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For the perfect Gin & Tonic, just add…spice?

Is this the "ultimate" G&T?

So I’ve survived Snowpocalypse 2010. There’s still two feet of snow on the ground, and I plan to distract myself from the big dig-out with a warm-weather drink:  a cool, crisp gin and tonic.

Not long ago, a distiller confided to me his recipe for a “perfect gin & tonic.” Sure, it features his gin…but still, I love meeting (and drinking with) distillers. They tend to be intelligent people (often with advanced degrees in engineering or chemistry) and passionate about what they do and what they drink.

So when a distiller makes a cocktail suggestion, I listen.

The distiller in question was Alexandre Gabriel, president of Cognac Ferrand. I’ll spare you the details of our interview, but it’s important to note that his portfolio includes rum (finished in Cognac casks, natch) and Citadelle gin.

Gabriel mentioned that Spain is the number one market for Citadelle, and as a result he travels there frequently.

Only Spain knows how to make a gin and tonic,” he insisted. “They use a big glass, like a tumbler or a Riedel burgundy glass. They use a full mini bottle (about 1.6 ounces) and then the full bottle of tonic, so the proportions are correct. And lots of good ice, so it refreshes the drink but doesn’t dilute it down. They add lemon, lime, or around Christmas they add a little cinnamon, anise, or nutmeg.”

Say WHAT? To me, a G&T is served in a tall glass, maybe a squeeze of lime, and that’s it. But…nutmeg?

“Oh yes,” Gabriel assured. Further, he continued, in Madrid, there’s a restaurant named Padre, which brings around a G&T cart loaded with different gins (over 200 brand are available in Spain, according to Gabriel), and an array of spices for you to select for your drink. A good gin & tonic, Gabriel said, “should be like being in a garden of spice.”

The verdict:  It’s very good. Those who groove on the botanicals in gin will especially love the extra kick and aromatics that fresh spices add to the drink (note – skip the straw so your nose is all but immersed in the pretty fragrances). However, I’m not sure I’d describe this as the ultimate gin & tonic for me. I still prefer the long, tall, cool version.

That said — I can see the potential for adding fresh herbs and spices to G&T’s, Spanish style. I’m still dreaming about the cilantro-and-muddled-lime G&T I recently had at Bar Basque. (They don’t have a G&T cart, but they do have an intriguing G&T menu.)

Alexandre Gabriel’s Recipe for the Perfect Gin & Tonic

1.6 ounces Citadelle Gin

200 ml Fever Tree tonic

Lime or lemon skin (for just a little oil from the peel; not the full wedge)

Grated nutmeg, star anise, or cinnamon stick

In a large tumbler, stir together gin, tonic, and ice. Twist citrus peel over the drink and add to the glass. Garnish with spice and drink (no straw). And as per Gabriel, “Toast to the Spanish!”

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Filed under bar techniques, Drink recipes, Drink trends

DIY Spiced Rum

I’ve had spiced rum on the brain ever since I wrote about the new crop of rums for “Talk Like A Pirate Day.”  And I’ve been planning to experiment and mix up a few batches but just haven’t found the time.

Turns out, Paul Clarke beat me to the punch, with his Serious Eats post on How To Make Spiced Rum From Scratch. In the article, he notes the importance of selecting the right rum to infuse — he recommends “something with a good, aged richness to it,” (I agree) and recommends Appleton Estate Extra, Mount Gay Eclipse, or Matusalem Gran Reserva. 

He also warns that vanilla can overpower some spiced rums — which seems to be the chief complaint about the current crop of spiced rums. Personally, I find those vanilla notes pleasing, but certainly it’s more interesting when the rum shows pops of cinnamon, allspice, or clove.

Paul Clarke’s Spiced Rum  

  • 1 750ml bottle decent aged rum
  • 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
  • 3 whole cloves
  • 1 cinnamon stick, broken into pieces
  • 5 whole allspice berries
  • 5 whole black peppercorns
  • 1/2 piece star anise
  • 1/8 tsp fresh-grated nutmeg
  • 3 quarter-size pieces fresh ginger
  • 2 3-inch strips fresh orange zest, white pith removed

Combine everything in a large jar and seal. Keep in a cool, dark place for a couple of days, shaking it once a day to distribute the ingredients. Start tasting it after 48 hours; adjust ingredients if necessary, and once you feel it’s done (probably no longer than 4 days altogether), strain and bottle.

In the past, I’ve also tried the following spiced rum recipe — it’s unorthodoxly fruity, intense, and loosely based on a house-made version that was served at the Waldorf-Astoria’s Peacock Alley bar a few years back, where the rum was shaken with Cointreau and raspberry puree.

Autumn Spiced Rum

  • 1 750 ml bottle gold rum
  • 1/2 Fuji apple, diced
  • 5 pieces of fresh ginger, peeled and cut into coin-sized slices
  • 1 dried fig
  • 1 piece of orange peel
  • 1 Tablespoon of black peppercorns, crushed

Add all the spices to the rum, close, and let steep 24 hours, or as long as one week. Strain out the fruit and spices and cover tightly. Use in your favorite rum-based cocktails.

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Filed under bar techniques, Spicy spirits, Uncategorized