I am thrilled to announce that I will be hosting an Australian Gin tasting event at celebrated gin venue The Oliver Conquest on Wednesday 7th June 2017.
The Oliver Conquest was firmly on my list of destinations when I last visited London two years ago, just look at its incredible selection!
I’m excited to be heading back to the UK to visit some distillers, taste some new (to me) gins and giving Olivier and Emile from Gin Foundry a hand at Junipalooza London.
Promoting the growing gin industry in Australia is a passion of mine, so naturally I wanted to fly the Aussie flag while on my travels.
During our two hours together, you’ll learn about the gin boom Down Under, the unique botanicals used in our gins, and taste these beauties:
Brookie’s gin from Cape Byron Distillery in Byron Bay New South Wales
Green Ant gin from Adelaide Hills Distillery in South Australia
Botanic Australis gin, Queensland
Artemis gin, Melbourne
Melbourne gin Company gin, Melbourne
Manly Spirits gin, Manly, New South Wales
Four Pillars Bloody Shiraz gin, Victoria
Tickets are 20GDP and include all tastings and nibbles. Can’t wait to see you there!
(over 18s only)
Do you have a gin-loving Mumma?Are you organised for Mother’s Day yet? I’ve put together some top gin gifts for mum. And yes, some are COMPLETELY OVER THE TOP, but hey this woman gave birth to you!
No one knows cocktails like Simon Difford and in this compendium of quirky happenings, anniversaries, birthdays and traditional events he has paired each one with an appropriate cocktail. You can celebrate everything from Mandela’s inauguration to aliens’ alleged arrival from outer space.
$22.90 from Booktopia*
Some of the best cocktails are the simplest (think of a Negroni). Kara Newman has collected 50 equal parts drinks in her book Shake, Stir, Sip.
$18.75 from Booktopia*
It’s 12 o’clock somewhere in the world – so celebrates Aliita’s playful Martini necklace. Made from 9ct gold, it has a small emerald “olive” for glittering finish. Stunning!
$390 from mytheresa.com
Functional AND stylish, Cynthia Rowley’s flask bracelet holds approximately 90ml of booze. Also available in gold.
$225 (USD) from Cynthia Rowley
Tatty Devine’s celebrated Gilbert and George Gin necklace is perfect for the gin-lover in your life.
$45.00 from The Gin Queen
The obvious benefit of the Tatty Devine Gilbert and George gin brooch is that it will assist those around your mum to easily identify her tipple of choice. Handy!
$15 from The Gin Queen
Ralph Lauren Preston Cocktail shaker
This cocktail shaker would make a stylish addition to any home bar!
$169 from David Jones
Silver Monkey Straw
Sip in style with this cheeky monkey sterling silver straw from Tiffany. Super indulgent, but so gorgeous!
Waterford Crystal Martini Glasses
You can’t go wrong with glassware as a gift and while I enjoy scouring flea markets and op shops for mine, there is something wonderful about splashing out on divine martini glasses.
Marquis Crosby Barware Martini Pair $140 (pair), from David Jones
Patient Wolf Gin
Melbourne’s newest gin is made in the heart of Brunswick on a gorgeous Muller still. Featuring Tonka bean as one of the botanicals, this is a tasty drop that mum will love!
$ 700ml $89.99 from Nicks Wine Merchants
Red Hen Gin
Red Hen Gin comes from the heart of Adelaide (the CBD!) and recently took our Gold in the Australian Distilled Spirits Awards AND Champion Small Batch Spirit.
$79.95 (700ml)from Red Hen Gin
Lubin Gin Fizz
Created in honour of Grace Kelly’s extraordinary beauty, and named after the cocktail inspired by the “American bars of Paris”, Gin Fizz is a fresh and flowery chypre with lemony top notes over an aldehyde and musky base.
