That’s the spirit!

Susy Atkins bestows the wonders of gin. And if what she says is anything to go by, there’s, er, a lot…

That’s the spirit!

Gin and gin-based cocktails are always popular – but if you assume all brands of ‘mother’s ruin’ taste the same, then think again.

Gin is made using a range of botanicals (natural plants and flowers), which add character, and these can include coriander seed, dried citrus peel, cardamom, angelica and, most distinctively, juniper.

Each of the top brands developed a house style that reflects the exact recipe used. I discovered more at a fascinating blind tasting of gins with Sean Harrison, the master distiller of Plymouth Gin.

I faced a line-up of seven mystery gins which were cut with mineral water to release their botanical character. Sniffed and sipped, every one seemed quite different. Some were more citrus in style, others earthier, or minerally or even olive-like, and several had a more powerful juniper note than the rest. Even the sweetness and acidity varied.

For the record, I enjoyed the Tanqueray, Plymouth Gin and Beefeater brands more than the others, but the point is that everyone should have their personal favourite.

Hendrick’ is a particularly interesting gin for its fragrant note of roses and cucumber, both of which are used as botanicals during production.

So each to their own, but do taste around the market. Aim to know which gin suits you, so that instead of asking for a gin and tonic you ask for a ‘Tanqueray and tonic’ or a ‘Bombay Sapphire and tonic’, for example. Much, much cooler, and more sophisticated, I think you’ll agree.

At the very least, plump for a premium brand which is more than 40 per cent proof strength, as higher alcohol gins carry the flavour of botanicals better than the weaker versions (Gordon’ is only 37.5 per cent, note). As for mixers, Fever-Tree’ new premium tonic is one of the best.

Cocktail-wise, go for a classic Martini, which is right back in vogue, like many of the traditional cocktail recipes. Otherwise, award-winning bar consultant Rachel Williams says gin is “the most versatile spirit” she works with, so shake away, perhaps trying her recommended ‘Bramble’ from legendary cocktail creator Dale de Groff: gin, fresh lemon juice, and sugar syrup served over crushed ice and finished with a splash of crème de mûre (French blackberry liqueur).

Try this month’s cocktail; a Shetland G&

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