Cocktails with.. Loch Ness Gin

Loch Ness Gin launched in September 2016 so, as today is the last day in that month, it seems a fitting time to post my review. It’s always so nice to see a gin on its journey from conception, through development, to the finished product; and this has been one such product for me.

The gin is made in Athbhinn Dores, Inverness, which is on the shores of Loch Ness. The family of the husband and wife team behind the gin have lived and worked in that part of the Highlands for over 500 years.


Unusually for a European Gin, Loch Ness use their own, local juniper, which they harvest especially for that purpose. Here are my tasting notes.

On its own
The nose is soft and creamy, with pleasant hints of citrus and spice. The softness follows through onto the palate, making the gin very accessible and easy to drink. There are light, fresh, leafy cucumber notes, as well as a touch of plump, juicy berries. The more traditional gin notes of juniper and angelica come through towards the finish, intermingled with creamy spice notes.
The gin starts off soft and gentle, but has a botanical character that gradually builds, the more you drink.

Gin and Tonic
Crisp and refreshing, with a luscious, leafy note and a hit of salinity, before some creamy citrus. Easy to drink and super-smooth.

So subtle and elegant, this Martini has a mysterious mix of spice with flirtatious, herbal, leafy notes. The result is an eminently sippable Martini with a sweet lift at the end.

A full and plump Negroni with a long, lingering finish; lovely, bitter intensity; and a background chord of herbaceous spice. Superb! Complex, will well-integrated flavours.

With Soda
Very crisp with a salty, leafy note reminiscent of samphire or seaweed, this is an exceptionally fresh drink with plenty of resinous, woody pine notes.

Pink Gin
A gentle, soft, and graceful drink with a light spice and gentle florality, plus a fresh leafiness on the finish.

French ‘75
Loch Ness makes a complex French ‘75 with a great, leafy florality and a hint of fruity berries. Elegant and luscious, with a touch of rose jam on the finish – superb.

In Conclusion
Loch Ness Gin is a great addition to a rapidly expanding selection of Scottish-distilled gin with a smooth and refined character.

Loch Ness Gin is available for around £45 for 70cl.

Bank Holiday Gin Tonics

With the Bank Holiday upon us (the last one in the UK until December) and the possibility that at least a few days in the long weekend will actually be dry and hot, I thought I’d share a few simple ideas for some gin tonic serves to impress your guests this weekend.


In this sort of heat (currently it is 28.8c here) I want a very cooling drink with plenty of ice, so a glass like the large copita/fish-bowl glass popular in Spain for the Gin Tonica is the best bet. It does take at least 8 cubes to fill one of these, however, so unless you have an ice maker, I suggest getting a bag or two of ice.

If you don’t have a copita glass, than a large wine glass or stemmed beer glass (think the Stella Artois Chalice) will also work well. The stem helps to keep your drink cool, keeping your warm hand further away from the drink.



Typically, I use between 25ml-50ml of gin and 150ml of tonic. These are slightly weaker than many might usually enjoy their gin tonic, but these drinks are meant to be long and cooling, and too much alcohol in great heat is not a great idea.

Gin Tonica Aug 2016 - Plymouth and Millers

The Classic

Plymouth Gin with Lemon and Lime Wedges (aka the Evans Style)

Plymouth Gin has a light sweet spice to it, which is balanced out nicely by the slightly sharp lime, whilst and the lemon complements the citrus in the gin.

The 21st Century Gin

Martin Miller’s gin with Strawberries and Cracked Black Pepper.

An unusual garnish choice on paper, but ever since one of the Miller’s brand ambassadors showed me this, I’ve been hooked. Fresh, succulent fruit works well with the refreshing nature of the gin, and the black pepper adds balance and bite. For an extra chill factor, use frozen strawberries.

Gin Tonica Aug 2016 - Apostoles and Shortcross

The Leafy Gin

Principe de Los Apostoles Gin with Rosemary and Baby Spinach

The gin itself is quite “green” – herbaceous and leafy – and the rosemary gives the drink distinctive, aromatic herbal notes as well as adding to the visual spectacle. The spinach adds more to the look than the aroma or flavour, although the leaves can also be a pleasant snack to munch on as you drink.

The All-Rounder

Shortcross Gin with Orange and Coffee Beans

I’m a big fan of Shortcross Gin from Northern Ireland and it has great mixability, including in a gin tonic. I’ve been experimenting with non-typical, but readily available garnishes and my good friend Julia Nourney suggested coffee beans to me. The beans add a deep, dark element to the nose, whilst still allowing the juniper to slip through. When you sip the drink, it is almost all about the gin, with just a little lusciousness from the orange. Almost a two-phase gin tonic.

The Maverick

Bombay Sapphire & Cola with Orange and Chocolate Bitters

Gin Tonica Aug 2016 - Bombay Sapphire & Coke

Putting gin with cola is seen by many, in the UK, as heresy, despite the fact that this is how gin is enjoyed in many countries in Africa and further afield. The only point that matters is – does it taste good?

