Hendrick’s Garnish Taste Test

Anyone who has ever bought a bottle of Hendrick’s will know that Hendrick’s and cucumber go hand-in-hand. When I first tried it six years ago, I have to admit to being a tad surprised at being served a glass of gin & tonic with a slice of cucumber in it; surprised, but ultimately delighted, as it was delicious.

Since then, I have come across other gins that suggest garnishing drinks with one of their botanicals, two examples being:
– Pink Grapefruit with Tanqueray No. 10; and
– Cape Gooseberries with Whitley Neill.

I’ve been asked why companies don’t just add more of that botanical’s flavour to the spirit to negate the need for additional garnish. It’s a good question and I’m not sure of an answer.
However, aesthetically, a slice of cucumber or a handful of strawberries makes the drink more appealing, not to mention the fact that you get a little snack you get once you’ve finished the drink.

Hendrink’s is pretty versatile when it comes to garnishes: I have had it served with cucumber, lemon, lime, strawberries, and even rose petals! After I received a bottle of the 44% (Export) Hendrick’s from relatives returning from abroad, I thought I would evaluate each of these garnishes alongside one another in a blind Hendrick’s & Tonic Garnish Taste Test.

Our garnishes were as follows: lemon, lime, cucumber, rose petals, strawberries,  and plain (no garnish, as a control). We tried all six with both the 41.4% and the 44% strengths of Hendrick’s. The gin & tonics were mixed in a 1pt Gin : 2pts Tonic ratio and served in covered coffee cups (thanks to my local Café Nero for supplying those), as we thought this was the best way to avoid identifying the garnish by sight.

Prepared garnishes, clockwise from top left, Plain, Lemon, Lime, Cucumber, strawberries, Rose Petals.

Hendricks 41.4% ABV – (UK Domestic)

No Garnish: The tonic comes through a lot more in this one; there is an initial bitter tang followed by floral perfume notes.

Cucumber: Strong cucumber with a fresh, slightly watery element; it tastes more of the skin than the flesh, but is very fine nonetheless.

Lemon: Exceptionally well-balanced, with subtle citrus and hints of vanilla. Very popular.

Lime: Fresh, citrus and a hint of cucumber, although this was possibly a touch on the bitter side and too sharp.

Strawberries: Hints of cucumber and sweet notes of strawberry. This adds a new flavour to the drink that complements the already summery profile of Hendrick’s. Bright and flavourful. Simply delicious.

Rose Petals: Soft and light, sweet and a touch syrupy, but well-balanced overall.

Hendricks 44% ABV – (USA)

No Garnish: Slightly savoury, with a subtle pepperiness. Well-balanced and complex.

Cucumber: Very strong flavours of cucumber, which dominate the drink. Quite fresh and rather pleasant.

Lemon: A strong bang of citrus, which pleasantly complements the gin, and a fresh sweetness akin to cool lemonade.

Lime: The most bitter and dry of the gin & tonics that we tired. Slightly fruity, but not very sweet.

Strawberries: Very good indeed; sweet and juicy, a touch of strawberry jam.

Rose Petals: Fresh, floral flavours, that aren’t overpowering; sadly lacking in flavour.

In conclusion, we both really liked the strawberries as a garnish as it made the drink rather summery, I was quite fan of the cucumber but Mrs. B found it a little over-powering. In contrast she like the delicacy of the rose petal garnish whereas I thought it too weak. A lemon garnish with the 41.4 also scored well.

The real conclusion we can draw is that we both preferred the 41.4% in a gin & tonic and that my wife and I don’t always agree!

For our coverage of our Tasting of 11 Scottish Gins, click here.

Cocktails with… Knockeen Hills Elderflower Gin


Not content with the success of their Irish Poteen and Heather Gin the folks at Knockeen Hills decided to release another product, an elderflower gin that uses elderflower as one of the botanicals, this is not a very common botanical to use and is a tricky ingredient to get right.
Bottled at 47.3%ABV Knockeen Hills uses a base Irish Spirit that is distilled five times and the botanicals it uses are steeped for 24 hours. It is described as “London Cut” which means in addition to being a London Dry Gin it is, distilled and cut in London.

