Let's mix things up in time for summer
NOW that spring has arrived, it's time to change our drinking habits and gin's refreshing infusions make it the perfect pour for the English season.
Distilled to perfection, botanicals, citrus fruits and fragrant herbs give gin its unique flavour profile and the aromatic tasting adventure can swing from classic cocktails to our favourite fixes.
Martinis first rose to popularity in the 1920s when famous barman Harry Craddock arrived at The Savoy Hotel, London, and got into the mix.
Craddock's drinks became legendary, and this year marks the 50th anniversary of his death. Creator of the gin-based White Lady and author of The Savoy Cocktail Book, here's his recipe to inspire budding mixologists.
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Made with Plymouth Gin (£24.49, 70cl, Sainsbury's), the deep, earthy notes, lemon peel and base of juniper extend into the long, fresh finish.
50ml Plymouth Gin, 25ml Cointreau, 1 tbsp egg white, 25ml lemon juice
Fill a cocktail shaker halfway with ice. Add the Plymouth Gin, Cointreau, lemon juice (freshly squeezed) and egg white (optional). Shake well and strain into a martini glass. Garnish with lemon zest.
For gin lovers who prefer a gentle stirring action with some ice and a slice, here are some more top-shelf gins with distinct profiles.
A new release in line with the rest of the Professor Cornelius Ampleforth range, the brown paper packaging and black wax seal of Bathtub Gin (£39.99, 70cl, Firebox) speak of another time and place, namely Victorian apothecary.
Punchy and extremely flavourful, this gin is made using the traditional method of cold compounding (infusing) and the botanical mix includes juniper, orange peel, coriander, cinnamon, cloves and cardamom. Made in small batches, exotic blossomy aromas lead into juniper studded with earthier botanicals and a pleasing creamy finish.
Handsome newcomer Langley's No 8 Gin (£30, 70cl, The Drink Shop) is hoping to tap into the male market with a gin specifically designed to appeal to a masculine palate. Another small-batch release, Langley's is blended with eight secret botanicals to produce a robust flavour profile. The spicy juniper gives it some bite, with fragrant coriander and a dry, clean ending of zingy citrus. Serve with Fever-Tree Tonic for a man-size mouthful.
Hailing from a different flavour camp, Hoxton Gin (£17.49, 70cl, Sainsbury's) seduces the tastebuds with a veil of coconut, and unlike most gins, it can be enjoyed neat, straight from the freezer.
Along with coconut, other ingredients include grapefruit, juniper, iris, tarragon and ginger, resulting in a soft gin that's versatile enough to mix with cranberry juice, ginger ale or lemonade. Personally, I recommend keeping it simple with a top up of tonic.
Not all gins are created equal, nor designed to be garnished with a lemon wedge. Indeed, some infusions prefer to be immersed in strawberries such as Greenall's Bloom London Dry Gin (£27.80, 70cl, Waitrose).
Beyond the ornate bottle, Bloom boasts camomile, pomelo and honeysuckle. The subtle sweetness of fresh strawberries – with quinine notes from a splash of tonic water – slips down a treat.
Adnams put Southwold on the map and has been brewing beer since 1872. But it wasn't until the Copper House Distillery opened in 2010 that it was able to apply its expertise to produce a portfolio of spirits – using some of the same local ingredients as the brewery.
The ocean-blue packaging of Adnams First Rate Gin (£30.99, 70cl, Adnams) is inspired by the beautiful Suffolk coastline and this broad-shouldered gin boasts a blend of 13 botanicals. Fragrant with a citrusy, tropical element, it's best served with a stick of cucumber and tonic water.
Another non-traditional gin that doesn't pair so well with lemon is Caorunn (£26.99, 70cl, Caorunngin). A Speyside gin that's infused with five celtic botanicals, it's earthy taste is crisp and aromatic – enjoy with a slice of red apple for a fruity twist.
Elsewhere, Whitley Neill London Dry Gin (£29.99, 70cl, Selfridges) has paved the way for more adventurous drinkers by suggesting they add a dash of Peychaud's bitter to its gin. Usually associated with whisky-based cocktails, Peychaud's marries well with the warm, bold flavours from Whitley Neill's nine botanicals (two from South Africa). Add orange wedges with tonic and plenty of ice to brighten up this interesting version of a classic G&T.