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.

Glassware

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.

 

Recipes

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.

Cocktails with… Star of Bombay Gin

Star of Bombay marks a busy couple of years for Bombay Sapphire, with the release of Bombay Amber, the relaunching of Bombay Dry, and, of course, the opening of their own Distillery and Visitors’ Centre in Laverstoke, Hampshire.

Star of Bombay takes its name from the precious stone from Sri Lanka – a 182-carat sapphire. I’ve often heard that this was the inspiration for the “sapphire” in Bombay Sapphire. The stone has an interesting history and is thought have been given to Mary Pickford by Douglas Fairbanks (both stars of the silent age of cinema). Upon her death in 1979, Pickford bequeathed the stone to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History in Washington D.C., where it remains on display to this day.

It is made using the ten classic Bombay Sapphire botanicals and adds to that mix bergamot (a citrus fruit often used in Earl Grey tea) and ambrette seeds (the seeds of yellow hibiscus). It is also worth noting that the vapour infusion distillation process is slowed down, to allow a more intense flavour to be extracted. The gin is bottled at 47.5% ABV.

Star of Bombay Bottle Bombay Sapphire

On its own
Nose: A little citrus upfront, as well as coriander, some lightly briney, herbal, leafy notes, and a touch of chopped nuts. Juniper and angelica come through towards the end as the gin opens up.
Taste: Floral upfront, with the bergamot adding citrus and aromatic floral notes, which are followed by the spicy citrus-florality of coriander. As the flavour develops, more of the classic Bombay Sapphire notes come through, with a slightly oily citrus flavour and then dry juniper and pine, before woody menthol pepper on the finish.

Overall, Star of Bombay is a more intense and complex gin than the classic Bombay Sapphire.

Gin & Soda
This has a good level of flavour and allows lots of refreshing botanical notes to come through. In this drink, the floral citrus of the bergamot is a particularly pleasant addition.

Gin & Tonic
Star of Bombay makes a dry Gin & Tonic with a pleasant citrus freshness, as well as just a touch of sweetness towards the end. With a little ice-melt, it settles into a refreshing and cooling drink.

Martini
Smooth, spicy, and citrusy, with peppery juniper on the finish. I think that a lemon twist works well in this cocktail – the oil makes the gin even more aromatic. This is a smooth, but intense Martini with a leafy crispness and bold intensity to it.

Negroni
Strong flavours come through from the gin, Campari, and the vermouth, with an intense, earthy bitterness on the finish. It is a smooth cocktail, with the floral citrus of the bergamot again coming through well. Bold and intense.

Star of Bombay Intense Gin Tonic Bombay Sapphire

Intense Gin & Tonic
[Equal parts Star of Bombay and tonic water – garnish with orange peel.]
Bright and delicious, oily and fresh, this drink has a wonderful interplay between the dryness of some of the gin’s botanicals and the tonic water, and the sweetness of the orange peel. A lovely drink to kick-off an evening.

In Conclusion
Star of Bombay is a more intense version of the classic Bombay Sapphire, with additional floral citrus from its new botanicals. The gin stands up well to mixing, especially in long, cooling drinks. My favourite, though, was the intense Gin & Tonic, turning a classic from a long drink to a short one.

Star of Bombay is available for around £32 for 700ml from Waitrose

Cocktails with… Bombay Dry Gin (37.5% ABV)

The launch of Bombay Sapphire’s new distillery at Laverstoke Mill coincided with a rejig, certainly in the UK, of their gin portfolio; notably, the original Bombay Dry has had a makeover (changing from a red to a blue colour scheme) and a reduction in ABV to 37.5% ABV. This was to position the spirit as more of an introduction to the range, so we now have Bombay Dry (8 botanicals, 37.5% ABV), followed by Bombay Sapphire (10 botanicals, 40.0% ABV), and then Bombay Sapphire East (12 botanicals, 42.0% ABV).

I’ve often considered Bombay Dry to be under-rated and so I’m pleased to see it being given the attention it deserves. However, dropping the ABV of a spirit can be a risky business (I know some folk who still bemoan the reduction in strength of Gordon’s some years back), but it can certainly work, too; Jack Daniels was a higher ABV in the times of Sinatra, but is still exceptionally popular today.

