By: Missy & Dan, creators of gin pop-up Bitters and Bone
Not many people know that the iconic combination of Gin & Tonic happened in the early 19th century in India, as a way for the British Army to dodge the mosquitos, use up their gin rations and even combat scurvy with the twist of lime! Rewind back a couple centuries and gin basically began life as a type of vodka – a flavourless base spirit. (So, to all those vodka, lime and soda swiggers – gin could still be your drink)! It’s the distilling and infusing of botanicals into the base spirit that creates that iconic fresh gin flavour. And this is what we are absolutely fascinated by.
Gin is an incredibly complex and satisfying taste – a drink packed with botanicals. When we subtly manipulate these botanicals, we can completely recreate the balance of flavours – highlighting florals, spices, woods or bitters. The infusion process itself is a test of time and patience, and an awful lot of 10am gin tasting!
Obviously, gin would be nothing without tonic. Tonic is a fizzy, sugary water with quinine – harvested first by the Quechua tribe of Peru as a muscle relaxant from a bark known as the Fever-Tree. It was then brought to Europe in the 17th century to treat malaria.
And gin is now having a resurgence! Since the fabulous guys over at Sipsmith won their two-year legal battle with HMRC for the rights to produce gin in small quantities, small batch gin producers are popping up all over the country. So, come and join in on the craze! But, don’t make the mistake of thinking any old G&T is all you’re able to get! Make sure you’re on your G&T game with our 4 tips of the trade:
Gin Tip #1: Don’t let the bartender confuse you
Confusing times when the bartender asks which gin you’d like?! What gives different gins their flavours is all down to the botanicals used. So, here’s a quick run-down of the Big Four and their Botanicals:
Tanqueray No 10 – Made up of 8 botanicals: juniper, coriander, angelica root, liquorice, fresh lime, fresh orange, white grapefruit and camomile flowers. Why not pick up on the grapefruit botanical with a slice of pink grapefruit garnish.
Gordon’s – 7 botanicals: juniper berries, coriander seeds, angelica root, liquorice, orris root, orange and lemon peel. This is your typical London dry with heavy juniper and citrus from the orange and lemon peel. Use some lemon peel spirals as garnish (with a twist to let the oils break out) or a lemon wedge to pick up on those citrus notes.
Beefeater – 9 botanicals: juniper, angelica root, angelica seeds, coriander seeds, liquorice, almonds, orris root, seville oranges, and lemon peel. This is another London dry, similar to Gordon’s. Why not this time use orange peel spirals with a twist to pick up on those Seville oranges.
Bombay Sapphire – 10 botanicals: juniper berries, citrus, angelica, orris root, coriander, liquorice, cassia bark, almonds, cubeb berries and West African grains of paradise. There are a lot of botanicals going on here! Look to keep the garnish simple. With the gin full of Indian spices, and with a nod to the British Army’s fight against scurvy, why not try it with a twist of lime!
Gin Tip #2: Tonic is a Tease
You don’t need all that tonic! Tonic is sweet and distracting. The standard split is a 3:1 tonic to gin, while for a double it’s a 2:1 split. Through our many tastings we find that the 3:1 split hides the flavour of the gin while the 2:1 is overpowered by the alcohol. We’ve therefore settled on a 2.5:1, with a generous serving of gin (40ml) and 100ml of tonic. So next time you have a G&T on the hop, try it with just half a bottle of tonic.
Gin Tip #3: The Scent Don’t Cost a Thing
For J.Lo, it was love – for us, it’s the scent. Garnish makes a massive difference as noted above. Our sense of smell influences what we taste in a big way. If you’re cooking up a little snifter at home, throw in something you have lying around the kitchen – a sprig of rosemary, a slice of chilli or cucumber. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at the difference.
Gin Tip #4: Maximum Food for Maximum Impact
Just like wine, different gin infusions work better with different types of food. But don’t worry – we’ve done the hard work for you. Teaming up with Chit Chaat Chai, we’ve created a completely bespoke 5-course gin infusion and Indian street food pairing menu – to be served at our Supper Club on 6th April.
We’ve chosen our flavour combinations based on the tasting notes of the original gin and how these pair with a kick of additional infusion. For instance, we’re super excited by our clove infused gin, which pairs perfectly with Chit Chaat Chai’s delicious spicy Haka Wings. While researching traditional Indian flavour and spice (yes, eating counts as research!), we hit on the magical combination of a delicate clove, enhancing a gin with strong nutmeg and Angelica root (celery-like) flavours.
We’ve got some incredibly interesting flavour combinations to match the dinner menu – rhubarb infusions with a pomegranate garnish and a gin infused with a hand-blended 5-spice masala chai. Want to try these out for yourself?
About Missy & Dan
We are Missy & Dan, a couple passionate about gin, with an eye for detail and a penchant for adventure! Through Bitters and Bone, our gin pop-up, we’ve sought to create an experience that reflects the familiar comfort of a well-made G&T, but one that also pushes new flavours, sounds and textures.
There is something truly magical about the quest for the very heart of flavour – its definition, its characteristics and the mastery of its recreation. This is what we do at Bitters and Bone. We chase the essence of how a deceptively simple ingredient, the bitters in a drink or the bone in a stock, can take the palette on an entirely new journey.