I don’t need to remind you Dear Reader that I have a passion for gin. Not your run-of-the-mill, bog-standard, supermarket gin. Now, I’m not dismising it because it has a place in every drink but I like gins with a story. Saturday 10th June is World Gin Day and here is my list of favourites.
I love that Brighton got fully behind the gin revolution and their organic British grain spirit isn’t one to miss. The first legal distillery in the City, locals have made Brighton Gin their own, and it’s on sale in over 100 stockists from The Grand Hotel to independent off-licences. It’s not hard to miss.
I love everything about the packaging, the blue which is the same colour as the promenade railings, the wax top, the label printed on a bus ticket from yesteryear. Look closer, and you’ll see the Brighton Pavilion and some reasons why it’s Gin from the Sussex seaside City. Expect milk thistle, juniper, coriander seed, fresh orange peel, lime and angelica root. The distillery team recommends tonic with a slice of orange. Warm citrus notes give the gin a softer side in the mouth, but the juniper and milk thistle remains apparent. Perfect with tonic, it works well in a Martini, sipped over ice with a slice of orange, and their take on The Aviation isn’t too shabby either. They’ve kindly shared one of their cocktail recipes with me for World Gin Day.
World Gin Day Cocktail Recipe
A delicious creation from Scott Mather, the Head Bartender of RustiKo on Soho’s Old Compton Street
50ml Brighton Gin
25ml Violette Britottet
Juice of a lemon
10ml Maraschino Luxardo Liqueur
Shake over ice and serve with cocktail cherry with stem.
If you can lay your hands on them, treat yourself to a jar of Luxardo Maraschino cherries.
Gin Mare is what I’d call a savoury gin. It’s from Spain, Barcelona to be precise, heavy on the herbs and most likely served with smashed Basil and a sweet tomato. It joins a very short list of herb gins on the market, and the botanicals include basil, rosemary, olives and thyme. See what I mean about savoury? Mr’s favourite gin and now a regular favourite in our household.
A little closer to home, my home, in London I have two fantastic distilleries Sipsmith and Silent Pool one in Chiswick, the other in Albury.
Silent Pool is a floral and fresh gin and a ‘holdtheanchoviesplease’ staple. If it needed a label, it would fit into the floral gin category. There’s a bold sweet elderflower on the initial sip, overtaken by citrus and pepper. Not overly complicated with the taste of Juniper either. It’s a well balanced, subtle gin, served with a sliver of orange peel in a gin and tonic.
If you want to know more about this fantastic gin, made in the most unexpected place, have a look at this short video I made of the Distillery.
Sipsmith is another cracker.
There’s a great menu of ingredients in this London Dry Gin which is spicy and full of character. Perfect Martini gin. Juniper Berries, Coriander seed, Angelia, Liquorice, Orris, almond, cassia bark, cinnamon, orange and lemon peel are the botanicals involved, but it’s few that play a starring role. The liquorice cleverly balances out the tannins in the other botanicals. Expect a deep juniper note with a citrus kick that keeps on punching its way through. Rounded and smooth it’s a mixer and a sipper. Serve with a decent tonic and a generous wedge of lime. Even though the brand’s been snapped up recently by Beam Suntory, the world’s third-largest spirits company, the trio of founders are still overseeing the business. A bottle of this and I promise you’ll not go wrong.
For a little magic, Sharish is a gin to wow.
From Portugal, this gin begins blue and ends up a beautiful pink when the pH balance changes. This happens when you add tonic to the alcohol. So much fun, the ‘magic’ happens because the distiller uses a blue pea flower in the distillation. But it’s not just the wow factor that helps it onto my Gin List for World Gin Day. This gin is smooth, full of citrus notes and has a marvellous apple aroma. Botanicals include juniper, coriander seeds, cinnamon, clove, bourbon vanilla, apple, lemon verbena, orange and lemon peel. More about its colour-changing properties here.
I love this story. Pothecary started life in a spare bedroom in Dorset. Two friends were fed up with rubbish gin in bars and decided to do something about it. They made what they thought was an alright mix, entered it into the San Francisco World Spirits Competition in 2016 expecting some honest expert feedback and landed a double-gold. I should mention that they’ve added a couple of IWSC Silvers to that by the way. To an English grain base, they make each botanical separately – all hand-foraged, in essence, organic and include Lavender from Provence, Anatolian mulberries, Tilia flowers wild-foraged in Poland and of course Juniper, without forgetting the Sicilian Lemon – before blending them together. It’s smooth enough to be sipped neat, but stands its ground in a G&T. I loved it in a Negroni.
I’m sure they’ll be double the list next year. Let me know your thoughts on my select list and your favourite gin.
A short video about The Silent Pool Distillery and the perfect gin serve
It’s a special Asparagus season this year because it’s the first for the Vale of Evesham under its new protected status. It now enjoys an elite group from potatoes to Champagne which is great news for the growers. Green asparagus, grown within the defined geographical area of the Vale, produced between the months of April and July can legitimately carry the PDO label. The point is that this status helps combat imitators and increases competition throughout Europe. Good news too, post-Brexit, for those protected food products should be able to keep their PDO if Britain ensures there’s reciprocity with European growers.
