Cocktails with… East London Liquor Company Spirits – Celebrating their first birthday!

Today is the first birthday of one of the brilliant new additions to the distilling scene in both London and the UK as a whole. East London Liquor Company is located in Bow Wharf, East London, and is a great example of an urban destination distillery. It has a lovely bar with views into the still house and a separate bottle shop that not only sells a variety of products made by the distillery, but also a wonderful selection of other spirits from around the world; not least, products from the Lost Spirits Distillery in California.

Following a recent visit, we shall be looking at their three gins and rum.

1. London Dry Gin – 40.0% ABV

This gin’s botanicals include: lemon & grapefruit peel, coriander, angelica root, juniper berries, cubeb berries, and cardamom; and it’s currently available for around £21 for 70cl from Master of Malt. East London Liquor Company's London Dry GinOn its own

Nose: Creamy with hints of nutmeg, cardamom, and vanilla, as well as a touch of crisp citrus.

Taste: A lovely combination of flavours: upfront there is bright, juicy citrus, before creamy, sweet spice, and ginger. The finish is more dry, with crisp juniper notes. Well-integrated and sippable.

Gin & Tonic

Classic, fresh, and crisp with a little sweet spice in the background before the fresh, crisp, dry notes of juniper and coriander come through. This is a very solid choice for a Gin & Tonic that works well with a wide selection of citrus garnishes, although my personal preference is lime.


This makes a clean Martini with good intensity of flavour. There’s a little soft spice in the middle, before a lovely, dry crispness on the finish. A citrus twist would be my recommended garnish.


Soft spiciness, with some lightly  sweet woody spice, ginger and cardamom coming through before a little sweet herbal complexity from the vermouth and then a dry earth bitterness from the Campari. Solid and sound – satisfaction for any Negroni fan.

2. Premium Gin: Batch No1 – 45.0% ABV

The first of ELLC’s premium gins has botanicals including: juniper berries, coriander seeds, cassia bark, angelica root, pink grapefruit peel, and cubeb berries. An additionally interesting note is provided by the use of Darjeeling tea. It is currently available for around £31 for 70cl from Master of Malt.

East London Liquor Company's Premium Gin Batch No1On its own

Nose: Rich spice with a hint of nuttiness and pleasant dry, leafy notes.

Taste: Bold flavours, with a hint of dark chocolate at the start, followed by bright spice and citrus from cracked coriander and vibrant grapefruit, before some floral hints. The finish is full of piney juniper and dry angelica, with a very slight hint of menthol pepper and alpine flowers, too.

Gin & Tonic

A classic Gin & Tonic with brilliant fresh, zesty citrus and a touch of oiliness. This is a clean drink with a long, dry, crisp finish. Serve with plenty of ice and a generous wedge of ruby grapefruit. A quality tonic, like Fevertree, helps to let the citrus aromatics come through, but the gin definitely still holds its own against Schweppes.


Very floral, with plenty of citrus, too; the pink grapefruit shines through as well as plenty of coriander seed and leaf. This cocktail has a lovely fragrance that stops just short of being overpowering and closes with a light, dry menthol finish.


Good long, dry notes: piney and resinous with a  gradually-building bitterness that crescendos into a long, bitter finish with notes of intense, pure, dark chocolate and a hint of strong-roasted coffee with a touch of gentian root.

3. Premium Gin: Batch No2 – 47.0% ABV

Moving onto their second premium gin, this is slightly stronger (47% ABV) and is made using: juniper berries, corriander seeds, cassia bark, angelica root, thyme, winter savory, fennel seeds, orris root, lavender, lemon peel, sage, and bay leaf. It’s currently available for around £32 for 70cl from Master of Malt.

East London Liquor Company's Premium Gin Batch No2On its own

Nose: Bright spice, hints of wood, floral citrus and piney lavender.

Taste: Again, this has a bold flavour with plenty of spice as well as some green anise and caraway notes; cinnamon, nutmeg, and cardamom, too. Rich and spicy, the higher ABV of this gin brings more complex aromas and flavours. Resinous pine and lavender on the finish.

