Cocktails with… The Spectator gin (Lemon Balm and Early Grey) – from MasterofMalt

I have spoken many times on the innovations of Master of Malt, not just in the Gin field, but in many others, too. One idea that I found out about earlier this year and particularly liked is the concept of an individual or organization commissioning a Gin.

In some ways, this is not new (Diner’s Club had this going on in the 1980s), but these days the personalization goes beyond the label or bottle, and now extends to the actual recipe. This is a service that Master of Malt offers and was recently taken up by The Spectator Magazine (a political newspaper) on behalf of their readers.

Spectator Gin starts off as a gin made with juniper and pepper spice, which is then infused with Earl Grey tea and lemon balm. It is bottled at 42.4%ABV.

The Taste

1) On its own
Nose: Lemon citrus and herbal notes. This is very full to start, being zesty with some pine in the background.
Taste: A slightly nutty flavour is accompanied by orange and tannin (the Earl Grey making itself known) upfront, followed by dry juniper. There’s then some sweetness and salty black pepper notes towards the end, before more dry juniper appears on the finish.

2) Gin & Tonic
This drink is jammy and citrusy, a little like lemon curd with some dry juniper. It’s rather lively and refreshing, too. I found that it was best to use a clean tonic (e.g. Fevertree or Q) rather than a citrus-heavy one (e.g. Britvic or Fentimans) and plenty of ice, but no garnish.

3) Martini
Crisp and citrusy at the start, as many good Martinis are, with a follow-up of slightly nutty tea and a hint of spicy nutmeg. This Gin works rather well in this drink.

4) Negroni
This makes quite a sweet Negroni, in which the tannins from Earl Grey come through a lot more. The bitter flavour takes a long time to build, but certainly becomes quite powerful if you give it some time. Interestingly, the citrus is very subdued in this drink. Spectator Gin makes an intriguing Negroni that takes a bit of time to appreciate, but, on balance, I quite like it.

In Conclusion
I like the Spectator Gin and it is very different to the very similar concept of the Heston Blumenthal gin (Master of Malt, to their credit, thought of it first!) with the lemon being more dominant but at the same time you don’t get the soggy teabag smell (of Heston’s) either.

It won’t be for everyone but I liked the Negroni best.

The Spectator Gin is available from Master of Malt for around £25 for 70cl.


Cocktails with… Heston Blumenthal’s Lemon and Earl Grey Gin from Waitrose

It’s been a bit of a Chase Gin week here on SummerFruitCup and today, whilst mooching along to our local Waitrose, Mrs. B. informed me that the Heston Gin has now arrived.*

‘Heston from Waitrose’ Earl Grey and Lemon Gin is a designed specifically for Waitrose by Heston Blumenthal and is manufactured by Chase Distillery. Like the new Great British Gin, this Waitrose-exclusive spirit is potato-based (and packaged in the same bottle) and is made using an array of 7 classic botanicals**. The gin is additionally infused with lemon and Earl Grey tea.*** It is bottled at 40%ABV and specifies its suitability for vegetarians on the label.

On its own:
Nose: Simply upon opening the bottle, the smell of the gin burst out: zesty, but sour lemon is followed by wet tea. Overall, it has the feeling of lemon tea, but could be better.
Taste: Smooth up front, very fragrant and very citrusy, with floral tea notes. There’s some coriander, too, but where this gin really stands out is with the lovely Earl Grey tea finish, which is long and delicious. With a drop of water, distinctly piney juniper and a sweet element of liquorice also pop up.

Gin & Tonic
This drink is really the litmus test for this gin, which is primarily designed for the off-trade market and, more specifically, the supermarket shoppers of Waitrose, the majority of whom consume their gin with a splash of tonic water.

A resounding pass with flying colours. Refreshing and zesty, it has some floral tea and orange elements, plus a hint of lemon verbena. I think that a nice, clean (not citrusy) tonic works best; Fevertree or Schweppes work well, although I’d be keen to try it with Fevertree Mediterranean or 1724 for a more herbal twist.

I initially tried it at 2:1 ratio, but also really like it at greater dilutions: 3:1 or 4:1. The drink still works for those who like a little more tonic, but, personally, I think I’ll stick to the 2:1.

Very lemony, with some orange blossom, as well as a crisp dryness from the tea. When I made the Martini (stirred), the gin seemed to have slightly louched, which gave it a misty appearance. I like the flavour of this cocktail: it’s quite complex, but I think that some will find it overly pungent.

This makes an odd Negroni, which is quite soft initially, with floral citrus notes. The nose is very vegetal and, for me, a bit off-putting. There’s some bitterness at the end, but the cocktail overall doesn’t really work for me.

