It can’t have escaped your notice (it’s definitely not escaped ours) that gin is having a moment. And, as summer inches ever closer, there’s never been a better time to raise a glass to this most thirst-quenching of summer spirits – assuming, of course, that you drink responsibly. And we know, you always do.
The beauty of gin is that the juniper-flavoured neutral base spirit (from where we get the drink’s earliest name jenever, and, ultimately, gin) is really just the start. In the right hands, the infusions of botanicals, spices, roots and aromatic compounds create a concoction that’s probably the most versatile, exciting and diverse spirit in the world.
Now, craft distillers are cropping up across the globe – and there are so many recipes, independent bottlers and passionately locally-sourced varieties that, wherever you’re headed in Europe, there’ll be a gin that celebrates the best of the region’s home-grown herbs and flowers.
So, wherever you’re headed, raise a glass, and enjoy some of the best examples of this most summery of spirits. As a bonus, you can pick all of these up in the UK, so you can bring a little of that sunshine back with you, too.
Italy, Sabatini Gin
Sabatini Gin is actually made in London, but it showcases herbs harvested from the Sabatini family’s garden in Tuscany. The result is a defiantly Mediterranean expression – all olive leaves, thyme, fennel and lemon verbena, offering an earthily clean and herbal twang to a summery G&T. Fabulous.
Italy, Malfi Gin
The clue’s in the name – this intensely summery drink takes lemons from the Amalfi coast to create its distinct, citrusy flavor profile. The results? A very fresh, bright and authentically Italian summer aperitif: think woody juniper playing with bergamot, lemon and lime. With tonic, it’s a fizzy, sherberty grown-up glass of lemonade, you could say!
Beloved by gin aficionados the world over, G’Vine is made in the Cognac region of western France. As you’d expect around here, they use a base of grape spirit, rather than neutral base spirit made from grain. Their Floraison bottling, is delicate and floral, while their Nouaison a woodier, drier expression. They both work well in a Champagne cocktail, but are lovely served over ice too.
The 19 botanicals of Citadelle infuse a complex, globe-trotting flavour to this northern-France inspired drink (the name comes from the old royal distillery in Dunkirk, an important spice trade port). Dutch cumin, German angelica, Spanish almonds and Vietnamese Cinnamon – amongst others – create a well-rounded, zesty and peppery infusion that will stand up to the most intense cocktails.
The Netherlands, Goodmans
Gin originated in the Netherlands, but the original ‘jenever’ was a health tonic, and the old-style Dutch gin is still something of an acquired taste. So, instead, opt for one of the new kids on the block, such as the smooth and clean Goodman’s Gin, out of The Hague. There’s a lot going on here – cassia, lavender, lemon and angelica – but they’re reigned in, and hit that spicy/dry/sweet balance perfectly. A modern classic.
A gin that you’ll either love or hate – but one which we adore, Nordes is summer in a glass for us. This Galician gin (from the northern coast of Spain) is made with an Albariño-grape spirit, rather than grain-based, and evokes big, blustery Atlantic skies – so refreshing and punchy is its mix of 12 botanicals, from hibiscus to liquorice, eucalyptus to green tea. Distilled four times, this is smooth, soft and mouth-wateringly delicious.
Spain, Gin Mare
The gin of the sea, Gin Mare wears its Mediterranean heart on its sleeve so completely you can almost feel the waves lap at your feet when you take a sip. Highly praised, and much-awarded, this cocktail mixologists’ favourite is made with botanicals including olive, rosemary, thyme, basil and mandarin, so expect a woody, citrusy and confidently crisp and zesty creation with a perfume that’s as heady as a Majorcan meadow.
Germany, Monkey 47
This Black Forest-made gin won Best in Class at the World Spirits Awards last year, and we can see why. The ‘47’ relates to the number of botanicals, and its bottling strength (so go easy!) With the addition of juicy cranberries, this robust, punch concoction isn’t for softies. Its fruity/herbal kick is crying out for a dry Martini. And if you can imagine the Black Forest when drinking, that’s no coincidence, it’s the pine!
Now all that’s left is to choose your perfect tonic. But that, of course, is a whole other story. Our current favourites aren’t from the European mainland, though. They’re from Wales – the clean, organic smack of Llanllyr, the Andes – the perfectly balanced 1724, and (we’re not going to lie to you) Schweppes. It’s exactly what tonic water should taste like!