It doesn’t seem like very long ago since I managed to miss the last Mixology Monday, largely because, thanks to the collective post-Tales hangover many of us bloggers were feeling, it was delayed and only took place two weeks ago. However, hot on the heels of July’s event is Kevin from Save the Drinkers with this month’s theme – “Local Flavour”. While I’m originally from the Midlands, I now consider London Village home so will be concentrating on the Big Smoke tonight.
While the United States may be able to claim itself the home of the cocktail, we’ve not exactly been slacking over on this side of the pond either. England is birthplace to the punch, the fruit cup and of course dry gin. What’s more here in London we have long and refined history of hotel bars, with prestigious lodgings such as The Savoy, The Dorchester and The Stafford still turning out fine drinks after decades, if not centuries, of business.
The more contemporary bar scene is also burgeoning, with Notting Hill haunts like The Lonsdale, Montgomery Place and Trailer Happiness, plus others like LAB, The Hawksmoor and of course Milk & Honey producing world class drinks. Certainly if you walk in to most pubs around the country and ask for a Manhattan the best you are likely to get is an odd look, but, at least in London, if you want quality cocktails they are here to do sought out.
As you can tell I love living in London, but enough with the crowing – what drink to cover for Mixology Monday? There are plenty of English cocktails I could have chosen, like the East India which like many English drinks harks from our colonial past in India. I guess we had to do something to fill up the time not spent oppressing the local populace, and making drinks seems as good a way to pass the hours as any. Looking closer to home it’s hard to think of a more local tipple than the Pimm’s Cup, a drink invented a mere half-mile from where I work in the City of London that optimises England.
But I’ve already covered that, so instead I decided to look at perhaps the most English of all drinks, the Gin and Tonic. Another product of colonial India the G&T isn’t even really a cocktail by strict definition, simply being a spirit plus mixer – but what a spirit and mixer!
Gin and Tonic
- 2 shots / 60 ml / 2 oz gin
- 1 bottle Indian tonic water
- Fill rocks glass with ice and add gin. Top off with tonic water and garnish with a slice of lime.
Back in the eighteenth century people consumed quinine-heavy tonic water in the far-east colonies as a way of helping prevent Malaria. While good for guarding against Malaria quinine has a very bitter taste, so people began to add gin to the tonic in order to make the drink more palatable. Add in limes that are found everywhere in India and the G&T was born. These days the vast majority of G&Ts are created with pretty average gins and terrible tonic water from a gun, but as Jeffrey Morgenthaler said to me at Tales last month, there is a reason why the drink is so ubiquitous and it isn’t because of what it tastes like these days.
A well made Gin and Tonic is such a simple creation, but really is a drink that becomes greater than the sum of its parts. Tonight I’m keeping things local by using Jensen gin, a very small batch gin produced in Bermondsey, just south of Tower Bridge, at a rate of just 200 bottles every month. The gin is the brainchild of Christian Jensen who wanted to produce a London dry gin that avoids the current trend of new and unusual botanicals and keeps to the traditions of the dry gins from the first part of the twentieth century.
It is a very smooth gin, almost in that respect like Plymouth but with a much stronger juniper element and more intense floral notes. Jensen makes for a great gin in a G&T, and while I’ve yet to try it in anything else I am excited by its potential in mixed drinks. Completing the local flavour is Surbiton-produced Fever Tree tonic water, an excellent tonic that far exceeds its more commonly available competitors with a great natural quinine flavour and plenty of interesting citrus and aromatic notes.
So there you have it – practically the national cocktail of England, the G&T, made with ingredients produced no more than twenty miles from where I sit writing this now. Pretty damn local. Well, except for the lime slice… sadly we need a few more years of global warming before British limes become a possibility. If you’ve only ever had a G&T made with a crappy gin and tonic from a soda gun, why not go out and pick up some Fever Tree or Q-Tonic and see what you’ve been missing. You may just realise why the Gin and Tonic became so well known across the world.
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