Gin has made a bit of a comeback as of late. In the old days (i.e. when I was young) there was only one gin we’d drink and that was Gordon’s. This would be with an “ice and a slice” I used to drink it during my early college days in the days of Hooch (what did become of Hooch?)
I then moved onto vodka and would only drink one brand as I and many others knew no different. This was Smirnoff Red. It was the obligatory drink to bring to a party and we’d enjoy it with cranberry juice.
In the last 5 years or so vodka has now moved into the flavoured category: we have vodka with many different flavours such as raspberry, lime, and blueberry – a whole plethora of flavours tickling our taste buds. I’ve actually moved away from vodka as to be frank got bored of it. It actually has no flavour and I can’t see the point.
Somehow gin is moving into its own new category and some new gins are so light you could almost describe them as flavoured vodka. You can even drink gin straight and that’s not just coming from me who works for a spirit company but you really can and it’s quite nice.
So what is gin? Essentially gins are made with ethyl alcohol flavoured with juniper berries. There are different types of gin and the most popular choice is London Dry Gin. In order to be called a London Dry gin the Master distiller must follow certain EU guidelines. London Dry gin must contain some level of juniper berries –the predominant flavour must be juniper, it must not be coloured, of an ABV of at least 37.5% and at the time of distillation all the ingredients must be present. The ingredients refer to the botanicals that are added to the copper pot still where it heats up and all the magic comes together. Water is the only permitted ingredient and this must be demineralised water and never regular tap water.
Juniper berries have always been recognised from ancient times as possessing medicinal properties. As early as the 11th century, Italian monks were already crudely distilling their own. The Dutch physician Franciscus Sylvius is credited with having invented gin. During the mid 17th century gin was very popular in Holland and Belgium and was known as Genever which we still have today. During the 80 years war thanks to the Dutch the English troops were already sipping some gin before battle and this was known as “Dutch Courage” a term we still use to this day.
Gin became very popular during the Restoration during the reign of William of Orange – and gin was then produced illegally in crude, inferior forms sometimes flavoured with turpentine and unregulated water.
Gin became even more popular in England after the government allowed unlicensed gin production and also imposed a heavy duty on all imported spirits. This lead to people distilling their own at home with poor quality grain and thousands of gin shops sprang up also known as bathtub gin. Gin was also blamed for various social and medical problems which led to the famous Gin Lane painting by Hogarth – unregulated gin production and the term Mother’s ruin – a term we still hear to this day. There were various gin acts such as the Gin Act of 1736 which imposed high taxes on retailers and led to riots in the streets.
The London Dry gin was developed in the late 18th century using pot stills and in British Colonies gin was used to mask the bitter flavour of quinine. Quinine was also used to combat malaria so that is where the gin and tonic derived from. To this day tonic can put people off gin as it does have a particular bitter taste.
Essentially vodka is unfinished gin. Gin is much more complex and we are seeing a real turn to more interesting cocktails using gin such as the Gin Martini (shaken or stirred), Negronis containing campari and gin – lovely refreshing cocktail, Gimlets just with lemon juice and even Gin mojitos. All very exciting stuff.
So that’s just the nuts and bolts stuff: it does get quite complicated with the distillation process and all the individual botanicals but we can discuss that another time.
So I have the pleasure of working for a spirits company. We make and manufacture gin and vodka for the moment. It is very interesting. I’ve been here for just over a year. Very different to my previous career in media and dating! However combines many of my key skills such as those all important people skills, putting events together and sales / marketing.
Last week I had an event at a lovely boutique Hotel the Pelham Hotel in South Kensington. It was an early Christmas party entitled “Christmas comes early” and it certainly did on one of the hottest evenings of the year! Our gin brand which is distinctly floral was chosen to be the sponsor combined with canapés and food pairings.
The Pelham is a beautiful quaint boutique style Hotel. It has been described as London’s “finest Town House Hotel” and what a fine Hotel it is. It feels like a mini stately home but without all the pomp and circumstance. It is probably the most chilled out boutique Hotel I have been to. I love to escape from the hustle and bustle of London life and use it as my retreat.
We were in one of the main function rooms overlooking the hustle and bustle outside. It is directly opposite South Kensington station. The Hotel’s main objective to allow new potential guests to try the Christmas menu for parties or functions.
The canapés were delicious from glazed pork belly with an apple compote, ricotta cheese and butternut squash arancini, confit duck and terragon croustade, poached pear and goat cheese tartlet, smoked salmon, dill scone and crème fraiche.
The sweets included old fashioned whisky jelly shot, mulled wine ice cream and mini baileys fondant.
On the gin side with the gin being so floral we had a special bellini with the gin, fresh berries plus prosecco, another take on a Christmas cocktail with cinnamon liquor, gin, apple and prosecco.
It was paired up beautifully. So who was there – a mixture of local businesses, journalists, some drinks people, local Hotels, and general potential clients who may well book and enjoy their Christmas party there.
There was a lovely ambiance – Christmas but a warm feeling, great people, food and cocktails. A perfect evening to round off a hot Summer’s evening (in October!)
I regularly get invited to events and functions either with the spirit as a sponsor or as a guest. I am lucky to try out new bars and restaurants in London so happy to report back on my findings.
Until the next time…
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