Two weekends ago was the Taste of London festival which my make this blog seem a little dated but having just spent a weekend at Henley Regatta, the weekends seem to be blurring a little into one right now.
Anyway, I've digressed again, the reason that I started with Taste of London was that Christian from Le Meridian Piccadilly set about making us some incredible cocktail concoctions, using liqueurs of the past. Everything was gin based which makes sense considering that Le Meridian is part of the drive to awaken the British love of Gin with their Gin & Tonic Afternoon Tea Service. This service they say, combines two of the very British culinary traditions of Gin and Tea!
Frighteningly, after a little research of my own, I realised that the British love (adoration) of Gin started back in the first half of the 18th Century during what was known as The Gin Craze. The craze in itself was mainly created through a series of government decisions, firstly being to unlicense gin production whilst having huge duties applied to all imported spirits. It's obvious that the Brits were going to fast become a 'Gin Soaked' nation.
The British have had an on off love affair with Gin - a drink that was created by the Dutch and Belgium - and it was the accession of William of Orange in 1688 that made the drink desirable and popular. So we can legitimately blame the Dutch for our 'Mother's Ruin' but of course that doesn't explain how in 1743 we were drinking 2.2 gallons (10 litres) of gin, per person, per year.
What is interesting is the versatility of gin in drinks - at Henley Regatta this weekend, we added a little Sipsmith Gin to our Pimms mix, along with Ginger Beer to take the sweet edge of the Pimms. Something we've done for years and I'm sure many others do too, it just makes that second glass not have that claggy sweet effect. Whilst at Taste, Christian managed to cold smoke our gin (in front of us which was impressive) with a Bourbon Soaked Oak Dust, which gave a really earthy and almost indescribably smokey flavour to the drink. The smoker was only run around the rim of the glass and on top of the gin, so I'm imagining it was more smell than taste that brought me to the 'smokey flavour' decision.
What I do know after this weekend of internet gin searching is that I want to know more about Gin, particularly as artisan gin is so very in right now. I can't fail to find an article on a new Gin Stills that have popped up; in fact I've just finished reading Good Food and now have an urgent yearning to purchase some Warner Edwards Harrington Dry Gin. I've found another couple of family and friend gin business, all with quirky and exciting back-stories, which helps me to understand how The London Gin Club can continue to serve 130 Gin Varieties. I've not made a 'tasting indent' into their list yet but think that I may have make time for a concentrated effort at some point soon.
But what I have promised myself when I find a free weekend - that's probably around November - I am going to enroll and learn how to blend and bottle gin at the Portobello Road Ginstitute.