My new acquired cocktail book ‘Zen and Tonic’ by Jules Aron is perfect if you are looking for bright, fresh cocktails. Jules has created a really exciting range of drinks with wholesome ingredients such as goji berries, kale, and lots of fresh fruit and vegetables that will boost your immune system and have positive health benefits, which can only be a good thing when you are indulging in a gin or two!
Strawberries are the fruit I still associate with summer, in spite of living in a country where mangoes are the summer fruit. Growing up in England we would make regular trips to the strawberry fields to pick our own, but far more warm berries were gorged on before they even made the punnet. Jules’ cocktail The Summer Thyme is a beautiful combination of strawberry, thyme, lemon and gin and is as gorgeous to look at as it is to drink. I can imagine making a jug or two of this for a picnic or a day at the beach.
Ingredients for a Summer Thyme
20g fresh strawberries
3 sprigs of thyme
10ml freshly squeezed lemon juice
75ml Beefeater London Garden gin
Muddle the strawberries, lemon juice and two of the thyme sprigs together in a shaker, or alternatively put them in a blender (which is what I did). Add ice to the shaker, add the gin and juice and shake until well chilled.
Double strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with the other sprig of thyme.
As the gin boom continues, the number of tonic syrups becoming available increases. While I enjoy using them in a G&T, they can be used in cocktails, like the Dillionaire cocktail, created by Nick Capuana from The Straight Up.
Cucumber and gin are a perfect match (thanks to Hendrick’s for bringing that to global attention) and the addition of dill makes the cocktail even more spring-like. Interesting fact…dill and cucumber are often planted together by gardeners as they thrive in each other’s company! The bitterness of the Cocchi Americano and the bitters balances well against the sweetness of the maraschino liqueur and the tonic syrup.
While the recipe for the Dillionaire might make you weigh up whether you need maraschino liqueur and Cocchi Americano, I promise you it’s a worthy investment. You can use Maraschino liqueur for your Last Word or Aviation. Cocchi Americano is an aperitif wine from Italy and is considered a worthy replacement to Kina Lillet (which was reformulated without the cinchona to create Lillet Blanc in 1985), making perfect Corpse Revivers and Vespers.
Ingredients for the Dillionaire cocktail
2 thickish cucumber slices
2 sprigs dill
15ml Luxardo maraschino liqueur
15ml Soda Press Co. tonic syrup
60ml gin (Nick used Hendricks but I swapped it for Poor Toms)
15ml Cocchi Americano
15ml ounce fresh juice from 1 to 2 limes
2 dashes of bitters
90ml Fevertree soda
Put the cucumber slices and dill sprigs in an empty shaker. Add the maraschino liqueur and tonic syrup and muddle all the ingredients together until the cucumber is broken, but not mushy.
Add the gin, Cocchi Americano, lime juice and one dash of bitters to the shaker. Add ice and shake together until well chilled.
Strain into an ice filled rocks or highball glass and top up with the soda water stir gently to mix.
Garnish with cucumber and dill and the other dash of bitters.
While I’ve been enjoying some blue sky days that come with Spring, the weather is still unpredictable with winds, storms and rain due to his this week. I’m not quite ready for summery cocktails and it’s not cool enough for heavier cocktails that I enjoy while snuggled on the sofa .
The Archangel cocktail is a perfect bridge between the two seasons, with Aperol for a bitter kick, and cucumber for refreshment. It features in my adored PDT cocktail book and was created by Michael McIlroy and Richard Boccato at the iconic Milk & Honey, NYC in 2006 and is a play on the traditional Pink Gin.
Why is it called an Archangel? They came up with the name after a big discussion about the Argentinian footballer Gabriel Batitusta.
Ingredients for an Archangel
2.5 thick slices of cucumber
65ml gin (I used Martin Miller’s Westbourne Strength as it has cucumber essence added)
Muddle the Aperol and the cucumber together in a mixing glass. Add gin and ice, then stir. Strain into a chilled glass and garnish with a twist of lemon. Enjoy!
