As my Scottish in-laws would say, it’s a dreek night in Melbourne, so was looking for a something to warm my cockles as I wrapped myself in a blanket.
Negronis are always fabulous on a cold, dark night, but as I’d recently purchased a bottle of Cynar at my friend JD’s new shop, The Bitters Lab, I wanted to use it in a cocktail. The Cin-Cyn cocktail ticks both boxes. Instead of Campari in your Negroni, you use Cynar.
What is Cynar?
Cynar is a bitter Italian liqueur (within the amaro family), infused 13 plants and herbs, that was launched in 1952. The dominant ingredient is artichoke, Cynara scolymus, which is where it gets its name. Because of this ingredient, is can be used as a digestif and an aperitif. Like Campari it is bitter, but not as sweet and has a pleasing herbaceous edge.
Ingredients for The Cin-Cyn Cocktail
30ml gin (I used Tanqueray Bloomsbury)
30ml Sweet vermouth
Stir all ingredients over ice. Strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with a twist of orange if desired.
Fans of Botanic Australis Gin will be delighted to hear that Mark Watkins has developed a Botanic Australis Navy Strength. Mark had been busy perfecting the recipe when I visited in December, but he wanted to wait until he was completely happy with it, before sharing it with me!
Fortunately, I didn’t have to wait too long and it was certainly worth the wait. I was intrigued to see how Mark would match those bold native botanicals with an equally bold ABV (Navy Strength must be at least 57%). Working with native ingredients is a delicate balancing act and the original Botanic Australis recipe required some fine tuning to work with the stronger alcohol.
Mark explained “In the original we replaced the lemon peel component with lemon myrtle and lemon scented gum. The reason for this is that lemon myrtle is heavy and tends to hang on the palate, while lemon scented gum is very aromatic yet doesn’t stay on the palate. Combining the two you get a very balanced “lemon peel” like effect. So in the Navy strength we ramped up the lemon scented gum so you get a big lemon nose which fades away on the palate quickly to combat the higher ABV. We also increased the level of Bunya Nut which gives the Christmas fruits and spices flavour, as well as the ginger and pepperberry”
While Botanic Australis Navy Strength has it foundations in the original, it certainly has a different flavour profile. On the nose, as Mark wanted, there is plenty of lemon, but this fades quickly on the palate. We being with piney juniper and bright citrus notes , with a small spike of the river mint and eucalyptus, leading on to spicier notes from the peppery berry and ginger through to a lingering warm finish. Some of the more herbaceous and earthy notes found in the original Botanic Australis have given way to a more citrus forward gin.
It makes a wonderfully refreshing gin and tonic. You’ll note in the image above, the louching (cloudiness) that comes with an increase in oils from the botanicals.
I also gave it a whirl in a Southside and it worked brilliantly with the lime and mint. I should warn you that it would be very easy to forget the higher ABV!
This is a very limited edition gin and certainly worth
Origin: Walkamin, Queensland
Available from Mt Uncle Distillery
One of the things I enjoy about my new homeland is the different fruits and vegetables available, some of which I’ve never come across before. Persimmons caught my eye recently, I loved the vibrant colour and tomatoey shape. There are two types of persimmon, one astringent (yuk) and this sweeter variety that was introduced to Australia in the ’70s. The sweet persimmon (also known as the Fuyu fruit) has a firm texture and a subtle, sweet flavour.
I had no idea what to do with persimmons, so bought a bag, hoping to make a seasonal cocktail. I came across a few recipes for a persimmon sour which seemed like a good place to start.
To make the Persimmon sour, you first need to whizz the persimmons up in a blender to create a puree as they are too firm to smash or muddle as we would do with softer fruits. I blended mine with the juice of half a lime.
Ingredients for a Persimmon Sour
40ml persimmon puree
juice of a freshly squeezed lime
10ml sugar syrup (or to taste)
Shake all ingredients together in an ice-filled shaker until chilled. Strain into a rocks glass and garnish with lime. Enjoy!
The Florodora was the only gin cocktail I hadn’t come across in this article, so I thought I’d find out more. Thanks to David Wondrich’s excellent book, Imbibe! Updated and Revised Edition: From Absinthe Cocktail to Whiskey Smash, a Salute in Stories and Drinks to “Professor” Jerry Thomas, Pioneer of the American Bar*, I didn’t have to venture too far.
Florodora was actually a 1900 hit stage show that had transferred from London to New York. It was set half on the fictitious island of Florodora and half in Wales (!) and featured the “Florodora Sextette”, six identical chorus girls who were the stars of the show.
