This weekend saw me attend my third Gin Festival in Manchester. If you haven’t been to a Gin Festival before, first why not and second get yourself some tickets to one of their events. The Gin Festival in Manchester is based in an old Victorian Swimming Baths; it’s not every day you get to drink gin in a ‘swimming pool’ (they are unfilled but totally awesome). It’s a wonderfully quirky event location and I believe their other festivals around the country also feature quirky places.
So you probably want to know how one of these festivals works. Upon arrival you’re given a wonderful gin baloon glass (you get to keep this), the ‘Gin Book’ (contains everything you need to know about the gin on offer), a map and a pen (to write notes or very scribbly scribbles when squiffy).
After this there is the chance to buy your drinks tokens (4 gins for £20) and check out the brand masterclasses you may want to go to during the evening. These give you the chance to find out about the history of gin and some of the gin brands you may have tried (or want to try) will be giving talks and samples!
You are then free to roam at your own pace. I love how chilled out the event is, there is no rush to do anything. So find a table, read through the Gin Book, see what you fancy, go to the appropriate bar and ask for what you want. The wonderful thing about the Gin Festival is that they suggest appropriate garnishes with each gin (so so important) and this year even gave you suggestions of what flavour tonic from Fever Tree that you should pick too. In all honesty I’m still not sure how the gins at the bars are arranged, although there are definite specifics when it comes to foreign and fruity gins!
As well as the bars there is also a brand area where, you guessed it, brands come to showcase their creations, chat to you about them and give you some tasters too. This year Masons Yorkshire Gin, Adnam’s, Dodd’s and local brand Zymurgorium were present, as well as a few familiar faces from last year.
Masons were showing off their wonderful Yorkshire Tea Gin, which for me is the epitome of gins- my two favourite drinks combined- and bloomin’ delicious too! The Zymurgorium also had some wonderful gin liqueurs, but here the stand out was the gin caviar. Unable to spill their secrets, these guys have somehow made gin into a caviar like substance that would be amazing in prosecco, or on ice cream or to be honest, fab on it’s own with just a spoon to eat it with. I am excited to see what this young brand have in store for Manchester.
So for me, on my third year and in the alumni of Gin Festival revellers, I set myself a challenge. Being a huge gin fan, with a 50 strong collection at home, I had to aim for new and wonderful things in a game that my friends and I like to call‘Gin Pokemon.’
Armed with tokens I tracked down some wonderful gins that I thought that a) I would enjoy and b) never have tried anything like. I’m not huge on flavoured gins, so we’re not off down that route. Although the Adnams Sloe Gin was pretty good, not too sweet and I probably could’ve had more. But, yes, I went on a bit of an adventure.
First up I tried the Sikkim Pivee, a Spanish gin. This was garnished with orange and Fever Tree's wonderful Mediterranean Tonic Water. I found this to be a wonderfully refreshing drink, the garnish and tonic transported me to Spain and I could easily imagine myself drinking this in the sun! My other half also enjoyed this one and I feel a bottle may be joining the gin shelf soon.
Next up was a Birmingham gin, called Geranium, garnished with pink grapefruit and normal Fever Tree Indian Tonic. This is a gin that sticks to traditional gin roots, made in a Victorian still with actual Geranium in the still. It’s floral but not too much. The pink grapefruit takes the edge off the juniper and makes for a refreshing but very traditional tasting gin.
I then moved on to a more local gin, Batch Premium, made in Burnley. The lime and raspberry was an interesting garnish to go in with this spicier gin. I’m not sure I’d have teamed it with this myself, but it was still a refreshing drink. I’d have played to the frankincense and myrrh present in the botanicals with a garnish of cloves and orange maybe, but that’s just me.
Lastly the Shortcross gin from Northern Ireland, I might lie and say I tried this in my gin advent calendar, but I didn’t do things right. So to rectify that mistake I went in search of it. Served with mint garnish and Fever Tree Elderflower Tonic. The sweet tonic and the refreshing mint really balance the ‘herby’ gin. Almost a reminder of a recent favourite, Rock Rose gin from Scotland, I think this is going to be going on my shelf soon.
In between my gin sampling (it wasn’t all in one go promise), I went to the Masons Yorkshire gin masterclass to learn about their terrific brand. We also checked out the awesome selfie machine and food stalls on offer. The Striped Pig Co offered some amazing meaty delights; we’d tried them before at Grillstock, the BBQ festival, so it was great to see them again!
Overall, my third gin festival was wonderful. It’s definitely grown over the years and it’s great to see it so successful, but not too big. I didn’t feel it was over-crowded and like I said before, aside from when last orders were called there was no rush. Despite trying many new gins, one from the brands area won for me and I bought myself a bottle of the Yorkshire Tea gin!
I’d just like to say, thankyou Gin Festival for a great 2016 festival; hope to see you in 2017!
My Gin Festival tips-
1) Get your tickets as soon as they are on sale.
2) Queues happen quickly, so get there before your ticketed time.
3) Bring cash for the food stalls. Cards are accepted at the token stands and off-licence if you want to buy bottles of gin!
4) Try and make notes, you may want to buy a bottle at the end.
MissPond is a Manchester based blogger with gin to thank for getting her through her PhD. She shares her Manchester food and drink recommendations, as well as her own recipes and life experiences, on her blog misspond.com. Aside from blogging, she enjoys hunting mountains, conquering long distance runs and pretending to be an olympic weight lifter in the gym.
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