In my opinion, it does. Bombay Sapphire, with its complex botanical flavour and light pepper notes works really well with cola, creating a flavour that is reminiscent of an old-school botanical cola; there are even some dry, piney notes in the background. The orange adds a little zest, whilst the chocolate bitters contribute to the drink’s finish.

In Conclusion

Summer drinking is meant to be friendly and fun; it’s a time to relax with friends and family. As such, the drinks should be fun, too. Hopefully this article has provided a little inspiration for you to up your summer drinks game.

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”


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.


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.

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.

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.

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.


Cocktails with… McQueen Gins

McQueen Gin is made at the Trossachs Distillery in Callander, Scotland and is made using locally-sourced juniper. McQueen have really embraced the idea of the Signature Botanical Gin; that is a gin flavoured purely through distillation (aka London Gin) that has a signature botanical or flavour. This kind of gin has been on the rise in the last year or so; McQueen are spot-on-trend with their new range of four gins.

The flavours of their signature gins will rotate, depending on seasonality and popularity, and supporters of McQueen will get to have their say, too. So far, most other Signature Botanical Gins have been confined to flavours of a single botanical, but McQueen have taken it a step further with this selection…

The Taste

McQueen Mint Chocolate Gin

McQueen_ChocMint 260416
On its own
Nose: A soft, milky chocolate mixed with juniper and light, leafy notes.
Taste: A great mix of gin flavours and the signature chocolate mint. Juniper and coriander upfront upfront, followed by the subtle, but discernable dusky chocolate, finishing up with notes of fresh mint leaves. The combination of chocolate and mint lingers on the finish.

Gin & Tonic
Unusual, with dry botanical notes and juicy juniper upfront. This is surprisingly close to a classic Gin & Tonic, but, as you sip, notes of dusky cocoa powder chocolate and light, green mint emerge. The finish is refreshing and of fresh mint.

Subtle and smooth with good gin flavour, plus the crisp flavour of mint chocolate. The finish takes on the character of spice and menthol pepper from the gin.

I’m surprised that the chocolate mint comes through as much as it does in this cocktail; the usual dry botanical and complex herbal notes appear before the dry chocolate and leafy mint appear.

McQueen Smokey Chilli Gin

McQueen_Chilli 260416
On its own
Nose: Fruity, with smoky spice appearing in the background, reminiscent of chilli flakes.
Taste: Luscious fruit and citrus upfront, with plump juniper and aromatic coriander notes afterwards. Towards the end, there is a woody, dry chilli flavour with a subtle smokiness to it. This savoury flavour gradually builds on the finish.

Gin & Tonic
Intense, with great notes of crunchy, fresh pepper, a tiny hint of chilli heat, and a touch of savoury smokiness. Refreshing, delicious, and exactly what you would expect.

Fresh bell pepper with a hint of florality. These notes are followed by a touch of juniper and violets, then the light, smoky warmth of the chilli. Complex and an excellent pre-dinner cocktail choice.

The extra smoky, chilli, and paprika notes integrate really well with the vermouth and Campari, adding depth to an otherwise classic Negroni.

McQueen Sweet Citrus Gin

McQueen_Citrus 260416
On its own
Nose: Citrus and vanilla, with floral coriander and lemongrass.
Taste: Very oily with lots of citrus mixed with creamy vanilla and then the sweetness of honeydew melon. This has a pleasant combination of sweetness and zestiness.

Gin & Tonic
This is a gentle Gin & Tonic, but one full of citrus flavours. The citrus is lightweight, complex, and not overpowering, however; it reminds me of lemons, oranges, and grapefruit, with a slight aromatic floral note to it.

Very smooth and citrusy, this is something of a cross between a gin and a vodka Martini. I think it would make an interesting substitute for the vodka in a Vesper.

This gin makes a soft Negroni – the sweet citrus mellows it nicely and provides a well-rounded finish with a restrained level of bitterness.

McQueen Mocha Gin

McQueen_Mocha 260416
On its own
Nose: Chocolate orange, moving onto creamy vanilla and notes of dark roasted coffee.
Taste: Silky – almost fluffy in texture – with citrus and dark chocolate flavours upfront. This fades into notes of coffee beans and then juniper and coriander. The finish has lots of dry, bitter, dark chocolate notes.

Gin & Tonic
This drink has an enticing nose, full of chocolate and exotic spice. It has a full-bodied flavour of coffee and chocolate, as well as a very subtle chilli spice, like that of chilli chocolate. The drink is dry throughout. Surprising, but tasty and great fun!

Very dry with complex notes of coffee, vanilla, and chocolate. These – usually sugary – flavours have a much more restrained sweetness in this cocktail. There are also notes of juniper and coriander on the finish, along with more dusky chocolate and coffee.

Superb – all of the complex bittersweet and herbal notes that you would expect from a Negroni are here, but overlaid with an elegant flavour of silky coffee and chocolate.

