It’s time to grin about local gin
Read all about it, we’re living in the golden age of gin and everyone’s talking about it on the street! Gin marketing teams shout and sing to their heart’s content both here in the UK and across the globe about this marvellous spirited drink, laced with exciting and exhilarating flavours in a bid to add some ‘ginspiration’ to our shopping lists.
It’s amazing to remember that less than a decade ago there were only a handful of distilleries producing gin on British soil. Now thanks to an upsurge in craft distilling that’s taken place over the last few years we can’t get enough of the stuff! Looking at some scores on the doors, over the past year, we spent a whopping £1.4 billion to make us grin with gin (yes, I’ll keep rolling the puns throughout this article). That equates to a staggering 51 million bottles.
Of course, the shining light in all of this is the classic Gin and Tonic simply known as the G&T and today it’s not unusual to find bars listing whole menus complimented with gracious garnishes from popping candy to water mint. However, a lot of gin aficionados are discovering that it is also perfect to sip and savour neat – often as an apéritif just before a meal. Pop in a couple of ice cubes for sublime smoothness.
There are hundreds of gins on the market but the one thing they all have in common is Juniper. Legally, all gin must contain juniper, and this is always the dominant flavour. Juniper is also the main botanical required to make gin, and is a berry grown on trees that were originally used for all kinds of things from making weapons to providing shelter. The berries themselves have always been beneficial for their medicinal properties before the world realised that the berry could be used for more than medicine. But the other botanicals can vary hugely: from star anise, orris root, angelica, citrus peel, cardamom and so on. On top of that there’s a riot of ingredients the distiller can add from Cotswolds lavender to Sussex hops. All of which make gin’s taste blooming lovely.
So, where does one start? Whether your style is citrus, herbal, floral or simply juniper, here’s a selection to help you raise the spirits from some of the 191 distilleries both here in brilliant East Anglia and across the UK (final pun I promise). Also, to add a twist, I’ve included something a little different to the mix.
Adnams Copper House Gin, Suffolk
Distilled in handmade copper pot stills, this craft gin from Suffolk is made with juniper and five other botanicals including sweet orange and hibiscus flowers. An elegant twist on the classic style – fragrant, fresh, with a hint of anise.
Thomas Dakin Gin, Manchester
This distinctive gin from Manchester is made with a botanical recipe that includes red cole (horseradish), which gives a slightly savoury, spicy edge. It’s a great alternative to vodka in a bloody Mary, but it’s also right at home in a G&T.
Ely Gin with Breakfast Marmalade
Ely Cathedral may also be known as the ‘ship of the Fens’ but here we have a delicious offering from the ‘spirit of the Fens’. Marmalade gin is a blend of zesty orange and tangy grapefruit, complimented with a rich molasses base. Enjoy neat or with just a splash of tonic. Perfect for afternoon tea.
6 O’clock Gin, Gloucestershire
A traditional gin with hints of juniper and orange peel which also includes unusual ingredients such as savoury and local elderflower. Made by Bramley and Gage Ltd in Gloucestershire this is a delightful small-batch gin that’s full of floral and citrus flavours, which work well with the elderflower’s summery sweetness.
Pink Pepper Gin, France
In the words of John Cleese; and now for something completely different. Created by an Australian living in France, this gin has a lively kick from fruity pink peppercorns. Sweet honey, tonka beans and vanilla are also in the mix, resulting in a finish that’s spicy-sweet but smooth. A playful gin that’s great for all you cocktail fans out there! Try in a negroni or a French 75.
Bullards Strawberry and Black Pepper Gin, Norfolk
All hail, the answer to your summer drinking dreams has arrived – Bullards Strawberry & Black Pepper Gin. Distilled and bottled in the cathedral city of Norwich, Strawberry & Black Pepper gin is made using real infused strawberries, black pepper, lemon peel and cardamom. The end result is a sweet and spicy combination that is irresistibly moreish. Serve with a sprinkling of strawberries and a hint of mint.
Ableforth’s Bathtub Gin, Kent
So, we’ve had a gin which you can enjoy with afternoon tea and now we have a tipple to enjoy in the bath! Well, ok, after a bath maybe. With packaging worthy of any Victorian apothecary, this exceptional gin uses botanicals such as coriander, clove, cinnamon, orange peel and cardamom that are infused in pot-distilled grain spirit. There’s a hint of colour and bold perfumed flavours.
St Giles Gin, Norfolk
Our second offering from Nelson’s County and distilled in Norwich but inspired by the four corners of the earth. Lemongrass and rose petals are just two exotic botanicals in this smooth, fruity gin. St. Giles is smooth enough to enjoy on its own over ice, something even Lord Nelson would sip splendidly.
Check out our pick of the best gin bars in the East of England