At the beginning of the year I was chatting to Jesse from Poor Toms and he was quizzing me on my favourite overproof gin. Generally, I try not to play favourites. Asking me to pick my favourite gin is like asking someone to choose between their children. However, we both agreed that Sipsmith VJOP is as close to heaven in a glass as you can get. Jesse revealed that he and Griff had plans to create an overproof (not Navy strength) gin at the request of bartenders who like a little more oomph to their gin as it stands up better against other ingredients in cocktails.
After lots of R&D, Poor Toms Fool Strength (Poor Tom is a crazy man in Shakespeare’s King Lear, so it seems appropriate) was born, cloaked in one of the best gin labels I’ve ever seen. Designed by the same designers who created the original label, it continues on the theme of the Garden of Earthly Delights, this one even takes a swipe at “Casino” Mike Baird.
Fancy packaging aside, it’s the flavour that counts, and Poor Toms Fool Proof is right up my juniper-loving street.
I chatted with Griff to find out more about how they created their new gin, “When we blended our original dry gin to 50% we realised it wasn’t going to do the job. The botanical array was simply not suitable for an overproof. So we went back to the drawing board”.
Going back to the start involved sampling lots of gins in their original and overproof forms. Griff went on, “The ones we preferred had significantly changed their botanical mix, rather than using the same gin at a higher ABV. A higher ABV changes all the flavour profiles in the botanicals, essentially making a different gin, so we thought why not make something specifically for the ABV we wanted.”
Griff and Jesse put aside every ingredient they’d used in the original (gone are chamomile, granny smith apples, lemon myrtle and strawberry gum leaf) and went back to a classic base of juniper, coriander, green cardamom, cubeb pepper and angelica. Liquorice root was added to provide richness. Griff explained that it wasn’t a conscious decision to exclude Australian natives from their list of botanicals, but that nothing they tried gave the desired result.
Both of them were really happy with the results using the 6 botanicals, but felt the gin lacked a final something. Griff told me “Mitch from the Gin Palace in Melbourne was visiting and thought it needed citrus and suggested grapefruit peel. And he was so right!”, so grapefruit became the final botanical.
Aside from creating a completely different gin from scratch, they Poor Toms team have used a different process in making the gin. Juniper, cardamom and cubeb are steeped in alcohol in the still overnight. They then add additional juniper with the other ingredients before distillation commences. The juniper and grapefruit peel are also vapour infused to give additional depth of flavour.
There is plenty of juniper and coriander on the nose, while on the palate I got delicious piney juniper and citrus with a little spicy kick from the cubeb. It’s a very well-balanced gin with a smooth mouthfeel.
If navy strength gins aren’t your thing, but you want a gin that is bolder than most and has great versatility, Poor Toms Fool Strength is an excellent choice.
Myriam Hendrickx is at the helm of Rutte in the Netherlands, a 7th generation genever distillery that has been causing a stir with its Celery Gin which was shortlisted for Best New Spirit of the Year at Tales of the Cocktail 2016.
How did you start out in the business?
I’m a food engineer and I decided to specialise dairy, which as you can imagine is a big thing in Holland! Cheese really fascinated me. I then moved into consultancy and training which I did for a very long time. During that part of my career I got to see was the spirits industry and it caught my attention and I thought it more magical than cheese! In Holland we know so much about cheese, everyone is very open about what they are doing, how they are doing it and the machinery they are using. There’s no mystery, unlike the spirits industry which is full of it! Using ancient ingredients and recipes really ignited my passion.
I became a distiller when I joined Rutte. Initially they wanted someone who knew about genever. After I met them I liked the company so much I cheekily asked them if they would hire me. It’s a really small distillery, so when I joined I was PR, marketing and technology manager. John Rutte (the last of the Rutte family) was still alive and in his 70s so I started learning from him but unfortunately he died a month after started.
All his knowledge was in John’s head, so after he died we started sorting out the recipes and the archives. Then a couple of years later I was asked to run the distillery.
Rutte is well-known for it’s Genever. Did they have gin in their portfolio?
Yes, they did, but it was a very small product line and there wasn’t really a focus on it. We made it everyone now and again. There are old recipes from the ‘30s and prices lists featuring gin and bottled cocktails including martinis.
