Gin: The Comeback
Once a tipple reserved solely for Granny, it’s now the world’s fastest-growing artisanal spirit. In fact, UK sales topped a billion pounds in 2016 alone for the first time ever! This versatile botanical beverage has well and truly shaken off its fuddy-duddy image, dusted itself off and stepped out from the back of the drinks cabinet to take centre stage at every party and fancy bar – there are even whole festivals dedicated entirely to this juniper-based, undeniably delicious spirit, and quite right too. With so many new easy-drinking craft blends available, its future looks bright, so let’s get the measure of gin.
Gin was, once upon a time, a cheap spirit blamed for all of society’s ills, and not for nothing was it lampooned as “Mother’s ruin”. Forever associated with London, it had a poor reputation in Georgian England as every angst-ridden poet, ne’er-do-well and down-on-their luck wastrel in our capital let it have its way with them. Real gin was the reserve of the upper classes, and those who didn’t have two ha’pennies to rub together would imbibe themselves on cheap London dry gin, making their own with basic distilling kit and swigging as much as they could get their hands on in the city’s dingy taverns.
Around the 1880s things were – thankfully – starting to look a little brighter for gin. The quality was improving and it was no longer so poorly considered. In fact, by mid-century it was becoming quite the glamorous drink, sipped at cocktail parties and sparkly bars everywhere. Its reputation was on the up!
Fast forward to the 21st century and times have changed for the better; in the last decade or so, gin has enjoyed a long overdue revival – now considered a delicious, fragrant and sophisticated beverage, it’s making a well-deserved comeback in our bars, clubs, homes and in every master mixologist’s repertoire. Traditionally served as an aperitif, it’s now considered a drink to enjoy at any time, and food fairs positively buzz with exciting new ideas. Today’s contemporary varieties are to be sipped, admired and appreciated. They’d be completely wasted on Georgian London!
How it’s made
You might not know it, but gin and vodka are made the same way. Before all the vibrant botanicals and flavourings are added, they’re a very similar spirit.
So what is gin made from? Here’s the ‘science bit’ – it is a grain spirit, alcohol made from fermented grains like barley, maize or even molasses. The thing that turns it from plain old alcohol into lovely, lovely gin is the addition of botanicals like coriander, angelica, citrus peel, pepper or even floral flavours. With juniper berries as a must-have ingredient for its distinctive flavour, this is known as a Compound Gin.
London Gin, or London Dry Gin (a name that reflects the process, rather than where it’s from) must be 70% ABV (alcohol by volume), with the botanicals added to the still during distillation, rather than being added afterwards as flavourings.
Distilled Gin is made in a similar way to London Gin, but the botanicals are often added after distillation which gives a far softer, more mellow taste.
Why gin is good for you…
Gin has a reputation for being good for us – proven or not – and you might be wondering why. Historically, one of tonic’s ingredients – quinine, made from the bark of a cinchona tree – was used for its anti-malarial properties, and folks returning from the British Empire brought with them gin drinks mixed with bitter quinine and sugar, paving the way for G&T.
The Gimlet, a cocktail made with gin and lime juice, was said to ward off scurvy, while studies have found that, when drunk in moderation, it can make your heart healthier – perhaps because of the super-healthy juniper berries that have a multitude of medicinal benefits – and the herbs and flavourings that give gin its slightly bitter taste can aid the digestive system too.
Plus, gin has far fewer calories than other drinks. Hurrah! A single 25ml measure is around 97 calories, while a pint of 4% ABV lager has around 180, about the same as a large slice of pizza! It might not seem like a huge difference, but if you’re having a few drinks over an evening, choosing a gin and slimline tonic will save you a respectable amount of calories. Everything in moderation, we say!
A 25ml measure of 37.5% ABV = 97 calories / 0.9 units
Out of the glass and into the kitchen
The world’s finest spirit has been embraced by a new audience who love and appreciate the care with which the best distilleries select their aromatic botanicals to brew the perfect gin. And as well as enjoying it over ice, mixed with a quality tonic or in a cocktail, gin lovers are becoming ever-more inventive with its use.
Take our G&T Cake for example; this citrusy botanical beauty is a boozy bakefest topped with G&T jelly, smothered with G&T Flavour Frosting and infused with… yep, you guessed it, shots of gin squeezed from Wilton’s Martini glass-shaped Shot Tops. Make my slice a double!
