Gin and tonic is the tipple with a national obsession.
In recent years it has caused quiet a stir, thanks to the birth of pioneering craft distilleries dedicated to producing small batch gin in copper stills (far from the bathtub gins of the 18th century).
Gin has quietly undergone something of a transformation in recent years - what was once mother’s ruin is now Britain’s most fashionable spirit. Not long ago our choice on the shelves was restricted to Beefeater and Gordon’s (and the odd bottle of Bombay Sapphire for a special occasion), but now new boutique brands are emerging on a seemingly weekly basis from the most unlikely of places.
Last week the lovely team at Zomato invited me to Mile End to visit the East London Liquor Co for an evening of G&T taste testing followed by a distillery tour.
In recent years gin and tonic had been crucified by the English pub - topped up with tonic from a gun and served with a soggy lemon, the drink had begun loosing its dazzle.
The East London Liquor Co presented us with three gin's to try: London Drlony Gin, Premium Batch 1 and Batch 2. My first sip of these gins was without the tonic, but instead straight, and surprisingly I didn't grimace once whilst sipping the contents of my glass.
The smoothness of the gin is created by distilling it in small batches in copper stills. The copper reacts with the alcohol and removes impurities producing clean, pure spirits that are smooth and less likely to result in a hangover.
My favourite was Batch 2, which was served with a sprig of sage. Including botanicals such as coriander seed, angelic root, thyme and bay leaf the gin is distinctly herbaceous and savoury.
For summer, however, I'd recommend the Batch 1 which contains pink grapefruit peel. Unlike other gins that contain citrus, the East London Liquor Co zests theirs from fresh fruit at the distillery to maintain a refreshing and vibrant taste.
Gin is very similar to vodka, the only real difference between the two is the predominant flavour and aroma of the juniper. In both, you start with a spirit that has been derived from an agricultural source like grain. With the gin, you then flavour this with botanicals. Gin must, by law, then be bottled at a minimum abv of 37.5%.
First references of the spirit date back to the 13th century during the 80 year war. British troops fought alongside the Dutch, who were all drinking Geneve (gin) before battle, thus giving rise to the term Dutch Courage.
Before it got tangled up with tonic, lime and ice, Gin went through a bad patch. William Hogarth's iconic 1751 print, Gin Lane, exposed the starvation and madness that he associated with a drink that had become the tipple of the poor. Nowaday's, this quintessential British invention is seen as utter perfection when done right: a classic, clean, crisp drink perfect to quench a thirst of a warm summers evening.
If you're interested in learning more about gin, get in contact with the team at ELLC, who run distillery tours for the general public.