Forest Hill Gin Club – Opening Event – Gin Cocktail Night
Forest Hill Gin Club will be hosting its first event, taking over The Archie Parker on Dartmouth Road for the night on Saturday July 16th for an evening of Cocktails, Gin & Tonic, and a menu designed to compliment an evening of gin drinking.
Toby Asker-Browne will be your host for the evening. Toby is managing director of Tablet Catering & Events Ltd and spent his formative years running cocktail bars and restaurants in the West End before moving into contract catering. Toby has provided catering, events and parties for major blue chip clients, government departments, and even parts of the Royal estate. Now some years later he has started Tablet with his wife Ruth to develop a quirky, niche catering and events company. Toby is very pleased to be given an opportunity to share some of his considerable cocktail experience with you, and offer an exploration of all things Gin. To accompany this liquid adventure Toby has also put together a Gin-spired menu of tasty morsels, and there will be lots of information presented along the way to encourage full appreciation of this quintessentially English of spirits!
There will be a full menu of Gin & Tonics with over 25 artisan, small batch and hand-crafted gins ranging from local distillers to some of the finest juniper based spirits from as far a field as Scotland, Ireland, Germany, Spain and South Africa, plus four quality tonics to match and a whole host of garnishes to compliment them perfectly.
Your ticket price of £15 gets you a drink on arrival and free food throughout the evening.
Tickets available at The Archie Parker (cash only) or online at Eventbrite
The Archie Parker is situated at 55a Dartmouth Road, Forest Hill, SE23 on several bus routes and a three minute walk from Forest Hill Station on the overground line.
One of my motivations for writing this blog was being blown away by one gin back in the summer of 2015, and that gin was Monkey 47. I was going to write a Monkey 47 review as an opening piece for the blog, but as I began to drink a wider range of gin I was increasingly flabbergasted by the array of amazing gins out there, and so I decided to put it on the backburner until I was a little more ‘widely read’ as it were.
I have been recommending this gin ever since that first taste, so I was pretty relieved to find, upon buying a new bottle recently, that it was indeed as fine as my memory had instructed me it was; this is still the gin to beat. It is very much in the London Dry Gin style, but it is also very quirky. The 50cl bottle, like an old fashioned medicine bottle with a cork stopper; the 47 botanicals and the 47% ABV; the fact that it is made in Germany, of all places – hardly a recognised centre of gin production. There is a hint of the spicy nature in the postage-stamp style label: a depiction of a monkey that could be straight from the wall of some remote Indian village – and the cardamom is certainly present in the aftertaste of this incredibly smooth gin.
It is not cheap – £36 at least for a bottle that is only two-thirds the size of a usual bottle of gin, making it about a third more expensive than any gin I have so far reviewed.
One of my gin bibles recommends that you simply sip it and add no tonic whatsoever, but I think that does a dis-service to the humble G&T and I would recommend at least four large ice cubes and a splash or two of Fever-Tree Indian Tonic Water – but only a splash or two, do not drown it or you’ll be missing out on one of the best gins that I am yet to taste. No garnish required, just enjoy the complexity of the botanicals. If you are in any way a gin fan then you have probably already tried this, but if you haven’t, then please do, because it is, simply, fantastic, and I can quite honestly say that in no small way, Monkey 47 changed my life.
Ascend the stairs at The Clock House pub on the edge of Peckham Rye and you’ll find a great little space called Blake’s, and it was here that my business partner Zoe, and I, booked in for a Masterclass with Little Bird Gin, a London Dry based up the road in Peckham itself.
Our host was Laura, owner of the Little Bird brand. Laura waxed lyrical about the strict conditions under which your gin could be defined as ‘London Dry’ and how she and her partners had designed a recipe for their perfect gin, before taking it to a master-distiller in Clapham, to turn into the gin they have today – a gin that is increasingly popular and spreading in fame and fortune. Laura’s business plans include a new still, currently in production in the south east of England by traditional still craftsmen, and for this to be based in the heart of Peckham, in an old re-developed Railway Arch.
We sipped the gin neat as the place filled up with a range of enthusiasts, mostly Hendricks, Bombay Sapphire or Tanqueray drinkers, and one or two with more exotic tastes. We discussed distillation techniques and botanicals – some of which had been brought along to be sniffed and inspected. Laura mixed the Little Bird ‘signature gin and tonic’ – a 35ml shot of Little Bird over plenty of ice, a thick slice of pink grapefruit and about 2/3rds of a bottle of Fever-Tree Mediterranean tonic water. It was very welcome in the heat of a muggy June day, and disappeared all too quickly.
Laura went on to talk more about gin and tonics, cocktails and other brands – never bad-mouthing them, in fact if anything she was singing the praises of the likes of Gin Mare and Sipsmith; no gin wars to be found at this masterclass.
