Month: December 2010

Mid-winter cooler, Cocktail

 - by Dug

I am not really the sort to go around inventing new cocktails, but over the Christmas period, I discovered a rather spiffing concoction that I really must share.

Caveat: I am not a cocktail guru, so forgive me if this has been done before, or is a well-known cocktail from some part of the world.

During the run-up to Christmas, I found myself doing a fair bit of cooking, and despite the thick snow outside, I found myself needing a cold drink with enough alcohol to put me in a slightly less stressed frame of mind. I have recently bottled my sloe gin and had been wondering about how to best enjoy it, and it was from these mental meanderings that this drink was born…

Mid-winter cooler

  • 1 generous measure of sloe gin
  • 1 lean measure of St Germain elderflower liqueuer
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • 125ml Fever-Tree premium tonic water

Mix as you would a G&T and serve with lots of ice and a generous slice of lemon.

This makes for and incredibly refreshing and fruity long-drink, with plenty of complexity and little bite. Perfect for keeping you cool in the kitchen when you are getting a little hot under the collar.

Sloe gin – the bottling

 - by Dug

It has been two months since I combined sloes, gin, sugar, almonds and a little ginger into a demijohn in order to kick-off my own bumper batch of sloe gin. If you missed it the first time, go and read about the making of sloe gin in my prior post.

Anyway, with Christmas only a week away, I thought it was high time that I bottled this stuff.

First, I strained the whole mix through a muslin bag to catch the sloes, almonds, ginger and the coarser bits of detritus.

Second, I shoved it in the bottles that the gin came in.

There you have it, not the most exciting process, but a faithful account.

Before you think that this is the shortest washout post on this whole blog, don’t worry, there is a little more to tell.

I tried a few sloes, thinking that they might have lost their bitter edge and be quite sweet and tasty. Bleagh, how wrong was I? They were still as bitter as anything I have ever tasted and were underpinned by a harsh alcoholic taste.

This didn’t really bode well for the finished product. I threw that muck in the compost bin (which might set the microbial ecosystem back a few weeks with the alcohol content) and set about trying the drink instead of the waste-product.

The sloe gin itself was rather tasty;  it was sweet with a slightly tart tail and has a warming medicinal quality to it. The flavour was dripping with that almond-like cherry quality with a subtle foundation of juniper. The ginger wasn’t really that evident, but it must contribute in some subtle way.

I have three full litre bottles of sloe gin now and it is supposed to improve significantly with age as well. I will likely lay a couple down under the stairs for next Christmas and guzzle the other over this festive period. I will also, in a subsequent post be comparing it to Sipsmith Sloe Gin and maybe Plymouth (if I can get some in time).

Gin gin.

Edit – 19/01/11: A quick note of thanks to my Dad for pointing out one instance of me using the word “slow” instead of “sloe”. Oops.

Win a year’s supply of gin

 - by Dug
Lots of Gin

Lots of lovely gin

The fabulous people over at Gintime are running a prize draw to win a year’s supply of gin. All you need do is give them a name and an email address; you can enter here.

Now, 12 bottles being a year’s supply is a little subjective; I would call it about a six month supply, but 12 bottles of free gin shouldn’t be dismissed on a technicality – it’s free gin!

I thought long and hard about whether to share this news, because as more people enter, my chances of winning decrease. Then I thought that even if my handful of readers all enter, the odds won’t change that much.

Good luck.

Gin categories

 - by Dug

The more gin I drink, and the more comparisons I try to draw, the more I realise it isn’t quite that simple. Every gin is different and there is a wild degree of variation across the market.

Pigeon Holes

Pigeon Holes

Every gin-drinker will have their own particular taxonomy; mine is somewhat embryonic and still developing, but as it is taking shape, I thought I would start to try to define it.


Okay, this sounds a bit basic, but there are plenty of gins on the market that are just gin. They pretty much hit the spot when one is hankering for gin, but there is nothing that makes them deviate far from the traditional definition of a gin.

There are of course good examples and bad examples of a gin gin; most supermarket brands fall into this category along with Gordon’s, as do some stalwart brands that I adore – Juniper Green and Sipsmith for example are two very good gins, but beyond their quality, there is little else to say other than they are both cracking gins.

Flavoured gins

Yes, yes, all gins are flavoured, but some have one botanical (or more) that dominates the flavour beyond the traditional gin flavours. Another name might be USP (unique selling point) gins rather than flavoured gins.

In this category we have the rose and cucumber of Hendrick’s, we have the African citrus of Whitley Neill and the chamomile of the Tanqueray No Ten.