Bombay Dry Gin 37.5 FINAL

The Taste

On its own
Nose: Fresh juniper with some jammy fruit notes, a hint of citrus, and woody, earthy notes.
Taste: A very classic style with a good level and intensity of flavour. There are earthy, woody notes with hints of florality upfront, followed by piney juniper and a hint of fresh, zesty citrus, before a long, smooth, and dry finish.

Gin & Tonic
Despite the (appearingly unjust) criticism of the lower ABV, this drink truly proves that Bombay Dry is still a cracking gin that makes a great Gin & Tonic, full of punchy, fresh piney juniper and a hint of citrus. The trick with this gin is to use the tonic sparingly – I suggest a 2:1 ratio of tonic to gin.

Martini
An excellent flavour: clean and crisp, like a shard of ice. Delightful and a textbook example of the drink: neither too dry, nor intense, so a good choice for the Martini newbie.

Negroni
A soft and smooth drink with strong notes from the Campari and red vermouth, although some dry pine and citrus also come through. A mellow and pleasant drink.

In Conclusion
I think that the new Bombay Dry makes a great addition to this end of the gin market and represents good value for money. The gin stands up well to mixing in a variety of classic drinks, is sippable on its own, and makes a solid Gin & Tonic.

Cocktails with… Bombay Sapphire Distillery Laverstoke Mill Edition

I was recently at the grand opening of the Bombay Sapphire Distillery in Laverstoke Mill, coverage of which can be found here. As a parting gift, each attendee was given a bottle of Bombay Sapphire Distillery Laverstoke Mill Exclusive Edition. This is packaged in a bottle inspired by the distillery’s intertwining glasshouses and, like those glasshouses, was designed by Heatherwick Studios. This bottling is additionally noticeable as glass stopper replaces the usual screw cap.

Bombay Sapphire Laverstoke Mill Edition

As if that wasn’t enough, the liquid inside, whilst containing the same classic ten Bombay Sapphire botanicals, is bottled at 49.0% ABV, compared with the usual domestic versions, which are bottled at 40.0% ABV for the UK and 47.0% ABV for the USA.

On its own
Nose: Dry juniper, coriander, and light pepper spice. Less citrus and nuttiness than the 40% ABV.
Taste: Lots more of the woody spice notes come through, such as orris and liquorice, which add a very subtle sweetness. The citrus notes are less forward. Despite the extra ABV, the liquid is smooth in texture and viscous, with a full mouthfeel.

Gin & Tonic
Delicious. A lot of the citrus of the gin comes through, which is more subtle when it is tasted neat. There is also a lovely juiciness, even without a garnish, which complements the complex herbal and woody notes. Clean and refreshing.

Martini
Bombay Sapphire was the gin that switched me from vodka to gin martinis, back in the Blue Room at Vinopolis, so it was great to have a new edition from this new home. The higher ABV gives the drink the clean and piercing power that I expect from the very best martinis.

Negroni
A symphonic harmony between the flavours of the gin and the other ingredients. The botanical flavours shine through well, with particularly intriguing notes of spice and pepper on the finish.

In Conclusion
Whilst the stunning bottle and packaging would be reason enough to want this bottle on your shelf, I was also impressed by the liquid inside: the spirit is more complex, dry and less citrusy than the standard UK domestic expression. My favourite drink was the Martini.

Bombay Sapphire Distillery Launch – Laverstoke Mill

Yesterday saw the grand opening of the Bombay Sapphire Distillery at Laverstoke Mill in Hampshire. Since the creation of Bombay Dry in 1960, Bombay Sapphire in 1987, and Bombay Sapphire East in 2011, the gins have lacked a home base that would allow people, both trade and public, to visit.

Across the world, there has been a rise in “Destination Distilling”; that is, the idea of a distillery being something more than a production facility, becoming an attraction for tourists to visit.

Plymouth Gin has been open for the public to tour since 1985 and has had it’s present visitors centre since 2007, Beefeater opened their centre earlier this year, and income from visitors is now an integral part of the business plan for most new distilleries.

Bombay Sapphire’s new home for their distillery and visitors centre is in North Hampshire and has come after years of works and million of pounds of investment.

The Glasshouses (Mediterranean and Tropical) growing specimens of all of the botanicals in Bombay Sapphire. They are heat from the excess heat from the stills.

