Sunday 21 January 2018

Why it's cool to be in with the gin crowd again

Camila Oliveria pours a gin in the Gin Palace on Abbey Street in Dublin
Camila Oliveria pours a gin in the Gin Palace on Abbey Street in Dublin
Kirsty Blake Knox

Kirsty Blake Knox

Gin - glorious peppery, juniper-infused gin.

It cuts right through a drink with a bracing zing, makes your nostrils flare and tastebuds cry out 'Christ! It's good to be alive'.

Right now, gin is the coolest drink in town. It has none of the 'Chilled Ibiza' tackiness of vodka, or the collegiate tang of whiskey and Red Bull mixers. It doesn't scream 'I'm bloody mad, I am' the same way a tequila shot does - thank goodness.

In Ireland, we have a history of neglecting gin.

Ten years ago, ordering a G&T was a sorry affair, a watery beverage in a worn tumbler was plonked down in front of you. A slice of lemon was chucked in to the mix, if you were lucky.

But now ordering a G&T is an event: presented in fishbowl style goblets with hunks of ice and half a cucumber, it fizzes and bubbles.

"Gin is hip," Adrian Cummins, of the Restaurant Association of Ireland, says. "Gin is what vodka was back in the 2000s.

"Sales have increased 50pc year-on-year in the past five years. It taps into the whole speakeasy vibe and lends itself perfectly to cocktail culture."

Pop-up 'Gin Lane Market' nights are being hosted in trendy bars, pubs are stacked with dozens of ornate, branded bottles, and moustachioed mixologists rattle together rickeys and slings.

"Gin is a bartender's dream," Desmond Payne, Beefeater Master Distiller, insists. "It's a spirit that creates proper grown-up drinks. There are so many wonderful gin marriages out there - like a dry martini or negroni."

'Mother's Ruin' has had a bit of tumultuous past - falling in and out of favour, and flavour, in the most spectacular fashion.

It was the drink of Dutch soldiers, empires and flappers, but was also favoured by the destitute and depraved - as shown in Hogarth's famous 1751 etching, Gin Lane.

"Gin has gone through ups and downs," Payne said. "In 1740, 11 million gallons of gin were consumed in London, and it also often got a bad rap."

High-end brands like Bombay Sapphire and Hendrick's kick-started the 'gin renaissance', and now a host of Irish craft distilleries are following suit.

"It's about time gin got the recognition it deserved," Peter Mulryan of Blackwater Distillery in Waterford said.

"As a nation, we were very loyal to brown spirits, like whiskey. But now people are beginning to realise it's not an old-fashioned spirit for old dears."

Mulryan, who founded his distillery in Cappoquin eight months ago, wasn't always a fan of the beverage.

"I used to hate gin, because I was drinking the wrong stuff. Then I had a proper gin and it blew my mind. It was like I had been drinking instant coffee all my life - and suddenly tried filter."

Unlike whiskey, gin has no set core ingredients. It can be produced from any range of botanicals, which may explain the variety and complexities in taste.

The Stillwater Distillery in Co Down relies on wild clover, elderflower and apple to give their gin its distinct flavour.

"We aren't creating that rasping, dry London gin," Fiona Boyd Armstrong said. "It's something different. The artisan drinks market means people are looking for specially crafted beers and spirits."

Dingle Gin, founded in 2012 by Oliver Hughes, is one of the country's most identifiable brands of gin, and is branching out overseas to the US and UK.

"We're building a heritage," states Mary Ferriter of Dingle Gin.

Irish Independent

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