Gin was so small when I started that I just used to play around with it as a side project, but then this whole gin craze thing happened and then De Kuyper (of which we are a part) , were like “Hey, how about it?” The old gin recipe we found had celery in it and it was funny as De Kuyper were asking for something that bartenders could use in Red Snapper and I said – “we already have something!”. We updated the recipe and here we are!
What did you do to update the recipe?
The recipe in the archive was very, very complex featuring 40 botanicals. Celery gin is a much more straightforward and has only 6. We wanted to highlight the celery and lifted it with cardamom,there is also juniper, angelica, coriander, and sweet orange peel.
How long did it take to perfect the recipe?
It’s difficult to say as I wasn’t working on it for 8 hours a day every day, but it was certainly a few months.
So what’s the most challenging thing about distilling gin?
I think putting the recipe together and making it balance. How you use the natural ingredients together and creating top notes and heart notes and base notes. After you have created the recipe it’s about maintaining the consistency and as a small distillery that is sometimes difficult as some of our ingredients are seasonal.
For example, once a year we drive to the sea coast to collect these fresh berries from our genever and have to put them in alcohol to preserve them.
That said, it’s great fun! This whole search for botanicals, picking and foraging in the wild is wonderful.
How do you choose which botanicals to use?
The great thing about Rutte is that it’s almost 150 years old and we have this amazing treasure trove of old recipes. They were stubborn and didn’t want to modernize unlike other distilleries. In 2003, Rutte was still using copper scales with weights and only had one computer. In some ways it needed a little renovating but the recipes had remained unchanged and there was this fantastic archive. So every time we do something, we take out the old recipe books and have a look and talk about what they meant and what they used. And we’ve build from there.
I’m working in 2016, but I still feel like I’m working alongside the generations before me.
What is the best things about your job?
I love the smelling and tasting, putting my nose in everything! I love sharing the story of Rutte and my passion. I think also taking our ancient recipes out into the world and showing them to modern bartenders.
Who or what inspires you?
I really like nature. I like to see how things grow. The first time I visited the tropics I wanted to see how cacao and pepper grow. I’m fascinated by plants and the smells and flavours they give. What amazes me is that if you speak to a chemist and talk about the aroma of orange they explain that there are hundreds of compounds in the orange group, all offering different flavours.
We had our gins and genevers tasted and tested to analyse their molecular structure. The researcher came back said he found popcorn molecule, which he had never found in a gin! We discovered it was the walnuts and hazelnuts that we roast. One of our genevers had lots of woody notes even though it’s unaged. The woody flavour was coming from the angelica.
I am also inspired by perfume. I went to Grasse recently and I loved seeing how they work. There are so many similarities with what I do, even using some of the same ingredients like orris root.
What’s your favourite gin cocktail and why?
What’s your favourite bar?
We work closely with Drs in Rotterdam, which is great. The Dutch aren’t really into cocktails, we tend to drink things straight up ~ Beer, wine, genever.We do have some good bars in Rotterdam and Amsterdam though, and the cocktail culture is slowly emerging. Gin and Tonic is now a super-hip thing there!
Any future plans?
If it was up to me I would make something new every day! But really it’s lots more experimenting like comparing results of distilling on big stills and small stills. At the moment we’re trialling distilling botanicals separately and together and comparing the difference in flavors. It’s fascinating.
I love it when Blood Oranges come into season. So bright and colourful, they are a welcome reminder that spring (and summer) are on their way and after being wrapped in blankets for what seemed like eternity, it can’t come soon enough.
I came across this recipe combining oranges and fennel and thought it might be the perfect opportunity to use blood oranges that were sent me by Red Belly citrus (thanks guys!). Fennel imparts a lovely aniseed flavour that goes well with the citrus. I’d also been gifted a bottle of Solerno Blood Orange liqueur, so have used that in place of simple syrup to give it a bit more oomph. You can either leave the simple syrup in, or go with my suggestion and top up with a little soda water for a longer option.
