Origins of the Gin Tonic?

It has been a question that made many a drinker, bartender, and writer wonder for many years; when was the Gin & Tonic invented? I recall one noted writer saying something like, “If tonic water was invented in the morning, then the Gin & Tonic was invented in the afternoon – after all, they usually drank beer in the morning.” A nod to how obvious the combination now seems.

Unless it was impeccably documented, the first occurrence of the two being combined will be impossible to ascertain. Even drinks created in the last few decades have suffered a similar fate. At best, writers can find the earliest possible references.

My starting point was 1858, when there are records of Erasmus Bond’s patent for “improved aerated tonic liquid” and, given that the oldest detailed recipe I have come across from a 1938 advertisement for Gilbey’s Gin, the first reference must pre-date that.

The Earliest Reference so far:

August 4th 1875 – The Medical Press & Circular – Page 88

Article titled:
“Indian Medical Notes – XLII  (From Our Special Correspondent) – Meerut, June 1875

Meerut is a city in the Uttar Pradesh Province in India’s North, about 200km south of the Himalayas. In this article, the correspondent talks about health and well-being, in particular warnings of avoiding “savoury sausage made with offal-fed pork, carrion, stale fish, sour beer, bad milk, or the cool refreshing cucumber.“

The correspondent goes onto the suggest that:

“Careful officers have a cup of tea about five in the morning, then, perhaps, about nine or ten, oatmeal porridge, fried mullet, strawberries, or sliced tomatoes – perhaps a light lunch of cold chicken, perhaps none; perhaps sherry and bitters at the club – the comfortable Wheler Club – perhaps a gin tonic well iced – anything to sustain Nature until eight o’clock dinner when the cautious drink claret or a little sherry”

“PERHAPS A GIN TONIC – WELL ICED”

What is noteworthy is the term “Gin Tonic” – no “and” or ampersand – and that it is iced, putting play to the idea that the British don’t like ice in their gin tonics; it is possible that a Mel Gibson character in the 1982 film, “The Year of Living Dangerously” is responsible for this.

GIN TONIC HISTORY INDIAN MEDICAL NOTES - 1875

My one concern was that “gin tonic” may refer to some other sort of medicinal mix, but a reference in the 1883 book, “Sunny Lands and Seas: A Voyage in the S.S. Ceylon” adds clarity. The author seeks consolation of “tin gonics” after an encounter at Hill’s Hotel in Lucknow, another Indian city in Utter Pradesh, on 17th January 1882.

In the foot notes, “tin gonics” are explained as: “gin tonics, vis. gin & tonic water”.

So it seems that, at the time that the Indian article was written, “gin tonic” did refer to gin and tonic water. It also suggests that tonic was an entity in its own right, i.e. not a home-brewed concoction.

What would it have tasted like?

This is a difficult question to answer, but we do have some information:
· 1875 was after the advent of continuous distillation and a time when gin was sold in bottles. It was also becoming dryer. Gin brands of the time included Tanqueray, Booth’s, Gordon’s, Plymouth, Gilbey’s, and Beefeater.

· The 1870s is when Schweppes released and began to export their “Indian Tonic Water”, so the tonic water was quite possibly sparkling and pre-bottles.

· The opening of the Suez Canal and introduction of the steam ship would have made it quicker and cheaper to obtain British export in India.

The next step
I firmly believe that there are other nuggets of information that can shed more light on the Gin Tonic’s origins and maybe even push its proven date of origin back a few more years. I look forward to further revelations.

Cocktials with… Martin Miller’s 9 Moons Gin

A question that is often asked of me, whatever country I’m in, is “What is your, or one of your, favourite gin(s)?”.

Of course, this is a dynamic and difficult question to answer; not least because some of my favourites are not available internationally. But one of my Top 10 gins that is readily available is Martin Miller’s. In fact, it has been in my Top 10 for over a decade. So it was with great excitement that I heard about Martin Miller’s 9 Moons – the first permanent edition to their range for 17 years.

