We’re home and (not quite) unpacked after Gin Festival's first, very successful, trip to the South Coast and it’s once again time to spill the beans on this weekend’s local cocktail!
First up, the gin! Chilgrove Dry Gin is nestled a short way away from Portsmouth; a beautiful area, hidden in the hills of Surrey. It is the first British gin to be hark back to jenever and old style gins by using a neutral grape spirit as its base; this provides the gin with a wonderful texture and brings out unusual qualities in its traditional botanicals. The botanicals in Chilgrove (juniper, coriander seed, angelica root, sweet orange, bitter orange, orris root, liquorice, grain of paradise, lime peel, savory and wild water mint) wouldn’t surprise a distiller of 200 years ago but it is their careful balance, combined with the neutral grape spirit that make Chilgrove such a powerful and complex gin. At first taste, it is delicately floral with gentle citrus notes yet it has a big spicy finish and an almost malty aftertaste that lingers.
There was no way that such an exciting gin was going into a delicate, or floral cocktail. It’s too powerful and would easily dominate the drink (I definitely recommend having a little taste of Chilgrove neat, it’s absolutely delicious that way) so Portsmouth very own had to be something that could hold its own but would complement Chilgrove, and suddenly it struck me!
The Byzantine, originally created by Douglas Arkrah, is herby, fruity and has a touch of the exotic that I always associate with the history of ports (oh, to be living on a small island...). Passionfruit, pineapple, lemongrass and lime are all brought together and saved from the fate of being nothing but gin and juice by l'herbe royale, that is, basil. Most importantly, the Byzantine, benefits from the spiciness of Chilgrove and creates a drink that is both evocative of Portsmouth’s history as a busy, seafaring port with all it’s connections to faraway climes and the gloriousness of an English gin, resting in the hills.
To make a Byzantine: muddle 6 basil leaves in the base of a shaker, add a double measure of gin, half a measure of passionfruit syrup, half a measure of lemongrass and lime cordial and a double measure of pineapple juice, shake together with ice and fine strain into an ice-filled Collins glass. Gently top with Fever-tree tonic water and garnish with a sprig of basil.
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