Tuesday, 12 March 2013

A Gin For All Seasons

The London South Bank’s stylish steakhouse and bar, Gillray’s, celebrates one of Britain’s spirited institutions, by Nina Koo-Seen-Lin.

Something terrible happened to me this year. After a month and a half with a raging cold I was left with a red raw, Kleenex- wiped nose and a lost appetite for my favourite alcoholic spirit of all time: gin.

I know, how could I say that?! Believe me it hurts me more to type this confession than it is for you to read it. In the words of Vizzini, from one of my favourite films of the 1980’s, The Princess Bride, but for me to lose my taste in gin was “INCONCEIVABLE!”

Try as I might, I just could not stand the thought of drinking anything alcoholic. When out with my friends in various watering holes I became the “lime and soda drinker”, AKA: the loser. My envy towards my friends with their colourful cocktails with colourful names was greener than the lime slice at the bottom of my glass.

BUT, as a true Fluidite/Fluidion (basically someone who writes for Fluid London) I was determined to buck up and prepare to fall off the gin wagon again. What better way to do so than at the Gillray’s ‘Gin of the Month’ evening with Hoxton Gin!

There are 39 English gins to choose from at Gillray’s bar, located at the London Marriott Hotel on Westminster Bridge Road. Head bartender, Carlos Dos Santos plans to include more English gins to the shelves.

The venue also offers a quintessentially English dining experience. The food and drink - from beef and cheese, to still and sparkling wines - are produced in England. The interior design is eccentric and charming – much like the English - and it’s a delightful space to sip a gin cocktail while overlooking the River Thames, Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament.


Gillray’s is hoping to host an informal but educational evening of gin cocktail tasting and mixology each month. February’s masterclass was hosted by mixologist, Jon Calabrese from Hoxton Gin (pictured above in the camel coloured suit).

Jon is your typical cheeky, charming chap from the East End of London, with Italian blood flowing through his veins. He’s handsome, has a Shoreditch sense of style and has the knowledge of the family business that would make his father, Salvatore, and brother Gerry, proud.

Hoxton Gin is distilled with exotic tones including coconut, grapefruit, juniper, iris, tarragon and ginger. This gin combines the distinctive British heritage alongside an edgy style and opens up a whole new world of drinking and cocktail possibilities, such as the below ‘Hoxton Gin cocktails for every season’.

A gin cocktail for Spring: Garden Spring Collins
50ml Hoxton Gin
20ml lemon juice
20ml elderflower
15ml rhubarb puree
10ml sugar
Top with soda
Shake. Cubed ice. Garnish with lemon wedge, mint sprig and straw. Serve in highball glass.

A gin cocktail for Summer: Hoxton Clover
50ml Hoxton Gin
3 raspberries
10ml dry vermouth
20ml lemon juice
20ml sugar
10ml egg white
Served straight up with a raspberry floating on top. Serve in a coupette glass.

A gin cocktail for Autumn: English Daiquiri
50ml Hoxton Gin
20ml lemon juice
20ml crème de cacao
Dash sugar
Shaken, fine straight. Serve straight up in a coupette glass.

A gin cocktail for Winter: Sour Shakedown
40ml Hoxton Gin
4 blueberries
piece of ginger
20ml lemon juice
20ml apple juice
15ml honey syrup
dash of egg white
Dry shake. Shake on ice. Garnish with mint sprig and a blueberries stick. Serve on the rocks.

As Big Ben struck 9pm, my head was positively gin-addled and filled with the knowledge that gin, at least Hoxton gin, is a versatile spirit that can be enjoyed all year round. Even the food was infused with the spirit: gin-cured salmon and juniper crusted Angus fillet provided by Head chef, Gareth Bowen, and his team.

I fell in love with gin again that night. A lime and soda is all very well and sensible, but a relationship can only survive if it has the spirit to keep it alive. For me, that spirit will always be gin.

Four other London gin-stitutes you need to know about:



Portobello Ginstitute Here’s your chance to blend your very own gin in this laboratory above the Portobello Star pub. Gin Bartender, Jake Burger (above) instructs the class on the methods of creating a gin blend. The man has even made his own, the slightly spicy Portobello Road No.171 London Dry.
Sipsmiths Sipsmith boys, Stamford (Sam) Galsworthy, Fairfax Hall and Jared Brown are the pioneers of microdistilling. Sipsmith established the first new copper-based distillery in London for 200 years in 2009. The copper pot, named “Prudence”, produces powerful artisan gin with a palate of citrus, juniper and coriander. Distillery tours are run on Wednesdays from 6.30pm (£12).




Sacred Ian Hart makes this gin in his very own house, located on Talbot Road. The gin has herbal hints of nutmeg and frankincense and is available to buy in Selfridges or Dukes Bar. Tours are arranged by special request only.
City of London Distillery Every day from the hours of 10am to 4pm gin lovers can witness first-hand how gin is made. The tailor-made masterclasses include tours of the distillery. Those who know the gin-making process already are more than welcome to prop themselves by the bar and start drinking.

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