It’s 9.15 and it’s already been a long day, the train was late, your carefully packed lunch is languishing on the counter at home and the boss keeps shooting you ‘that’ look. You pick up your tea, you take a sip and sigh. “This could be better”, you think, not just the quality of the brew or because elevenses is more than an hour away but the simple fact that the beverage in hand is tea and not gin. You sigh again, regretting that it’s too early in the day for that.
Well, you’re wrong. Gin in the morning is absolutely fine. The Breakfast Martini is the epitome of Britishness in cocktails and that’s a gin based drink (with a healthy portion of marmalade). And if the boss is already cross… Wait, it’s not the issue of drinking at work that’s stopping you switching to gin? It’s that tea is what fuels you through the day? You need your tea, got it.
We may have the perfect solution to this tea/gin dilemma: gin with tea. Now we’re not suggesting that your pour a glug of London Dry into your mug (complete with milk) but rather that you have a little experiment with those gins that count tea as one of their botanicals or are infused with it.
Tea and gin, a fabulous combination! Neither have their roots in Britain but for hundreds of years, we have, as a nation, drunk gallons of both, and with good reason. Contemporary distillers have connected more than just this shared enjoyment and realised that the typical flavour profiles of each drink actually work rather well together. Tea is a very aromatic drink; bitterness, gentle citrus, cinnamon sweetness and light smokiness are all common through different varieties of tea, as well as gins. While it’s entirely possible to use a range of botanicals in gin to get those kinds of flavours, using tea in gin production, obviously, gives you a touch of the taste of the tea too.
At which stage of production the tea is added has an impact on the flavours that come from the tea, Masons (Yorkshire Tea), Sikkim (rooibos) and Siderit (oolong) use tea as one one of their botanicals; they distill the tea alongside the juniper and other ingredients. Gin can also be infused with tea, that is to say that a standard gin will be distilled and then have the tea added to it, either in the form of a tincture of tea itself, dependent on the individual product. Half Hitch, for example, is created using a tincture of Malawian black tea.
To some, the tea-infused gins tastes the most strongly of tea because they are a blend of tea and gin whilst those that distil with gin have a combination of the component flavours of tea. That is to say there’ll be a touch of a particular bitterness or the warmth of the rooibos as a part of the flavour rather than the spirit tasting like carefully blended tea and gin. Both varieties very much have their place in the drinks cabinet but here at Gin Festival, we have to admit a weakness for the Masons Yorkshire Tea Edition.
Sadly, none of these look like tea, and we definitely wouldn’t recommend drinking them with milk (though a slice of lemon would be more than palatable) so you may struggle to disguise them as anything other than gin in the office but they are all delicious and if you have a really understanding boss, you just might get away with saying, “well, there is tea in there…”.
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