The story goes that the drink was created for one of the girls who had been refusing to drink anything but lemonade unless she had something “brand new”. Enter Jimmy O’Brien who came up with the cocktail. It’s a wonderfully refreshing cocktail, mixing gin, lime juice, ginger ale and raspberry syrup.
Ingredients for a Florodora
45ml gin (I used Plymouth)
2tsp of raspberry syrup
freshly squeezed juice of one lime
Ginger Ale (I used Fever-tree)
Put the raspberry syrup in the bottom of a chilled glass. Add the lime juice and gin and then half fill the glass with cracked ice. Top up with ginger ale and garnish with a slice of orange and a pitted cherry. And, in the words of New York Evening World, 1901: “put the stein to your lips, shut your eyes and take an express transport to Elysium.”
*Affiliate link. Please see my disclosure.
It’s Mother’s Day in Australia on May 8th and these gift ideas will get you lots of brownie points! If I’m honest though, most of these gifts would be perfect for ANY of the gin-lovers in your life!
Gin Glorious Gin: How Mother’s Ruin Became the Spirit of London by Olivia Williams
One of my favourite books on gin! This is a wonderful romp through the rich history of gin, from its evolution as the poor man’s crack to the modern-day craft gin revival. Williams’ background as a historian is evident, but kudos to her for making it anything but a ‘dry’ read.
*affiliate link, you won’t be charged extra, but I make a small commission on sales. Please see disclosure for details.
Tom Collins print by Nick Barclay
I LOVE Nick’s prints, but particularly his cocktail series. I already have the Martini, Negroni and Gin & Tonic so it was only natural that I’d add the Tom Collins to my collection.
It comes in 2 sizes A3 (297 x 420) for $35 (plus shipping) or IKEA (500 x700) for $55 (plus shipping). Pop it in a frame and it makes the perfect gift!
Order via Nick’s website here.
Gin Masterclass at Four Pillars Saturday 14th May 2pm
A trip to the Yarra Valley for a Gin Masterclass is a fab way to spend an afternoon. Meet Cameron Mackenzie, Master Distiller of Four Pillars Gin, take a tour, sample each of their four gins and afterwards relax at the bar! Tickets are $115.94 and includes a 90 minute tour, talk and tasting (plus a goodie bag with a bottle of Rare Dry Gin, RRP $75, and a jar of Orange Marmalade, RRP $9).
If you can’t make that date, you could always buy a Four Pillars Gin gift voucher ($40, $120, $200) that can be redeemed on anything (drinks, retail purchases or masterclasses). They are available to purchase online via the website or at the distillery door.
Gold-plated Teardrop Barspoon
For a little luxe while stirring martinis or negronis, how about this gorgeous gold-plated barspoon?
$45.95 from Cocktail Kingdom
Loch Distillery & Brewery ‘The Weaver’ Australian gin
On a visit to Loch Distillery a few weeks ago, Master Distiller Craig revealed his latest creation – ‘The Weaver’, his new Australian style gin featuring several native botanicals. I’ll be doing a full write-up in the next week or so, but this has already shot to the top of my Best New Australian Gins for 2016.
You can purchase via the cellar door or via Nip of Courage.
You all know how crackers I am about lovely glassware. I like to trawl bazaars and second-hand shops to find hidden bargains but sometimes it’s nice to splash out on something a little special.
This Riedel Superleggero gets my vote. Simplicity at its best. Handmade doesn’t come cheap so if you can’t stretch to the $199.95 (per glass) price tag, these stemless martini glasses are fun too.
Distilled in London with all organic botanicals and honey from The London Honey Company, Dodd’s Gin is a whopping 49.9% ABV, but you really wouldn’t know it. A sublime, full-bodied martini gin. (Look out for a full blog post soon!)
White Possum Australian Gin-Tasting Box
White Possum is a fantastic subscription service for the discerning Australian spirits drinker. They constantly seek out those hard to find drinks for their customers and have recently branched out into making their own spirits. For Mother’s Day I am recommending their Flight of the Juniper Possum, featuring 12 x 30ml tasters of some pretty fine gin! And because they are lovely, they are offering Gin Queen readers $10 discount on the set*. Simply enter GIN_QUEEN in the promo code field.
*only available in Australia
Magnificent Martini Mirror by McKean Studios
Remember my gorgeous martini pin?