Star wars Cocktails – Episode VI – Return of the Jedi

Continuing our celebration of Star Wars Day here are some cocktails for Episode VI…


Creatures in the desert, the Emperor’s new groove and the planet of the teddy bears…

Jabba Jumble

Jabba Jamboree Cocktail Episode VI Star Wars Drinks - FINALInspired by the drinks that R2-D2 serves on Jabba the Hutt’s sail barge, this cocktail is easy to make up in large batches and pre-chill, making it particularly good to share with friends if you’re having a Star Wars viewing party today.

Recipe – Serves 6
30ml White Rum, 30ml Midori Melon Liqueur, 120ml Milk
Mix together in a bottle and chill in the fridge, pour into small shot glasses to serve.

Smooth and creamy, with a subtle, but pleasant hint of melon; it tastes a little like a melon milkshake. The rum comes through on the finish, along with a herbal chocolate note courtesy of the bitters.

Sanctuary Moon

Sanctury Moon Cocktail Episode VI Star Wars Drinks - FINALLeafy and herbaceous, and reflective of the forest, this is a variation on Jörg Meyer’s cocktail from 2008, the Basil Smash.

50ml Herbal Gin (St George’s Terroir), 25ml Lemon Juice, 15ml Sugar Syrup, 100ml Soda Water

Bright, fresh scents of mint and rosemary on the nose. The flavour is light and dry, with a lovely note of green basil, rosemary, juniper, and the revitalising zing of fresh lemon juice. There’s even a tiny hint of fennel at the end of the finish. Rustic and refreshing.

I’ve Got A Bad Feeling About This

I've Got a Bad Feeling About This.... Cocktail Episode VI Star Wars Drinks - FINALThis is perhaps the most famous phrase in the Galaxy, uttered by a variety of characters, humans and droid alike. The recipe for this may give a feeling of trepidation, but the results are delicious.

Recipe – Serves 2
15ml Vodka, 15ml Gin, 15ml White Rum, 15ml Dark Rum, 15ml Tequila, 15ml Bourbon, 15ml Triple Sec/Orange Liqueur, 15ml Apricot Liqueur, 15ml Sugar Syrup, 45ml Lemon Juice, 240ml Cola

This drink has a little over a double measure of alcohol per person, so enjoy sparingly.

Notes from the cola are always at the centre of this, but other flavours creep in and out, including: warm spice and brown sugar, a fruity vanilla note, and a hint of sweet raisin. The finish is dry and woody, with additional wisps of the flavours of cocoa and tequila smoke. Surprisingly smooth; this one may charm you.

Star Wars Episode V Cocktails – The Empire Strikes Back

Continuing our celebration of Star Wars Day with cocktails for Episode V…


Where we learn that you should NEVER come out of hyperspace early and things get a bit chilly, especially for Han Solo.


Hoth Cocktail Episode V Star Wars Drinks - FINALHome of the Rebel base is the planet of snow and ice, Hoth. You’ll want a blanket whilst you drink this one.

50ml Vodka, 25ml White Creme de Menthe (or a few drops of peppermint essence)
Combine ingredients in a mixing glass and stir without ice, then carefully pour over a glass full of crushed ice.

Exceptionally – almost uncomfortably – cold, the vodka in this cocktail takes on a lovely viscosity, whilst the Creme de Menthe quickly makes itself known with striking notes of spearmint and peppermint. Pleasant, faint echos of the mint continue on the finish, along with hints of the underlying vodka.


Dagobah Cocktail Episode V Star Wars Drinks - FINALAnother planet that we see for the first time in Episode V is Dagobah, a swamp planet populated largely with indigenous wildlife. The film’s atmospheric scenes make it a great inspiration for cocktails.

35ml Herbal Gin (we really like Shortcross Wild Clover Edition), 10ml Midori, 120ml Cloudy Apple Juice)
Line a glass with the cucumber peel and fill with ice, before adding the gin and juice (it works better if they have already been mixed). Add ice and carefully pour the Midori down the side of the glass to create the “Midori sink”.

This drink is smooth and fruity to start, with a hint of sweet melon giving the apple juice an unexpected, slightly alien flavour. The cucumber garnish adds aroma, as well as a wonderfully atmospheric feel that there’s foliage (or some kind of creeping vine) in your drink – this one really matches its on-screen scenes well. Finally, the gin contributes a delicious, herbal complexity as the apple notes fade, and this builds with every sip. This is definitely Mrs. B’s favourite from the cocktails for Episode V.

Cloud City

Cloud City Cocktail Episode V Star Wars Drinks - FINALThe gas giant of Bespin is home to the floating mining colony of Cloud City. In addition to its purpose as a base to mine Tibanna gas, it was also a tourist attraction; imagine sipping one of these in one of its casinos.

60ml Dry Gin, 30ml Blue Curacao, 30ml Lemon Juice, 15ml Egg White
Shake with ice and strain into a chilled glass.

Exceptionally smooth, with the creamy froth from the egg white adding even more silkiness. The underlying cocktail has a welcome tartness to it, with an array of vibrant, revitalising citrus notes: first fresh orange, then more zesty lemon. A clean and refreshing drink.