It is hard to compare these against gin-gins as they are so different and your enjoyment of them is likely to be defined by your acceptance of the USP flavour. There are some great gins in this category but they cannot really be compared to the likes of Sipsmith without clouding the waters somewhat.


This seems to be a common categorisation amongst gin drinkers. Some question whether these can be called a gin as the juniper is not seen as being dominant enough. Somewhere between a gin and a vodka, these subtle drinks are likely to be a good introduction to the non-gin-drinker. Some gin drinkers deride them, but they do have their place (just not in my glass).

This is a category that is likely to cause a little argument between gin-drinkers. Where is the line between a proper gin and a vodka-gin? I would personally put Bombay Sapphire into the vodka-gin category, but many wouldn’t.

That’s it really. Every gin I have tried falls loosely into one of these categories. There are plenty of other ways to categorise gins; Imbibe did a fantastic tasting of London gins (here) where the gins were placed on axes of citrus/floral and savoury/sweet. Part of me wonders if they missed something with their axes, but by far the greater part thinks that these people know a lot more about gin than I.

Tanqueray 10 Gin

 - by Dug

Another gin, another day. This time it is Tanqueray 10 Gin.

I am going to do this post in reverse order, with tasting notes first and the detail later. The reason for this being that I tasted this gin before reading anything about it, so came at it without any preconception.

Tanqueray No. Ten

Tanqueray No. Ten

I was quite excited when bringing this bottle home. Tanqueray 10 comes in a tall, slim, green, octagonal bottle with the label taking the appearance of a wax seal and ribbon. The bottle shape reminds me of a slightly less baroque version of the St Germain bottle, just with less pronounced scoops beneath the shoulder. The whole package exudes elegance and quality. The only thing that would top it off nicely would be to replace the slightly naff metallic plastic lid with something made of actual metal.

The smell was nothing special; not overloaded with juniper or any surprising subtlety. It was gin in that there bottle.

Sampling Tanqueray 10 neat was a little bit of a let-down. It is fairly smooth and is certainly a gin, but there was little to stand it above many others I have tried. Not a big hitter in the juniper department, it definitely has subtlties, but they are, by definition, very subtle; there is little that stands out or makes it unique.

The addition of water didn’t liberate much extra in the flavour department either.

However, for all its lack-lustre qualities when flying solo, the Tanqueray 10 absolutely came alive with tonic water.

As is becoming standard, I used Fever-Tree premium tonic water; the aroma driven off by the effervescence was distinctly gin but with fresh, bright undertones and some unidentified complexity. This was only magnified in the tasting which presents a perfectly balanced, yet not over-riding, mixture of juniper and citrus freshness with an underlying sweetness. The bright, crisp, initial taste was then followed up with a tail of tantalising familiarity; it was slightly pungent, floral and resinous – it reminded me of my essential oils box, but I couldn’t place it. I pondered for some time over three glasses of G&T but still couldn’t place that taste. In my ponderings, I kept coming back to frankincense but it was only ever a vague feeling rather than a confident identification.

There was only one way to solve the mystery (well, actually two, I could look up its botanicals, but where was the fun in that?) and that was to break out the essential oils. After a little while of removing those little caps and sniffing, I had came across the source of the unidentified taste – chamomile.

This exercise also highlighted that I could probably make my own gin from infusing various oils in a good vodka, but that is an experiment for another day.

Probing into the details of Tanqueray 10 on the internet, the Chamomile was confirmed as the stray taste. I wouldn’t have thought chamomile would have been at all pleasant in gin, but Tanqueray make it work extremely well. I have come across cocktail recipes that call for an infusion of chamomile tea or chamomile syrup, but I have always dismissed them as being a little too strange; but who knows now? All bets are off. In a G&T, the Tanqueray 10 makes an intriguing and delightful drink.

Anyway, on to the detail…

Tanqueray 10 is a quadruple distilled gin (note “distilled gin” not “London gin”) that uses hand-picked, whole-fruit, fresh botanicals from all over the globe. these include…

  • Juniper
  • Coriander
  • Grapefruit
  • Orange
  • Lime
  • Chamomile

Tanqueray is, as usual, very cagey with its botanical list and detail is in short supply.

No Ten is created in a small pot-still, called “tiny ten” and is overseen by Tanqueray’s Master Distiller, Tom Nicol. The bottle claims that No Ten makes a fine martini; while no expert on martinis, mixing one up made a very pleasing drink and while it was head and shoulders above my previous attempts at a martini, this could be down to me getting the gin/vermouth ratio right for once.

In conclusion, Tanqueray 10 makes a beautiful G&T and ranks up there with my all time greats. It stands tall and proud next to Whitley Neill and will likely be a common sight in my drinks cabinet; one to reach for when I am looking for a USP gin.