Knockeen Hills Elderflower Gin is distilled at Thames Distillers and uses only four botanicals (a stark difference to the last Gin I reviewed) these are:

  • Organic Juniper Berries
  • Organic Coriander Seeds
  • Organic Elderflower
  • Liquorice powder

#1) Neat
Good nose, medium amount of juniper with some floral notes. Great warmth (not burn) on the tongue with juniper and elderflower. Not overpowering and subtle. The warmth of the texture intrigues me.

#2) Gin & Tonic
This makes quite a strong Gin & Tonic (the gin is 47.3%). The very heart of the gin seems to come through with a floral taste at the back of the mouth; the straight-forward juniper flavour is followed by the dryness from the elderflower. It’s interesting, because elderflower is often associated with something sweet (cordial, liqueurs, etc.), but this is definitely dry. Mrs. B was very fond of this drink, as it reminded her of cut green apples.

#3) Martini
I used some home-made vermouth for this martini, which complemented the Gin quite well and seemed to give the drink more flavour than usual. Knockeen Elderflower Gin does not make a classic Martini: it’s not so clean and crisp as others, but it is not overpowering and has a lot of character. I like this drink and it makes a nice change.

#4) Gimlet
An unusual Gimlet; less sweet than usual and, in the middle of the taste profile, the drink has a remarkably clean edge, almost Martini-like. There were subtle notes from the floral elements and the gin stands up well to the lime cordial.

#5) Aviation
There’s some great interaction of the elderflower and other floral elements with the violette and maraschino in this drink; it’s complex, but the flavours are all in equilibrium. Very tasty.

#6) Tom Collins
This Collins is, like many, a wonderful cooler. It is very refreshing, but sadly the gin is a little overpowered.

#7) Bramble
Very tasty; there’s equal intensity from each of the various ingredients, all combining to produce a fresh drink that reminds me of Spring. Crisp & delicious.

#8) White Lady:
Fresh and crisp, perfect for Spring or early Summer. There’s a good amount of juniper and distinct floral elements on the finish.

#9) Alexander
I increased the proportions of Gin for this one, so that some of the dry muskiness of gin comes through. The Knockeen Elderflower contributes more to the cocktail that most other gins that I’ve tried.

#10) Gin Bump (Buck)
The Gin Bump was a disappointment as the sweetness of the ginger ale clashed with the floral notes of the gin. Not recommended.

#11) Gin Sour
Pretty strong; you seem to feel the full whack of the 47.3% in this drink. It seemed to warm me up, rather than cool me down (which a gin sour typically would do), and, flavour-wise, it doesn’t do the Gin justice.

#12) Sweet Gin
This was an idea for a cocktail (if you can call it that) that just occurred to me: I simply added half a teaspoon of simple syrup to a measure of Gin. I was surprised at how well it worked and how it brought out a new dimension of flavours: it was almost like an elderflower liqueur, but tasted more complex.

#13) Clover Club
In a similar way to the White Lady, this was balanced, simple, tasty and enjoyable to drink.

#14) Gin Old-fashioned
Fast becoming a new favourite of mine, the Gin Old-Fashioned with Knockeen Hills Elderflower is delicious. Sugar sweetens up the floral elements (just like the Sweet Gin) which stops the Angostura from dominating the drink. This is a superb way to enjoy the gin.

In Conclusion
Knockeen Hills Elderflower Gin is crisp and flavourful. The floral elements lend themselves well to a variety of cooling drinks, making it perfect for Spring or Summer (although I am still enjoying it during Winter!). Sometimes I think that when gins highlight one, single, botanical it can be a bit gimmicky and the rest of the gin profile seems to suffer, but I don’t think that that is the case with this gin.

Cocktail highlights included: Gin & Tonic (especially James Bond style),  the Gimlet,  the Aviation & the Gin Old Fashioned.

Knockeen Hills Elderflower Gin is available from The Drink Shop here: for £26.44 for 70cl.

Gum (Jum) and Tonic

I came across a recipe today and inspired by my cousin’s interest in this TV program, my interest was piqued, so I thought I’d give it a try.