Martin Millers 9 Moons

9 Moons shares the same botanical DNA as Martin Miller’s and Martin Miller’s Westbourne Strength Gins. A high strength version of the gin then is rested for “9 moons” (aka 9 months) in ex-bourbon casks. The cool climate in Iceland helps to slow down the maturation impact of the barrel on the gin, which stops the wood flavours from overwhelming the spirit.

The first release is limited to 2,000 bottles, but there is potential for further releases and what I can only imagine is a fine selection of excellent gin resting in interesting casks in Iceland.

The Taste

On its own
Colour: Pale Champagne
Nose: A medley of citrus – bright lime and grapefruit – plus violets, berry fruits, light vanilla, and oak.
Taste: To taste it is also quite citrusy, which is unusual for a matured gin; it is also fresh, with a crunchy leafy note. A little sweetness in the middle is reminiscent of liquorice with some violets, before the more resinous juniper and a slight creamy note of wood and vanilla. The finish is lightly bitter, woody, and earthy, with a touch of pepper spice, and, at the very end, is that familiar, Miller’s crispness.

From the Freezer
The liquid is a little sweeter and the wood flavours are more pronounced, as are the violet notes, making it seem to be part gin, part gin liqueur. It has a thick, indulgent texture and would be a good choice to serve at the end of a meal.

Negroni
9 Moons makes quite a sweet Negroni, but a particularly complex one, too. Delicate, confectionary floral notes are followed by a combination of citrus flavours and an earthy bitterness. Overall, nicely balanced.

Sweet Martini
A cocktail with deep and rich flavour: the red vermouth works really well with the gin, adding a herbal bitter-sweet flavour. Clean, crisp, and complex wood notes come through on the finish, accompanied by a raisin and spice note, reminding me of Dundee cake.

Soda
Light and floral with dry notes and the a luscious crisp leafy note, exceptionally refreshing and a lovely way to enjoy the gin in a long drink without it losing it’s character.

In Conclusion
I really enjoyed trying Martin Miller’s 9 Moons Gin and I was particularly pleased to find that the Miller’s character that I love from their other three gins is still discernable in this spirit. My favourite serve was sipping it neat, and I thoroughly look forward to future releases.

9 Moons is available from 1st September. For further information, please visit www.martinmillersgin.com

Cocktails with… Hernö First Craft Gin

Mrs B and I recently returned from a fantastic trip to Northern Sweden as guests of the lovely folks at Hernö Gin Distillery. Whilst visiting the distillery, Jon shared with us a gin made to this first ever recipe; the balance of botanicals is similar to that of their Artisan Gin with one variation: meadowsweet is replaced with almond.

Herno MEadowseet.jpg

Meadowsweet Infusion and Dried Meadowsweet at Herno

Although meadowsweet has been used in other gins, such as Hendricks and Caorunn, it wasn’t until visiting the distillery in Dala that I really understood what it adds to a gin. Tasting a maceration of meadowsweet in alcohol, lots of lightly floral hay notes come through; slightly reminiscent of bison grass or holy grass vodka.

That’s probably enough of a focus on a botanical that is not even in this gin! Hernö First Craft’s botanical mix does include: juniper, coriander, lemon, black peppercorns, cassia, vanilla and lingdon berries and is bottled at 40.5% ABV.

Herno First Craft Gin

The Taste

On its own
Nose: Floral, oily notes with woody juniper and citrus, along with aromatic coriander.
Taste: Quite dry, but with rich citrus, floral, and spice from the coriander that I see as a trademark of Hernö’s gins. There’s also a creamy nuttiness with a hint of chocolate and marzipan. The finish is of light, dry, resinous juniper and a little citrus peel.

Gin & Tonic
Full of flavour, with rounded coriander notes and a slightly bready malt flavour. Then comes citrus and a little berry tartness. Clean and well-integrated.

Martini
A crisp, bright, and juniper-rich, resinous Martini. Clean, like a shard of ice. A pure delight of a drink with a long, dry, spicy finish.

