distillers.”

The product is a London Dry Gin and its botanicals include: juniper, coriander, angelica, iris, cinnamon, and cinchona (containing the quinine) from Peru.

0) Own
Nose: Very light.
Taste: Smooth initially, with some sweet, floral notes, such as violet, a touch of citrus and some sweet earthiness, like liquorice. This then morphed into a more earthy, bitter taste with a hint of anise.

1) Gin & Tonic (using Schweppes)
This had some bitterness to it, along with a lot of floral aspects; a good dose of violet reminded me a little of a Camp David, but, after the sweet floral notes subside, a dry, earthy bitterness appears until the finish. Very unusual and one I’d like to try again for a fuller inspection.

2) Martini
Very crisp; the bitterness of the quinine really made itself known in this cocktail. There was also a touch of Violette towards the end. It’s rare that I think of colours when tasting drinks, but this one reminded me of purple and black. It was an intense Martini with an intriguing contrast between sweet floral and earthy bitter flavours.

3) Negroni
Floral, fruity and slightly jammy. This drink was sweet and flowery to start with and then herbal and bitter towards the end. Unusual, but tasty.

Number Zero Gin Crusta


4) Gin Crusta
This was reintroduced to me at Monday’s meeting of the London Cocktail Society by Dr Adam Elmegirab and is a nod to him.

This was sweeter and more flowery than the usual dryer Gin Crusta; the juniper was there, but less prominent. Nevertheless, the ingredients do work well with each other, with the citrus elements balancing out the sweeter aspects of the gin and maraschino.

5) GT Turbo
Very floral and bitter, this was exceptionally intense and crisp, and probably won’t appeal to everyone.

6) Aviation
Number Zero was a natural match for this cocktail and fans of Creme Violette (I’m thinking of one New Yorker in particular!) will be pleased that the flavour really comes through without overpowering the cocktail. If you did want a little more crispness, I’d suggest upping the gin to lemon juice ratio from 4:1 to 3:1. On the finish, I also got a strong, earthy bitterness, courtesy of the quinine, which is unexpected, but nonetheless welcome.

7) Bramble (Suggested by Olivier of the Gin Blog)
This was a good suggestion. I used Boozeberries’ Blackcurrant Liqueur rather than straightforward Creme de Mure, which is a little more tart. This worked really well with the sweet, floral notes of the gin, creating a very fresh, juicy and tart Bramble. It was so fresh that you might even think that you had muddled blackberries in the bottom of the glass.  An excellent combo.

Number Zero Gin Tonica with Green Tea!

Number Zero Gin Tonica with Green Tea!

8) Gin Tonica
This had a bitter, earthy start, courtesy of the quinine in both the tonic and the gin. Dry juniper notes followed, then the sweet, floral and citrus notes: lavender and violet, and, finally, the dry, slightly bitter tannins of the tea. This was really a rollercoaster of flavours that left me rather impressed. Mrs B described it as a “Perfect combination of a Gin & Tonic and iced tea”.

In Conclusion
Number Zero is, without a doubt, a very unusual gin; it has divided the opinions of the various gin folk who have tasted it with me. That said, I do think that it has a profile unlike anything else and, as a result, works exceptionally well in certain cocktails. Their Gin Tonica is a fine example of the kinds of innovation currently going on with the classic G&T and is, quite simply, superb.

 

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