• New booze round-up #10: Gooseberry, elderberry, and sea buckthorn

    We’ve recently been sent quite a few unusually flavoured drinks by marketeers hoping their client has hit the next big thing. Here we round up a few of the more interesting flavours we’ve enjoyed, along with a new beer discovered on holiday in Cornwall…

    Slingsby Gooseberry Gin, 40%

    We’ve never had much luck making nice things out of goosegogs – the ones on our allotment usually get gobbled by the local blackbird population long before we get a chance to pick them. It seems that the folks at Slingsby Distillery have had slightly more success in guarding their stash and have been making good use, plunging them into their London gin recipe for a fine gin adjunct. Slingsby Gooseberry gin is a tart lip-smacker of a gin – just the ticket for a spot of summertime sipping. The bottle is pretty special too, crafted in an antique style and reminiscent of a smooth, sea-worn piece of glass you might find on a beach. Lovely.

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    Carthy & Black Yorkshire Lemon Gin Cream Liqueur, 17%

    As much as we like a glass of Baileys, it seems wrong drinking it during the summer months. To us it is forever associated with Christmas, a drink to gargle on when you’ve finished all the decent beers and it’s too early to start on the sherry. This lemony take on cream liqueur hails from Yorkshire, a county known more for rhubarb, flat caps and moaning about the cricket than yellow citrus fruits. On closer inspection it’s the cream that comes from Yorkshire – Paynes Dairy, to be precise – so all is forgiven. It’s a surprisingly light sipper that delivers mouthfuls of lemon meringue pie, underpinned with a healthy slug of Slingsby gin (see above). Store it in the fridge and sup when chilled.

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    Fowey brewery beer Lostwithiel

    The Fowey Brewery, Lostwithiel Amber, 4.4%

    Nick recently took a short holiday in Cornwall where, as luck would have it, he discovered Fowey Brewery showcasing their beers at a garden centre. Having sampled the core range in between admiring the impressive bee garden he purchased a three pack containing the brewery’s pilsner, an excellent piney session IPA and his favourite from the selection, an amber ale.

    The beer tastes like a modern American brewery’s interpretation of a traditional Enlglish style ale, with clean malts, some caramel sweetness and dry hopping for extra flavour, but the use of English hops brought it all back to Blighty. Those hops dusted the brew with some minty hedgerow flavours and, as a result, it made a refreshing change from most contemporary amber ales.

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    St Peter’s Without Elderberry & Raspberry Alcohol Free Beer, 0%

    St Peter’s brewery contacted us about a possible review of this beer and, just by looking at the beer’s name there’s a lot to like about it. It features arguably the best fruit for beer (raspberry) along with the greatly underappreciated wild fruit of the elder tree. It’s also good to see such a creative sounding combination used in an alcohol free beer. And it’s brewed by St Peter’s, who rarely put a foot wrong.

    The beer is one of those 0% brews that has raw malt flavours to give it the desired beery body – a taste that we’re not usually that keen on – but the fruit combo merges nicely with the malty sweetness to make it all turn out a little more natural. Despite the double-berry flavouring it’s no sickly sweet fruit beer and the hops are allowed as much prominence as the brown malt. The overall effect is a flavoursome brew that has neatly tricked the palette into thinking its dealing in alcohol.

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    Sea buckthorn flavoured tonic

    Sea Buck Tonic

    We haven’t previously dedicated booze round up space to a tonic, but when we saw the press release for this one we were intrigued. Coming from St Ives in Cornwall (but not spotted during Nick’s vacation – see above) it’s a fizzy mixer flavoured with quinine and sea buckthorn berries.

    Like elderberries, sea buckthorn’s tiny orange fruits are much underused and in this mixer they lent the liquid some of its colour and a mystical fresh sourness that breezes through the bitter quinine. It’s a refreshing change to the usual tonic flavours and we thought went well mixed with a clean flavoured vodka besides, of course, gin.

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    The post New booze round-up #10: Gooseberry, elderberry, and sea buckthorn appeared first on Two Thirsty Gardeners.


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  • Blend it like Britain: a taste of the nation’s favourite teas in one bag

    Last week we were sent some tea to review. This is the first time we’ve been asked to review tea but, hopefully, not the last – we don’t just like a glass of home grown booze, we also guzzle our fair share of home grown teas.

