Gin has unequivocally become the drink of summer 2012. But once the Olympic flag finally leaves our shores will we still be craving the Queen's old favourite? Elly Earls finds out.
It's no secret that the Queen loves a good gin and tonic, so it's hardly surprising that this most British of tipples has been taking the nation by storm this summer as tourism authorities, hospitality operators and patriotic Brits across the country do everything they can to showcase what our island has to offer.
But it's not your quintessential G&T that has really got everyone's tongues wagging; it's the evolving flavour profiles, the experimental gin cocktails and the plethora of new boutique brands that are swarming on to the market. The sector has witnessed an explosion of growth in recent years and, for Ged Feltham, founder of London's second-smallest museum, the Ginstitute, the expansion of the market shows no sign of slowing.
"Everything goes in a cycle," he says. "It started with the arrival of Bombay Sapphire 12 years ago and it's moved on from there. Although vodka still dominates the market, it is not seen as being as cool as it was and everyone is moving towards the world of gin."
The spirit's popularity is evidenced by the success of Feltham's recently opened gin museum, the Ginstitute. "People seem very interested in the history of gin, how it is constructed and what goes into it," he explains. "It's going really well and has proven extremely popular."
This revival of interest in gin has been largely down to the fast-increasing number of boutique premium products that are popping up around the country, and the world. From German-made Monkey 47, which uses 47 different botanicals, to artisanal dry gin The Botanist from the Hebridean island of Islay, infused with 31 botanicals, of which 22 are native, gins are becoming more and more unusual.
"It's all bringing a lot of interest to the category," Feltham notes. "The more the merrier!"
So gin is back, and it's here to stay. But how, as a hospitality operator, can you capitalise on this renewed curiosity in an old British classic?
For Jeremy Duplessis, general manager of the Feathers hotel in Woodstock, Oxfordshire, the answer was simple: amass the largest gin collection the world has ever seen. "On 1 June we were awarded the Guinness World Record for the largest gin collection in one establishment," he says. This was officially counted at 162, but has since grown to 168.
"It's a great USP. We've got a gin menu, which is like a wine list, and some people sit in the bar and read it for hours. Gin has become a fashionable drink for 20- and 30-somethings; it's great there's been such a revival," he adds.
But this resurgence in the gin market has also led to consumers being a lot more discerning, making it essential for bar, restaurant and hotel owners to do their research before attempting to get in on the action.
"People will check out the back bar and form an instant opinion of a place by what's on offer," Feltham remarks. "People also have their favourite brands. And if a bar doesn't have that, they want to at least know that the staff know enough about gin to suggest another product that they might like. Of course, it's also a big upsell if you can get someone to buy a premium product."
For Feltham, there's little doubt that the UK's interest in gin is only set to continue. "Knowing where food comes from has become very important to people," he concludes. "They're also starting to think: we produce fantastic spirits in this country, so let's go back towards them."
EDGERTON MARY ROSE
The inspiration for the Edgerton Mary Rose, created by Home House London's Marius Eisenhut, came from his training with Martin Gill when he was introduced to Edgerton pink gin. Gill mentioned that he started his career in the tea business, prompting Eisenhut to think about what he would combine with tea to create the most interesting flavours. "I chose Greek Orange Blossom Honey that I then heated up in a pot and infused with some chopped fresh rosemary," he recalls. "I left it for one night to chill down, took the rosemary out and bottled the infused honey." The name of the cocktail came from a play on the word "rosemary".
50ml Edgerton pink gin
10ml home-made infused rosemary honey
10ml lavender syrup
20ml fresh lemon juice
2-3 fresh rosemary needles (to shake with)
METHOD Shake and double-strain into a martini glass. Garnish with a sprig of rosemary.
Recommended sale price £12-£13
GP per drink about 80%
BEEFEATER JUBILEE PUNCH
The Beefeater Jubilee Punch, created by Nick Strangeway, who is internationally renowned for revisiting classic recipes and introducing them to modern cocktail menus, is a traditional British punch recipe with a twist, designed to help consumers celebrate key social occasions this summer. Strangeway has taken inspiration from time-honoured English ingredients and created an easy-to-make punch recipe that is guaranteed to impress.
