Fancy a G&T-flavoured chocolate egg this Easter? From marmalade to sausages, Nuala Woulfe looks at how the tipple has taken over our food
Easter is almost upon us and whether you do the traditional fasting or not we all know where things are heading: feasting and chocolate eggs. If you’re looking for novelty and indulgence, this year is set to be a gin foodie heaven.
For Easter, Skelligs Chocolates has launched its first dark chocolate gin and tonic egg.
“We make a gin and tonic bar which has seen increasing sales, but the egg came about quite simply because customers asked us to make it,” says Colm Healy, owner of Skellig. The gin taste comes from crushed juniper and that fizzing tonic experience from added lime, “which gives that effervescent taste”.
“To some extent, I think everybody is looking at what they can tag gin on to at the moment, but you have to make hay while the sun shines and at the moment, gin is the big trend,” adds Colm.
The gin craze started slowly: the success of Downton Abbey has been credited with kickstarting it, before the tipple became a feature of the much edgier, Cillian Murphy-starring TV series Peaky Blinders. Gin distilleries, speciality pubs and even gin cruises have popped up all over Ireland, and now it’s taking over our food.
This Easter, as well as chocolate, you could be eating gin cured fish, gin ice-cream, crisps, marmalade and sausages. In the UK they’re putting gin into yoghurt, butter, breads, buns and cheese, so there’s likely to be plenty more gin-infused food on the way.
Seeing that gin was “a definite thing” in 2017, Wexford Home Preserves started to make an orange marmalade flavoured with Blackwater’s real strawberry gin. “I like to try new things and Wexford strawberries are the best and Blackwater Gin is in the south east, so it all just sort of came together,” says founder Laura Sinnott. “We could keep the gin marmalade in shops all year round, but it’ll be gone after March. We get emails from Brazil and America wanting it, but for novelty we’re keeping it as a limited addition. For anyone who really wants it, we’ll be bringing a few jars to Bloom,” she adds.
Amazingly, gin tea has even hit our shores thanks to Blackwater Gin. “Working amongst all the botanicals, the spices and smells one day, it came to me that we could make a gin tea, so we approached Barry’s Tea to see if they’d be interested. We launched it this Christmas and it was massively successful, especially in Munster. We’re now talking to two other food companies about putting gin into products such as cakes and buns. We definitely haven’t seen the last of gin in food yet,” says Blackwater Director Peter Mulryan.
Back in Kerry, Murphy’s have been adding gin to their ice-cream and like other food companies, they decided for novelty to only make it seasonally. Kieran Murphy explains how the idea sprouted. “Basically I thought Dingle Gin was an outstanding product — at Murphy’s we do a gentle cold extraction with the gin and add key ingredients. For us, it’s a summer flavour and it’ll be back as the weather gets warmer. It’s a love it or hate it flavour, but those who love it get angry when we pull it in winter.”
In Armagh, McCartney’s of Moira butchers aren’t worried about keeping their gin sausages seasonal — in fact, they make their Gordon’s Gin and Schweppes Tonic sausages every week, developing cocktail size ones especially for Christmas. “I can’t see us dropping them as a flavour as they’ve been very successful. We mix with a homemade seasoning which contains a secret blend of botanicals,” explains Judith Millar, Director of McCartney’s.
Mixing pork with gin and juniper flavours has also been hit upon by Lidl who brought deluxe gin crisps on to the market at Christmas. A Lidl spokesperson says they’re currently developing more gin-related food products.
Speciality food shop Fallon and Bryne has seen more than a few gin products cross their shelves in recent times which has been linked to the “insatiable demand for G and Ts”. Store General Manager Rachel Firth explains that while some of these products have been ‘tongue in cheek’ such as gin and tonic popcorn which makes for a fun novelty gift, “some food producers have been making the beautiful botanicals that are used to make gin with a variety of foods”.
Naturally these flavours have filtered into Fallon and Bryne’s restaurant and chef Owen Burns recalls drinking a gin and tonic when the flavours “screamed fish”, leading him to develop mackerel and salmon as gin-cured fish dishes for their eaterie.
For fans of fish this Easter, SuperValu also does a gin-infused smoked salmon with Dingle Gin being paired up with salmon from Dunns of Dublin.
Adding gin to food as a ‘signature’ was an obvious choice when the owners of dedicated gin pub Una Powell’s in Nenagh, Co Tipperary, opened their restaurant Bistro 41 in December.
“We didn’t set out to become a gin pub but it kind of worked out that way,” says James Ryan.
“We got into gin eight years ago before lots of other people and had 100 different gins available this Christmas. It’s not just about the gin though, it’s also about the tonic and we carry several different brands and they all have different flavours. When we opened the restaurant it was kind of obvious we would carry the gin theme through to the food.”
In its current menu, Bistro 41 offers gin ice-cream and a dessert ginlet, along with Drumshanbo Gunpowder cured gin salmon as a starter.
James adds: “The menu will probably always have something gin on it — it’s expected now.”
This Easter, gin eggs are the big trend. Tesco are selling a gin and elderflower egg, Prestat have a London Gin and tonic egg filled with gin ganache truffles which is available through selected speciality stores, and Mor Irish Gin are doing milk chocolate eggs in a box with their gins, which is available through the Celtic Whiskey Store, Dublin.
Other more gourmet eggs for the foodie in your life include a pink popping Prosecco egg, also made by Prestat, and Skellig Chocolates do a Whiskey Crème egg, made with Teelings Whiskey.
Tesco offers a Guinness dark chocolate egg, which comes with mini pints and for the big kids, there's Lir's cola and candy popping egg. Online, you can pick up a milk chocolate egg encrusted with salted caramel popcorn from Divine (joeandsephs.co.uk), or treat a superfood fan with Melt's avocado egg, a dark chocolate shell filled with mini eggs containing bee pollen, cocoa nibs, toasted quinoa, seeds and goji berries (meltchocolates.com).