I’m not a big drinker of spirits but have always had time for a G&T. I love how refreshing gin can be & it’s usually my drink of choice on a summer evening or for a quick one in the pub. Bombay Saphire & Tanqueray were my gins of choice & I was happy with them. Things have changed.
There has been an explosion in the popularity of gin & there are countless artisan varieties around. I had no idea. Becky usually attributes my lack of knowledge of current culture to my years “on the mountain” in Peru. I would like to think that is why I had no idea that everyone drinks gin now but it is probably also due to the fact that I don’t get out enough.
Anyway, I recently became friends with the owner of a mobile gin bar & she has shown me all that I have been missing. I must have tasted 30 different gins recently. Some were incredible & others tasted like petrol. My favourite was Windspiel for its smoothness & clear juniper flavour. I am now a proper gin snob & will not be seen ordering a Bombay any time soon – I now find it too sweet & sickly.
Gabby is now starting gin tasting events which are open to the public so I thought this would be a good time to ask her a few questions about my new fave thing.
What is gin?
If I had a £1 for every time someone said “Well gins is just flavoured vodka isn’t it” I probably wouldn’t be running the Gin Emporium anymore!
In some ways those people are right, Gin is a distilled spirit using a neutral base spirit (which can be if you’re making it at home) vodka but generally it’s a much higher proof specially sourced spirit. The spirit is distilled with different botanicals which create variety and flavour, but it has has to have a predominant flavour of Juniper!
Why do you like gin?
I like gin because it’s so varied and versatile. I got into gin because I wanted to learn more about it, it’s a bit like whisky in that they all taste different but I think it pushes the boundaries further than a subtle change. You can go to gin bar in the UK now with a group of friends and find a gin that everyone will like, there are even gins that Gin Haters like – Brockman’s for instance!
The great thing about the growing gin industry is that it is accompanied by a growing tonic industry and I find tonic water and the different styles just as fascinating. So many people say they don’t like gin when in actual fact it’s the tonic, and that sugary, bittersweetness that we all recognise in Schwepps that they don’t like! Now you can buy so many different varieties of tonic, with every G&T you have it can taste completely different – I think there are few drinks other than cocktails that taste so vastly different!
Why do you think it is suddenly so popular?
When the boom started it had a lot to do with the licensing laws in this country, no longer did people need massive stills and manufacturing plants like Beefeater, Gordons or Bombay! For the first time people could license a small still and make small batch ‘artisan or craft’ gin. However now I think it’s about people coming into the market because they can see it’s so buoyant and I sense that a bit like what I’ve said about versatility that there are still a lot of gins to be explored so people are still finding them!
Do you have a favourite?
My favourites change all the time, in the same way that gins coming on the market change. I like a certain type or style of gin, something quite dry and less floral than a traditional gin. At the moment I’m a little bit in love with Windspiel as you know, as well as Windspiel I love Poetic License from Sunderland and Berliner Brandstifter which is made right in the heart of Berlin.
Is gin good for making cocktails?
Gin is a brilliant base for cocktails, because of the variety but in some ways because you can’t taste it! It doesn’t massively change the cocktail or sway the cocktail in the way that Bourbon or Whisky do! If you use bourbon or whisky you can’t really pair it with certain things but that’s not the same with gin. Gin can go with a variety of different things and now because of the crazy different botanicals in the gins on the market it is like there is a gin for every cocktail!
How does a gin tasting event work?
Good question! The Gin Tasting workshops are about getting people together, generally people that know each other but also people that don’t to learn about gin. It’s not a place to get drunk and tank up, I’m quite serious about that! We showcase 5 main gins and then tasters try the varieties of gin from Genever to Sloe Gin in between. Each gin is paired with tonic and an appropriate garnish and we talk about the differences in taste and smell between them and yes the rumours are true you do have to taste them neat to start with!
When we set out to do gin tasting one of the key things was that it wasn’t time slotted. I spent a lot of time researching other gin tasting events or sessions and found that a lot of them are a quick 1 or 1.5 hours and you feel like you’re a bit on a conveyor belt! The difference with the Gin Emporium is that although we say around 2-2.5 hours we don’t time slot you, if it lasts 4 hours so be it as long as people are enjoying it!
Our guarantee is that you’ll leave knowing more about gin and tonic than when you arrived and you will probably need a lift home. I was once asked to carry people to bed!
To learn more watch out for a gin tasting near you. First one is in Sheffield on 4th November with more to follow
in the coming months