Earlier this month, I made a pilgrimage to Berry Bros. & Rudd, ostensibly to get a birthday present for someone (a bottle of their tremendous No3 Gin), but when checking the site to find out how to get there, I noticed that the also sell something called Good Ordinary Gin. So, I bought a bottle of each.
Information on this gin is pretty hard to find, and other than it being a London Dry gin that is distilled in London using the “highest quality organic botanicals”, I can find nothing about it. So, no botanical list today. Something I do know: it’s 40% ABV.
The packaging is a fairly basic spirit bottle and is faced with a pretty no-frills label. While it does have a real cork it does lack the design and elegance of No3.
The aroma from the bottle-top is very heavily juniper-laden and it does indeed smell like good ordinary gin.
Sampled neat, this is a juniper-heavy gin. It’s incredibly dry with an aggressive bite, leaving an astringent after-burn lingering in the mouth long after it has gone down; robust coriander and citrus.
Adding a little water mellows this gin somewhat and brings out some creaminess. It still has that burning heat in the after-taste but, truth be told, this gin is probably the one gin that I have tried that changes the most with a little dash of water – it’s an interesting transformation.
In a G&T it delivers a very classic, forthright drink but still has a slightly raw, aggressive feel about it. It’s almost like No3’s slightly unrefined country-cousin – juniper-heavy, dry and refreshing but lacking the balance and refinement of properly premium gins.
The addition of a healthy wedge of lime, squeezed to liberate juice, really adds something to the G&T; a lusciousness and a rounding component that knocks some of the edges off.
Ultimately, Berry Bros. & Rudd have “done a Cuprinol” here; Good Ordinary Gin does what it says on the bottle and it will appeal to the lover of assertive, forthright gins. However, at £20 a bottle, Tanqueray only costs a few quid more and I am not sure the price-point is pitched quite right for its quality.
Sipsmith bought out their Summer Cup last year but I managed to miss it; life and its limited retail distribution conspired to keep it from my grubby mitts. However, during the same trip to Waitrose that I acquired a bottle of Bulldog gin, I also saw, gleaming on the shelf, the newly repackaged Summer Cup – so, like Gollum clutching his precious, I scurried away with a bottle, hissing and whispering to myself.
The bottle, like all Sipsmith products, it’s really nicely presented with a yellow label containing the characteristic swan-necked still with a spray of summer flowers. The bottle is a tall elegant affair with the heavy bottom that you expect from Sipsmith.
Strangely there is no wax seal that you usually find on the top of Sipsmith’s bottles. Maybe they couldn’t get the correct shade of yellow. It is, however, capped with a branded yellow cork, so not all of the opening pleasures are lost.
The liquid itself is a slightly cloudy, rusty autumnal red, which contrasts beautifully with the yellow branding.
Anyway, enough of the packaging, it’s the drink that really counts.
Summer Cup is created by macerating Sipsmith Gin with a variety of different ingredients. The exact list is difficult to piece together but includes Early Grey tea, Lemon Verbena, Orange, Cardamom and Cucumber.
The aroma has a distinctive cucumber twang that is layered with citrus and black tea.
Neat – (over ice and strawberry slices)
I think drinking this neat might be my favourite way of enjoying Summer Cup. It is strong and flavoursome with a terrific balance of sweetness and bitterness – almost reminiscent of a negroni. The tea is probably the most dominant flavour and there are hints of citrus, cardamom, juniper and herbal leaves coming through (maybe thyme?). Saying that, it is so well balanced that it is very hard to isolate individual botanicals – it’s sweet, dry, herbal, fruity, spicy and awesome.
Eating the strawberries after finishing the drink was rather tasty. I might even try Summer Cup as a dressing for a fruit salad (instead of the usual Kirsch).
I tried mixing with mainstream lemonade to start with (I can’t remember if it was Sprite or 7-up). It was about as cloying as I was expecting, but it did a really good job of lifting the flavours and bringing a lot more of the herbal and spice notes out.
I tried different ratios from 2:1 to 5:1 – the sweet spot for me seems to be about 2.5:1.
Seeking something a little less sweet, I laid my hands on some San Pellegrino limonata, which is deliciously tart and intensely lemony on its own. Mixing the Summer Cup with this was a delight; gone was the cloying sweetness and it was injected with a lemon explosion. The mix of leon, tea, spice and fruit was really very refreshing and uplifting.
With lemon and mint drink
I can’t remember what it is called but, in my quest for a sharper lemonade, I found a little bottle of lemon and mint drink in Tesco and thought it might be a good mixer for the Summer Cup.
I wasn’t far wrong. The combination of lemon and mint made for a really refreshing drink and it was no way near as sweet as mainstream lemonade. You need to mix is fairly strong (say 2:1) otherwise the lemon and mint tends to be a bit overpowering. Worth seeking out though.
With a G&T
Oh boy, this was fantastic. First, the recipe.
- 2 oz Sipsmith Gin
- 0.5 oz Sipsmith Summer Cup
- 200ml Fever-Tree Mediterranean Tonic Water
I have always liked Fever-Tree’s Mediterranean tonic; the geranium adds a great floral depth to certain G&Ts, but mixing it with a little Sipsmith Summer Cup really makes for an uplifting summer drink. It is no way near as sweet as the various lemon drinks I tried and the combination of geranium and Summer Cup brings a cracking whiff of the summer garden to an already light and refreshing drink.
I suppose, in some ways, it is a predictable choice coming from me, but I do urge that you to try it.
David at Summer Fruit Cup suggested that the Summer Cup works well in a negroni, as a substitute for the sweet vermouth. This was a very interesting negroni variant but I don’t quite know where to begin. It seems to make it both more bitter and sweeter at the same time. The Summer Cup adds a lot of more prominent herbal notes to the negroni and makes it more intense than the conventional mix. I am not convinced by it though – on the balance of things, I think I prefer the traditional negroni.
In short, I truly enjoyed my bottle of Sipsmith Summer Cup. It is versatile and fun. I think its only down-side is that there isn’t enough in the bottle.