The Glasshouses (Mediterranean and Tropical) growing specimens of all of the botanicals in Bombay Sapphire. They are heat from the excess heat from the stills.

Laverstoke Mill operated as a paper mill from 1719 to 1963. From 1725, it held the sole contract for the production of the Bank of England’s banknote paper, at one time providing the paper for over 100 countries and colonies in the British Empire. In the second half of the 20th Century, however, the mill closed and fell into disrepair, until it was discovered as a potential location for a new distillery.

The new Bombay Sapphire Distillery had its grand opening on 17th September 2014 and I was lucky enough to be able to attend.

Distillery and Glasshouse

The Distillery in the background, toprical glasshouse to the right and designer Thomas Heatherwick in the foreground

As we arrived, the most striking feature was the glistening River Test, which runs through the site, surrounded on both sides by centuries-old mill buildings, all newly refurbished.

After some welcome drinks, including the delicious “Laverstoke”, including the non-alcoholic one that I picked up by accident, I was whisked upstairs to have a chat with Valarie Brass Global Brand Director for Gin at Bacardi Global Brands. This was a great chance to discuss some of the bigger picture aspects of Bombay Sapphire and the key focuses of Bombay Sapphire: “Creativity”, “Beauty” and “Expression”. There was obvious excitement about have a place to “bring to life key principles” and to “talk about what we believe in” something that I can imagine was quite difficult before such a large and growing brand had a dedicated base.

Mediterrean Glasshouse

An Orange Tree Inside the Mediterranean Glasshouse

The highlight of the evening was the unveiling of the two glasshouses: one tropical, and one mediterranean in climate. These were designed by Heatherwick Studios and are heated by the residual heat from the stills. Even though I had seen designs and 3D models of them, I nonetheless wasn’t quite prepared for how spectacular they were. The chance to see so many classic gin botanicals all growing together was fascinating.

The "secret bar" which will be Sam Carter's new "office" about 10 minutes after this picture was taken it was packed wall to wall.

The “secret bar” which will be Sam Carter’s (at the bar) new “office” about 10 minutes after this picture was taken it was packed wall to wall.

After this excitement I decided to slip off to the “secret bar” (Empire Bar) which was being tended by the distillery’s in-house senior brand ambassador Sam Carter. This bar doubles as a training facility for a variety of guests, trade and bartenders. Up here I had a mix of Bombay Sapphire, Pink Grapefruit Juice and Vanilla Syrup – the grapefruit and vanilla producing a chocolate flavour in addition to their own character – a phenomenon known as “Transmogrification” – something I consider a Sam Carter signature.

After that joint started jumping (see picture) I went in search of further adventure and found another bar inside one of the old vaults where the finished banknote were kept. This came complete with the original cast iron grate door at the entry. Here I was treated to an Aviation cocktail and a pleasant chat with gin experts Geraldine Coates and Patience Gould where we also had a sneaky sip of Bombay Dry at the new ABV.

Bombay Sapphire Laverstoke Mill Edition

No Bombay Sapphire event would be complete without one of their glamorous gift bags, and this event did not disappoint. In addition to some fine barware we got a bottle of the rare Laverstoke Mill Edition of Bombay Sapphire – beautifully packaged but for me, even more excitingly, bottled at an unusual 49%ABV. See here for tasting notes.

All-in-all I had high hopes for the distillery and my expectations were exceeded; an opening on this scale will never happen again and so it was great to be part of it. The distillery itself opens to the public in October and for me it is a must for gin fans and a great visit for anyone who is a fan of botany, stunning scenery or historic architecture.

For more details check out their website. Later this year National Geographic will be screening a documnetary about the creation of the distillery.

Bombay Sapphire Family

A New Home for the Family.

“Me & My Botanical” – A Gin Guild Presentation

MeandMyBotanicalTitle

After a busy week at the beginning of October with the London Gin Summit and Craft Distilling Expo, I decided to make it a quiet London Cocktail Week for me this year. Having said that, at least one event that I definitely didn’t want to miss was The Gin Guild’s “Me and My Botanical” event, which involved five of the UK’s top distillers.

We kicked off with Tom Nichols…

Tom Nichols - Tanqueray

Tom Nichol – Tanqueray

Tom Nichol (Tanqueray Gordons) – Chamomile

Tom discussed his fondness for this daisy flower, which he uses in Tanqueray Ten and that Joanne Moore uses in Bloom; both described by Tom as floral gins. Up until 10 years ago, it was quite unusual to find chamomile being used as a gin botanical. Looking at the flower itself, it is the centre that contains the most oils..