Ingredients for the Blood Orange and Fennel Cocktail (serves 2)
30ml Solerno (or simple syrup if using)
30ml lemon juice
100gms of fresh fennel bulb (not the green stems), chopped
3 orange slices and some for garnish
Put the gin, vermouth, chopped fennel and orange in a cocktail shaker. Muddle together well. Add ice, lemon juice and Solerno (or simple syrup) and shake until cold.
Strain into ice filled glasses and garnish with some fennel fronds and a piece of orange.
Father’s Day is looming in Australia and unless your Dad has specifically asked for socks or undies, let’s try to use a little more imagination shall we? I’ve put together a collection of gifts for the gin-loving Dad that will let your him know that he definitely raised you right.
Poor Toms Fool Strength Gin
You know already that I am a big fan of Griff and Jesse’s work at Poor Toms in Sydney and when they told me a few months ago that they were planning an over-proof gin, I was really excited. 8 months on and they’ve finally released Poor Tom’s Fool Strength gin and it was definitely worth the wait!
At 52% ABV, it has a bolder a juniper flavour but is still of the same quality and smoothness that you get in the original.
$79.00 ~available from Poor Toms.
Santamanìa Reserva is a barrel-aged gin from the first urban distillery in Madrid. Using french oak that previously held Rioja, the team have adjusted the botanicals so that the gin flavour is retained, but with a hint of spice and a little vanilla. Delicious over ice or in a Negroni.
$60+ ~available from Master of Malt
Waterford Crystal London DOF Tumbler Pair
Share a gin old-fashioned with your Dad served up in these beauties and you’ll be his favourite child.
$249 for the pair ~available from Waterford Crystal.
Cocktail Kingdom Stirred Set
Everything Dad will need to make a great shaken drink.
Includes large and small Koriko® tins, Koriko® Hawthorne strainer, Mexican Beehive™ Juicer, ice cube mould and a Japanese Style Jigger.
$102.70 ~available from Cocktail Kingdom.
The Australian Spirits Guide by Luke McCarthy
You’ll have to give Dad an I.O.U for this one as it’s not released until 1st October, but I promise it will be worth it. Luke has unearthed sixty of Australia’s best spirits and covers the history, creation, tasting notes and serving suggestions. There is even a handy price guide included.
$30.75 ~ available from Booktopia.
Four Pillars Distillery Tee
If you’ve already shared the Four Pillars gin love with your Dad, then why not give him one of these great looking T-shirts? Designed by Australian illustrator Rohan Cain, this limited edition features Wilma, the first Four Pillars still.
$40 ~available from Four Pillars.
Jo Malone Black Cedarwood and Juniper Cologne
Described as seductive, modern and urban, you might not be able to resist keeping this one for yourself.
$95.00 (30ml) ~available from Jo Malone.
Let me know if you have any other gin gift ideas to share!
(Note: All of these items were selected by me and are included because I like them, not through sponsorship)
They say you should never meet your heroes because you’ll come away disappointed, but when the opportunity arose to meet and interview Desmond Payne, Master Distiller of Beefeater Gin, I couldn’t resist.
The word ‘Legend’ in relation to people is overused in my opinion, but Desmond is the real deal and revered in the industry by bartenders and distillers alike. It’s easier to see why. Jolly, intelligent and eager to share his knowledge, it was an absolute pleasure to meet him.
How long have you been in the industry?
I started making gin in London in 1967. I was in the wine trade and I joined a company who were a wine and spirit merchant. They had a gin distillery called Seagar Evans and I became a trainee. I found it fascinating. They also owned Plymouth gin so I then spent quite a lot of time down there, about 25 years. After which I moved to Beefeater where I’ve been for the past 20 years.
How much has the industry changed?
If you went into a bar, there’d be three whiskies and probably one gin, Now, I was in a bar in Valencia, Spain, about 10 months ago, and they had 624 brands of gin. That’s what’s changed. It’s a great time for gin. The consumers are better informed, everyone’s reading back labels. They want to know what’s in things that they’re consuming.
People are much more inquisitive. They want to know about things that they’re eating, drinking, what clothes are made of, where they come from.
