It’s World Gin Day … hurry up and grab the ice!

Today, my dear friends is World Gin Day. A day to celebrate the lovely spirit which eases us at the end of the 9-5; which is delightful with ice on a summer’s eve; and is a relaxing sip with pals. Yes, it has its own day.

I spoke to the enigmatic Gin Monkey (I’m not revealing identities) who now organises World Gin Day. The concept of the day is simple, says Gin Monkey.

It is to get people drinking gin and “celebrate the spirit in all its juniper-filled-glory”.

World Gin Day
World Gin Day

OK, Gin Monkey, explain the history of G&T and why we Brits love it so much.

“The history goes back to India and the army of the British East India Company.

“Malaria was rife, and quinine powder made from the bark of a native tree was known to prevent the disease.

“The problem was that the powder had a very bitter flavour and was therefore often mixed with sugar and carbonated water to make it more palatable, effectively creating tonic water.

“Given the army received a gin ration, it was only a matter of time before the spirit was incorporated.

“When the army returned to Britain, they brought a taste for this drink with them and the rest, as they say, is history.”

So, I asked, it’s about botanicals. Is that right?

World Gin Day , Gin Monkey
Gin Monkey

“Absolutely, the botanicals are what make gin different from other spirits, and particularly the juniper berry. Without juniper your spirit is merely a flavoured vodka.”

Gin and tonic is the popular way to enjoy gin, but Gin Monkey says a great alternative is a Tom Collins, a mix of lemon juice, sugar syrup, gin and soda water.

Says Gin Monkey: “It’s long and refreshing like a G&T. I often recommend it for people who don’t like tonic water.

“There are hundreds of classic cocktails that feature gin. In the cocktail ‘golden age’ of the 1930s vodka was pretty much unheard of in the western world.

“When it came to white spirits, everybody drank gin.

“Consequently there are countless gin cocktails in classic cocktail books. My favourites are citrus-led such as the White Lady, Aviation or Last Word.”

Thanks Gin Monkey.

To mark World Gin Day I tried three new gins (well, new to me) simply with ice and Fever-Tree Tonic (£1.69, Tesco).

World Gin Day Warner Edwards’ Victoria’s Rhubarb Gin
Warner Edwards’ Victoria’s Rhubarb Gin

Warner Edwards’ Victoria’s Rhubarb Gin (various retailers or £38 online www.warneredwards.com) – I can’t tell you how much I love this. Don’t for one minute think this is a sweet rhubarb crumble confection. With a topple of tonic it has divine aromas (a little sarsparilla) from its dusky pink depths. It uses rhubarb originally grown in Queen Victoria’s garden.

World Gin Day Portobello Road Gin
Portobello Road Gin

Portobello Road Gin (RRP £25 Waitrose, Tesco) – It was founded in 2011 and has won a gold medal at the 2014 San Francisco Spirit Awards. It has nine botanicals, including juniper, coriander seed and orange peel; spicy ones too – liquorice, nutmeg and cassia bark. You won’t be disappointed. We loved this fresh, silky gin in our house. We’ve stocked up with a second bottle.

World Gin Day Edgerton Pink Gin
Edgerton Pink Gin

Edgerton Pink Gin (£24.70 www.31dover.com) – This owes its lush pink colour to pomegranate, and incudes 15 botanicals.

These range from damiana (the honeymoon herb of Mexico, apparently) and more familiar ones such as angelica root and lemon peel. Initially I found this too bitter for my taste; but I explored their website and found a recipe for Tokyo Pink which includes Rose’s lime juice. I tippled a tiny amount into my pink gin. And lo! This was very moreish indeed.

Happy World Gin Day.

Check out www.worldginday.com for more details and events. You’ll find Gin Monkey at www.ginmonkey.co.uk

Published in the saturday extra magazine June 13, 2015

Liverpool Echo – South Wales Echo – Daily Post Wales – Huddersfield Examiner – The Chronicle, Newcastle – Teesside Evening Gazette – Birmingham  Mail – Coventry Telegraph – Paisley Daily Express

Gin Monkey had  so much to tell me …. you can read more here

 

Wines from 31dover.com team put to the taste test

Chablis Hipster ultraviolet wine bottle review

The only thing I’ve ever associated with wine, which glows in the dark, is yours truly. My pinkish nose and a wine flush around the cheeks are enough to brighten anyone’s journey once the sun goes down.

But I’ve discovered a gadgety-kind of wine bottle which glows in the dark too …  William Fèvre Limited Edition Hipster Chablis 2013 (£16.99 from 31dover.com) has   60s-style imagery created in ultraviolet ink, which reveals “hidden designs” when placed under black light.

Chablis Hipster ultraviolet wine review
Chablis Hipster ultraviolet wine

Or so I’m told. I couldn’t quite work out how to embrace the challenge of this light-up-in-the-dark party bottle, sent to me by the 31dover.com team. To be honest, I was a little taken aback that  Chablis had been robed in a gimmick.  But if it reaches a new market of “young urban wine drinkers” can that be so wrong?

Well let’s see.  I forgot the gimmick and tasted the wine. It’s a pale lemon colour with hints of honey and stewed apple on the nose, and a frizazz of apple-bursting acidity which liven up the tastebuds after a long dreary, wet October journey home.

The 31dover team sent me some other wines, and I enlisted the help of some Tasting Elves (is it too early for that?? OK, some Tasting Pumpkins to a) share the love and b) so you don’t have to read my   comments all the time.   This is what my Pumpkins say.  

Chablis Broc de Biques Damien & Romain Bouchard 2012
Chablis Broc de Biques Damien & Romain Bouchard

First up, another Chablis.  Chablis Broc de Biques Damien & Romain Bouchard 2012 (£14.49) This promised ‘ripe fruit, lightly brushed with honey’ and ‘classic Chablis notes of chalk and oyster shells’. I have never eaten oyster shells or chalk so I don’t know about those but it was bursting with apple and melon flavours and had a creamy, buttery after-taste which made it go down oh-so easily. A bit too easily in fact! Worked a treat with a chorizo risotto.

Chateau Grand Tayac Margaux 2007 (£13.99) is from one of the most famous Bordeaux appellations – although at the cheaper end of the Margaux spectrum – it’s a very affordable introduction to ‘proper’ Claret that will impress dinner party guests.

Chateau Grand Tayac Margaux 2007
Chateau Grand Tayac Margaux 2007

A sophisticated, perfumed nose with a hint of spice leads into subtle fruit flavours of plum and raspberry with a hint of liquorice.  There’s a complexity to the initial flavour that dissolves into a simpler, satisfying finish – a bit like watching Lionel Messi beat five defenders with a mazy run before scoring with a simple tap-in.

Mas D'Amile Old Vine Carignan 2010 wine review
Mas D’Amile Old Vine Carignan 2010

Mas D’Amile Old Vine Carignan 2010 (£8.99) This medium-bodied red from the Languedoc region of the south of France certainly packs a punch. A deep, ruby red I could taste the dark fruits and strong tannins of the carignan grape. It’s supposed to have hints  of lavender and thyme but I didn’t get any depth of aromas on sniffing my glass.  A bold wine.

Senorio de Orlartia Rioja wine review
Senorio de Orlartia Rioja

The Senorio de Olartia Reserva 2004 is a velvety and mellow Rioja. It’s not a hugely robust red but with flavours of red fruit paired with hints of vanilla and spice it can still hold its own with meat dishes.   As you would expect from a Reserva it strikes a good balance between its fruitier or more strongly oak flavoured Rioja counterparts with its smooth finish making it an easy drinking choice.

Sara & Sara Friulano wine review
Sara & Sara Friulano

A final one from me.  Sara & Sara Friulano 2010 (£9.49) An interesting wine which delivered an extra flavour, an extra aroma, every time I dipped in the glass. Deep golden, it had creamy honeyed notes on the nose; extravagant peaches which have been dowsed in liqueur for a Christmas treat. The aromas reminded me of a dessert wine like a Sauternes, but flattered with spice.  To taste, spicy and dry, not much fruit.

Published  in the saturday extra magazine October 11, 2014 

Liverpool Echo – South Wales Echo – Daily Post Wales – Huddersfield Examiner – The Chronicle, Newcastle – Teesside Evening Gazette – Birmingham  Mail – Coventry Telegraph – Paisley Daily Express