Gin is the only spirit that has ever made me want to experiment and really get into it. A few years ago I had an interesting lesson in scotch, right from the source at the Glenfiddich distillery in Scotland's Dufftown. But whereas a capful of spring water - don't even think about adding ice cubes! - is the only acceptable mix for a good single malt, gin's aromatic botanicals tempt us to try an array of tonics and garnishes to complement each distiller's unique recipe. And the perfect place to undertake such fun research is the Gin Festival which recently stopped in Newcastle at the CastleGate on its tour of cities around the UK. Gin lovers Jym and Marie Harris noticed that no formal event existed to celebrate their favourite juniper berry-based spirit, so four years ago they made their own. Since then the global gin industry has exploded, and as with craft beers, were are so spoilt for choice now that it can all be a bit overwhelming. Enter the Gin Festival with dozens of gins offered in one space, complete with individual garnish pairings - some unexpected ones include pink peppercorns and fresh chilies which work brilliantly with the right gin - and tasting booths where you can learn about and try some premium domestic gins you may not otherwise get to know. A couple I tried were so smooth and fresh I thought they would serve as great palate cleansers between dinner courses, in place of a sorbet. Samples are free and drinks tickets cost £20 for four, and you can also purchase cocktails. To give us something to absorb the alcohol - for me food is a must when drinking so I was very appreciative - there was hot Spanish fare. To entertain and educate, a live band put on a show and masterclasses were offered downstairs throughout the evening. It was a really fun night and I'll definitely be back next year to discover more fantastic gins.
What did I take away? Picnic Gin with strawberries and cream, and here I thought I was moving away from the sweet toward the classic recipes, but I must have had the upcoming Wimbledon on my mind. It's a rather unusual offering from distiller Poetic License that uses both distilling and infusing processes to flavour their traditional juniper and coriander gin with real fresh strawberries and cream. On site it was explained to me that the double cream is freeze dried before adding to avoid curdling and separating. It was served with Fever Tree elderflower tonic and I've since stocked up on it as it seemed the perfect mix. It's a nice, simple treat with nothing further needing to be added.
Your entry includes a copa balloon gin glass to keep. These are perfect for the aromatic garnished drinks:
Brockman's botanical ingredients on display: