My dad took me to his local pub the other week. It was one of those low ceilinged, beamed pubs with red velvet bar stools and optics precariously holding up the limited range of spirits. ‘This is my daughter”, he announced proudly to the disinterested locals huddled around the bar. “She’s from London”.
After some discussion about the extortionate housing prices (for some reason, old northern men love this topic of conversation), my dad asks what I’m drinking. “Gin and tonic please”.
What followed was a very quick succession of G&T errors. Firstly, my drink arrived in a short tumbler. I like my gins long. It also dawned on me that the bar lady hadn’t asked which type of gin I’d prefer. The tonic came out of the soda gun, and (gasp) there were only two chunks of ice and no garnish – not even a juniper berry. The worst realisation however… was that I’d become what i’d always feared. A gin snob.
The gin revival has been booming over the past few years with the number of UK gin distilleries more than doubling since 2010. But what goes with Gin? Tonic of course and back in 2005 on the brink of the gin explosion, Fever-Tree was born (don’t you wish you’d come up with that idea?). Now in it’s twelfth year Fever-Tree have launched their very own ‘Fever-Tree Gin school’.
On arrival, I am handed a welcome Gin whilst I put on my apron and begin to familiarise myself with the array of science lab style test tubes, beakers and bottles. The guys from Fever-Tree start by giving us a brief history of Gin & Tonic and I am surprised to understand that tonic was actually drunk back in the 1850’s because of its medicinal qualities.
Quinine, found in the bark of the cinchona tree, helped fevers and even prevented malaria, hence the nickname the Fever-Tree. Winston Churchill once declared that “The gin and tonic has saved more Englishmen’s lives, and minds, than all the doctors in the Empire.” So we should probably trust him.
After the history lesson, we begin to sample the various botanicals that give each gin its own unique taste and character. Once I’d decided how much spice, floral, citrus and savoury flavours I preferred, the fun really started once I got making up my very own personalised 500ml bottle of gin to take home.
The sessions lasts an hour but don’t worry if you’ve quaffed too much to work out your ratios, there are many experts in the room to help you perfect your preferred flavour.
I leave armed with a goody bag in one hand, and my gin aptly named ‘Gin for my Sins’ in the other. It’s been 15 years since my last chemistry lesson but I never remember having this much fun.