L:R Gum & Tonic with Gosling's Gold and with Gosling's Black

 

The recipe comes from the Janitor (Glen Matthews)  from the TV show “Scrubs” and is described as a Gin, Rum and Tonic and is classified, by him, as a Breakfast Liqueur. The Janitor typically drinks his Gum and Tonic’s from a Thermos flask. The work Gum comes from combining the words Gin + Rum but for some reason he pronounces it “Jum”pecific details are sketchy; such as what sort of rum to use and the appropriate ratios.

For my purposes I mixed:

1pt Gin

1pt Rum

4pts Tonic Water

This is my usually gin and tonic ratios with half the gin amount replaced with rum. But as I couldn’t decide on what type of rum to use and I had Goslings Gold and Goslings Dark in the house I thought I’d try out both. I used Taurus Gin and Schweppes Tonic. Here are the results:

Gosling’s Gold (40% ABV)

An interesting combination but lacked some flavour, may have been improved with a squeeze of citrus but I’m not convinced. It does not do any of the ingredients justice. Although I quite like Gosling’s Gold and Taurus Gin in other drinks, I don’t think I would have this particular one again.

Gosling’s Dark (40%ABV)

Quite a good combination, flavours of the dark rum go well with the gin, and they don’t clash. It is improved significantly by a little squeeze of lime and with this addition is a tasty cooler.

“Gum (JUM) & Tonic” made with Gosling’s Black & Taurus Gin, served in the traditional container.

 

In conclusion:

I hope you’ve enjoyed this light-hearted post and if you are making a Gum (Jum) and Tonic I would suggest using a dark rum, such as Gosling’s, and add a squeeze of lime. Whilst not as good as a Gin & Tonic or a Dark “N” Stormy (two of my favourite drinks) it a decent drink in it’s own right.

Cocktails with… 6 O’Clock Gin

Here is a gin that was made to go with tonic; so much so, that it even has its own tonic specifically designed to match it. I know that some gin distillers have produced their own tonic for their premixes, but this is the first time that anyone has released their tonic water separately; new ground for the tonic world.

6 O’Clock Gin and its matching Tonic Water

6 O’Clock Gin and it’s accompanying Tonic are both made by Bramley & Gage in Bristol, who are famous for their fruit liqueurs and sloe gins. 6 O’Clock Gin is bottled at 43% and contains seven botanicals, including orange peel and elderflower. As for the Tonic, along with natural quinine, it also contains essence of lemon and lime. I think this gives the tonic that extra zestiness that I like and, when I make my own, I use lemongrass to the same effect, just like John.

Why Six O’Clock? This was the time when inventor & engineer Edward Kain would enjoy his gin, but not before; in essence, this was his “cocktail hour”. In honour of his Great Grandfather, Michael, the creator of the Gin named his new spirit after this.

The Taste

#1 Gin & Tonic:
There is no other way I could start this edition of “Cocktails with…” than with the drink of this Gin. When combined, 6 O’Clock Gin and 6 O’Clock Tonic create a soft, yet flavourful drink, which is probably one of the most relaxing gin & tonics I have ever had. That is not to say that it doesn’t have much flavour, as there is, without a doubt, a distinctive mix of juniper and quinine. It really is very good.

#2 Martini:
A classic Martini with a fine balance of juniper and citrus, full of flavour and more engaging than those made with many other gins.

#3 Gimlet:
Quite a good drink, but the gin is rather hidden by the lime cordial and so it doesn’t really complement it as best as it could. There is a little juniper at the end.

#4 White Lady:
A nice little zip to this, the citrus of the gin goes well with the citrus of the lemon. It’s quite tart but rather tasty.

#5 Aviation:
6 O’Clock produces a more gin-dominant Aviation than many, with the flavour of the gin really coming through. There is a little violet at the end, but, again, not the best use of the gin.

#6 Tom Collins:
A good Collins where each main ingredient plays an equal part: refreshing and easy to enjoy.

#7 Bramble:
I really like 6 O’Clock Gin in Bramble. Each individual flavour within the drink is apparent and it’s a very easy cocktail to drink. I think it would interesting to try this using Bramley & Gage’s Blackberry Liqueur instead of Creme de Mure.

#8 Sloe & Tonic:
As this post is also about 6 O’Clock Tonic, I thought I would try it with some Bramley & Gage Organic Gin from our sloe gin tasting. I’m not usually a fan of sloe gin and tonic water, but in this case I certainly make an exception. The tonic brings out the juiciness of the gin and it’s sweeter almond flavours.