Gin & Tonic

This has lots of delightful spicy notes that add an excellent complexity to the drink. Woody hints of cassia, nutmeg, cardamom, and vanilla are followed by the more traditional dry and crisp notes of a Gin & Tonic, such as lemon peel and piney juniper, with just a touch of forest lavender. Lemon peel would be a great choice for your garnish or, for those who like things a little less sweet, lime.


Bold and spicy with notes of fresh leaves, rich resinous pine needles, and lavender. Oily and intense, the spirit coats the mouth and hangs around for a long time, bringing with it notes of woody spice – cassia and nutmeg – before a little menthol pepper at the end.


This cocktail has lots of buttery, earthy notes, plus a hint of spice and dark chocolate and a touch of gentian root. Thick and luscious, it has a great intensity that will appeal to the aficionados that like their Negronis to grab them and make them sit up and pay attention.

4. Demerara Rum – 40.0% ABV

Finally, we have ELLC’s rum, which is distilled in Guyana from 100% Demerara sugar in a two column, wooden coffey still, before being aged for at least 3 years in ex-bourbon casks.

East London Liquor Company's RumOn its own

Nose: A light creaminess with hints of coconut milk and vanilla, plus a touch of crushed biscuit and roasted banana.

Taste: This has a lovely, soft, satin-like texture with milky creaminess upfront and then some caramelized sugar that gradually becomes darker, although not quite reaching the deep treacle notes of some English naval rums. A soft fruitiness then comes through towards and on the finish, with more banana, pineapple, and a spot of whipped cream before a light woodiness.

Dark & Stormy

Good – the flavours of the rum come through nicely and work well with the spice and ginger of the mixer. The lime adds balance to the drink. Overall, the character of the rum stands up to the drink and creates a smooth and refreshing cooler.

Happy birthday, East London Liquor Company!

Breakfast (flavoured) Gin and Tonic with Bombay Sapphire East & Ultimate Gin & Tonic Discovery Event

The Gin & Tonic season has truly arrived and, whilst there is a true art in
perfecting the classic mix of gin, tonic and ice, sometimes I have a hankering
for something a little more, hence my breakfast-inspired gin. This is partly
inspired by the limited release of FEW Breakfast Gin at Tales of the Cocktail.

Now, you may be thinking that a kippers and bacon Gin & Tonic may not sound
particularly appealing and I agree, so I went, instead, for a slightly more
“continental breakfast” style.

Bombay Sapphire East Breakfast Gin Tonic FINAL

The Recipe

50ml marmalade-infused Bombay Sapphire East*
One Earl Grey tea bag
150ml tonic water
2 slices/wedges of orange and 2 of grapefruit

Place the gin into a large wine or coupe glass, add the tea bag, and infuse for
20-30 seconds.
Remove tea bag.
Fill glass with ice and add 3 slices of the citrus fruit.
Top up with tonic water.
Squeeze the juice from one of the grapefruit slices into the glass.

The Taste

Floral Earl Grey upfront, followed by some botanical flavours from the gin and
a touch of menthol pepper. This moves onto a mix of sweet marmalade and fresh
orange, before a long, dry, zesty finish of grapefruit.


If you fancy learning more about making Gin & Tonics with a wow factor, Bombay
Sapphire are holding the Ultimate Gin & Tonic Discovery Experience on Friday
24th July and Wednesday 29th July at Laverstoke Mill (details below).

Hosted by the UK’s Most Imaginative Bartender Dan Berger and Senior Brand
Ambassador for Bombay Sapphire Distillery at Lavertstoke Mill Sam Carter, each
masterclass will provide a never before chance to learn insider tricks of the

Influenced by his recent involvement in the Bombay Sapphire World’s Most
Imaginative Bartender Competition, Dan has created a number of gin and tonic
twists inspired by the regions from which the botanicals in each bottle of
Bombay Sapphire are sourced. Guests will learn how to re-create these twists in
an interactive masterclass whilst hearing tales from his experience in the
competition. Resident cocktail expert Sam Carter will also be on hand to guide
guests in making their twists whilst talking through the history of the brand.

Tickets are priced at £40 and need to be booked in advance via the website Each masterclass starts at 7pm and runs for
an hour and a half.

