FOOD & DRINK

Gin is just the tonic on a hot summer’s day

Gin is on course to overtake blended Scotch whisky in the UK popularity stakes says recent research. By next year its sales are estimated to climb to £1.37bn according to the Euromonitor research company.

At the same time blended whisky is anticipated to dip to £1.17bn, down from £1.28bn in 2018.

There is little doubting that gin in now the “in” drink for the UK. Festivals dedicated to its consumption will be touring the country in the summer (for local dates click on link below). The dowdy days when it was dubbed “Mother’s Ruin” are long gone as are the times when it was mainly regarded as a ladies’ drink.

Gin consumption is, in the modern vernacular, “cool” for all, irrespective of gender. In recent times the number of gin distilleries has doubled over the past five years.

From 2000 until 2016 I spent most of my time abroad so – in my perception at least – I missed large parts of the UK gin revolution. By the time of my return it was in full swing. Special glasses looking like goldfish bowls with stems attached were de rigeur. The traditional “ice and a slice” was still observed, but the slice could be of pretty much anything.

I recall my surprise when my son served me a G&T with a sliver of cucumber in it. Never seen that before. But I had been out of the country for a long time! Each bottle seems to suggest a different accompaniment – ginger, orange slices, berries, the list is close to endless.

I even bought a flash-looking set of gin accompaniments from the supermarket under the brand called Carmencita (a renowned Spanish dancer). The three tins comprised juniper berries, cardamom seeds and hibiscus flowers. Impressed? I wasn’t especially … but maybe that’s down to my lack of knowledge about how to use them properly.

As part of an attempt to lose weight I decided to cut down considerably on the beer and made the switch to gin and calorie-reduced tonic. For a while it seemed to be working but I made a mistake. I didn’t have a measure for the gin (I own one now) and those bowls hold a lot of hooch. After starting to use the measure at home I began to realise that my measures of gin were probably triple or quadruple the standard. No wonder the weight wasn’t disappearing.

What is a good gin?

Depends who you talk to. A friend swears by Hendricks. My Kent-based son, after attending a gin tasting session in London, developed a liking for Thomas Dakin Manchester Gin. The fact that it has Manchester on a red label has nothing to do with it (he’s a United fan). I quite like the Opihr Oriental Spiced Gin but admit that some of that may be due to its distinctive bottle design. We’ve hung onto a few bottles after the contents disappeared. Lord knows why.

What is a good tonic?

A clever bit of marketing by the Fever Tree company makes the statement: If ¾ of your gin and tonic is tonic (maybe a big “if” in my case), mix with the best. You have to concede that they have a point. What’s the point having a glass of Sipsmith VJOP (Very Junipery Over Proof – pictured) at about £40 for a 70cl bottle if you are going to mix it with your supermarket’s own brand tonic? Mind you, the difference in prices is quite dramatic. Own-brand tonic in a supermarket is between 45p and 60p for a litre; a bottle of Fever Tree half that size is about £1.80. For easy maths that’s about six times as much. Worth the extra? Your call. For me, if mixing it with, say, a fairly standard gin such as Gordon’s (they’ll love me for saying that – not!), the supermarket tonic is adequate.

Want to get out and about this summer and enjoy your favourite tipple at the same time? Here are some of the ways:

What? Gin Journey Shoreditch

When? 15 June (Saturday) 2pm-6.30pm

Where? Participants will be told the actual location a week before the event.

What’s involved? For £74.62 you will visit some of the capital’s finest cocktail bars and ground-breaking distilleries. The tour includes five samples of gin, five cocktails, in five venues and you will be driven from bar to bar. Food is available but not included in the price. www.eventbrite.co.uk

What? Gin and Rum Festival (sponsored by Schweppes 1783)

When? 23-25 August (Friday to Sunday): 6.30pm-11pm on the Friday; 12.30pm-5pm and 6.30pm-11pm on Saturday; 6.30pm-11pm on Sunday

Where? The Kia Oval Kennington

What’s involved? The chance to try 60 selected gins and the same number of rums. Live entertainment and a DJ. Over-18s only, so not a family day out.

Price: All bars will work on a token basis – not cash. Admission £16.64 (includes booking fee); subsequent drinks cost £5 each

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David Buckley

Dave Buckley is a career journalist. “I once went painting girders for a week and discovered I didn’t like heights,” he says. “Apart from that it has always been journalism for me in one form or another.” Past publications worked for include the South-East London Mercury*, Kent Messenger, Daily Express, Today*, News of the World* and Hong Kong Star*. All those marked with an asterisk no longer exist (trend emerging?). He owned and edited a Thailand-based property magazine before returning to England and currently works as a production editor for an East Midlands-based publishing group.

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