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”.
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?
“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).
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.
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.
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.
Published in the saturday extra magazine June 13, 2015
Gin Monkey had so much to tell me …. you can read more here