By this time we’d already had our £10 entry price worth, but there was more to come – Laura made us all Negronis, using a 3rd each measure of Little Bird, Campari and Dubonnet, with a little of the grapefruit peel squeezed around the rim, before being stirred in the glass with the ice. On first sip I have to confess to being more impressed with it than with any of those I had made myself a couple of weeks earlier, and by the time we’d consumed half the glass, both Zoe and I were actually becoming converts.
This was an informative, interesting and fun evening, complete with a couple of great drinks. Laura and her Little Bird gin are both captivating and excellent value – if you get the chance to try a Little Bird, or to meet Laura at one of their masterclasses, then take it, you won’t be disappointed.
Yesterday was World Gin Day and the appropriately chosen opening day for the Gin Foundry’s Junipalooza event at Tobacco Dock in Wapping, London. This was my first visit to a celebration of all things gin that is now in its third year. On my arm, Miss Rose, with whom I share a home, children and, most importantly, gin.
I have been going to trade exhibitions of one sort or another since my father used to have a stand at the annual ‘Statindex’ show for the stationery trade back in the 1980’s. Junipalooza is not a trade show as such, as it is open to the ticket-buying public – but the feel of the thing is very similar and it is a show that invites you to ‘meet the maker’ with forty makers displaying almost 100 different gins for you to try. The problem with having so many gins to try is that you really need a ticket for both days in order to manage to sample even half – or resign yourself to getting very sozzled indeed.
But we had a plan – to avoid what we knew already, and to make sure we took a break to listen to some of the talks and masterclasses. The plan didn’t last five minutes, we entered Tobacco Dock and headed away from where all the crowds were gathering and into one of the rooms well-away from the entrance, where we found Makar Gin doing a Gin & Tonic garnished with Jalapeño and we couldn’t resist.
Conker Gin was a brand that I had at the top of my ‘must see’ list and came away with the word ‘Buy’ next to my notes, and certainly will be doing so. It was excellent just as a sipping gin alone, incredibly smooth. Smooth sipping gins became somewhat of a theme of the day; I am a gin and tonic man, but after tasting the likes of Conker, Shortcross, HernoOld Tom, Hope on HopkinsSalt River and Rock Rose, I am convinced that some straight gins are mighty fine indeed.
One of the most amazing products of the day came courtesy of Nginious – an oddly named but very well presented set of four gins from Switzerland of which we tried two – The Smoked & Salted gin, which is sublime and totally different to any gin I had ever tasted before; then there was the gin that they age in a vermouth cask – so you’re practically drinking a martini. Neither product is easy on the wallet, at £50 and £75 a bottle respectively – but truly fantastic.
Another real highlight was the Hope on Hopkins stand where we spoke to Fraser for quite some time, talking about their South African distilled gins, and again we tried two – the Salt River, with its almost tequila like taste, and the Mediterranean – a wonderfully fresh gin that made for a superb gin and tonic – perhaps my favourite of the day.
At the other end of the scale we also tried an excellent fruity gin with the Blackwater Strawberry Navy Strength that had been specifically made for the festival. This was so far removed from the Salt River Hope or Smoked & Salted Nginious gins and just goes to show that anyone who says they don’t like gin may as well be saying they don’t like fruit just because they don’t like apples. Try a peach, try an banana, try a strawberry infused gin!
Moving around the spectrum towards the floral gins, we both really enjoyed the Pothecary Gin with its Lavender notes – something that to my ears sounded horrible, but tasted lovely, especially with the Fever-Tree Mediterranean Tonic Water. The Pothecary people were lovely too, and happy to let you have a nose in their botanicals – I particularly liked the black mulberries, that reminded me of a less harsh liquorice and something I could then really appreciate in the gin.
I wasn’t keen on everything I tried – I was curious about Skin Gin, but when I tried the Skin Gin Blanc, it turned out to most certainly not be for me, and the Pinkster was similarly not to my tastes. We also wanted to see Elephant Gin, but found them to be on far more of a sales pitch than anyone else, and this was somewhat off-putting. The colour-changing Sharish gin was drawing the crowds, but the Portuguese distiller’s standard gin was a far better product, especially once you added a little tonic and a slice of apple – delicious. The Rock Rose stand was our final destination and mixed with both Elderflower and Mediterranean Fever-Trees, one of which worked for me, and other of which worked for my now-quite-tipsy Miss Rose. We decided to end on that high note, and headed for the Gin Foundry stand to make purchases.
I have certainly not mentioned all of the stands we visited, some of which, like Bertha’s Revenge – the Cork based Milk Gin – was so smooth it was one of those we purchased on exit. And you’ll also note that I have not mentioned any of the wonderful master-classes we enjoyed – and that is because we didn’t. Unfortunately there was not enough room in the odd place these talks were given – and if you could get close enough, the acoustics were such that it was hard to understand. I’m guessing if you were in the front rows then you’d have been fine, but it was not quite clear enough what time things were happening. Maps and timetables would have been cheap to produce and very welcome. The little cards that were produced with notes for each gin were great, we took two of each so we could play gin snap when we got home.