$269.00 AUD (Eau de Toilette 100ml, available at David Jones)
All of the products listed above have been chosen by me because I think your mums would love them and not because I’m been paid to promote them. With the exception of items marked * which are affiliate links. You are not charged extra, but I receive a small commission on sales.
I passed a little social media milestone this week and I have 10,000 reasons to be happy 🙂
To celebrate I’ve created a little competition where you could win one of 3 Gin and Tonic Packs. The packs are:
- Star of Bombay Gin with Strangelove Light and Dirty Tonic
- Hendricks Gin HotHouse gift set with Strangelove Light and Dirty Tonic
- Poltergeist Unfiltered Gin with Strangelove Light and Dirty Tonic
THIS COMPETITION HAS NOW CLOSED
Thank you for reading, liking, commenting and sharing the Gin Queen love!
Terms & Conditions
Entrants must be over 18
Open to UK, Australian and NZ residents only
One entry per applicant
Closing date is midnight (AEST) on 1st May 2017
Winner will be drawn at random and notified via email within 24 hours
Thank you for reading, liking, commenting and sharing the Gin Queen love!
A few weeks ago, Victor Fraile, one of the founders of Santamanía Urban Distillery in Madrid visited Melbourne to talk all things gin and discuss the latest addition to the range, Lola y Vera. I was fortunate enough to get the chance to interview him and find out more about Spain’s first urban distillery.
So it’s almost three years since Santamanía opened, how long did it take you to get to that point?
We started almost three and a half years beforehand, just developing recipes, doing paperwork, deciding whether or not to leave our jobs, and trying to convince our wives!
Ramon and Javier, who are the other two partners, were both working for a telecommunications company, and although I’m an agriculture engineer, at the time I was working in documentary production. In our spare time we started talking about distilling Javier challenged us by saying, “Do we have the balls to do this,” and, we thought, “Why not? Okay, why not?
We started making out own still in a small room in Javier’s house, and for three years we spend most of the weekends there, to the annoyance of our family, of course. In the end they said, “Look, if you are going to spend money, spend it on something profitable.” So from dark moonshiners, we came to the light and founded Santamanía Distillery.
How hard was it to open the first urban distillery in Spain?
Distillation in Spain had a long history. Traditionally, in the village people used the remaining grape harvest to make eau-de-vie, and make what we call it aguardiente. Most of the gin distilleries in Spain are on an industrial scale, small ones didn’t exist. We were the first and now there are three. But we are the only one in Madrid.
It was essentially three years of paperwork. Sanitary and industrial procedures and having to go through the three administrations (local town, state and federal) and repeat all of the same processes. I’ll tell you honestly, it was the part of the process that made us almost give up. We thought, “Look, this is not worth it.” But, we kept going even though we were talking with people who didn’t really care, who just wanted to say, ” Yes, no, yes, no.” and tick the right box.
Did you have the recipe ready to go?
Yeah, by that time we had come up with 36 drinkable formulas.
Yeah, 36 that you could drink straight-away. There were, I wouldn’t say thousands, but there were hundreds and some truly terrible things!
What was the most challenging thing about making the gin?
From the technical point of view, I think it was teaching ourselves. This kind of project wouldn’t have happened without the internet! Talking with friends like Cam from Four Pillars was great as we had the same still and were trying to figure it out at the same time.
I do remember having problems getting the right flavour from the juniper, because we weren’t using the right one at the beginning. For a month or so we didn’t know what was happening. We eventually came up with a solution, but it was all trial and error.
Another issue was deciding the right ABV for our gin. From an economical point of view, we thought we’d stick with 37.5% as we’d pay less tax. Went sent a bottle to Emile and Olivier at Gin Foundry and they wrote a fantastic article saying “This is wonderful. This is a great job these guys from Spain are doing, but, we couldn’t call it premium because it is 37.5.” In Spain we have no problem with that, because we just pour and pour and pour. It doesn’t matter. But, in England it matters. So we changed it to 41% straightway, even though it meant changing the bottle.