*Marmalade Infused Bombay Sapphire East is made by combining one teaspoon of marmalade for every 50ml of gin, combine and leave to infuse for 2 hours, occasionally shaking. If you need it quicker added ingredients to cocktail shake (without ice) and shake vigorously. Strain out remaining marmalade before use.

Campari & Tonic

Last week, I think it’s fair to say that I had more than my fair share of Gin & Tonics; over the course of two days, I tasted over 70 (I was judging at a competition). However, tonic does go with other liquor: the Vodka Tonic is another popular choice, and I developed a penchant for the Big Ben (Benedictine & Tonic) when I visited their distillery a few years back.

One base that I hadn’t previously considered, though, was Campari. Upon reflection, this is a bit surprising, given that one of my favourite mixed drinks is the Americano (Campari, red vermouth, and soda water). Thankfully, the folks at Campari are encouraging people to try this summer tipple and thus introduced me to the drink.

On the face of it, it seems like quite a likely combination; what I like in particular is that it’s simple, with ingredients that are easy to come by.

Camari Tonic

The recommended recipe calls for lime as the citrus garnish, but, having a host of citrus on hand, I wondered if the garnish would make much of a difference. For this experiment, we mixed 50ml Campari with 150ml tonic water* (the new Fevertree mini cans), and served each drink in identical glasses with the same quantity and shape of ice. The only variation was one wedge of the various citrus fruits, which were very lightly squeezed before being dunked into the glass.

Tangy with some sweet citrus which balances out much of the bitterness from the Campari. A good introduction to the drink for those that often find Campari too bitter.

The suggested recipe and the one with the most well-rounded character. Hints of vanilla and chocolate come through along with a little zesty tartness and a dry bitter finish.

Extra tartness and zest with the lemon and some bitterness comes through too although overall as a drink it is more tart than bitter, lively and refreshing.

Ruby Grapefruit
Fragrant with some floral notes on the nose, a more complex and sophisticated drink with bright citrus oil as well as a focus on a long, extra bitter finish.

In Conclusion
Even though the citrus was a relatively minor change it had a remarkable impact on the flavour of the drink. whether you are looking for extra complexity a lighter sweeter offer or to beef up the bitterness it can all be done simply with the garnish. Day-to-day I’d personally choose the lime.

*Approximate ABV = 6.25% ABV

Cocktails with… 55 Vodka

55 Vodka is a new vodka distillery located in Lynton and comes at a time when there is a renaissance in British distilleries, but many of these focus on making gin and eventually whisky and usually work with grain spirit. 55 Vodka is different in that they currently only make vodka and they make it from potatoes.

The distillery opened in 2014 and make a range of unflavoured and flavoured vodkas. The latter include: coconut, pineapple (both of these use a maceration of the actual fruit/nut to add flavour), and toffee (this is made using toffee in syrup form). All are free from artificial colours and flavours. Whilst this article will feature on the unflavoured spirits, it is great to see some British distillers leading the fight back against the wave of bizarrely-flavoured (and what is worse, poor quality) flavoured vodkas.


Pure Vodka – 37.5% ABV
Their flagship vodka, made with 100% potatoes.

Room Temperature
Nose: Clean, with a touch of juicy citrus blossom and apple.
Taste: This has a good texture: the vodka fills the mouth and the texture is initially smooth, but has a little warmth and a touch of residual pepper heat. It is easy to sip, with some fruity notes as well as cracked black pepper and cubeb, with the addition of vanilla on the finish.

On the Rocks
With ice, the vodka is soft, but still has character, with a light creaminess and slight berry fruitiness that makes me think of a mix of strawberries and raspberries and cream.


A clean and soft Martini with a good freshness to it. Despite the % ABV, lots of flavour still comes through and the drink is far from weak or bland.

A well mixed and integrated drink that chills down really well. There are hints of cream and red berries. This is a really lovely drink and clear proof that a Martini does not have to use extra-strength alcohol.

Vodka Tonic
This makes quite a fruity tonic serve, with a little sweetness, too. A wedge of fresh lime offsets this sweetness really nicely, creating a fresh and lightly tart thirst-quencher.

