How to perfectly garnish your favourite gins
World Best Bar
May 09, 2020
10 January 2019
So manic is humanity’s love of the drink known as mother’s ruin that the spirit almost brought Britain to its knees during the eighteenth century. A particularly fruitful harvest one year meant that there was a glut of grain in Britain, and to ensure nothing went to waste, the powers that be lifted taxes on distilleries the country over. This led to widespread public drunkenness and a scandal so big that parliament passed five major acts in 1729, 1736, 1743, 1747 and 1751, all of which were specifically designed to curb gin consumption.
Fast forward to 2018 and we may not be having giant orgies in the town square, but we are still very much in lust with this mischievous spirit. Today, our obsession lies with small batch distilleries, exotic botanicals and – the focus of this piece – the perfect garnishes to best enhance the already beautiful flavours that make up each gin.
Botanicals: what are they and why are they important?
Gin on its own is actually fairly neutral in flavour. Where the magic really starts is in the distillation process, in which juniper, spices, seeds, berries, roots, fruits and herbs are added. These additions are known as botanicals, and their oils are extracted during distillation and absorbed by the spirit, giving each gin its distinctive flavour and characteristics.
The choice of botanicals used during distillation will tell us a lot about the expected flavour profile of the gin, as well as what other mixes and garnishes are best going to match, enhance or counterbalance the finished product.
Types of botanicals and their recommended pairings
Floral gins: Bloom, Geranium, Hendrick’s
Recommended garnishes: citrus peels, flower petals and cucumber
Why: Light floral gins will need a subtle garnish so as to not overpower the delicately balanced flavours that lie within. Cucumber is the classic choice and is often seen paired with Hendricks. Citrus peels also work well, as the essential oils within the peel will bring out zesty aromatics without the acidity of the juice taking away from some of the more understated botanicals. Flower petals are another great shout for the same reason – they impart a strong aroma whilst leaving the flavour fairly untouched.
Citrus: Bombay Sapphire, Tanqueray 10, Botanist
Recommended garnishes: coriander, basil, thyme
Why: Citrus-lead gins taste great with more savoury garnishes. The earthy aromatics of herbs such as coriander, basil and thyme work to bring out more of the background botanicals, creating a rounder flavour profile. If, however, you love a citrusy gin then banging in a good squeeze of lemon or lime will supercharge this flavour for a lip-smackingly refreshing sipper. Option two is best enjoyed in longer drinks like a gin and tonic, as the citrus notes can be overwhelming in a shorter cocktail.
Herbaceous: Edinburgh gin, Gin Mare, Whittaker’s gin
Recommended garnishes: rosemary, rocket, apple
Why: Herbaceous gins call for a little vibrancy and spice. Garnishes like rosemary and rocket imbue a certain pepperiness and fire that counterbalance the soft herbs. If you’re looking for something less savoury, you can bring a little vibrancy to your herby gin with a few crisp slices of green apple.
Dry: Beefeater, Sipsmith London Dry Gin, Aviation
Recommended garnishes: lime, lemon, grapefruit, orange
Why: The classic London Dry gins work best, as they always have, with a good slice and squeeze of citrus fruit. The eponymous dryness associated with this gin type is caused by a lack of sweeteners and flavours added during the distillation process. Sugar, like salt, is a flavour enhancer, so by adding in a nice squeeze of citrus you’ll set the botanicals ablaze and get a lot more flavour in your drink.
Spicy: Bulldog, Ophir, Thomas Dakin
Recommended garnishes: orange rind, cloves, chilli
Why: The best way to think about garnishing spicy gins is by looking at their botanicals.
We know that sweetness kills spice and citrus kills salt, so we want to avoid pairing these gins with anything particularly sweet or citric – otherwise we’ll end up with a very confused, and possibly even bland, drink. Basically, any spicy botanicals present within the gin will match great as a garnish. Orange rind, cloves and chilli are popular garnishes as they bring out a lovely warmth that’s great on a chilly evening.
Take your gin appreciation to ‘craze’ levels by properly matching your favourite bathtub spirit with its appropriate garnish. We’ll see you in the town square – bottoms up!