Negroni
A resinous, yet smooth cocktail; a pleasant nuttiness comes through, with an underlying sweetness to it. This has a great texture and a good dose of bitterness on the finish.

In Conclusion
In comparison to their other gins, Hernö 2012 First Craft Gin is dryer in style, but still maintains the distillery’s signature character. Well-worth seeking out. My favourite cocktail was the excellent Martini.

Cocktails with.. Poetic License Picnic Gin – Strawberries & Cream

Summer is here, Wimbledon is around the corner, and when it comes to dessert, minds often turn to that cooling, delicious, and succulent treat – strawberries and cream.

Poetic License Picnic Gin Strawberries and Cream.jpg

The clever folks at Poetic License (whose other gins did well at last year’s Gin of the Year Competition) have managed to create a gin flavoured with strawberries and cream. Poetic License Picnic Gin is bottled at 37.5% ABV and is made using a mix of traditional botanicals and a blend of real strawberries and cream.

The Taste

On its own
Nose: A clean combination of strawberry and juniper.
Taste: First off, it is great is that this is a dry gin and not sweet at all. There are a range of dry gin flavours – juniper, angelica, and citrus – accompanied by fruity strawberry and creamy vanilla.

Gin & Tonic
Luscious strawberry and cream on the nose, followed by great, jammy strawberry notes on the palate that make this a fruity and delicious drink. The tonic adds a little dryness and lengthens this refreshing summer drink.

Martini
Very dry with some of the more tart notes of the strawberry coming through in particular, as well as woody, earthy spice.

Negroni
The Picnic Gin makes an unusual, but pleasant Negroni, with all of the classic flavours – bittersweet, herbaceous, spicy, and earthy – overlaid with the indulgent jammy flavours of strawberry.

Poetic License Picnice Gin Fruit Cup

Fruit Cup (30ml Picnic Gin, 15ml Red Vermouth, 10ml Ginger Wine, 100ml Lemonade)
The herbaceous, spicy notes of the other ingredients work well with the fruitiness of this gin. It is certainly a lighter Fruit Cup, but a great way to cool down on balmy afternoons.

With Soda
A lighter way to enjoy the gin, with strawberry notes upfront and a deep, resinous note of cedar-juniper in the background that makes this somewhat reminiscent of a juniper-cask aged gin.

In Conclusion
I think that Poetic License have done a fine job of capturing the bright, berry notes of strawberry in a gin that has great mixing potential. My favourite drink was the Gin & Tonic.

Poetic License Picnic Gin is available for around £33 from Master of Malt.

Cocktails with… Shortcross Cask Aged Gin

The sub-category of gin that is Aged Gin has really matured (sorry couldn’t resist) over the last few years. I remember doing a tasting back in 2011 when all that we could pull together were about a dozen varieties and that probably represented about 80% of what was available on the planet at the time.

Today, there are more than 200 varieties on the market, including a wide range of limited editions. Distillers have also started to experiment with barrels beyond the standard ex-bourbon, with a variety of different woods and finishes being used, such as Tequila, Applejack, and Islay Scotch.

Wine casks also have a lot of potential, whether that be fortified wine, such as port, sherry, vermouth, or madeira, or not. Shortcross Gin from the Rademon Estate Distillery is aged in an ex-wine cask.

1 Shortcross Aged Gin

Bottled at 44% ABV, Shortcross Cask Aged Gin is aged for around 3 months (essentially until it’s ready) in ex-Bordeaux oak casks.

On its own
Nose: Buttery and luxurious with a hint of fresh lemon curd, followed by vanilla and oily, resinous juniper.
Taste: This has an excellent, silky texture and wonderful flavours of cedar mixed with vanilla oak and rich wine notes. There are then some dry juniper, citrus, and a lingering spice on the finish.

Frozen
Thick and viscous with rich raisin, fruit, and floral notes. These are followed by rich, creamy vanilla and a hint of very light sour cherry. The finish is pleasant and dry; complex and delicious.

Gin & Tonic
A fruity Gin & Tonic with woody spice notes. Rich fruit notes upfront are followed by a mellow and cosy palate, before a crisp finish.

Peter Cushing [Shake 2 parts Shortcross with 1 pt Ginger Wine]
Light and revitalising. Vibrant fruity notes to start, with hints of lemon. This gradually fades into gentle, but warm notes of vanilla, ginger, and a light, but complex woodiness. The gin comes through on the finish – and builds more on the palate with each sip – with soft notes of juniper, spiced vanilla, and more woody pine notes.

Sweet Martini
Amazing – this takes on a slightly fluffy texture when shaken, with rich, sherry-like fruit notes. Mellow and well-balanced, this is a delicious cocktail.

Negroni
A complex, resinous, and intense drink, this is extra bitter with a sweet lift at the end. It also has a slight acidity and lots of woody, resinous notes.

Old Fashioned
The bitters really work well alongside the Aged Gin in this cocktail, which is well-integrated and easy to drink, with a pleasant, woody softness to it.

Suze Cocktails – Equal Parts Gin, Dry vermouth and Suze

Suze Original aka The White Negroni
This has a pleasant, bitter nose, with light citrus and gentian root. These come through on the palate, too, which is bitter from the start and becomes more so over time. Light and refreshing, it is herbal with a rooty bitterness that lasts on the finish.

Suze Agrumes
This version is similar, but richer in texture; there is less of a rooty bitterness, which has been replaced by a more full-bodied flavour. There is a more pronounced lemon note at the start, which, combined with the herbal notes of the drink, is reminiscent of honey & lemon lozenges. The finish is less well-defined, but still bitter and lasting.

Suze Fruits Rouges
At the beginning, there is a very tart, herbal berry flavour, with cherry notes being prominent. This smooths out to a more herbal finish; the cherry flavour remains, along with light, medicinal notes.

In Conclusion
Shortcross Aged Gin is a shining example of how a matured gin should be done: there is an elegant interplay between the flavour of the botanicals and those of the wood. The use of wine instead of ex-bourbon casks makes for a richer, fruitier, and more engaging gin that does not suffer from some of the overly sweet Christmas spice notes of some others.

We tried this in a whole array of wonderful cocktails, but my favourite was the Old fashioned or sipping it neat from the Freezer.

 

Introducing Fever-Tree Aromatic Tonic

I’ve been a fan of the Pink Gin & Tonic – described as a Gin & Tonic with a dash of Angostura Bitters or a Pink Gin with added tonic – for at least a decade. In fact, it was once my go-to post-work drink.

Some brands have created a Pink Gin (a combination of gin and bitters), so you only have to add tonic, but – until now – there has never been a tonic where the flavours of bitters have been conveniently added.

Fever-Tree Aromatic Angostura Tonic FINAL1

That has changed in the summer of 2016, with the release of Fever-Tree Aromatic Tonic Water, which is made with angostura bark. The tonic also has fresh citrus, cardamom, ginger, and pimento berry (All Spice) as ingredients.

It is worth mentioning that Angostura Bitters made by the House of Angostura (the bottle with the over-sized label) does not actually have angostura bark as an ingredient, although another old brand of bitters, Abbott’s, did.

Both have long been associated with the health and well-being of the sailors of the Royal Navy, with surgeons prescribing angostura bark as an alternative or supplementary anti-fever treatment to quinine bark. As such, it seems like a natural companion to the natural quinine in Fever-Tree Tonic.

On its own
Colour: Pale rose
Nose: Fragrant citrus, along with cola nut, cherry blossom, and woody, aromatic spice.
Fizz: A medium-level of fizz, with a pleasant intensity on the tongue as the bubbles burst.
Taste: Exotic spice to start, then almond and wintergreen, before moving onto cherry and citrus blossom. Pimento and cardamom then make a subtle appearance. This has a long, dry citrus finish with deep and clean, bitter, earthy notes.