Do you feel like you have to defend Beefeater, because the perception is it’s not made in the same way as ‘craft’ gin?
It’s funny that somehow, gin got a reputation for being slightly industrial like vodka. Gin comes out of a big factory somewhere. It’s absolutely not true. We do everything. We weigh things by hand and we do exactly what they (‘craft’ distillers) do but on a larger scale.
Craft is not enough. You actually need a combination of craft and skill and various other things. It’s about how you do things and how all the decisions are made by people and not machines. We use computers, of course, (they send us damn emails!) but the decisions are made with the nose and palate. When we look at our juniper crop each year, we’re looking at something like 200 samples of juniper berries from each year’s crop. Consistency is something that’s much easier to achieve on larger scale.
What is the best thing about your job?
It’s the sheer variety. I’m very lucky in that I’ve pretty much always been in a situation where I’m involved in everything from buying the juniper berries and assessing the quality of the botanicals, right through to distillation and lately a lot of new product development. Gin is on a roll! I’ve made six new gins over the last six years. In the previous forty, none!
How do you feel about that there are some gins having only four botanicals and others so many it’s difficult to remember them all?
I think honestly it doesn’t matter. There’s one gin we all know with four botanicals, it’s good gin. It’s how they complement each other and how they balance, and how work in the simplest gin and tonic. Not all gins work perfectly in all cocktails.
You know, a good gin should be versatile, but it should have enough integrity to work on its own. Which is why the Burrough’s Reserve is a sipping gin. It’s pure gin. You don’t have to do anything with it.
Do you welcome that kind of innovation?
Yes, but be careful. I think some of the new gins are trying almost too hard. When I talk to the botanical suppliers they say, oh I’m getting people phoning all the time saying, “What have you got that nobody else is using?”, which is fine, but what impact does it make on the flavour? The thing I’ve really learned over the mistakes I’ve made in the last 45 years, is it’s a gentle touch.
With Beefeater 24, what I had to do was to create a new balance but in a different place, but it still has to be balanced. It has to have its own integrity. It’s like making a cocktail, that extra drop of lemon juice or whatever would just change the character. There’s always a tipping point of which, “whoops, gone too far”. There’s no way back. It’s about balance.
What is the most challenging thing about distilling gin?
It’s finding a balance, in creating a gin, and maintaining that gin as being consistent. I’m very aware as a gin distiller that I make is not what anybody drinks, hardly ever. There’s always something else done to it, I’m kind of halfway. My job as a distiller is to produce something that is well balanced and has that potential and the ability to work in many directions in the hands of a good bartender. Whichever way he or she wants to take it.
Are you going to be doing more new gins?
I’m sure I haven’t finished. I was fortunate enough to receive a life-time achievement award the other day. I said, “Thank you very much, I’ve very pleased to have it, but actually, I haven’t finished yet.”
How did you go about selecting which additional botanicals or what flavors to use when you made your new gins?
Beefeater 24 was my first, and it took a while. A year and a half!
The marketing guys are saying, “Come Desmond, we’ve got the packaging done, and the launch party, we’ve got a date. How’s the gin coming on?” and I’m saying “I’m not ready yet!”.
You kind of wait for inspiration. There are two things that make all these gins different. One is, what botanicals? That’s where the flavour comes from. The other is how you make it. The rest is marketing, equally important. It’s about putting packaging and everything else on a bottle. What I didn’t want to change with making Beefeater 24 was the ‘how’. That 24 hour steeping period that comes from the name. I try to tell people it’s my age, but obviously it doesn’t work! That 24 hour steeping period is so important in integrating all these flavours. I didn’t want to change that, so I changed the botanicals.
Beefeater’s a great, well balanced recipe and James Burrough’s picture’s in my office watching me to make sure that I don’t change his gin! That’s why I’m the custodian of that. The inspiration came to use tea in Beefeater 24 because I had been in Japan about a year beforehand. You work quite hard in when you’re in Japan and I’m ready for my gin and tonic at the end of the day and Beefeater’s number 1 everywhere, but Japanese tonic water is different or was then. They weren’t allowed to use quinine as it’s considered a medicinal drug, and you can’t put drugs in food stuffs (although I think they can do it now). So the Japanese tonic was different, so my gin and tonic is different. I’m not really happy, so what to drink?