McKean Studio has recently added a some gorgeously quirky mirrors to their range, and I bet you can’t guess which one gets my vote?
They have kindly arranged an offer for all Gin Queen readers! Spend over $80 and receive the martini pin FREE with your order*. Simply add ‘The Gin Queen’ in the notes section.
(*only available to Australian readers)
I’ve selected these products because I like them, not because I’m paid too. Let me know if you decide to buy any, as I love to hear feedback!
Gin Mare was one of the earliest gins in my collection and a stalwart. I use it in most masterclasses where it always gains a few fans. I’m thrilled that Master Distiller, Marc Giró was happy to answer my questions!
How long have you been a distiller?
I’ve been a distiller for 10 years, since I joined Gin Mare
Did you always want to work in distilling?
When I was a child, the conversation at home was always about gins, stills and distillation…I also used to spend my summer and most weekends in the factory, which was at my grandmother’s house. When I was 8 years old I went to see how gin was made and ended up spending hours with the master distiller.
How did you become a distiller?
Distillation, as I mentioned before, has been in our family for more than 180 years… I guess I have a natural talent and vision for it.
What is the best thing about your job?
Research is what I like most, test bizarre ideas…innovate! At any time, if I smell something I like, I try to find out more about it and what I can get if I distil it.
What is the most challenging thing about distilling gin?
The hardest thing is being on top of each distillation, because the botanicals are “alive”, from one distillation to another you can find substantial differences.
How do you choose which botanicals to use?
The whole team takes part in choosing the botanicals, each one of us propose different ingredients, always inspired by the Mediterranean culture. Over time we have found that some were exceptional, and others were surprisingly bad. An ingredient that we always wanted to use for Gin Mare was olives. Our family love olives, it was a must! We had to distill 10 different varieties of olives and the Arbequina was the only type that reached an exquisite aroma.
Who/what inspires you?
As a team we always inspire each other. I personally like to remember my grandfather and what he would do in certain situations.
Your favourite gin cocktail and why?
I’m very classic, my favorite is the gin and tonic. In my opinion, it respects the flavor of the gin, however I also like a dry martini on special occasions.
Which are your favourite bars (anywhere in the world)?
There’s a great scene of new bars in Barcelona right now, such as Eclipse at the W Hotel and the Banker’s Bar at the Mandarin Hotel. For classic cocktail bars I like Boadas and Ideal but also have fun in places that are pushing the boundaries, such as Mutis and One Ocean Club. I was also really impressed when I visited Nightjar in London.
What’s next? Any future plans?
We’re always being asked about a brand extension for Gin Mare, such as a limited “distillers cut” edition and even a vodka. It would be fairly easy for us since after years of research, we’ve gained a lot of botanicals that are interesting enough that we could release something like that. However, we’re not going to take the easy route. Instead we’ll keep being honest with what we feel is the best expression of the Mediterranean, bottled as it is in Gin Mare. The next plan? We don’t know at this point, however we’ll keep exploring new Mediterranean flavours.
The Hanky-Panky was created by legendary female bartender, Ada Coleman, ‘Coley’, who was the first (and only) female bartender at the American Bar at The Savoy Hotel.
Ada worked there between 1903-1926 and it was while she was there that the Hanky-Panky was born. During an interview with the Daily Express in 1925 she recounted how the cocktail got its name:
The late Charles Hawtrey…was one of the best judges of cocktails that I knew. Some years ago, when he was overworking, he used to come into the bar and say, “Coley, I am tired. Give me something with a bit of punch in it.” It was for him that I spent hours experimenting until I had invented a new cocktail. The next time he came in, I told him I had a new drink for him. He sipped it, and, draining the glass, he said, “By Jove! That is the real hanky-panky!” And Hanky-Panky it has been called ever since.
The Hanky-Panky is essentially a sweet martini, a mix of gin and Italian sweet vermouth. However, Coleman added a few dashes of Fernet-Branca, an Italian digestif and created something completely different!
Ingredients for a Hanky-Panky
45ml dry gin (I used Fords Gin)
45ml sweet vermouth
2 dashes of Fernet-Branca
Add all ingredients to an ice-filled mixing glass and stir for 20 seconds. Strain into a chilled glass and squeeze some orange peel on top. Enjoy!
During my review of Santamanìa gin, I mentioned a unique collaboration between the Madrid distillery and our own, Four Pillars Gin, and here it is; Cousin Vera’s Gin.
