East Sussex in April. Gorgeous sunny skies belie vicious Arctic gale force winds. Surf pounding menacingly on the beach whilst nascent daffodils are buffeted horizontal. My hair has gone all Boris Johnson as I flee to the comfort of indoors at cocktail-o’clock, pondering what to drink? The Bourbon has been put to the back of the drinks cabinet, and it’s not quite Vodka weather. Rum would do in a pinch, but for a bracing, clean cocktail as refreshing as the wind, as full of promise as spring, it has to be Gin. Gin is an anagram of Spring.
Gin is seriously trendy right now. It is a neutral spirit flavoured with juniper and other botanicals such as citrus, coriander, angelica, and orris root which were thought to be remedies for kidney and stomach ailments, gallstones, and gout. Gin was discovered in the 16th century in Holland by English navy men during the Eighty Years’ War who noticed its calming effects before battle. So arose the expression “Dutch Courage”. When bark from the Peruvian Cinchona tree was proven as an anti-malarial, its active ingredient quinine was infused into tonic water. Thus the Gin & Tonic became an iconic drink of the British Empire.
For me, gin is an effective remedy for extended seasonal affective disorder brought on by ghastly English winters. An olive branch of hope…
Gin starts its life as a clear distilled spirit from fermented grain or grapes. What gives it character, is its re-distillation with a number of flavouring agents, one of which must be juniper. This flavouring can be added via a “tea-bag” of botanicals steeped or infused into the base spirit, or via a suspended steam basket of botanicals through which the vapour passes on its way to becoming gin. Flavours can also be added after the second distillation is complete, but then it can no longer be called London Gin.
There are over 120 different gins available in the UK. Gins have scent and taste profiles as unique and personal as fine perfumes. Some are brilliant for cocktails, others are less sociable with mixers. More on different gins in future posts. Here is my cocktail of the moment to welcome spring, or rather mourn its delay.Spring Tease– fruity and refreshing, light bodied, coloured like a spring sunset
- 1/8 pink grapefruit cut into chunks with the peel attached
- fresh mint sprig
- scant 1/4 teaspoon sugar
- Angostura bitters
- 2 oz. gin
- tonic water