Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Gin In The V&A, Cardboard Stuck In China

By Nathalie Bonney

Whenever people tell me they can't drink because they are on medication or because they are having a break from booze for health reasons, I always get in quick with the quip: “Can't you have gin? It's medicinal”. The red-nosed wrecks that emerged from Victorian gin palaces would probably have a word or two disagreeing with me on that but somehow I just don't see how a drink so perfumed and sweet-smelling can ever be bad for you? Especially when nine times out of ten it's drunk with tonic water, which is a) way healthier than sugary lemonade and b) called TONIC water. Think about it.

Whisky, vodka and even (white) rum just aren't a patch on the big G.I.N. In the past, people have scoffed at me when I've ordered it at a bar and it's still a tricky one to order at a gig but places like Calooh Callay, serving gin in teacups, have given the drink a new trendy lease of life. Gin connoisseurs will think of Bombay Sapphire as the glitzy gin to drink. It's sparkly blue bottles demand to be served at parties and glamorous occasions, not kept in the airing cupboard with the Christmas brandy, and so it was fitting that at the Victoria & Albert Museum's Summer Camp at the end of July, Bombay Sapphire provided the pop-up bar.

The wider focus of the V&A's summer camp was sustainability and Bombay Sapphire's pop up bar promised to serve drinkers their beverages in cardboard martini glasses. Unfortunately, the 'glasses' were stuck somewhere in shipping. No doubt a PR nightmare that was speedily fixed with plastic, not-so-sustainable-oops glasses with brown paper artfully wrapped around the outside. Still, there were a couple of prototypes to admire and the bar was decorated with cardboard and green and black umbrellas above it, neat. It was still a bar serving gin though so my disappointment at the lack of cardboard cups was short lived.

I could after all have popped back to Tesco and bought some party cups but I don't know if that would fit with Bombay Sapphire's design-led branding. It would also be a disservice to the designer and creator of the cardboard martini glass creations, Giles Miller. The artist works exclusively in cardboard and has worked with Stella McCartney and regularly designs cardboard displays for Selfridges homeware section.

"The manufacturing process is the same as egg boxes. There's no gluing, it's essentially cardboard packed together," he explained. Adding: "The martini glass is made in two parts then stacked together so the stem had to be thicker than a normal glass stem to allow this. It's totally waterproof but also biodegradable." Drinkers will be able to keep the brass tag that's hung around each glass with Bombay Sapphire's logo on it.

All very worthy and impressive but now to the best bit: the gin. My sapphire summer gin punch was divine. A mix of gin, claret, iced tea, apricot brandy, mint and sliced fresh peaches it didn't take long to get over the no-show from the novelty glasses. Although bigger vessels would have prevented the need for so many top–ups. My friend's Pom Collins, with pomegranate juice was fresh with a great kick to it too and the best thing of all is that Bombay Sapphire are going to have to hold another party when the long-awaited partycups, I mean martin glasses, arrive from China. The company are holding court at Saf bar & restaurant in Shoreditch later this month. I wonder if they'll have cardboard jugs?

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