The Australian-Spanish gin project started life as a conversation on twitter between the two distilleries, with Santamanìa remarking on the similarities between Wilma, Four Pillars Carl still, and their own still, Vera. Fast forward a year and while planning a trip through Europe, Cameron Mackenzie, Master Distiller at Four Pillars, saw the opportunity to create a gin with Santamanìa. The Spanish distillers were very enthusiastic and the plan was set in motion.
Cousin Vera’s gin, like Santamanìa uses neutral grape-based spirit made with Tempranillo grapes. The Spanish botanicals are Cornicabra olive, almond, fresh rosemary, white pepper, and Seville orange peel. The Australian native botanicals are; lemon myrtle, anise myrtle, Tasmanian pepper leaf and coriander. All of the botanicals, not forgetting juniper, were added to Vera and left to macerate overnight, before 5 hours of distillation.
The result is amazing. On the nose there is lots of juniper and rosemary with a hint of coriander. On the palate it has a wonderful fresh to start, with bright citrus notes leading on to savoury flavours from the olive and rosemary. It has a warm peppery finish with an incredible creamy mouthfeel.
I used Cousin Vera’s gin to make a Spanish martini made with Fino Sherry, garnished with Mount Zero olives from Victoria and Jamòn Ibèrico. Perfection! I would certainly recommend this in a Dirty Martini too.
Naturally, Cousin Vera’s gin makes a great G&T, but I also made a Rosemary Collins which was lovely.
Cousin Vera’s gin is an incredible achievement, highlighting the skills of Cam from Four Pillars and Javier, Victor and Ramon at Santamanìa. The gin is available at both distilleries in their own unique packaging. This is an extremely limited edition and definitely worth seeking out.
Country of Origin: Spain and Australia
Spain consumes the most gin in the world (not counting the Philipines, who make a local version of “gin”) and has been the main driver of the gin boom with their passion for ‘Gin Tonica’. It was surprising to learn that there are so few micro-distilleries, Santamanía is the first urban distillery in Spain and is located in Madrid.
You might recognise a couple of things from the above image, firstly, they use a Carl still (named Vera) and secondly that the dude in the brown T-shirt with his back to the camera is Cameron Mackenzie, Master Distiller at Four Pillars Gin. More on the reason why he’s in the photo later!
Santamanía gin is made using grape-based spirit (other gins using grape based spirit include Melbourne Gin Company and G’Vine), from Tempranillo grapes, known as Spain’s ‘noble grape’ that have been growing in the Iberian Peninsula since the mid 800s BC. Grape-based spirit gives gin a different, smoother mouth-feel than grain-based, in my opinion, but some think that grape conflicts with the other botanical ingredients.Using the traditional one-shot distillation method, they produce the gin in VERY small batches at a time – no more than 800 bottles at a time.
Juniper, coriander, Spanish lemon and lime, liquorice, angelica and orris roots, pistachio nuts, cinnamon, white pepper, dry ginger, rosemary and fresh raspberries. Some interesting ones in there!
On the nose, there is soft citrus. On the palate the citrus notes leads on to herbaceous flavours including juniper, before some spice and warmth from the pepper, coriander and cardamon. The finish is long with a tiny hint of sweetness (from the raspberries perhaps?) and it has a very smooth mouthfeel.
Santamanía gin works very well in a G&T (I garnished mine with lime and black pepper) as expected from a Spanish gin! In a martini it might have benefitted from a different vermouth, as although it was a decent drink, it didn’t have the juniper oomph I like in my martinis.
If you are expecting a bold juniper forward Spanish style gin then don’t, and don’t be disappointed! This is a beautifully balanced contemporary gin. I love what Santamanía have achieved with their gin and admire their passion for collaborations with other distillers. The most recent, on with Four Pillars gin where together they have created ‘Cousin Vera’ gin (review to follow). This distillery is certainly one to watch.
Country of Origin: Spain
The Satan’s Whiskers cocktail appears in Harry Craddock’s 1930 The Savoy Cocktail book, but is essentially a variation on a Bronx cocktail from Hugo R. Ensslin’s ‘Recipes for Mixed Drinks’, published earlier in 1916. Featuring three different types of orange – juice, liqueur and bitters, the Satan’s Whiskers cocktail is a juicy glass of bittersweet deliciousness.
There are two versions of the drink; one uses Grand Marnier, the other, orange curaçao. This recipe is considered the “straight” version, while the other is “curled.”
Ingredients for a Satan’s Whiskers Cocktail (straight)
Shake ingredients with ice and strain into a chilled glass. Enjoy!