In Conclusion
Heston Gin had a lot to live up to, as I’d eagerly anticipated it for several weeks now. Noticeably, by adding flavours to a classic gin make-up and increasing the floral elements, they have produced a gin that is more like some of the contemporary varieties coming out of the USA or Australia.
Given these changes, I found that the gin doesn’t fit into all classic gin cocktails, but, with some tailoring, I think you could get some good results. It will probably lend itself well to some Spring cocktails, too.
As a cocktail ingredient, there is not a lot out there that can rival it (the Spectator Gin is less perfumed) in terms of application and, with some experimentation, some great drinks could be created.
In reality, any gin aimed at supermarket shoppers will be judged by how it works in a Gin & Tonic and Heston’s in works well, giving a slight twist to a familiar drink.

‘Heston from Waitrose’ Earl Grey and Lemon Gin is available exclusively from Waitrose Stores for around £22 for 70cl.

*The Heston Gin as I have eagerly awaited its arrival.
** Including Juniper, Coriander, Angelica, Citrus Peel, Orris Root, Liquorice and Almond.
*** Heston seems quite keen on using tea to flavour things – I am quite fond of the Lapsang Salmon.
*** Interestingly, last night, I was tasting some of the MasterofMalt Spectator Gin that also uses lemon (this time lemon balm) and Earl Grey tea as an infusion with the spirit.

Tea Up! – Experiments with Home-made Tea Liqueurs

Tea Up!

Home-Made Tea Liqueurs

Whilst reading the 1997 edition of Pacult’s Kindred Spirits, I was intrigued by his scathing review of an “oozing” Earl Grey English Liqueur; figuring that such a product was unlikely to be available, I became fascinated with the idea of creating my own. After a little research, I managed to cobble together a recipe from a few different sources and found myself eagerly on a quest for some loose tea leaves.

After the relative success of the resultant liqueur, I started to think about possible variations. I finally settled on three: the first was inspired by a discussion on tea that I had had at a Beefeater 24 event with Clayton and Liz, where Lapsang Shoshong was mentioned; Green Tea seemed a natural fit for the second; and thirdly, Mrs. B, with her unique sense of humour, suggested using English Breakfast Tea.

Lapsang Souchong, Earl Grey, English Breakfast I, Green Tea

Here are my tasting notes of the results:

Earl Grey Liqueur

With a citrus nose, it started like iced tea. The initial sweetness was replaced by the bitter tannins, which then faded to a tea-like muskiness; afterward, there was a comeback of warm vanilla and a slightly bitter bite that eventually left behind a pleasant warmth.

Green Tea Liqueur

This smelt like soggy cabbage, this tasted like soggy cabbage.
To give it its due, this started pleasantly enough, in a sweet fashion, but it turned out to be merely a diversion prior your being hit with a harsh bitterness that remained until the end. The initial false sweetness reminds me of certain herbal liqueurs, such as Suze & Campari.

English Breakfast I

This was a warm shade of ochre and smelt like tea sweetened with honey.
It was the sweetest of the bunch and started off with a honey-like sweetness that made way for an understated bitterness. It ended with a warming punch and, although it had the same alcohol content as the others, it certainly tasted stronger. It improved when cut with a little water.
I found that this made a palatable cream liqueur when mixed two parts liqueur to one part cream.

Lapsang Souchong

Until I decided to make a liqueur out of this, I had never tried this tea before. This liqueur smelt like cedar wood and smoked wood chips. Its taste reminded me of Bonfire Night, with flavours of cured meats and Bavarian smoked cheese. Smoky. This had a lovely warmth and was truly unlike anything I have ever had before (so much for modesty), and it didn’t have the bitterness of the others. Definitely my favourite.

English Breakfast II

A second version involved a more complicated manufacturing process and, additionally, contained some gin, as I ran out of vodka. I also combined the tea and sugar before adding any spirits, and some water was added to the final product to balance out the flavour. The result was a slightly thicker, sweeter version, which resembled commercially available liqueurs more closely than the others. I took some along to a recent tonic tasting at Graphic and it seemed to go down well.

I also took the Lapsang Souchong liqueur along to Graphic and one of their great Bartenders, Adam, created this:

Mrs. B enjoys a Fag Hag Cocktail

The Fag Hag Cocktail
30ml Plymouth Gin
20ml Lemon Juice
15ml Lapsang Souchong Liqueur
10ml Sugar Syrup
20ml Egg White

Double shake, strain and serve.

All in all, I’ve immensely enjoyed experimenting with these liqueurs and I have already had requests for more; in particular, more batches of Lapsang Souchong and English Breakfast are in the pipeline. I’ll be sure to keep you posted with updates on any future experiments.

If you have any comments or suggestions about what other teas I could try please comment below: