Cocktails with… COOL Gin (from Spain!)

I am always keen to keep abreast of the latest innovations in gin, tonic and garnishes in Spain; it’s quite an exciting place, with lots of innovation going on, so imagine my excitement when I contacted COOL Gin about the possibility of trying their gin and they sent me a bonus bottle of their sister gin, 1211, too.

COOL Gin is made by Benevento Global and is a self-styled contemporary gin, although it suggests that it has gone even further and is simply cool gin.

It is made using 12 botanicals, notably including wild strawberry and blackberry, and is also violet in colour.

#1) On its own
Nose: Floral, with lots of vanilla and notes of jelly; fruity and jammy. Juniper also makes an appearance, accompanied by the berry freshness.
Taste: Very unusual for a gin: sweet vanilla and fruit to start, followed by more classic gin flavours: juniper and coriander. Additional sweetness then appears in the form of jammy blackcurrant and strawberry, before a long finish of rose and violet, much like Parma Violets or crystallised violets.

#2) Gin & Tonic
Being light violet in colour, this is a most intriguing drink. Again, there’s quite a lot of vanilla, making this taste almost like a gin & cream soda, but the finish is quite dry, with juniper and quinine. The fruity, berry and floral notes reminds me of the Camp David Gin & Tonic.

#3) Martini
Intense and floral, with some sweetness and notes of vanilla. This is a very, very unusual drink, but an attractive violet colour and very smooth, too; nice and clean.

#4) Negroni
Slight violet on the nose. Rather pleasant, with a good balance of bitterness and sweetness and a creamy violet and vanilla strand throughout that’s nonetheless not overpowering. Whilst not 100% traditional, this is still rather tasty and has a subtle difference that I quite like.

#5) Sweet Martini
Cool Gin makes a sweeter Sweet Martini than usual, with more floral notes and being, generally, more dessert-like. There’s also lots of vanilla, reminding me of cupcakes; as such, this is definitely a drink for after, rather than before, dinner.

#6) Aviation
This is a perfect match for this gin: the fruity, berry notes and hints of floral bring a lot to this drink and make it intense, but delicious. If you are a fan of an Aviation cocktail, then this is surely for you.

#7) Gin Buck
I find this a bit sweet and that the ginger clashes with the berry and floral flavours. It’s not an awful drink, but there are better ways to enjoy this gin.

#8) Gin Collins
A very clean and exceptionally light Gin Collins, with only a hint of juniper and some jammy blackberry and violet floral notes. There’s some sweetness, but not too much, making this a great, lighter drink to enjoy COOL Gin in, especially given the hint of purple in its colour.

In Conclusion

From first appearances, COOL Gin is unusual and this may put off some who prefer their gins to be more traditional, but it’s well worth trying. The floral and berry flavours bring something new, whilst maintaining the character of the gin and ensuring that its flavours are well-balanced. If you are a gin adventurer, a fan of the Aviation, or both, then this is most certainly a gin worth trying.

My favourite drinks were the Aviation and the Gin & Tonic

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Cocktails with… Number Zero Gin, from Spain

When it comes to gin, I always have my ear to the ground to find out about new products, in particular if they have something unique about them. Some have unusual botanicals, such as Gilpin’s, with its borage, whilst others are different in other ways: Nevada Distilling’s Gin, for example, uses an alcohol base that is a mix of three grains, and Port of Dragons Gin who, in addition to having some of the best packaging I’ve seen, have created a range of gins, using a sort of “A gin for every occassion” model.

Number Zero Gin has not only a curious name, but also a very unusual botanical; notably, quinine, the essential ingredient of tonic water. I was fascinated and eager to see how including quinine in the gin would affect the cocktails that it made.

Number Zero Gin (and Number Zero Rum) bill themselves as “Low-cost Premium”. This may seem contradictory, but I believe that it is possible to have a competitive balance of both quality and value for money. Examples of gins in a similar category are: Limbrey’s, Taurus and, of course, Plymouth.

Here is Number Zero’s own explanation:

“The concept aims to provide the general public with a special selection of the best recipes for the preparation of spirits from some of the most prestigious and oldest distillers.”

The product is a London Dry Gin and its botanicals include: juniper, coriander, angelica, iris, cinnamon, and cinchona (containing the quinine) from Peru.

0) Own
Nose: Very light.
Taste: Smooth initially, with some sweet, floral notes, such as violet, a touch of citrus and some sweet earthiness, like liquorice. This then morphed into a more earthy, bitter taste with a hint of anise.

1) Gin & Tonic (using Schweppes)
This had some bitterness to it, along with a lot of floral aspects; a good dose of violet reminded me a little of a Camp David, but, after the sweet floral notes subside, a dry, earthy bitterness appears until the finish. Very unusual and one I’d like to try again for a fuller inspection.

2) Martini
Very crisp; the bitterness of the quinine really made itself known in this cocktail. There was also a touch of Violette towards the end. It’s rare that I think of colours when tasting drinks, but this one reminded me of purple and black. It was an intense Martini with an intriguing contrast between sweet floral and earthy bitter flavours.

3) Negroni
Floral, fruity and slightly jammy. This drink was sweet and flowery to start with and then herbal and bitter towards the end. Unusual, but tasty.

Number Zero Gin Crusta


4) Gin Crusta
This was reintroduced to me at Monday’s meeting of the London Cocktail Society by Dr Adam Elmegirab and is a nod to him.

This was sweeter and more flowery than the usual dryer Gin Crusta; the juniper was there, but less prominent. Nevertheless, the ingredients do work well with each other, with the citrus elements balancing out the sweeter aspects of the gin and maraschino.

5) GT Turbo
Very floral and bitter, this was exceptionally intense and crisp, and probably won’t appeal to everyone.

6) Aviation
Number Zero was a natural match for this cocktail and fans of Creme Violette (I’m thinking of one New Yorker in particular!) will be pleased that the flavour really comes through without overpowering the cocktail. If you did want a little more crispness, I’d suggest upping the gin to lemon juice ratio from 4:1 to 3:1. On the finish, I also got a strong, earthy bitterness, courtesy of the quinine, which is unexpected, but nonetheless welcome.

7) Bramble (Suggested by Olivier of the Gin Blog)
This was a good suggestion. I used Boozeberries’ Blackcurrant Liqueur rather than straightforward Creme de Mure, which is a little more tart. This worked really well with the sweet, floral notes of the gin, creating a very fresh, juicy and tart Bramble. It was so fresh that you might even think that you had muddled blackberries in the bottom of the glass.  An excellent combo.

Number Zero Gin Tonica with Green Tea!

Number Zero Gin Tonica with Green Tea!

8) Gin Tonica
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”.

In Conclusion
Number Zero is, without a doubt, a very unusual gin; it has divided the opinions of the various gin folk who have tasted it with me. That said, I do think that it has a profile unlike anything else and, as a result, works exceptionally well in certain cocktails. Their Gin Tonica is a fine example of the kinds of innovation currently going on with the classic G&T and is, quite simply, superb.

 

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Cocktails with… Indigo Gin – Larios Private Reserve

I have a gin wishlist and when I get a chance to try a spirit off of it, it’s always quite exciting. One gin that had been on the list for a while was Larios Indigo – Private Reserve Gin. This used to be the premium version of the Spanish stalwart and was the predecessor to Larios 12.

Indigo Gin by Larios was released in 2005? for the US market as an upmarket, imported Spanish gin.

Indigo?
The name traces its way back to Martin Larios (later Marquis of Larios) who, thanks to his great skill in the art of gin distilling, was appointed as distiller to the Court of Spain in 1865. In this role, he would put aside the finest batches of spirit that he made, marking each with a splash of indigo ink. Inspired by this historic indication of quality, Indigo Gin by Larios was created. It is bottled at 47.3%, like Tanqueray Export, and just right for an American Martini.

Own
Nose: Citrus (lemon & orange) and juniper.
Taste: Citrus, with a big orange flavour, some sweetness and a slight copper taint. As time goes by, some juniper emerges, but the orange remains dominant. A little pepper appears towards the end, but, overall, the spirit is still slightly reminiscent of Triple Sec.

Gin & Tonic
This drink had lots of sweet citrus, rather like a Gin & Tonic with added Triple Sec. There was some dryness, as well as a sweet, creamy vanilla note. The finish had a slight saltiness and a hint of grapefruit.

Martini
A well-rounded, full-bodied Martini with some oily citrus in the form of orange and coriander, whilst also having a slight salty edge. (As such, I think it may work well with an olive or a touch of brine). Quite classic in style and quite close to Beefeater.

In Conclusion
Indigo seems to be reminiscent of other gins released during the early days of the 21st Century gin renaissance: a classic style, but with a slight attempt to innovate. Like Tanqueray Malacca and Beefeater Wet, however, it has since been conceded to the drinks cabinet of history.

Special thanks to Seva for his help with this article.

Cocktails with… Port of Dragons 100% Floral Gin – From Spain!

Earlier on today, we introduced Port of Dragons 100% Pure Gin, a gin in the classic style, but with a slight contemporary twist. Port of Dragons also make a spirit for more unusual cocktails and when you fancy a more contemporary flavour: Port of Dragons 100% Floral Gin. It is packaged in the same ornate decanter-like bottle as the 100% Pure, but uses a pink colour scheme, which is reflected in the article below.

Port of Dragons 100% Floral takes the 12 botanicals of the 100% Pure gin with the addition of Rose and Poppy petals.

Own
Nose: Floral, with a slight breadiness, cardamom, violets and pine.
Taste: Smooth and silky to start, then the warmth and flavour builds: juniper and citrus, before  perfumed, floral notes, such as rose and violets, and pine needles. Finally, spicy cardamom and liquorice appear on the finish.

Gin & Tonic
This was a very floral G&T with good hints of violet, almost as if Creme de Violette had been added. There were some hints of rose, too. Still, it was very refreshing and worked well with Schweppes, but I think that Fevertree Mediterranean or 1724 may work even better.

Martini
A very perfumed Martini, heavy on the floral with some deeper herbal notes, citric coriander and sappy juniper towards the end. The finish has lots of sweet violet and rose. This is a very different spin on a classic Martini.

Negroni
A cocktail of intense flavours: the heavy floral notes mixed well with sweet and bitter herbal notes. Complex, with a lot of flavours going on and a lasting bitter finish.

Gin Tonica
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 and a good alternative to the usual slice of lemon or lime.

Gimlet
An unusually floral and perfumed Gimlet. Interestingly, the lime and the rose worked rather well together, creating a lime-rose marmalade flavour.

Aviation
I comfortably sit in the camp that says that an Aviation isn’t an Aviation without Creme de Violette (although I make the odd allowance for Creme Yvette), so, given the floral character of the gin, this seemed to be an obvious cocktail to try it in.

I worried that it might be a bit too floral, but actually this drink has a really nice balance. Incredibly fresh, the Violette came through well; if you like a bit of Violette in your Aviation, then you’ll probably be rather keen on this version.

Gin Collins
Lighter, more floral and softer than most Collinses, this makes for a more subtle cocktail. I thought it was very enjoyable, indeed. There were some hints of spice and vanilla, too, with more cardamom than the 100% Pure. Very refreshing and unusual, but very, very good.

In Conclusion
It was a real pleasure to try these gins and, on my travels around the gin establishments of the UK, they have been well-received by many a connoisseur. There has also been quite a bit of excitement from bartenders as to how the flavours would work in cocktails.

As for me, it was great to see a Spanish gin producer stepping out on their own and trying to develop the Spanish style further.

I find it tough to choose between the Pure and the Floral. The folks that I’ve asked were pretty much split between the two, but I think that the stronger flavour of cardamom in the 100% Pure just about has it for me.

For more information on Port of Dragons – check out their website.

Thanks to Oscar and Joanna for their help with this article.

Cocktails with… Port of Dragons 100% Pure Gin – From Spain!

One thing that I’m sorry to say that I’ve neglected so far on SummerFruitCup is Spanish Gin. Spain is one of the biggest markets for Gin in the world and, possibly, the biggest for Gin & Tonic (“Gin Tonica”). As a result, there is a great amount of innovation coming from our mediterranean cousins and so I think it’s time to give their gins a closer look.

A lot of the gins currently available in Spain are actually made in UK distilleries, although – typically – they are less readily available in their country of origin. Increasingly, however, gins for the Spanish market are being made in Spain and two of these are the focus for today’s review.

This is going to be a two-part article featuring two gins under the Port of Dragon’s brand from the Destileria Premium. In addition, they also make a 100% Malt Gin, which is designed to be drunk like a single malt whisky: on its own or on the rocks.

PORT OF DRAGONS 100% PURE

Tastes are changing in the worldwide Gin market, with a growing popularity for gins that incorporate new flavours and taste balances to the spirits’ profile. But, despite the rise of this contemporary style of Gin, the market for the classic or traditional styles, full of piney juniper, coriander and citrus, is still strong.

Luckily, Port of Dragons produces gin for both palettes or either occasion. First of all, we will be looking at their classic style of gin: 100% Pure. This uses production techniques that go back to the 18th Century. The spirit is distilled four times through a copper still.

They use malt barley as the base spirit and a list of botanicals is given below. The Juniper comes from a rural area of the Pyrenees and all botanicals have a Guarantee of Origin and Quality “(Denominación de Origen” in Spanish).

#1) Own
Nose: Very herbal, with cardamom, lavender and basil, and also perfumed, floral notes alongside orange, pine and a touch of citrus.
Taste: Soft, with a slight citrus element, followed by herbal notes and a hint of coconut, cardamom. There was some warmth at the end, along with a mix of citrus, tree sap and pine. The finish was medium in length.

#2) Gin & Tonic
Quite bitter, very floral and intense. This is a gin that is actually a bit strong (flavour-wise) for a 2:1 ratio; I found that up-ing it to 3:1 meant that the drink became a lot more balanced. Crisp and refreshing, I thought this would work well with a cardamom distillate.

#3) Dry Martini
Smooth and soft, but nonetheless very flavourful. Floral and herbal, there were substantial green, piney juniper notes, followed by the now familiar cardamom. Whilst this wasn’t a classic Martini, it was still very good and works well with a lemon twist.

#4) Negroni
This is quite a herbal and floral Negroni with a long finish of piney, sappy juniper. There’s a good bump of cardamom, too. The gin really stood up well to the Campari and Vermouth. Overall, this was an intense and flavourful Negroni; great.

#5) Gin Tonica
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.

#6) Gin Collins
Initial bursts of cardamom are followed by fresh citrus and some juniper. More floral and herbal than many Gin Collins’, with a distinct hint of rosemary, this was different, but delicious.

#7) Sweet Martini
The sweet vermouth mellows out the high floral elements of the gin, making this a dark and flavourful drink; perfect as an aperitif.

#8) Gin Buck
I mixed this up a little by creating it using the Gin Tonica style in an ice-filled balloon glass. This was a refreshing drink, with the extra citrus and juniper working well alongside the gin. This would be superb to drink outside on a hot, sunny evening.

#9) Pink Gin
Packed full of flavour: floral notes, cardamom and coriander, plus some of the sweeter, spicier botanicals. This was wonderfully complex, with a hint of bitterness at the end.

#10) Gin Old Fashioned
A good way to enjoy the gin. The finer points of the spirit’s character came through more than in the previous drinks: the earthy herbs, spicy cardamon, piney juniper and the higher floral notes. Complex and perfumed.

Thus ends the first part of our feature of Port of Dragons Gin – click here for Part II, 100% Floral. 

Cocktails with… Gin Mare

If you’ve read our post on our Vodka Tonic Tasting, you’ll be familiar with Fevertree Mediterranean Tonic, a tonic water flavoured with Mediterranean botanicals; well, now there is a Mediterranean Gin: Gin Mare (pronounced “Mar-ray”).

