Love gin? Of course, you do! And summer is a perfect time to explore new tastes and new pairings by throwing a gin tasting party. It’s a great way to break the ice with new acquaintances or add a cool activity to your next catch-up with your besties. And, if you have far-flung family and friends, it makes for a fantastic festive season Zoom party. Keep reading for some great pointers on how to host a summer gin tasting this festive season.
Finding the right gin
First thing’s first, you’ll need the right gins for your party. Focus on finding the perfect serve. “A great gin tasting aims to create the perfect pairing of a particular gin with some beautiful and carefully matched garnishes,” says Glyn French of Flowstone Gin. Here’s how…
If your budget allows, invest in at least 2 or 3 different gins to offer your guests variety and the pleasure of exploring different flavours. Three gins will allow your guests to contrast the interaction of each garnish with the different gin types. Try to find a classic London Dry gin, a locally-made gin, and for your third option, something with a unique flavour profile or story.
London Dry gins are made by distilling natural botanicals, nothing can be added after the distillation except water. In these gins juniper forms the backbone for other botanical flavours to interact with.
For a London Dry gin, we love Beefeater London Dry gin. The iconic tipple is a great representation of the category, with juniper, clean citrus and almond, for a nutty tone. It’s the ideal gin for a classic gin and tonic, as it has the perfect balance of botanicals to complement the bitterness from the tonic and tang from the citrus.
For the locally-made gin, try something like Six Dogs Pinotage Stained gin. The love-child of Six Dogs Gin and a neighbouring farm’s Pinotage grapes, this exciting locally distilled gin is a must-try.
Lastly, for a special gin, we love Hendrick’s Lunar gin for its unique flavour profile. This special-edition gin offers a night-blooming floral essence, with a delicate balance of warm baked spices, and finished with a crisp burst of citrus.
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Gather the garnishes
Next, do some research on the different flavour profiles of the gins you have selected for your tasting. Offer your guests different garnish options for each gin in order to bring out the flavours in each different option.
“Spread out a smorgasbord of possible garnishes and include unusual options like celery, toasted nuts, bay leaves, coriander, thin curls of carrot, edible flowers, fresh lemon leaves from the tree in your garden, nasturtium leaves… And let your friends mix and match,” advises French.
If you can only invest in one gin, then a truly unique gin like Flowstone Bushwillow gin may be sufficient for your tasting. It combines woody, earthy notes with a rich, nutty warmth, and you’ll have more than enough fun finding complementary options to serve with it.
Now for the tasting…
Pour half a teaspoonful into a small glass (we recommend finding one with incurving edges). “With the glass just below your nose and your lips slightly apart, breathe in slowly and gently. A long slow in-breath is the secret to unlocking the aromas. See if you also experience the gin flavours gently at the back of your mouth,” says Flowstone’s Glyn French.
Keep in mind that you will only be able to do a few sniffs before your nose becomes overwhelmed. Rest awhile, sniff a few coffee beans, and off you go again.
At formal gin tastings, the gins might be served neat or with just a splash of water, but that’s an acquired taste, says French. Adding that it can actually be difficult to discern nuances in this format. “Rather dilute the gin 50:50 with water, or place a small piece of ice in the neat spirit and swirl it to let the ice melt a little.” Now, take the tiniest sip and let it move through the different areas of your mouth. With a good gin, you’ll experience different tastes in different parts of your mouth. “See what the tastes make you think of and have fun trying to put names to the flavours,” she says.
Have a glass of water for each guest, so they can clear their mouths between sips and between different gins.
TIME FOR TONIC
The flavour profiles of most gins were developed to work well with tonic, and there are many lovely tonics around. “Serve a selection and see how their flavours, and colours, work with the different gins,” French advises. “See if a citrus flavoured tonic goes better with a complimentary citrus gin or with a contrasting herb flavoured tonic, or try an Indian tonic to hero the gin? Then try the other tonics.”
Remember the magic formula is 1:4. So it’s usually whole tonic with a double tot gin (50mls). But for a single shot (25 ml) try just half a tonic — otherwise, you swamp the delicious gin. You can also try your gin with freshly squeezed orange juice, as well as still or sparkling water.
TOP IT OFF
Now that you have added your mixer, it’s time to garnish. “Garnishes should be the crowning glory of a ‘perfect serve’,” says French. “To choose the perfect partners, ask your guests to think back to the flavours they experienced when tasting the gin and think of what would complement those.
Say you tasted a hint of cinnamon; well, cinnamon and apple are best buddies, so a thin slice of apple in that gin would probably be wonderful.” Mulberries are fantastic with any gin that has notes of freshness and hints of fruitiness, she adds.
French’s final tip for the perfect serve, is to aim for visual contrasts: say, a slice, a curl, and a segment. “Add sprigs of fresh herbs for height, use contrasting colours, or go a themed palette – try all pinks with just a highlight of green for contrast. You’re looking for that beautifully served and garnished G&T – a drink that mesmerises the eyes and gets the taste buds dancing.”
Her last word of advice? “Have fun with your imagination and creativity. Get to know your friends better and make wonderful memories. Enjoy!”