Did you always plan to use grape-based spirit?
When we were researching we saw that cereal (wheat or barley) was the most common, but we thought “Why?”. In Spain, we’ve been distilling from grapes since … forever. It’s far more expensive than the traditional base. Using Tempranillo was an obvious choice as it’s a very well-known grape in Spain. All the great wines come from Tempranillo.
Are your botanicals from Spain?
Most of them are. We tested several different juniper, and finally went with a Macedonian grower, a really nice person, also called Victor, whom we love. Our coriander, cardamom, angelica and orris root are all imported but everything else we source locally.
How did you come up with the design for the bottle?
I think that the bottle reflects the name, you know, “Santamanía.” It’s difficult to explain in English. Think about when you are a child, and your mother is showing you how to do something and saying, “No, do it just like this,” and then you keep doing the things in your own way, you mother used to say, “You have the Santamanía to do this in your way.” It’s like saying, “your bloody stubborn to do it this way”.
The bottle illustrates the mania of those three years. It’s a listing of the things that happened around all those three years, the music we were listening to, the name of our kids, our names, the names of our wives. Many things, most that only we understand.
Santamanía is known as Madrid Dry gin?
From a production point of view it’s a London Dry gin but in Spain nobody bloody knows what London Dry means. At Santamanía, all our merchandize and our publicity in Spain, is saying say, “Oh, we are Spanish, we are doing this from grape.” And, the people say, “If you are so Spanish, why does it say ‘London Dry?’
No-one knows there that if you are doing a London Dry Gin, that there are laws around production. So, we thought, “Okay, we changing to Madrid Dry Gin”. The thing is that now Madrid Dry gin is only in Australia and Japan, everywhere else gets London Dry gin, so maybe we’ll change it back!
How long after you launched did you decide to experiment with barrel ageing?
We did that one straight-away. Reserva is pretty much the in same formula that the original, but instead of lime, we use orange, and we don’t use rosemary. It goes into 4-year-old French oak barrels for 3-6 months. Judging by the response, we seemed to get lucky with it first time out.
Tell me about Lola y Vera
Santamanía is a premium gin in Spain, and as such is much more expensive than most of the industrial gins, so we needed something more accessible to everyone. Instead of using grape based spirit we are using traditional wheat based spirit. We macerate the spirit with green apple mash and this apple-infused spirit is then distilled with the other botanicals. The type of apples we use will vary due to the season. We’ve called it Lola and Vera after our two stills.
You’ve now got two stills?
Yes!. To keep up with demand! Lola, who came later, is much bigger. We can get around 1800 bottles every time. We could get only get 250 from Vera, and that was pushing it! Now Vera is more for small batches, and experimentations with restaurants or businesses.
What’s the best thing about your job?
The best thing is it is not a job. What’s the difference between work and leisure? If the necessity is not what really drives you to do what you are doing, it is more leisure than work. At the end of the day you have to eat and you have to pay your bills. But, if you are doing something that drives you out of the bed every morning happy, it’s hardly work!
Here I am in Australia talking about gin. I’m not sweating. I’m not digging. I’m talking about something I really love. It’s great.
What’s your favourite gin cocktail?
I like dry gin martini. A nice, well-measured gin tonic with Santamanía is good too!
What are your favourite bars in the world?
I don’t have specific bars. I mean, my favourite bar experience is Japan. It’s not just the drink, it’s the service. I like some English pubs for their atmosphere.
What are your plans next? What’s next?
What’s coming for Santamanía? I can’t give too many details, but we are trying to make something based on the same formula, but maybe with more strength.
A Navy Strength?
Navy-Strength might be too much for the Spanish market, but going over 41%? Yes!
My thanks to Victor and Bibendum for setting up this interview.
Santamanía gins are available in Australia through Bibendum.