In Conclusion:
There is no question what the best drink made with 6 O’Clock Gin was: it was the gin and tonic, as you would expect. Nonetheless, it would be hard to ignore the crisp and delicious Bramble that this gin makes, or how well the tonic went with sloe gin.

6 O’Clock Gin is available for £15.99 (35cl) and £23.65 (70cl). The tonic is £3.00 for a generous 730ml bottle. Both can be purchased from Bramley & Gage’s website.

 

Just the tonic!

Just the tonic!

John’s Premium Tonic Water

Whilst looking for potential tonic waters to try at a tasting I was helping to arrange at Graphic Bar, I came across a gentleman making tonic water syrup in Arizona, USA. John, of John’s Premium Tonic Water, was kind enough to send us over some samples and it was met with great excitement by those attending the tasting. Having experimented with making my own tonic water before, I was one of them.

John runs The Tuck Shop restaurant in Arizona and seems to be an almost life-long fan of the Gin & Tonic. He explains that, whilst people may spend a lot of money on top-shelf gin or vodka, they then choose to mix with it the closest tonic to hand and not one that necessarily brings out the best in their chosen spirit.

John's Premium Tonic Syrup Bottle

A bottle of John’s Premium Tonic Syrup

John’s tonic is packaged as a syrup; this both reduces the cost of shipping and stops the water from going flat during transit (John ships internationally). Interestingly, I think that it was in this concentrated form that Tonic Water was originally shipped around the British Empire, as well as in crystalline or powder form (thanks to Louis for this tidbit of information!).

John’s tonic syrup contains Agave Syrup to sweeten, dried Cinchona Bark, and a variety of other fruits and spices, such as lemongrass (also used by Fentiman’s and myself).

John suggests a 6:1 ratio of soda water to syrup and he prefers dispensing the former using a soda syphon. I imagine, however, that the syrup could be added directly to the syphon along with the water and carbonated along with it, producing tonic water straight from the syphon.

The Taste

I decided to taste the tonic syrup with soda, in a Gin & Tonic and in a GT Turbo (a compacted Gin & Tonic served at Purl in Marylebone).

John's Premium Tonic Syrup Cocktails

Tonic Water

On its own, the tonic water was tart and sharp, with some great herbal notes. It tastes unlike anything available in both the budget and premium commercial tonic markets.

Gin & Tonic

John’s tonic syrup makes a lovely Gin & Tonic; it really brings out the best from the tonic, so even if you’re not a fan of water on its own, do still try it with gin as it is quite a different drink. I found it to be very enjoyable, and, once you have got over the unusual colour, I doubt you will ever look at the tonic water premixes the same way again. This is a must-try for all G&T lovers.

GT Turbo (created by Purl)

Gin, Tonic Syrup, Lime Juice, Orange Bitters – shake with ice.

Mrs. B really liked this. It was a lot silkier than I had expected. The flavours started with lime, before moving to spicy and herbal notes and finishing with the trademark bitterness of quinine. Mrs. B described the increase in bitterness as a “graceful crescendo” that finished just before the drink became too bitter.

I’m really pleased that I and the other folks at the tasting got the chance to try John’s Premium Tonic Syrup and it has made me think about making my own syrup again, as well as about other ways in which the concentrated syrup can be used.

I would definitely recommend it to friends and fellow enthusiasts, as it is likely to open your eyes to, not only a new flavour of tonic, but also more potential uses of it in your drinks.

John ships internationally and you can order from his website at: http://johnstonic.weebly.com/.

For a tonic tasting please visit: www.summerfruitcup.com/tonic

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Tonic Tasting Thanks

I’d just like to thank all those who cam to the Tonic Tasting @ Graphic yesterday and for Sarah, Adam and The Graphic Team for making it all happen.

For those who are interested here is the article I wrote in the summer on tasting Tonic:

www.summerfruitcup.com/tonic

I would also like to thank John of John’s Premium Tonic Syrup for kindly sending us some of his product from Arizona, USA and 6 O’Clock Gin whose tonic water went down very well. I shall be posting further notes on both before the end of the year.

Finally thank you for the unexpected response I got from all those that tried me Tea Liqueurs, a post on these should be appearing in the next few days.