What sort of things were around? Tea, Iced lemon tea, green tea, and I thought ‘will that that work?’. And wow, yes it does. The molecular structure of tea means it works very successfully with other flavours. I thought, okay, tea works as a mixer. How would it work in distillation? I started experimenting with different teas. That’s how I started. It’s just that light bulb moment when you think, ah, that’s something worth pursuing.
What about the Garden gin?
There is a wonderful garden in London, the Chelsea Physic Gardens. Which was planted, I don’t know 300 years ago. It’s filled with medicinal herbs for apothecaries and with James Burrough starting life as pharmacist in Chelsea I thought it would be a fascinating place to visit. I saw this lemon verbena there, and I thought, I love citrus notes, and I love to use citrus in a different way. I used the kaffir lime leaves in another gin and the summer gin I made was more floral, with hibiscus and black currant leaves while the winter gin I made more spicy. I hadn’t really looked at herbaceaous flavours so I went with adding thyme and lemon verbena to the nine Beefeater botanicals because that is always my starting point.
Do you think there are too many gins on the market?
You know, they won’t all survive I’m afraid. It’s not easy to get something off the ground and then on somebody’s shelf. I kind of have a suspicion that when that happens people will come back to the classics. Classic, to me means something that’s been around for a while. Why has it been around for a while? Because it works, because it’s good.
It’s really fascinating. I do see, now, a lot of gins, using local botanicals. In Australia, South Africa, and all over the place, which is really nice to see. But don’t do it just because it’s local, do it, number one, because it works. That’s the whole thing about gin. English gin, London gin, none of the botanicals come from London, the art is the skill of putting it together. It’s what we do well in England. We bring things in from the world and turn them into something else and send them back again. Like marmalade.
Who/what inspires you?
I travel a lot these days. Which is great. You pick up inspiration everywhere you go. I think this generation of bartenders, and I’m not saying this because we’re sitting in the middle of Tales of the Cocktail, are better at their game than the ones we all give reverence to, Harry Craddock and the rest of them. I think this generation are better than them. They are so creative.
They understand their art and they’re passionate about what they do. They’re producing great things. They’re a great inspiration to me. The thing that persuaded me to do Burrough’s Reserve as an aged gin was having an aged negroni in Clyde Common in Portland Oregon. What a difference that made!
Your favourite gin cocktail and why?
Oh, there’s so many. I’m a negroni fan, but I discovered about a year ago I’m diabetic so I’m watching the sugar. I’m kind of back on dry martinis. It’s gin. It’s what I’m saying about balance, not overdoing things. It’s that little bit of vermouth, and good gin. It’s that combination that just changes that balance. When you have a twist or olive, or the thing I love, is onion.
Which are your favourite bars (anywhere in the world)
Oh my goodness. Every time I go somewhere I find new ones.
In London, classic Dukes Hotel, their martinis and that mad Italian bartender.
What is it about their martinis?
It’s the theatre!
LA, I’d never been there before, and I went to a bar there a couple months ago called Melrose Umbrella Company, which was great.
What was it that you liked about them? What sort of makes a good bar for you?
You can see that they love and they’re passionate about what they’re doing. It’s like any great restaurant seeing the chef working. It’s a passion you see that really makes it work. In Barcelona, there’s a bar called Boadas. Just off the Ramblas. It’s been there forever and they have making been making these cocktails forever. The Elderly bartenders do it the way they’ve always done it and they throw the drinks. It is just magnificent. I’d say I’d want to die there.
What’s next? Any future plans?
We’re bringing back Crown Jewel. It was originally made for duty free but when we launched Beefeater 24, we stopped Crown Jewel. Every time I speak to bartenders, somebody says, “I’ve got a question, why did you stop Crown Jewel?” I said, “Look, it’s finished, get over it.” But, last year we brought it back, as a thank you to the bartenders.