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Charles Maxwell (Thames DIstillers) – Juniper & Liquorice

Charles Maxwell - On Juniper

Charles Maxwell – On Juniper

Juniper (Juniperus Communis)

  • The essential ingredient for gin, which is almost exclusively grown wild (although cultivated in the Netherlands).
  • Historically, it is closely linked with traditional medicine and is still being studied today.
  • Prior to World War One, juniper grew in abundance around the downs and surrounding areas of London, which is one of the reasons that London became a hub for gin manufacturers.
  • These juniper bushes were removed so that the space could be used for agriculture to ease food shortages during the war.
  • In the early days of gin, the botanicals would have been used to cover the taste of poor-quality spirit as much as to add a distinguished and complex flavour.

Charles Maxwell - Thames

Charles Maxwell – Thames

Liquorice

  • Also known as “sweet root”, liquorice contains a compound 50 times sweeter than cane sugar.
  • It contains glycyrrhizin, which is toxic with excessive consumption and, hence, is heavily regulated, especially in the USA.
  • The jury is out as to whether or not glycyrrhizin acid actually passes over with distillation.
  • Using liquorice root in stick vs. powdered form creates a slightly different effect.
  • But both add a complex, sweet note and a earthy softness.

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Desmond Payne (Beefeater) – Citrus & Tea

Desmond Payne - Beefeater

Desmond Payne – Beefeater

  • Citrus is an important botanical that gives upfront, clean, fresh and sometimes sharp notes to gin.
  • Lemons and oranges are the most popular types used in gin production.
  • A distiller’s choice of using Italian vs. Spanish lemons and sweet vs. bitter oranges impacts upon a gin’s flavour.
  • Other citrus choices include lime, grapefruit, tangerine and pommelo.

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He then outlined his five categories of gin:

Juniper-led;
Citrus-led;
Spice-led;
Herbal-led; and
Floral-led.

On the subject of drinking gin neat, Desmond said:

“(The) Evidence of a good gin is that you can drink it on its own.”

Which is a thought that I agree with; in general, if a gin tastes good on its own, it is more likely to mix well in a Martini, Negroni or with Tonic.

Tea

  • Desmond was inspired to use tea as a gin botanical after he tried Beefeater mixed with chilled green tea.
  • This happened after the tonic that was available in Japan, where he was at the time, was not bitter enough (quinine is heavily regulated in Japan).
  • In response, Beefeater 24 incorporates two teas into its botanical mix.
  • Tea mixes so well with other ingredients because it has very large molecules, which “fit in” well with other flavours.

Peter McKay (Alcohols Limited) – Coriander & Orris Root

Peter McKay - Alcohols Ltd.

Peter McKay – Alcohols Ltd.

  • Coriander is seen as the second most important botanical and is used both as a herb (leaf) and a spice (seed).
  • Few gins exclude coriander from their recipe, but an example is Van Wees 3 Corners Gin (made using juniper & lemon).
  • Key growing areas are South and East Europe, South-west Asia, India and North Africa.
  • In 2013, the best coriander is coming from Bulgaria. The reason? Its higher oil content, which is key when this year’s crop is unusually low in its contents of essential oils.

Peter also mentioned how different levels of coriander in conjunction with other botanicals impact upon a gin’s flavours. For example:

High Coriander + Angelica = Dryer Character
Low Coriander + High Juniper + Citrus = Sweeter Character

Orris Root

  • This acts as a binder or catalyst for the other flavours of gin botanicals (angelica and jasmine will also do the job).
  • It is made from the underground stem of the florentine iris.
  • These plants grow well in fine and sandy soil and take three years to cultivate; they are usually harvested in the dry month of August.
  • Plants are harvested by hand and, once the stem and leaves are cut off, the roots are planted.
  • The stem is then peeled and then dried several times in the open air.

Nik Fordham (Bombay Sapphire) – Angelica & Spice

Nik Fordham - Bombay Sapphire

Nik Fordham – Bombay Sapphire

Angelica

  • There are 60 types, but Angelica Archangelica is the type used in gin production.
  • It thrives in damp conditions and is harvested after its second year, once it has flowered and then died back.
  • The seed provides fragrance, whereas the stem is often crystallized and turned into a sweet or mixed with reindeer milk.
  • The root has some juniper and earthy flavours and aromas.