A cocktail that tastes likes chocolate but doesn’t contain any? Bizarre. But that’s the Sublime Moment Cocktail created by Sam Carter, gin professor at Bombay Sapphire. (You’ll remember I did a cocktail masterclass with Sam when I visited the home of Bombay, Lavistoke Mill, you can read about it here.)
I was looking for another Easter cocktail to add to my repertoire and the Sublime Moment, and it wasn’t long before the smell of vanilla filled the house as I made the one of the key ingredients, the vanilla sugar syrup. You’ll need to make this in advance as it takes a few hours for the flavour to fully develop. Once you’d made it though, it will keep for a couple of months in a sealed container if kept in the fridge, so you have as many Sublime Moments as you want!
Ingredients for the vanilla sugar syrup
1 vanilla pod
Add 25og of sugar to a pan with 200ml water and one vanilla pod, split with the seeds scraped out. Heat gently until it goes clear. Remove from the hear and add another 250g sugar and stir until clear. Put to one side and allow the vanilla pod to infuse the syrup.
Ingredients for a Sublime Moment
50ml Bombay Sapphire gin
25ml freshly squeezed pink grapefruit juice
15ml of vanilla sugar syrup
Add all the ingredients to a shaker, fill with ice and shake until chilled. Garnish with grapefruit peel. Enjoy!
I first tasted Celery Gin at Tales of the Cocktail last year. The latest gin from Rutte Distillery was on the shortlist for ‘Best New Spirit of 2016’ and Master Distiller Myriam Hendrickx was kind enough to grant me an interview which you can read here.
As with most new gins, it can take a while to hit the Australian market and I did a fair bit of pestering to find out when it would get here! I was fortunate enough to attend a ‘Lunch and Learn’ session last week with the Bacardi/DeKuyper team and enjoyed cocktails made with Celery Gin and Old Simon Genever created by Australian Bartender of the Year 2015, Lee Potter Cavanagh. That genever was a taste revelation and quite unlike other genevers that I’ve tasted and largely disliked.
Celery Gin came after DeKuyper acquired Rutte Distillery. They were looking for interesting flavours for their liqueur portfolio and Myriam pointed straight to the extensive Rutte archives where celery has been used as a botanical in Rutte genevers since the 1800s, and suggested using it to make a gin. The rest is history and the result has been a huge hit and put the smallest distillery in the Netherlands on the map.
In fact, it’s the incredibly fragrant leaves of the celery plant that are used alongside juniper, coriander, angelica root, sweet orange peel and cardamom, rather than celery seeds or the celery stalks we all crunch in our salads.
Tasting Celery Gin
Sometimes when a gin hits the market and it has a dominant botanical, the balanced “gin” flavour is lost. Fortunately, this is far from the case with Celery gin.
On the nose you get the familiar gin aromas; juniper, coriander and angelica.
If you are expecting this gin to taste of celery stalks, you’re in for a surprise as while celery notes are present, it’s not in your face. There is lots of piney juniper and citrus with fresh notes of celery leaves. The flavour then builds with more herbaceous celery, some orange giving a subtle sweetness and ending with bold white pepper notes. The finish is mouth-watering and lengthy.
Drinking Celery Gin
The herbaceous freshness of celery works well with gin, especially in savoury cocktails. Of course, a really excellent gin is super versatile. While Celery gin is a natural choice well in the celery forward cocktails I’ve shown above, it’s also excellent in a martini, It’s also creates an outstanding Red Snapper.
Country of Origin: Holland
Tasmania continues to lead the way in the growth of distilling in Australia. Last week, I was the guest of Southern Wild Distillery, makers of Dasher & Fisher gin, who invited me to their home in Devonport.
Master Distiller, George Burgess’ previous career as a food technologist involved removing the variation of seasons and ingredients. With his gins, he’s done a complete about-face and is using locally foraged ingredients and embracing the seasons when they are available. George explains every sip should “give the drinker a sense of time and place; that the drinker should almost smell and taste the season and the landscape.”