    The tea submitted to our taste buds is a collaboration between Cornish tea growers, Tregothnan, and water purification experts Brita. They found out what teas the Brits most prefer to drink and blended them together in a unique new brew which they have punningly named ‘Blend it like Britain’. So along with black tea from the Tregothnan Estate and some Assam tea are the UK’s tea lovers’ four favourite flavours: mint, chamomile, rose and lemon verbena.

    No big surprises in that list, and the blenders have done an excellent job of combining them all together: we’ve been Brewing it like Britain on most days since receiving our tin.

    To give you a taste of what each of those winning ingredients brings to the brew here’s a little more about each of them.

    Chamomile

    The musty floral aroma of dry chamomile flowers reminds us of health shops when we were growing up – black tea alternatives were few and far between but those hippyish health oriented stores were fairly well stocked and it was chamomile’s comforting qualities that led the way. Thankfully the Britta blenders haven’t been too heavy handed with the daisy-like flowers and the aroma and flavour is suitably comforting.

    Mint

    The next most easily detectable ingredient in the blend, mint is a tea makers dream, adding a freshness to whatever it is paired with. Black mint is the chosen variety and it does most of its good work at the end of each swig, filling the mouth with a healthy mint tingle.

    Lemon verbena

    This herb is often overlooked by gardeners but we’re pleased to see the country’s tea drinkers have given in a place at the top table. It has a lemon sherbet flavour that compliments mint extremely well and, although subtlety used in the resulting blend, brings it unique citrus freshness to the palette.

    Rose

    Both rose petals and hips are popular with tea blenders – the former predominantly for their aroma, the latter for their intense fruitiness. It’s the petals that feature in Brita’s bags but you would be hard pressed to notice their presence without seeing them among the ingredients first (a lot of people are put off by overtly floral perfumes in consumables so we’re guessing they took the side of caution). There is, however, an uplifting sweetness to the overall aroma of the tea which is almost certainly down to those pink petals, so even in small doses they’ve done a great job for TEAm GB.

    The tea is available from tregothnan.co.uk and all profits will be donated to the mental health charity, Mind.

    The post Blend it like Britain: a taste of the nation’s favourite teas in one bag appeared first on Two Thirsty Gardeners.


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  • Interview: Urban foraging and whiskey cocktail making with John Rensten

    John Rensten is one of the UK’s best known foragers, specialising in gathering wild feasts from urban locations. He’s currently teaming up with ace Irish whiskey makers Bushmills to explore using foraged ingredients in whiskey-based cocktails. We were eager to find out more…

    What is the main appeal of foraging? 

    I’d probably start by talking about nutrition. All wild food is superfood, and by this I mean its packed full of healthy minerals, vitamins and antioxidants. Take nettles for example, these are over 30 per cent plant protein, and rich in iron and calcium, whilst rose hips, weight for weight, offer twenty times the vitamin C of oranges. The fibre you can get from just one teaspoon of ribwort plantain seeds equates to a full bowl of porridge! But foraging has many benefits, it’s good for mental and physical wellbeing and can also make you more ecologically aware. 

    Most people think about the countryside when it comes to foraging, but you specialise in urban locations. Are there different challenges to finding edibles among streets and buildings and does pollution have an impact on what you can use? 

    It’s true foraging is often associated with the countryside, however, if you look in the right places, you’ll quickly discover that cities offer a vast array of free, edible treats, coming and going throughout the seasons. In my local park alone I have collected and eaten nearly 200 different edible plants. However, when foraging in built up areas it’s important to think about the potential effects of pollution, so I’d recommend staying clear of overly industrialised areas and busy roads.

    You’re taking part in a Bushmills foraging and whiskey tasting event around London on June 25th. Can you tell us a bit about what you’ll be getting up to.

    The masterclass will see participants taken on a guided foraging tour in East London, by me, before learning how to create delicious whiskey cocktails using foraged ingredients and Bushmills Black Bush Whiskey. It’s part of Bushmills’ ‘Black Bush Stories’ series of events which celebrate different crafts across the UK, in this instance: the craft of foraging. The evening will be co-hosted by the award winning drinks writer and TV presenter, Neil Ridley, alongside Bushmills’ whiskey ambassador Donal McLynn. 

    What ingredients can attendees expect to find during the evening? 

    The city has so much to offer this time of the year. I wouldn’t be surprised if we stumbled upon some elderflower, lime blossom, dandelions, yarrow or hogweed, all of which can be used to make delicious cocktails. Take hogweed bitters for example, these taste like bitter orange and numerous other dried spices rolled into one. They work especially well in place of Angostura when making an Old Fashioned. 

    Finally, what’s your favourite foraged cocktail?

    If it’s a whiskey cocktail, you’re spoilt for choice. You can make an Irish coffee with roasted dandelion root, or a whiskey sour with quince or sorrel, but I’d probably have to say my favourite would be an Old Fashioned made with hogweed bitters and garnished with dried crab apple.

    John Rensten, urban forager

    Bushmills Black Bush Whiskey is hosting an exclusive foraging and cocktail making masterclass on Thursday 20th June, where you can learn how to forage in London and create cocktails using natural, foraged ingredients. Tickets are available here

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  • New booze round-up #9: Father’s Day whisky

    Hot on the heels of World Gin Day comes another event that seems to be more appealing to marketeers than anyone else: Father’s Day. But we know that booze is a popular purchase for Dads so are happy to pass on a few of the better recommendations. Inevitably the drinks category that received the most messages in our inbox leading up to the ‘big day’ is whisky, so consider this a Father’s Day Whisky Special…

    Benromach speyside whisky

    Benromach Single Malt, 15 years, 43%

    Speyside distillery Benromach sent us a three-pack of 30ml bottles from their ‘Classic Range’ for us to try: Benromach 10 Years Old; their latest expression Benromach Cask Strength Vintage 2008 Batch 1; and our favourite, Benromach 15 Years Old.

    The whisky picked up the Best Speyside Single Malt gong at the World Whisky Awards in 2018 so we were particularly keen to give it a go. It’s mightily impressive, with an easy going honey and vanilla sweetness but with a fruity richness that has been brought out by its maturation in sherry and bourbon casks. There’s also a very subtle hint of smoke that adds an extra degree of complexity. Top rated stuff for dads.

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    BenRiach whisky bottle

    BenRiach, Cask Strength Single Malt, Batch 2, 60.6%

    We reckon there must be a growing trend for cask strength whiskies because we’re seeing a lot more of them than we used to. BenRiach, another Speyside distillery, has recently released its second cask strength booze and its a cracking batch.

    The whisky has been matured in bourbon, sherry and virgin oak casks and, as you might expect from that combination (and the 60% ABV) it packs a mean punch of spice. Yet for all the power of oak and booze it’s amazingly drinkable – we would recommend diluting it to your preferred level but it’s still approachable neat. There’s a nice dusty vanilla that leads the way and some dry stoned fruit to escort your taste buds home, with very little in the way of bruisings from the booze in between.

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    Balblair whisky bottle

    Balblair 12 Year Old, 46%

    We’ve got our chops around whiskies from most of the famous Scottish distilleries but somehow Balblair, one of the oldest, has passed us by. So we’re very grateful for Rachel at their PR agency for sending us a bottle to help put things right.

    The bottle itself is a superb squat, chunky beast that shows off the pale golden liquid a treat and its toped with what could be the largest stopper we’ve prised out. The satisfying ‘pop’ of the cork removal is followed by a very gentle aroma of citrus and honey – like the ideal concoction with which to soothe a sore throat.

    At first the taste seems equally light, like some sweet spiced apple pie, but let it linger and some more interesting flavours emerge: a little bit rootsy and chocolatey with some orange liqueur richness and leathery dryness. It’s a whisky full of complexity and contrasts and we’re now eager to see what else the distillery comes up with.

    Gentleman Jack Offer

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    Jack Daniel’s Gentleman Jack, 40%

    Jack Daniel’s is probably a much more familiar name than the Scottish distilleries we’ve featured, but we’re including Gentleman Jack because Tesco’s Father’s Day offer has it priced at a ridiculously low £20.

    The product is a Tennessee whiskey that has received a double ‘charcoal mellowing’ (before and after ageing) that gives it a much cleaner taste and smoother finish than the classic Jack Daniel’s Old No.7. It’s full of sweet honey and vanilla flavours that are pepped up with dry fruity notes, but they come over in a much more refined manner, making it a very decent sipper. Even at full price it beats similar more expensive whiskeys; at the Father’s Day discount it’s a steal.

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    The post New booze round-up #9: Father’s Day whisky appeared first on Two Thirsty Gardeners.


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