Gin Mare is bottled at 42.7% ABV and contains 10 botanicals:

Juniper
Coriander
Cardamom
Lemon
Orange
Mandarin

Rosemary
Basil
Thyme
Arbequina Olive

The gin is made in the Costa Dorada, south of Barcelona. Each of the botanicals are distilled separately* and the distillates are then blended together. Before distillation, each botanical is steeped for 36 hours.

Gin Mare also make a Mediterranean Tonic Water called 1724, named after the fact that the real quinine for the mixer is collected at 1,724 meters above sea level. This is a similar concept to 6 O’clock, who also make both a gin and a tonic water, but differs in that, although the tonic water had to go well with Gin Mare, it was designed with wider market appeal, for use with other gins.

Own
Nose: There are savoury notes: pepper, rosemary and thyme, as well as a little saltiness and a hint of green tomatoes.
Taste: This is an intense and herbal gin, with hints of rosemary and thyme. Juniper is a secondary flavour, but is still there. It reminds me a little of mint and herbal crisps. Unusual, but tasty.

Gin & Tonic
As I mentioned, the people that make Gin Mare also make a Mediterranean Tonic Water called 1724, so for the tasting I decided to try two G&Ts: one with 1724 and one with Fevertree tonic water.

i) 1724
Thyme and rosemary really come through; this was a herbally intense drink. That said, it still has the juniper crispness and a touch of dryness, so it is like a classic Gin & Tonic, but with more flavour than usual; in particular, some anise on the finish.

ii) Fevertree Mediterranean Tonic
Herbal and light; sweeter and less bitter than the same drink made with 1724. A good drink, but notably less flavoursome and intense than the 1724 G&T.

In this tasting, I preferred the 1724 tonic water in a Gin Mare Gin & Tonic.

Martini

A good way to enjoy Gin Mare and fully appreciate its characteristics. It was very herbal and the predominant flavour was a combination of thyme, fennel and anise. Some savoury aspects and would be nice garnished with an olive.

Alexander
I wanted to try this drink, because I thought it would make an unusual version. It was very nice, with some herbal on the finish, but it was less intense than I had hoped for.

Gimlet
I suspected that lime cordial would match up well with the herbal notes of the Mare, and it did. It is less bitter and sharp than a usual Gimlet due to a more subdued juniper flavour, but it still has some crispness and is rather good.

Negroni
Three rather herbal ingredients (Gin Mare, Vermouth & Campari) come together in the Negroni, so this drink was a bit over the top and unbalanced. It is also very bitter; for me, too bitter.

Gin Buck
I found the sweet elements of the gin’s herbs, when combined with that of ginger ale, meant that this drink was rather sickly.

Fruit Cup
A good cocktail to use Gin Mare in; distinctively herbal. There are notes of thyme, rosemary and a touch of anise. This is a very good way to make a pleasant and intense, but refreshing Fruit Cup.

1724 and Sloe Gin
As I’m also looking at 1724 Tonic Water, it seemed like a good idea to try it in another drink, so I mixed with Sloe Gin. I used Marks & Spencer Sloe Gin (made by Boudier), one of the best-selling Sloe Gins in the UK. This drink was fresh, fruity and jammy with herbal notes; very tasty indeed.

In Conclusion
Gin Mare is not a usual or classic London-Dry-style Gin, but it is still evidently a gin. I enjoyed the Mediterranean style flavours and herbal notes as they added a unique characteristic to drinks, although it didn’t work with everything. Of all of the gins released in the last year, this is the one that I have heard people talk about the most (in a positive way, anyway), so they are certainly making an impact in London.

Cocktail highlights: Martini, Fruit Cup and Gin & Tonic

As for 1724 Tonic Water, this is one of the best tonic waters that I’ve tried (at last count this number over 40); I was a little surprised! It is certainly in my Top Five.

* This is a similar gin-production method to that of Sacred, Sloane’s & Moore’s.

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