George is passionate about supporting local people and their businesses. All of the ingredients he uses in his spirits are a stone’s throw from the distillery and he thinks nothing of cruising around Devonport checking out the fruit and plants growing in people’s gardens before hopping out, introducing himself, and asking if he can take some away.
He could be perceived as a botanical stalker, but judging by the warm welcome from Andy, whose garden houses the magnificent bay tree that George regularly harvests, they are happy to be involved in supporting a local business.
Named after the local rivers, Dasher and Fisher gins come in three styles, Mountain, Meadow and Ocean each feature the same three botanicals: pepperberry, lavender, and wakame (seaweed).
George created ‘Mountain’ for those who prefer a very traditional style of gin. In addition to the juniper and pepper berry it features 11 botanicals including cardamom and liquorice.
‘Meadow’ contains 15 botanicals, including bay, rosemary, sage and fresh oranges, nearly all of which are picked from local gardens and fields.
‘Ocean’ is the most delicate of the three. In addition to the wakame, George has incorporated rose, chamomile, and orris root to create a floral gin with hints of ocean spray.
Devonport is in the midst of the largest urban renewal project ever undertaken in regional Tasmania. The Living City project is a new multi-purpose civic building, convention centre and will boast a new Food Pavilion showcasing regional Tasmanian products.
The Living City project approached George about the distillery when the original building he had selected became unavailable. He jumped at the chance and Southern Wild Distillery has taken a temporary space while the site is built. On completion, (November 2017), George will be adding two additional stills, an 1800 litre and a 3600 litrefor his whisky.
George has exciting plans for a different style of whisky and seasonal gins, so it looks like Devonport will be another fantastic spirit designation to add to your ‘to do’ list!
Southern Wild Distillery is open to the public daily from 9.30am-5pm (later on Friday and Saturday evenings).
Many thanks to George and the team at Southern Wild Distillery and Georgia at Cru Media for organising my visit.
A class gimlet is a fine drink indeed and is hard to go past when you are after something simple and refreshing. This turbo version combines sweet, savoury, bitter and sour flavours that balance surprisingly well together to create a herbaceous riff on a citrus forward cocktail.
I’ve made a couple of adjustments to Naren’s recipe, but you can try the original here. I’m obsessed with Rutte Celery gin at the moment so have used that, but this cocktail would work just as well with a bold juniper forward gin like Tanqueray or Junipero.
Ingredients for a Celery Gimlet
45ml Rutte celery gin
7.5ml green Chartreuse
20ml freshly squeezed lime juice
15ml simple syrup
5ml white wine vinegar
2 dashes celery bitters
Pinch of salt
Put celery leaves with salt in a cocktail shaker and muddle briefly. Fill shaker with ice and add gin, Chartreuse, lime juice, simple syrup, vinegar, and bitters. Shake, then double strain into a rocks glasses filled with ice. Enjoy!
At the last count (with Seb from Bad Frankie) there were 105 Australian gins on the market. I know for a fact there are more to come this year, and beyond. Such exciting times to be a gin lover in Australia!
I’m particularly intrigued by the increasing research into, and use of, native ingredients in some of these gins. This month, two gins launched that broadened the scope of native ingredients from plants to insects. Sacha LaForgia, from Adelaide Hills in South Australia, released his Green Ant gin followed swiftly by a gin of the same name from Applewood Distillery, also in South Australia.
Using ants as a gin botanical is not a new idea. Celebrated chef René Redzepi, owner of NOMA, launched Anty Gin in 2013. Formica rufa, the red wood ant, use chemical compounds to communicate with each other and defend themselves from predators. Redzepi’s discovered that these compounds are delicious when mixed with alcohol. Similarly, Bass & Flinders in Mornington launched their Angry Ant gin in 2016.
Why green ants?