Pure Vodka – 56.0% ABV
This is 55 Above’s high-strength vodka, also made with 100% potatoes.

Room Temperature
Nose: An exciting mix of fresh salad leaves and peeled stone fruit. There’s a suggestion of sweetness, but – overall – it appears dry.
Taste: There is a dry complexity upfront, which reminds me a little of some Lowland Scotches, plus lots of dry fruit – perhaps cherry or apricot – but there is very little sweetness at all, save for a little vanilla spice toward the finish. Exceptionally smooth for a 56% spirit, this is very sippable with a warm glow that builds towards the end.

On the Rocks
Excellent: dry fruit notes come through, which start to remind me of dry vermouth or a high-end Soju. There is a still a little spice and creaminess, but it is really toned down. Given the complexity of this serve, it could make a good alternative to whisky on the rocks.


A very silky texture, with plenty of flavour. The fruitiness is a little more curbed, although hints of apple and slightly tart stone fruit still come through, making this very enjoyable and particularly smooth for the ABV.

Absolutely superb. The vodka is smooth on its own and, when stirred, this character really comes through. The vermouth adds a little complexity and works well with the spirit’s fruitiness.

Vodka Tonic
Another very smooth drink, with lots of complexity, too. There are dry stone fruit notes as well as a little herbal complexity, with just a touch of lemon and thyme. No garnish is needed, but a twist of citrus peel adds yet another dimension.

In Conclusion
I am very impressed with both spirits. It’s not easy to distill from scratch with potato, but 55 Above have certainly managed it. The 37.5% was very good and had plenty of character, making it versatile for mixing. I was particularly impressed with the 56%, partly because a potato vodka over 40% ABV is rare thing (I know of only one outside of Norway), but mostly because it is a great spirit with excellent complexity that remains amazingly smooth.

Cocktails with… Griffon Gin from Washington State, USA

Made at the Double V Distillery in Battle Ground Washington State, USA, Griffon Gin is grain-to-glass; that is, they distill the whole product themselves, including both the base spirit and the redistillation of botanicals.

The base is made using a mix of locally grown corn (80%) and barley, and their botanicals include juniper, coriander, and cardamom. It is bottled at 40.0% ABV.

Griffon Gin

The Taste

On its own
Nose: Creamy and sweet with a touch of stickiness to start, but then there are some dryer, floral (lavender) elements that are followed by stalky, vegetal notes. A tempting aroma that encourages you to take a sip.
Taste: Coriander and light citrus upfront, followed by spice (cardamom) and then some dryer notes. The spirit is relatively smooth, although there is some warmth, along with more citrus, on the finish.

Gin & Tonic
This is quite a sweet Gin & Tonic with a lots of spice; cardamom is the most dominant, but there is also ginger, cassia, nutmeg, and cinnamon. Citrus and a bit of dryness comes through at the end. Fresh and tasty.

Clean, with lovely pine notes and lots of spice. There are hints of cedar wood, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cardamom. Very tasty and complex. Delicious.

Another spicy cocktail, this time with some crisp, fresh notes, too. This is a well-integrated drink with a bitter finish, but one that is curbed slightly by the hints of cassia. Delightful – near perfect.

In Conclusion
Whilst Griffon is certainly a very spicy gin, the spice does not dominate the entirety of its character and other elements, such as the citrus and pine/juniper, add balance.

All of the drinks that I tried were excellent, but the Negroni just takes it for me.

Cocktails with… Sloemotion No7 Fruit Cup

Summer is on the way and with it, the need for cool and refreshing drinks. Often, the mind moves automatically to summer fruit cups (rather fitting, given our site’s name) and the most commonly available of these is Pimm’s, but increasingly more varieties are being released by other companies.

Today, we are looking at SloeMotion No7 (so named as it is their seventh product), which is a blend of gin, hedgerow, orchard, and field fruits, as well as hedgerow blossom and herbs. The suggested ratio for the serve is 1 pt SloeMotion Cup to 4 parts lemonade. It is bottled at a respectable 25% ABV.

