Thursday, 8 August 2013

Gincident 2013, by The Liquorists

Awesome photograph taken by the talented  Pete Sheppard of Tone Photographer

The notion of a 'booze cruise' first entered my consciousness at the tender age of thirteen, on a family holiday in the Greek islands. Having previously developed a taste for melon flavoured 20/20, it probably would have been right up my street, had my parents been reckless enough to allow me out of their sight long enough to get cast away. Fortunately the days of teenage holidays with parents are long gone, my penchant for alcopops has developed into a full-blown love affair with good quality spirits, and the concept of a 'booze cruise' has a brand new meaning, thanks to the Liquorists 'Gincident'...
Messa-GIN a bottle. CHORTLE.

By no means seasoned Liquorist trailers, we did once before experience the delights of copious amounts of educational booze on the Ceylon Arrack trail. Though a fun-filled evening, the hopping from bar to bar left us feeling older than our years, and so the idea of a nice long sit down accompanied by gin delights left us experiencing sheer delight that we could both booze and wear slippers.

As soon as we stepped on board the good ship Liquorists, a very fine G&T was thrust into our hands. The boozy tour guides impressed upon us the importance of the Fever Tree tonic. None of that Schweppes shit here, ladies and gents, only the finest on one of these ol' trails. It is actually pretty damn good, and when I'm feeling a little flush I splash out on the good stuff. If it's good enough for Ferran Adria, it's good enough for me. Oh and the G in that tree was Martin Miller's. He does hotels too. Gin and hotels? OF COURSE.

Cured salmon and cucumber. Saved me from a hangover.
We were eased in gently to a night of gin, ensuring we had a good ol' feed. All of the food was served 'sharing style', which was surprisingly tidy considering we were on a floating vehicle, and was also bloody delicious. The best dish of the night was a juniper-cured salmon, served with a delectable cucumber and dill salad. It was so good, the braver-than-I Good Gobble stole a portion from the next table for me. Thanks guys! We also devoured posh chicken wings and a couscous dish served with ham hock, which universally appeared to be the best couscous dish anyone around our table had ever eaten.Whilst it's certainly not about the food on a Liquorists trail, it's good to know it's a whole lot more than an afterthought, and we were ready for our boozing completely sated.

For the uninitiated, the Gincident cruise takes place on a barge, meandering around Manchester's canals. Floating on the water, the cocktails - ya know, the reason why we were here! - are a tasty accompaniment or distraction to the weather out there, so it's worth a trip come rain or shine. We were lucky to be on board on one of the nicest days of the year. OH YEAH, THE COCKTAILS...

Hogarth's Fizz
First up was Hogarth's Fizz. IT WERE REET GOOD. Sorry, that must have been the um, Northern sailor in me. (No, no, not Alan). Something akin to a gin fizz, using Plymouth gin, it was given the Liquorists treatment with an addition of camomile syrup. Now I'm more used to drinking the earth apple (I totally didn't find out that's its other name from Wikipedia. Nope. Not me) before beddy-bos, so I wasn't sure how it was going to slip down in a gin cocktail. The taste, however, was reasonably subtle, and this fella proved to be one of my favourites of the night.

Next up was the um, wittily named Message G-In A Bottle. These guys, they don't just know booze ya know, they know WORDS TOO. And are obvz massive Police fans. Winning all round really. They'd gone to a fair amount of effort with this one, making me feel like the poshest hobo there ever was, drinking out of my specially branded paper bag. It didn't even taste like White Lightning - extra points! Sincerely, it tasted pretty awesome - they'd gone to great lengths to create their own ginger beer, if my memory serves me correctly, mixed with more of the hotelier's gin and a little taste of the Orient with a whisper of Jasmine tea. They don't do things by halves, these boys.

La Floraison D'Etre
Other very drinkable delights came in the form of a Sitting in an English Garden - essentially a better version of here's-one-we-made-earlier using Bloom Gin, with added strawberry liqueur. They'd also got their hands on an even better version of Fever Tree's tonic - this one with elderflower. Basically my favourite edible flower, so I drank this in double quick time...... leaving me not quite so forthcoming when it came to the Blossom Will Be. A pretty little number, using G'Vine gin - but perhaps the addition of white wine didn't sit so well in my delicate-as-a-flower tummy. That was fine though as my table partners happily indulged in extras.

The last cocktail of the night, and the one I'd most been looking forward to, having heard that Jamie Jones - one of the Liquorists moonlighters - had pretty much been crowned the KING OF GIN for was La Floraison D'Etre. G'Vine Floraison - as opposed to their Nouaison used in their earlier cocktail - is mixed with egg white, lemon, olive oil and pink peppercorns. The G'Vine products are a French-style gin; they are therefore made with grape spirit and each of the two have distinctly different flavours. The one in question here offering a more 'floral' and, I suppose, wine-like quality to it, marrying beautifully with the spice from the pepper and the unctuous oil. I expect the cocktail we were served up on the night wasn't quite the same recipe as that which won Jamie Jones the gin crown, but it was a well-balanced drink that was worth the wait.

We were invited on the trail and thus drank for free. Gin can't buy my love though it can buy Jamie's (that's my other half not the gin king), so in the interests of fairness I was tasked with writing up this booze cruise. At £55, it might not sound 'cheap', but I reckon it's bloody good value: five expertly mixed cocktails, a G&T (or two!), food to line the tummy and a tour of the world-renowned (ahem) Manchester canals. Thank God I never did embark upon one of those Ouzo-filled boat trips as a naive teen: good things do come to those who wait...

Go on, book on...who could say no to that jacket? Clearly not the gin king.
The Liquorists have got loads more of these Gincident trips planned. You can book on here!

All photos provided by Tone Photographer (he's alright innee?!).

Monday, 8 July 2013

Recipe: our English Garden Martini

We'd just booked a holiday and the next pay day seemed like a lifetime away. Sainsbury's sent an e-mail asking whether anyone would like a free bottle of gin to write about their 'perfect serve'. As supermarket spirits increasingly overtake well-known industry producers in the International Spirits Challenge awards, it seemed like now was a good time to sell-out and accept a product freebie...

Sainsbury's Taste the Difference Blackfriars Gin  recently won 'gold' in the aforementioned awards, flying past renowned brand names such as Hendrick's, BLOOM, Bombay Sapphire, and even Gin Mare (Jamie's personal fave). Whilst we're yet to try it in a classic Martini, which I suppose is one of the best tests of taste, the cocktail I did make it in was bloody delicious. So here's my 'perfect serve', ideal for the spate of super sunny weather we're currently having...

Whilst the gin was perfectly quaffable in a standard G&T, I wanted to do something a bit different with it, and so decided to create a cold infusion with cucumber. Using the same quantities of cucumber and gin (I used 200g and 200ml - any amount will work, but as this was the first time I was to make it, I wanted to check that it was drinkable first!). Next time, I'm likely to use a full bottle...

Firstly, you'll want to peel your cucumber and chop the hell out of the slippery green thing. Add the same amount of liquid and get whizzing with a hand blender: you'll want a vessel with high sides so you don't give yourself a surprise face mask. Once blended, you'll refrigerate this mixture for a number of hours - the longer the better. (Heston suggests 16).

We were being a bit fancy pants though and popped ours in one of our vacuum seal tubs - which meant that after just a couple of hours, the cucumber flavour had really penetrated the gin. Once the gin has infused for the proposed amount of time, it will need to be fine-strained to remove the cucumber mush! (I reckon someone cleverer than I could turn this mush into some sort of gin-infused cucumber granita...)

This is a little bit time-consuming, but unless you want a cucumber smoothie, totally necessary! I then decided to use this cucumber-infused gin in a taken on the modern-classic 'English Garden Martini'. I cannot reiterate how refreshing this cucumber gin is - it's actually dangerously drinkable... I would thoroughly recommend making a huge vat of this for barbecues this summer. This is most definitely my 'perfect serve' and the gin-aficionado that is Jamie even said that it was one of the best gin martinis he's ever had. High praise indeed! We loved this one so much that we're considering serving it at our next supper club...

English Garden Martini

50ml     Taste the Difference Blackfriar's Gin infused with cucumber
75ml     Cloudy apple juice
12.5ml  Lime juice
7ml       Elderflower cordial
7 - 10   Mint leaves

1. Gently bruise mint leaves with muddler (or rolling pin)
2. Squeeze lime juice into glass part of cocktail shaker
3. Add remaining ingredients and fill glass with ice
3. Ensure top part of cocktail shaker is tightly fitted and SHAKE! 
4. Double strain (with hawthorne and double mesh strainer)
5. Garnish with mint leaf and enjoy!

This post used a complimentary bottle of gin, as provided by Sainsbury's. We were honestly pleased with the quality of the product and as the gin usually retails at £16.50 for a 70cl bottle, think it's a bit of a bargain too!