I chatted to Sacha about his collaboration with Something Wild (who also supplied NOMA) and how he came to launch Green Ant gin. One of the first things that became evident was the concern that native ingredients are often foraged from land owned by Indigenous communities without permission. Sacha explained “Richard (Gunner) from Something Wild was keen to work together in helping grow the business of the Motlop family of the Larrakia people, establish new opportunities, as well as help raise awareness of how native Australian ingredients are sourced.”
Early in 2016 Richard, who is best mates with Sacha’s business partner Toby, gave him some green ants to pass on to Sacha. Sacha admitted that with the expansion at Adelaide Hills, distilling ants wasn’t high on his list of priorities. When he finally got around to tasting a green ant he said he was blown away by the flavours “limey, coriander with herbaceous notes, I knew it was a perfect gin botanical”.
How do you distill ants?
Sacha is a fractional distiller meaning that each gin botanical is distilled individually before being blended together (Andrew Marks at Melbourne Gin Company also does this). Sacha’s gins are 100% vapour infused as he feels this best protects the delicate botanicals. When it came to distilling the green ants (which come frozen!), Sacha says he ran the still much more slowly to preserve the flavours.
Green Ant gin botanicals
Sacha created an entirely new gin recipe for this project. Alongside the green ants you’ll find native finger limes, pepper berry, lemon myrtle, strawberry gum, boobialla (native juniper), and juniper.
In aid of research I fished one of the ants out of the bottle and ate it. Yes, I ate an ant, so you don’t have to! Lime flavours (a mix between citrus and kaffir lime) burst out of the ant followed by some herbaceous notes which come through when you are chewing. Surprisingly, eating an ant was not that bad. I’m not sure I’d do it on a regular basis, mind you.
Green Ant gin is a fresh, citrus forward gin with lots of green lime notes on the nose and palate. The botanical flavours and ‘zing’ from the ants definitely comes through and there is a hint of pepper to cut through the citrus. As with all of Sacha’s spirits, it’s of great quality, smooth with an excellent finish.
The best part of the project is that a share of the profits on sales of Green Ant gin go back to the Larrakia people, so you can enjoy a tipple while supporting a great social enterprise! For more information on green ants, watch this video from ABC Landline.
Country of origin: Australia
To purchase Green Ant gin click here.
Death and Company in New York is one of the most influential bars to emerge from the craft cocktail movement since it opened 10 years ago. It won Best American Cocktail Bar and World’s Best Cocktail Menu at Tales of the Cocktail Spirited awards in 2010, and continues to win accolades. Obviously it’s high on my list of “bars I must visit before I die”, but as trip to NYC in not in the pipeline any time soon, I’ve been consoling myself with their cocktail book which I received from Santa.
To be fair, it’s more than just a cocktail book in spite of the 500 recipes stuffed into it’s funereal black cover. There are tips on stirring techniques and pairing flavours as well as notes on how to name a cocktail! Since I’ve been cheating on gin a bit with wine during my WSET course, the Summer Shack is the perfect cocktail to sip while I enjoy the autumn heatwave that has descended on Melbourne town.
The Summer Shack ticks all the boxes for me. It features one of my all time favourite gins, Martin Miller’s Westbourne strength, St-Germain elderflower liqueur and Sauvignon Blanc. It’s an approachable drink for those who haven’t quite given in to martinis.
The original recipe, created by Joaquín Simó, calls for Lillet Blanc, simple syrup and an orange twist which is discarded. I’ve replaced the Lillet with Dolin vermouth, omitted the simple syrup (I found it sweet enough for my taste), and kept the orange twist! Experimenting until you find the flavour profile you prefer is the best thing about making drinks!
Ingredients for a Summer Shack
45ml Martin Miller’s Westbourne Strength gin
20ml Dolin dry vermouth
15ml Sauvignon Blanc
7ml St-Germain elderflower liqueur
orange peel for garnish
Stir all the ingredients together over ice. Double strain into a coupe and garnish with a twist of orange.