Fever-Tree suggest that their Angostura Tonic goes particularly well with juniper-forward gins, so I thought I’d try it out with some of my favourites.

Fever-Tree Aromatic Angostura Tonic FINAL 2

With Plymouth Gin
There is a pleasant harmony between the gin and the tonic, likely in part because of some shared ingredients, including cardamom. There is a sweet lift at the end, accompanied by woody spice notes.

With Hayman’s Royal Dock
The extra strength of flavour and alcoholic power from this combination really gives the drink an additional “Wow!” factor. The gin adds a clean, crisp basis to the drink, whilst the tonic adds a lively character with citrus and spice. Refreshing to the last drop and well-balanced with a bitter finish.

With Makar
The crisp juniper of the gin counteracts the sweeter spice notes of the tonic, resulting in a deep and complex flavour, and a particularly dry Gin Tonic.

With Hayman’s Family Reserve
The light, woody notes and strong botanical flavours work well with the citrus and woody spice of the tonic. The result is a flavoursome mix that still provides lots of refreshment.

With Crossbill 200
Even though the tonic has a strong character, this punchy gin holds its down. The resinous vanilla and juniper wood notes of the gin, along with the floral rosehip, are neatly complementd by the spice and citrus of the tonic, creating a well-rounded drink.

In Conclusion
Fever-Tree Aromatic Tonic is a great addition to their range, getting the balance between extra flavour and mixability just right. It is also one of the tastiest tonics to drink on its own, my favourite since I tried Fever-Tree Mediterranean. It also works well when mixed with vodka and I’d love to try it with aquavit.

All-in-all, this is well-worth trying and will be available in Waitrose from July 2016.

Cocktails with… Redsmith Gin

One of the really exciting things that has been going on in the UK recently is the return of distilleries to some of those cities in Britain that have not had a new distillery for a century or two. Examples include Bath, Bristol, Edinburgh, Leeds, Manchester, and Sheffield; all now (or soon will) boast their own distilleries.

Redmith Gin FINAL

Another example is Nottingham, which has also got its own new distillery: Redsmith Distillery in Ruddington, just 5 miles south of the city.

Bottled at 43.0% ABV, the gin is made using a mix of 9 botanicals, including: juniper, coriander, and orange.

On its own
Nose: Bright citrus with some green, leafy herbal notes, plus pine blossom mixed with lavender.
Taste: This has an excellent, luxurious texture with a little sweet spice upfront. Savoury, leafy salad notes are followed by a crescendo of citrus and juniper, along with a long, aromatic finish of pine and just a touch of black pepper.

Gin & Tonic
Wow! Sparklingly bright and invigorating; lovely citrus notes come through, as well as more subtle leafy notes, all before a classic, dry finish.

Martini
Crunchy, leafy notes upfront make this a refreshing cocktail. They are accompanied by floral spiced notes. It is clean and refreshing, with a lovely brightness to it. An excellent pre-dinner cocktail.

Negroni
Another excellent drink: bold, intense, and juicy. The gin comes through well and works well with the drink’s strong, bitter finish. This has great balance – a true classic.

The Sheriff
A variation on the Peter Cushing, this cocktail is a nod to the actor playing the Sheriff of Nottingham in the 1960 film, The Sword of Sherwood Forest.
[50ml Redsmith Gin, 25ml Stone’s Ginger Wine, 5 dashes of Orange Bitters – SHAKE]
Sublime! The bitters and the bright citrus of the gin work superbly well together with some light floral notes that intermingle with the sweet ginger. Spicy and zesty – excellent refreshment.

In Conclusion
Redsmith is a bright and bouncy gin, full of life and delicious, complex flavours, including a mix of citrus and fresh greens. Many a fine drink will be supped with this this summer. My favourites of those that I tried were the Gin Tonic and The Sheriff.

Redsmith Website

Redsmith Twitter – @redsmithdistill

Redsmith Facebook