Nik also spoke a little about cinnamon, cubeb berries and grains of paradise.

Question Time

MeAndMyBotanicals - Q&A

The panel then invited questions from the floor, chaired by Simon Difford.

They spoke a little about terroir, where botanicals are sourced from. Largely, it seems that the source of the botanicals is subject to change, based on quality. Peter mentioned they had recently switched their supply of coriander from Russia to Bulgaria.

Simon Difford

Simon Difford

When asked about the rationale for using only “Juniperus Communis” (the only type of juniper allowed in EU production of gin), given that some US gins use other varieties to great effect, the panel gave a mixed response, ranging from:

  • “rules is rules”;
  • Communis is the most common variety found in Europe;
  • One other species (Juniperus Oxideridus) has been linked to poisonings; and
  • Potential protectionism, to stop US imports of gin.

Based on these comments, amongst others, it strikes me that the most likely explanation is that when the rules were written, the use of Western Juniper, Utah Juniper, and Rocky Mt. Juniper was relatively unknown. As the document is a technical one, it was not sufficient to simply say gin should be flavoured with “Juniper” – a species need to be specified, too; hence, Juniperus Communis.

www.theginguild.com

DTS with Sam Carter and Nik Fordham of Bombay Sapphire - Many Thanks to Gin Guild Director Nicholas Cook for sending this over.

DTS with Sam Carter and Nik Fordham of Bombay Sapphire – Many Thanks to Gin Guild Director Nicholas Cook for sending this over.

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.

Bombay Sapphire Ginbilee – Infused Gin & Tonics

It’s a rather special year for celebrations in the UK this year. What with the Olympics and the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, many drinks brands will, no doubt, be celebrating in their own special way. The English Whisky Company, for example, are releasing a new and unique Diamond Jubilee whisky.

Bombay Sapphire have come up with an idea that not only celebrates the reign of HM Elizabeth II, but taps into the growing trend of Spanish style Gin & Tonics, served with lots of ice in a balloon glass, also known as Gin Tonicas.

The company asked five British “creatives” to work alongside UK brand ambassador, Sam Carter, to come up with five unique Gin & Tonic recipes under the title “Ginbilee”. I was lucky enough to be invited along to their launch, to meet the creators and try their concoctions. This event took place at the The Rib Room Bar & Restaurant, which is one of Knightsbridge’s famous bars and is renowned for it’s roast rib of beef.

Anna Bullusʼ Bombay Sapphire Souchong Fizz

This was developed with Anna Bullus who invented the worldʼs first process that transforms chewed chewing gum into a usable plastic (Gumdrop).

50ml Bombay Sapphire, 100ml Fevertree Tonic Water, 15ml Lapsang Souchong tea syrup, 15ml Lemon Juice.

Method: Add syrup, lemon juice and gin to glass. Stir and add ice and then Tonic. Stir for a final time. Garnish with a straw and the 2 lemon slices. Serve.

I thought this was delicious; I am a big fan of tea-related cocktails and soft drinks and I’ve experimented with Lapsang Souchong liqueurs and syrups before, but I’d never thought of combining it with a Gin & Tonic. What I really liked about this drink was that it had a great equilibrium between the smoky tea and the fresh lemon juice, with the gin and tonic giving these flavours a strong, refreshing backdrop.

Robbie Honeyʼs Bombay Sapphire Orange Blossom

This was developed with Robbie Honey is one of Londonʼs most sought-after florists.

50ml Bombay Sapphire, 100ml Fevertree Lemon Tonic Water, and 10ml Orange Blossom Honey.
Garnish: 1 straw, 1 very long orange peel twist spritzed over the glass for aroma and orange blossom flowers in the drink for garnish.
Method: Add gin and honey and stir, then add ice and top-up with Lemon Tonic. Garnish.

I found this to be a little sweeter than a typical Gin & Tonic, with the orange blossom adding an array of floral, citrus notes and contributing to the confectionery air of this drink. Nonetheless, I found it very refreshing and easy to drink.

David Carterʼs Bombay Sapphire The Last Rasp

This was developed with David Carter an internationally acclaimed interior designer and founder/owner of 40 Winks boutique.

50ml Bombay Sapphire, 100ml Fevertree Tonic Water,
3 fresh whole raspberries + 2 for garnish, and 3 fresh basil leaves.
Garnish: 1 straw, 2 raspberries and a large basil sprig
Method: Muddle 3 raspberries in the bottom of a glass. Add gin stir to mix fully, then add  ice. Add 3 basil leaves and top with the tonic. Stir once again to combine flavours.
Garnishing with a straw, 2 fresh raspberries and a large, flamboyant basil sprig.

Visually, this was very impressive, and an appetising scent was quickly evident from the raspberry and basil leaves. Regarding the taste, as the smell suggested, this was a very crisp, slightly leafy, Gin & Tonic with a touch of tartness coming from the raspberry. As pleasant to drink as it was to look at.

Fiona Leahyʼs Bombay Sapphire Diamond Rose

This was developed with Fiona Leahy who runs a creative event design and production agency.

50ml Bombay Sapphire, 100ml Fevertree Tonic Water, a dash (to taste) of Rose Flower Water*, 5-6 medium sized mint leaves (clapped to release aroma), and Rose Flower Water diamond ice cubes with a mint leaf suspended in the middle.*

Garnish: 1 straw, 1 large lemon wedge and a large flourish of fresh mint leaf sprigs
Method: Pour gin and Rose Flower Water into glass and stir to mix. Add ice (or Rose Flower Water diamond ice cubes*, if you have them) and the clapped mint leaves and stir well. Do not
muddle, break down or bruise the mint. Top-up with tonic and stir one final time.

This was quite leafy and herbal, and drinking it felt a bit like strolling through a rose garden. There was also a slightly savoury element towards the end.

Rhea Thiersteinʼs Bombay Sapphire Zesty Surprise

This was developed with Rhea Thierstein who creates highly imaginative sets, costumes and props

50ml Bombay Sapphire, 15ml vanilla sugar syrup, 10 fresh grapefruit segments 100ml Fevertree Tonic Water.
Garnish: 1 straw, small, triangular grapefruit segments, and 1 vanilla pod as a stirrer.
Method: Pour the syrup and gin into glass and stir to mix. Add the grapefruit segments, ice and tonic. Stir for one final time to combine. Garnish with a straw and a vanilla pod.

The grapefruit and vanilla combination form a transmogrification to produce a dark chocolate flavour.

I got the grapefruit notes to start with, followed by a rich, dark chocolate note with a hint of nuttiness. This was very unusual and reminded me of some chocolate gin that I had once. In fact, the nuttiness of the chocolate was so substantial that it reminded me of peanut butter cups (a favourite confection of mine). Unusual and unexpected; exactly what it was designed to be.

Earl of Essex

Inspired by the Earl Grey Tea Syrup at the RibRoom and named after a member of the New Sheridan Club.

50ml Bombay Sapphire, 100ml Fevertree Tonic Water, and 15ml Earl Grey Syrup.
Garnish: Orange pieces and peel.

Refreshing and crisp, but also quite bitter from the tannins in the tea and the orange peel, oil and flesh. This was a crisp, cutting Gin & Tonic, with the floral Earl Grey rising up at the end. Rather different, but still quite tasty. If you like Earl Grey, orange and gin then this is for you.

The Richard Briars

This was inspired by the GinMonkey’s Rhubarb and Ginger Gin & Tonic, which, in itself, was rather tasty.

50ml Bombay Sapphire, 120ml Fevertree Tonic Water, 10ml Vanilla Syrup, and 10ml Rhubarb Syrup.

In this drink, you have the crisp, refreshing Gin & Tonic flavour, which is then subtly accented by hints of rhubarb and custard. The flavour of the old-fashioned sweet comes through, it’s neither overpowering, nor too sickly. Another G&T that is unusual, unexpected, but delicious.

Pepper & Ginger
This was created by Fiona Hicks of The Lady magazine.

50ml Bombay Sapphire, 100ml Fevertree Tonic Water, and 15ml King’s Ginger Liqueur (the only ginger I have in at present). Garnish with slices of yellow, red and green peppers.

This was a delicious, almost savoury, cocktail with plenty of kick, spice and warmth. Despite this, it was still very refreshing, like a cool, crisp salad, and the peppers really made a difference.