SloeMotion No7 Fruit Cup FINAL bottle

The Taste

With Lemonade (I used the Sainsbury’s own brand, as recommended by SloeMotion)
Bold, rich, and fruity flavours with plenty of luscious berry notes, as well as a touch of spice and crisp, leafy notes, which are emphasised by the cucumber garnish. Even with lemonade it’s not too sweet, which adds to the drink’s refreshment.

With Bitter Lemon
This produces a much tarter version of the drink, but, given how well bitter lemon mixes with sloe gin, it is not a surprise that it works well with the SloeMotion No7. There is an additional, delightfully earthy quinine bitterness on the finish.

SloeMotion No7 Fruit Cup FINAL Lemonade

With Ginger Ale
This is the sweetest of the drinks that I tried, but it is still rather good; I like the gentle warmth that the mixer provides and it works well with the herbal and fruit notes of the drink. It’s also slightly less fizzy than the lemonade version, which will appeal to some people. Another tasty version.

With Soda Water
For those who prefer less sugar in their drink, this is an excellent choice. The greater subtleties of the fruit cup come through well, including some oaky, tea leaf tannin notes, plus citrus and some more fresh, leafy notes. Exceptional refreshment.

In Conclusion

I think that SloeMotion No7 brings something a little different to the category of fruit cups, providing a greater complexity than many of the mainstream brands and embracing fruit flavours, especially when compared to the more herbal characteristics of other excellent cups such as Plymouth or Sipsmith.

I enjoyed it most with lemonade and plain sparkling water.

Cocktails with… Blackwater Gin

Blackwater Gin is made by Blackwater Distillery in Cappoquin, Co. Waterford, Ireland. I had the pleasure of visiting the distillery during my trip to Dungarvin for the West Waterford Food Festival, where we hosted an Irish Gin tasting. The release of Blackwater Gin comes at the beginning of what I think is a very exciting time for Irish distilling.

The gin is bottled at 41.5% ABV and its botanical mix includes juniper, coriander, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Local water is used for bottling.

On its own
Nose: Bold floral, citrus, and spice, with a pleasant zestiness that is followed by chocolate, cardamon, and a warm, woody cassia note with a touch of vanilla.
Taste: Juniper upfront, with a very silky, viscous texture. The start is classic in style, but followed by a pop! of intensity with coriander, bright floral notes, and citrus peel. The profile then develops into warm, sweet spice notes that lead onto the finish, which is long, lingering, and dry. This is a great example of how a distiller can achieve a procession of character and varying intensity in their gin.


Sipped straight from the freezer, coriander and floral citrus come to the fore, followed by some woody angelica and spice, moving from nutty to aromatic and bright. Again, there’s a long, lingering finish of ginger-like warmth and dry crispness.

Gin & Tonic
A brilliant and spicy Gin & Tonic with plenty of citrus and complex spice. Truly excellent; the gin integrates well with tonic to create an exceptionally refreshing drink. As you sip more, the various botanicals come through and different characters come to the fore, especially with a little ice melt. This is a full-flavoured drink that really evolves as you sip – near perfection.

Diamond Martini
Another cocktail with a good level of flavour: lots of spice and some piney notes, too. The floral and the citrus are a little more subtle with this serve, but a twist of lemon would bring these characters back. The alcohol comes also through in a robust fashion, although there is no burn. An excellent pre-dinner choice.

Stirred Martini
Very soft and smooth; you could certainly enjoy more than one of these in an evening. The variety of botanical characters shine, including: juniper, angelica, and coriander, followed by more subtle, sweet spice such as nutmeg, cinnamon, and cardamom. On the finish, there is some bright, dry citrus.

The gin comes through well, but doesn’t overpower the other ingredients. There is a rich, plump fruitiness, as well as a piney dryness in the middle. Notes of slightly sweet, woody spice gradually build before an earthy, bitter finish of medium intensity.

In Conclusion
This is a superb and delicious gin, and one that I highly recommend seeking out. They also have other products in the pipeline, which I have high hopes for, too. My favourite drink was the Gin & Tonic.

Blackwater is one of the first craft gins in Ireland and, if distillers on the island continue to produce gins to the same high standard as the likes of Blackwater and Shortcross, then the world is really in for a treat.