Generally speaking the event was well run and very enjoyable – more seats would have been nice, more bins would have been handy – some garnishes were easy to swallow with the end of the gin, but who wants to down a sprig of mint, thyme or orange rind? Also, there was a cocktail bar apparently – Miss Rose noticed it, I did not – which could possibly be me being blinkered, but I would have liked to have a longer drink at some point, so it was a shame I hadn’t picked up on that – again a carry-around map would have helped with that.
Would I go again or recommend it? Without doubt, yes I would, and hopefully by next year they’ll have had similar feedback and it will be a little better organised, very simple things would have made the whole day so much better. But, it was well priced, a great opportunity to meet some wonderful distillers and learn more about the drink I love.
I could recommend at least half a dozen wonderful gins that I had not tried before going to Junipalooza, and that was exactly what I was hoping for. Hope on Hopkins, Nginious, Conker and Pothecary would be top of my list, with Bertha’s Revenge and Blackwater not far behind. I just wish I’d also had the time, and drinking ability, to also visit old favourites like Adnams, Caorunn and Silent Pool as well; next year I might just buy tickets for both days.
Things are afoot at Portobello Road, they have huge ambitions – recently unveiled plans for a multi-million pound ‘home of gin’ to include a restaurant, gintonica (what the Spanish and my father-in-law call a g ‘n’ t) bar, boutique rooms and a blending room, not to mention their ‘Ginstitute’. We can gather from this that things must be going well with the good folks at Portobello Gin.
This was a gin I had consumed in bars before, but never added a bottle to my collection. I was delighted when the other half came home from Waitrose with a bottle last week, especially as she had looked into the best mixer and purchased more Fever-Tree Mediterranean, and had downloaded the Ginventory App to check to see if we had the appropriate garnishes.
Having played about with a few combinations I have a certain preference – Portobello mixed with Fever-Tree Mediterranean and pink peppercorns. I’d never garnished a gin drink with peppercorns before, but I will certainly expand my horizons. The flavours in the gin are really brought to life in this combination, and although there is something soapy about the result in the aftertaste, at the time it is unnoticed, so as long as you don’t stop drinking it, you’ll be fine!
With the Indian Tonic water I would probably have issued a decent rating for Portobello Road , but with the Mediterranean, it has a unique presence, without losing the straight-up juniper-forward dominance. The price tag, at £28 is reasonable enough, and the gin itself is 42%. The peppercorns, for all they bring to the table, are annoying when it comes to drinking the gin and tonic, you get a mouthful unless you’re very careful, and the process of being careful detracts from the enjoyment. But that is my fault alone of course, and I shan’t hold it against the concoction.
I have entered a competition to be one of the first people to see inside the newly created complex later in the year. Wish me luck reader, for my fingers are very much crossed.
Did you read the part where I said I had a sweet tooth yet? It was a post or two ago and you can be forgiven for missing it, but if you do bother to read this blog occasionally then you’ll get the idea. Brockmans for example – love the stuff, not very ginny gin, but deliciously delovely nonetheless. A Negroni however, is a Man’s Drink, and before I get bombarded by feminists, I mean, a man’s drink as opposed to a boy’s drink.
A Negroni is, strictly speaking, equal measures of gin, Campari bitters and vermouth rosso (ie sweet red) and if you stick to those official guidelines then you need a fairly heavyweight gin, or essentially all you end up with is a large Campari, because the Campari has strangled the life out of the other ingredients.
So, taking my bottles of Martini Rosso and Campari Bitters, I chose a couple of gins and threw around a few proportions until I was slightly too tipsy to pour properly. I used the fairly punchy and juniper forward Brokers brand of gin, and slowly dropped the levels of Campari and upped the levels of the other two, and as I did so the whole thing evened itself up more and more into a drink I could quite enjoy. I’m not sure that Count Camillo Negroni would care for me watering down the drink the had deliberately strengthened, and I suspect bartenders around the globe are shaking their heads, but, for me, the best way to enjoy a Negroni is to to take your gin, vermouth and Campari and proportion it 3:3:1, or 3:2:1 if your gin is a little lighter. All in all though, I’m not convinced that it’s not better to save your gin for something else entirely.
I googled more variations and found that substituting the Campari for Aperol will give you a ‘Contessa’, which is far more of a boy’s drink, and, I discovered after venturing to Sainsbury’s for a bottle of the orange liquier, far more my cup of gin.
Unfortunatley there is no photographic evidence of me enjoying my Contessa, so you’ll just have to picture me yourself – a tad shy of 6’2″, bearded, forty four and wearing a lumberjack shirt, really enjoying my boy’s… oh lets face it, GIRL’S drink.