INGREDIENTS 2 parts Beefeater London dry gin
1 part Dubonnet
1 part Hawker's sloe gin
½ part Grant's Morello cherry liqueur
½ part Jo Hilditch British cassis
½ part Jo Hilditch British framboise
A splash of King's ginger liqueur
3 dashes of Angostura bitters
1 part lemon Juice
4 parts Earl Grey tea (chilled)
4 parts Mumm Champagne
METHOD Build the ingredients in a punchbowl or jug and top with ice. Garnish with fresh seasonal berries and currants, lemon wheels and borage flowers. Serve from a punchbowl or large jug in punch or highball glasses.
A SPARROW IN A RHUBARB CLUB
Created by Chris Edwards at the Parlour, A Sparrow in a Rhubarb Club is a cross between quintessential English ingredients and a classic cocktail called the Clover Club (made with gin, raspberry syrup, lemon, sugar and egg white). The Clover Club itself was a gentlemen's club that met in Philadelphia before Prohibition in 1911, where the drink of choice was - yes, you guessed it - the Clover Club.
INGREDIENTS 40ml Sparrow London dry gin
30ml sweet home-made rhubarb syrup
25ml fresh gooseberry juice
1 egg white
METHOD Add all ingredients to a Boston shaker with a Hawthorn strainer spring. Dry-shake all ingredients hard. Add ice and shake hard. Double-strain into a crystal wine glass and garnish with grapefruit peel.
Recommended sale price £8.95
GP per drink about 75%
ACE OF HEARTS
Adam Spinks, head mixologist and bartender at pan-Indian restaurant Carom, originally created the Ace of Hearts as a vodka cocktail for the Stolichnaya cocktail competition earlier this year, beating 200 competitors to make the top 10.
In this version, he decided to use Hendrick's gin rather than vodka to bring out the cucumber flavour. The zing of green apple and lemon make this a palate-cleansing cocktail, perfect as an aperitif, while its low calorie content is ideal for those watching their weight.
INGREDIENTS Cucumber, cut into 4 thin slices and 1 cucumber stick to garnish
¼ Granny Smith apple, cut into slices
37.5ml Hendrick's gin
6ml home-made sugar syrup (3 parts caster sugar to 1 part water - stir and leave to dissolve)
12.5ml St Germain elderflower liqueur
6ml Manzana Verde liqueur (green apple digestif made by Briottet)
6ml lemon juice
METHOD Muddle apple and cucumber into the base of a cocktail shaker - mash them up to release the maximum flavour. Add the remaining ingredients to ice, then shake well. Strain into a martini glass. Garnish with a cucumber stick and a slice of apple.
Recommended sale price £7.95
GP per drink about 75%
GRANDMA SLOANE'S TEA TIME TIPPLE
Robin Webb of 64th & Social in Clapham, south-west London, came up with the idea for Grandma Sloane's Tea Time Tipple because he sees a cup of tea as one of the most traditional drinks in the world. He worked with Orange Pekoe Tea House in Barnes to find a tea that would complement and bring together the flavours of the tea and the gin, finally concluding that Vanilla Rose Pouchong tea was the perfect match.
Orange bitters are used to enhance the fresh orange notes of Sloane's gin, while the egg white brings the flavours together and balances the drink on the palate. The atomiser of violet plays with the floral notes present in any gin, and the home-made vanilla macaroon adds a touch of indulgence and helps to bring the whole experience together.
INGREDIENTS 50ml Vanilla Rose Pouchong (black tea) steeped in Sloane's gin for 10 minutes (no heat needed)
25ml lemon juice
10ml rose syrup
White of 1 small egg
2 dashes orange bitters
Vanilla macaroons for garnish
METHOD Dry-shake, then hard-shake over cubed ice. Serve straight up in grandma's best bone china.
Recommended sale price about £8
GP per drink about 86%