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The Bombay Sapphire ‘Ginbilee’ masterclasses will be held on Saturday 19 May and Saturday 26 May 2012 from 2.30pm-5pm (max. 10-12 people per class). To reserve a place, please call 020 7858 7250 or email reservations@theribroom.co.uk

Making Syrups & Flavoured Ice

Vanilla
Brew 250ml of boiling water with 3 slit vanilla pods for 20 minutes. Add 500g of fine caster sugar and stir until the sugar has dissolved, then leave to cool. Take out the vanilla pods and pour into a sterilised container. This will keep in the fridge for up to ten weeks.

Tea Syrups (Lapsang/Earl Grey)
To make the Lapsang Souchong/Earl Grey tea syrup – brew 500ml of boiling water with 2 Lapsang Souchong tea bags (approx. 12g fresh loose tea) for 5 minutes. Take out bags and add 500g of fine caster sugar. Stir till the sugar is dissolved then leave to cool. Pour into a sterilised container and keep in the fridge for up to ten weeks.

Rhubarb Syrup
Brew one large stalk of peeled rhubarb (chopped into pieces) with 250ml for 20 mins. Add 200g of sugar and stir. Leave to cool, then refrigerate.

Rose Flower Water Ice
To make the Rose Flower Water diamond ice cubes – take your clean diamond shaped ice cube tray (you can use other shapes if you wish!), place a clapped mint leaf into each segment. Fill with Rose Flower Water and place in the freezer for around 9-10 hours to freeze depending on your machine.

Cocktails with… Bombay Sapphire EAST

This article has been updated since I had a very informative trans-Atlantic conversation with Giles Woodyer, US Brand Manager for Bombay Sapphire.
When writing about Bombay Sapphire, it is tempting for a gin writer to become nostalgic and widely proclaim how it “single-handedly saved the gin world”. I’m not going to dispute its importance in the grand history of this juniper spirit, but today I want to talk about something new: Bombay Sapphire East.
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The rather fabulous Bombay Sapphire East bottle

It’s nearly 25 years since Bombay Sapphire was launched, turning scores of vodka drinkers onto gin and this is the first variation that the team at BS have created since then. This new creation is a bit tricky to get hold of at the moment, as it is currently only available in its test markets of New York and Las Vegas.*
Giles Woodyer told me that the idea of a new gin came from the recognition that in the last few decades the gin market has change substantially with more gins on the market and a wider appreciation of gin, they wanted to create something that would reflect the growing understanding of the gin consumer. In short, the time was right.
Initially Giles and a team of leading US chefs and bartenders sat down with a range of botanical flavours to see what would compliment Bombay Sapphire. Their aim was not to be too outlandish but simply to create a subtle but noticeable change. After much experimentation Black Peppercorn and Lemongrass became the flavours favoured by the panel.
But what about the name?
Bombay Sapphire pride themselves on sourcing the very best botanicals for their gins; they felt that the best lemongrass and black peppercorns came from countries in East Asia. Given Victorian interest and trade in the Far East it seemed to fit in nicely with the slightly colonial tone of the brand. The subtlety in the name change reflect that of the packaging and the spirit inside.
Regarding the difference with Bombay Sapphire, it’s a quiet change; Bombay Sapphire East is bottled at 42%ABV** and has the addition of lemongrass (Thailand) and black peppercorns (Vietnam) to the standard, ten botanical recipe. These themselves are relatively underwhelming botanicals, but I think that that actually says a lot about their approach to the spirit. Even the bottle is an understated reflection of the original (I happen to think it a very fine one at that), but, in the end, all this is irrelevant; what really matters is how it tastes.Before that, for the sake of completeness, here is a list of the botanicals in Bombay Sapphire East:
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1) Own
On the nose, there are initial notes of grassy juniper and herbal citrus. There are also some salady notes, reminding me a little of a couscous salad or something similar. More juniper and a slight spicy note develops as time goes on; the pepper soon develops to the extent that you wonder how you missed it the first time round.
To taste, it is initially quite smooth, with some sweetness, but this gives way to a lightly creamy citrus and a little soapy coriander, before the black peppercorns appear on the finish. It’s pretty spicy and intense, but I like it.***

I was speaking to a gentleman from Bombay Sapphire at an event yesterday, who explained that there is a natural flavour progression between Bombay Dry, Sapphire and Sapphire East, with Bombay Sapphire sitting between the other two.