There’s always something about their mind bubbling away. Whether it ever ends up being a new gin or not I don’t know. I’m working with this David Munoz at DiverXO in Madrid to produce a gin for and with him. That’s an interesting experience. He’s an incredible guy. I have so much admiration for these people. It really stretches the brain. I see bartenders at the top of their game. They love to show you want they’re doing. “Oh try this, try this.” You think, wow, the care you go to do these things. It’s great.
East London Liquor Company was one of several distilleries I managed to pack in to my week in London last year. I was really impressed by their set up in East London, which is the first vodka, gin and whisky distillery to open there in 100 years.
Founded by Alex Wolpert and housed in a former glue factory, East London Liquor company combines a working distillery with a fantastic bar setting, and is a little reminiscent of Archie Rose in Sydney, which does the same.
The overarching aim of the distillery is produce spirits that are “accessible in flavour and price” and East London Liquor Company Dry Gin certainly achieves that.
The botanicals: Juniper, coriander, fresh lemon and grapefruit peel, angelica root, cubeb berries, and cardamom.
On the nose there is plenty of cardamom and citrus, but taste wise it’s incredibly well-balanced with a good juniper flavour and a little spice and warmth from the cubeb at the end. It is beautifully smooth with a long finish.
The great thing about a well-balanced classic style gin is it’s versatility. As expected it makes a great gin and tonic, but you could use this gin in pretty much every cocktail, which was the aim in its creation. Many bars use this as their ‘house pour’ and it would serve you well in your home bar. I went with a White Lady (sans egg) as my other trial cocktail and wasn’t disappointed.
In addition to their Dry gin, East London Liquor Company also produces two premium gins with a higher ABV. Batch No. 1 features Darjeeling tea and Batch No. 2 which is more savory, has bay, fennel and sage as key botanicals. In 2016 they also launched an experimental barrel-aged gin program.
None of other variations these are available in Australia yet, but I’m keeping my fingers firmly crossed. In the mean time I’ve going to enjoy this East London Liquor Company Dry gin. As the saying goes…a gin in my hand….
Country of origin: UK
Note: I received this bottle for the purposes of review. You can read my full disclosure policy here.
It’s been almost 3 weeks since I returned from my first Tales of the Cocktail and some days it’s hard to believe I was really there. I packed so much in to the week, but there was so much more I could have done!
Why did I want to go?
Living in Australia we don’t always get to see many of the industry heavy hitters visiting that often. This was a great opportunity for me to catch up with lots of international people who I’d been dying to meet or interview as well as get some serious learning in at the seminars.
I was planning to make it to Tales last year so had spent lots of time talking to friends who’d been and learning as much as I could about the event, but nothing could have prepared me for the sheer scale of the event!
I didn’t see as much as I would have liked, but I fell in love with the architecture, the weather (aside from the humidity!), the bars and the vibe.
Most people think that Tales is one long party (and there is plenty of partying), but the seminar program is an incredibly important part of the week. Philip Duff, the Director of Education for Tales oversees the whole schedule and this year there were 84 sessions to choose from. These ranged from informal tastings to 2 hour seminars on anything from bar management, history, cocktails, cocktail trends, ingredients, culture, all with formidable panels eager to share their wisdom.
Bartending is not a stop-gap job while you make up your mind what you really want to do. It’s a career worth investing in and hundreds of bartenders save up all year to attend these seminars and learn from the best.
It simply wasn’t possible for me to attend every single one, but the ones I did attend were fantastic. My highlights were:
A Great British Discussion on Gin with Ian Griffiths (Dandelyan/White Lyan), Dave Broom (celebrated author of the Gin Manual) and Duncan Macrae (Hendrick’s Global Brand Ambassador)
A lovely informal chat over some delicious Hendrick’s cocktails and plenty of opportunities to ask questions about where the gin boom is heading.
Big Gin Small Gin, The Producers talk with Allen Katz (New York Distilling Company), Mikey Enright (The Barber shop Sydney), Jake F Burger (Portobello Road Gin), and Ivano Tonutti (Master of Botanicals at Bombay Sapphire).