Take it sloe
As well as in cakes, we’ve even seen gin used in recipes for ice lollies, jams, sauces for fish and dressings for salads, although we don’t think you can beat a classic home-made sloe or damson. Sloe gin is a red liqueur made with sloes – a relative of the plum – from the blackthorn bush. Ripe sloe berries can be picked from the end of September onwards, and although it is indeed slow to make sloe gin, it’s by no means laborious. There’s no cooking needed, just a little patience as, ideally, the sloes need to be steeped in gin for at least two months for a rich, rounded fruity flavour. It’s something of a tradition to use sloes to give gin a seasonal spin, and our foolproof sloe gin recipe shows you just how easy – and rewarding – to go DIY. When you’ve waited so long for it to be ready, our swing-top presentation glass bottle will ensure your sloe gin looks the part, whether you’re making it as a treat for yourself or to give as a Christmas gift.
Gin mare, gin rummy, Tom Collins or your mum’s rhubarb gin recipe, everyone has their favourite gin-based cocktail, and here are one or two of ours. Chin chin!
Simple, satisfying and refreshing – it’s hard to beat a G&T made with a craft, artisanal gin and a gourmet tonic water mixer. The ratio of gin to tonic is down to personal taste, but don’t just pick any old tonic off the shelf – choose a premium blend and it’ll make a world of difference to your drink. Keep it simple. Add ice, a squeeze of lime juice, a basil leaf or cucumber garnish to a highball glass and you’re close to perfection!
Perfect for parties, and in crowd-pleasing quantities, Kilner’s Lemon Thyme Gin Sparkler is a twist on the classic G&T.
Cool and refreshing, gin and elderflower is a classic combination. Place 50ml of your best gin, 2 mint sprigs and a 1cm slice of cucumber cut into chunks into a cocktail shaker. Stir for about a minute, squashing the mint and cucumber with the back of a spoon. Strain into a highball glass, add a couple of ice cubes, top up with chilled elderflower pressé, then garnish with mint and a slice of lemon.
Not for the faint-hearted, a Long Island Iced Tea is a thirst-quenching gin drink that packs a punch! Pour 30ml each of gin, vodka, light rum, tequila, orange liqueur and lemon juice into a glass. Add a splash of cola, stir, then add ice cubes and lemon and lime slices.
A current favourite in hipster bars, the dry, zingy Negroni is thought to have originated in Florence in 1919 when Count Camillo Negroni asked a bartender to tweak his Americano by replacing the soda with gin, and the recipe has seldom been tampered with since. Place a few ice cubes in a short glass, pour in equal parts of gin, Campari and vermouth, stir and garnish with a slice of orange.
Gin and lime were meant to be together, and the super simple Gimlet cocktail showcases the match. Just pour 30ml gin, 20ml lime juice and 10ml sugar syrup into a tumbler filled with ice, stir gently and garnish with a twist of lime zest.
Gifts for gin lovers
Now, you could just buy them a litre but, whatever the occasion, if you’re looking for unique gifts for gin drinkers, why not think outside the bottle. While there’s no doubt that they’d appreciate a bottle of their favourite spirit, there are countless choices for gin-themed gifts that are just a bit more original. Whether it’s a little gift to accompany their favourite Monkey gin, or a gift set curated by you, you’ll find loads of ideas right here.
When it comes to quaffing, the right glasses can make all the difference. Balloon glasses allow plenty of room for ice, a slice and any extra ingredients, while the bowl shape holds in the infused flavours and aromas to enhance the taste experience. Treat yourself to our basic balloon glasses or sophisticated, handmade bubble balloon glasses and get ready to take pride in your presentation at gin o’clock.
There’s a huge trend right now for pimping your gin – adding extra botanical flavours and ingredients to sprinkle a little magic on your favourite brand of gin. A not-so-secret ingredient, Popaballs have been flying off the Lakeland shelves, and their Blueberry & Lemon Bubbles will give G&T a fruity fix of flavour. In pyramid-shaped tea bag-style bags, the Carmencita Ginfusion Bags allow you to infuse gin with flavourful botanicals without any floaty bits, while their loose Cocktail Botanicals allow you to personalise your favourite drink with a quartet of spicy, floral and aromatic flavours.
If they have a love of gin and a sweet tooth, you’ll earn top marks by giving them a bag of SugarSin Dry Gin Fizz Gummies infused with the flavour of gin, the very grown-up handmade Elderflower and London Gin Marshmallows, or a 70% cocoa Thomas & Grace G&T Chocolate Bar. Cottage Delight’s classic Lemon Curd with a G&T twist is amazing on warm scones and even better as a cake filling!
Hurrah for gin!
Whether you’re the type to get your mixers in a muddle or consider yourself a master of mixology, we hope you’ve enjoyed reading our blog and that we’ve given you a little bit of ginspiration. Of course, all of this reading is thirsty work, so if you fancy settling back down with a glass of something sparkling and reading all about Prosecco instead, you’ll find our blog just here. Cheers!