He also noted that one of their considerations when making Sapphire East was the fact that American Tonic Water is typically much sweeter than UK or European varieties and so the gin flavours were adjusted accordingly. The UK Bombay Sapphire tasting had some US Tonic Water sent over for their in-house briefing tasting team; as I sadly don’t have any, I’ve decided to try a range.

2) Gin & Tonic
i) with Britvic
As a Gin & Tonic, it still seems quite sweet, but there are some spicy notes that bring it back down slightly. It’s quite lemony, with a growing dryness at the end.

ii) with Schweppes
Quite clean relatively crisp, slight peppiness come through, very refreshing.

iii) with Fentimans
A little vanilla on the nose, I was sondering how the lmeongrass in the Bombay east with go with the lemongrass in the Fentimans. Sadly the mixer completely masks the gin, even at a 2:1 ration. Not a great combination.

3) Martini
It was Bombay Sapphire that initially switched me from vodka to gin martinis, so I’m keen to try this. I used Dolin in a 5:1 mix, which was stirred and served naked. ***
Pretty classic but perhaps a little more dry and savoury then many martinis. A slightly hot spiciness at the end. Really rather enjoyable.

4) Aviation
I was inspired to try this by an excellent Aviation I had last night, made with Bombay sapphire. Sadly the east version does not live up to it’s Big Sister. The spice and extra citrus seemed to take away from the potential accord**** of the drink and too me it seemed a bit too dry.

5) Negroni
I thought this was rather nice: it had a good balance of bitter sweet; starting with a spicy sweetness that gradually grows to a more herbaceous bitterness. The finish is a lingering combination of bitter and spice, although, overall, the flavour it is not too heavy as Negronis go.

6) GT Turbo
Top notch, the lemon grass in the gin works well with the herbal elements (including lemongrass) of John’s Premium tonic Syrup. Very fresh and pleasantly bitter. The quinine and the pepper spice seem to partner well together. Crisp and invigorating.
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Final thoughts, I enjoyed trying this and I think it’s a good addition to the range. My favourite drink was the GT Turbo and my favourite Gin & tonic was with Schweppes. I like the fact that it retains the character of the original in the same way that the Beefeater Variations use the same standard 9 botanicals and just add 3 new ones to the mix (see here for a pretty diagram).
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* In my ignorance I though Las Vegas an odd choice but Giles informed me that their is quite strong bar culture there but in the same way it is quite different to New York and so the two different test markets featured a cross-section of drinkers.
** In the UK, Bombay Sapphire is bottled at 40%ABV and in the US it is bottled at 47%ABV. Giles Woodyer told me that the reason for this was that after trying Bombay Sapphire East at various strengths this was the sweet spot.
*** I found that, as time went on, the peppery spiciness of the gin became more and more pronounced.
**** Accord basically means that the combination of the ingredients in a cocktail is greater than the sum of their parts.

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Martini Gadget #3 Martini Atomizer

 

Tanqueray Export, No:Ten from Tanqueray and Bombay Sapphire branded atomizers.

For this article on Martini Gadgets, I’ll be looking at a less obscure, but ultimately more useful, device. An atomizer is a small vessel or canister that you fill with vermouth and when you press the cap, a fine mist of vermouth sprays out. Essentially, it’s a perfume atomizer/bottle.

There are a variety of these still available “today” and they often come in Martini Gift Packs; I think I got the one below in a John Lewis sale.

Does it work?

There are two main ways to use the vermouth atomizer:

#1 Once your gin is chilled and has been poured into a glass, spray a little vermouth over the glass so that the mist settles on the top of the drink. This uses vermouth as more of a garnish and doesn’t really “mix” the drink.

A "naked" Martini using method #2 (below) a Tanqueray Atomizer, Noilly Prat Vermouth and TAURUS Gin.

#2 The second method is a twist on a glass rinse. Take an empty, chilled Martini glass and spritz the inside with the martini atomizer, before adding the chilled gin. If you like a little dilution in your Martini, you can stir (or shake) the gin with ice before straining and pouring it in. Otherwise, you could keep the gin in the freezer and just add it to the glass. This is the “Naked” method of Martini mixing.