It was really interesting to hear from such a wide variety of distillers. The similarities regardless of scale was illuminating. This seminar will run again (with a different panel) as part of Sydney Bar week.
Why do Cocktail Cultures Develop or Don’t with Mikey Enright, Audrey Fort and George Nemec.
Bespoke Gin & Collaborative Distilling with Cameron Mackenzie from Four Pillars and Emile and Olivier from Gin Foundry.
A great seminar showing all the different ways people are involved in distilling, often without owning a distillery themselves. You can read the seminar here.
Juniper Ascending Parts 2& 3 with Jared Brown (Sipsmith), Desmond Payne (Beefeater), Simon Ford (Fords Gin), Alexandre Gabriel (Citadelle Gin), Arne Hillesland (Distillery 209) and Christian Krogstad (Aviation Gin)
Juniper Ascending was actually a 3 part seminar that ran most of the day. Moderated by Keli River from Whitechapel in San Francisco it was a fascinating journey through the history of gin.
500 years of Juniper Distillation – How Genever changed the way we are drinking today presented by Rutte Distillers with Myriam Hendrickx (Master Distiller), Keli Rivers (Whitechapel San Francisco), Joaquin Simo (Pouring Ribbons NYC) and moderated by Simon Difford (Difford’s Guide).
I wasn’t a fan of Genever until this seminar, having experienced a style made with more malt than botanicals. While not converted away from gin, I gained a better understanding and a new appreciation.
New Orleans is home to some of the most famous cocktails. The Sazerac, The Ramos Gin Fizz, The French 75, Hurricane, Grasshopper, Vieux Carre and more were all invented in New Orleans so I had to visit The Roosevelt for a Ramos Gin Fizz and Arnauld’s French 75 Bar for a French 75 didn’t I?
My first Ramos Gin Fizz had to be at the bar where it was invented yes?
Other highlights included a delightful Dante New York pop-up, Alibi (if you are ever lost at Tales, head here as this is where everyone ends up), and Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop Bar – do what I did and sing yourself hoarse around the piano with your buddies.
There are parties galore all week and if you are lucky enough to score invitations, GO! I was lucky to receive lots of invites, but you have to see Tales as a marathon, not a sprint, so I picked two, the William Grant ‘Party on your Palate’ and the Bacardi Block Party. Both epic. The 200 voice gospel choir at William Grant gave me goosebumps while the sheer scale (a different ‘house’ for each brand) of the Bacardi party blew my mind.
The sense of community around the world of bartending and hospitality is like no other. And nowhere did I feel this so keenly as I did at Tales. Thousands of the industry’s finest; bartenders, distillers, brand ambassadors, brand owners and media descend on New Orleans and it feels like the friendliest place on earth. It’s a wonderful opportunity to catch up with friends from all over the world, share ideas and sometimes even come up with ideas to work together.
Even though everyone is on a hectic schedule, people still made time for me. I was thrilled to be able to meet and interview Desmond Payne (Master Distiller Beefeater Gin), Charlotte Voisey (Head of Advocacy at William Grant and Son), Simon Ford (Fords Gin), and Myriam Hendrickx (Master Distiller at Rutte).
I also got to spend time with some of my favourite Aussie bar people on the same side of the bar for a change!
Where to stay
I stayed at the Hotel Monteleone which is where all the Tales of the Cocktail action happens. It is slap bang in the middle of the French quarter and The Carousel bar (yes the bar rotates) is another one of the places most people hang out.
The staff are excellent and really friendly, but if you prefer something a little hectic (the elevators get crazy busy during peak seminar times) then the Royal Sonesta is close by and less frantic. I also went to the newly opened Ace Hotel for a couple of meetings, it’s a little bit further away from the main Tales of the Cocktail action and super-chilled.
Things I’ll do differently next year (if I’m lucky enough to go again!)
Make it out of the French Quarter and take a swamp tour and a river cruise
Visit more restaurants
Get to Erin Rose for a Frozen Irish coffee…
Spend a whole afternoon at Bacchanal
Remember to ask for photos when interviewing someone!