The Vale has been growing asparagus since at least 1768, and the annual Asparagus Festival attracts lovers of the vegetable from all around the world. Saint George’s Day marks the start of the Asparagus season, ending in June.
Traditionally matched with a good Hollandaise Sauce, there’s nothing quite like freshly picked Asparagus direct from the source.
If you can’t make it to Evesham, keep an eye out for it in the shops.
To buy Asparagus at its best, look for firm and tender stalks with good colour and closed tips. In my experience, the thicker the asparagus, the better the taste. Once picked it starts to deteriorate so if you can eat on the day you buy it. A good way to store is in a damp kitchen towel. Before you eat it, you’ll need to snap off the woody base. They break exactly where the delicate stalk ends, and the woody part begins. Wash in cold water. Boil or Steam (the latter being my preference) until al dente. You can buy an asparagus steamer which cooks the spears from the bottom, allowing the delicate tips to remain so.
Here’s the only Hollandaise Recipe you’ll need.
Hollandaise Recipe (adapted from Julia Childs recipe)
3 egg yolks
1 tbsp water
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
225g, melted unsalted butter
A little cayenne pepper
Salt and ground pepper to taste
Add egg yolks the water and lemon juice to a bowl and blend. Melt the butter in a microwave then add slowly with a stick blender or whisk. Add salt and cayenne.
Tip the sauce over the lightly steamed Asparagus.
Syon Park is one of the last great houses of London and has been the home of the Duke of Northumberland, whose family, the Percys, have lived here for more than 400 years. It’s hard to believe when you walk around the grounds that you’re in the capital, just nine miles from Covent Garden.
If you’re a fan of the Channel 4 programme Time Team, in Series 11 the programme carried out some excavation work. What they revealed was Syon Abbey. A large, wealthy monastery for nuns of an obscure Swedish order. During the reign of Henry VIII, it vanished. Beneath the Park’s lawns, they reveal the foundations of a house and church.
Often hired for films, it’s taken a starring role in the Tim Burton film ‘Alice Through the Looking Glass’ as well as fashion shoots and fashion shorts.
Syon Park Landscaping
Capability Brown turned his hand to the 40 acres of gardens and the Great Conservatory built by Charles Fowler in the 1820’s.
Like most huge houses with grounds, the upkeep is phenomenal. Most of the buildings are available for private and corporate hire, the Conservatory is a wedding favourite.
There’s also a nearby Garden Centre and a rather nice looking Hilton.
I took a stroll around the gardens, and it’s beyond beautiful. Here are a few images from the two-hour or so walk. If it’s sunny, do take a picnic and your binoculars. There are plenty of private spaces to lay out a blanket and enjoy nature. In April, there’s a riot of colour from Azaleas, Rhododendrons and huge Prickly Rhubarb.
For more details on Syon Park, including admission and opening times, visit their website.
Le Pain Quotidien is doing a fabulous job by reducing and offsetting its carbon emissions, but it’s aiming high. LPQ will be carbon neutral in all of its restaurants by 2020. So what better way than to host a dinner to talk about what carbon neutrality means in practice.
It’s rare I don’t eat meat. Don’t get me wrong, I can go without it, but I just know how to handle it as an ingredient. Plants I’m not too sure of. Le Pain Quotidien or LPQ has always impressed me, and when I get an invite to one of their events, I always try to be there. Their City branch, right outside Monument tube was the venue for a Vegan supper, celebrating their carbon neutral status.
The menu wasn’t altogether appealing as a meat-lover, but as ever, LPQ pulled off a magnificent feast.
LPQ Green Credentials
Not to forget the point of the evening, there was an informal address from the advisory group co2logic who measure and pinpoint where and how to change. So how does this chain, known throughout the world, manage it? Well, they calculate their carbon emissions, reduce and offset them and invest in a carbon reducing project. They’ve chosen to invest in UpEnergy Group’s cook stove project which provides Ugandan communities with an alternative to their three stone fires. In the restaurants, it’s looking at cooking and cooling mechanisms, materials used in-store from seating to lighting, delivery to waste.
The Menage à Trois is a favourite of Alain Coumont, the chain’s founder, and the base hummus recipe is in his cookbook Le Pain Quotidien Cookbook. Three small bowls of beetroot, roasted carrot and chickpea hummus were scooped out with vegetable sticks and bread.
Chilli Sin Carne is also in the cookbook, and this vegan bean chilli’s main ingredient is tofu. I didn’t feel denied of meat in the slightest. It was a bowl of delicious and my dining partner was pretty impressed.
The Pot Au Feu was full to brimming with chunky vegetables, and quinoa and served with more LPUK bread.
Just in case we had room, an organic lentil and avocado salad was a bright plate of freshly shaved fennel, raw slaw, chickpeas, drizzled with a basil vinaigrette.
A wedge of Pear and Chocolate Cake was next and a portion too far, so we shared this and the chia seed and coconut milk pudding.
Did I say that this veritable feast was washed down with free-flowing wine for those who wanted?
“Good For You And Good For The Planet” indeed.