Love gin? Of course you do! And summer is a perfect time to explore new tastes and new pairings by throwing a gin tasting party. It’s a great way to break the ice with new acquaintances or add a cool activity to your next catch-up with your besties. And if you have far-flung family and friends, it makes for a fantastic festive season Zoom party. 

Glyn French of Flowstone Gin has some great pointers.

Glyn suggests focusing on finding the perfect serve at your party: “A great gin tasting aims to create the perfect pairing of a particular gin with some beautiful and carefully matched garnishes,” says Glynn. Here’s how…

First things first, which gin? 

If you can’t assemble enough different garnishes, a truly unique gin like Flowstone’s Bushwillow may be sufficient. It combines woody, earthy notes with a rich, nutty warmth and you’ll have more than enough fun finding complementary options to serve with it. 

But for maximum party pleasure, three gins will allow your guests to contrast the interaction of each garnish with the different gin types. A good bet is a classic London Dry gin, a local champion and something unique. 

In London Dry gins, such as Flowstone- are made by distilling natural botanicals, nothing can be added after the distillation except water. In these gins juniper forms the backbone for other botanical flavours to interact with. Examples include Flowstone’s Marula Gin where marula’s tangy citrus bouquet and other indigenous botanicals are woven through the clean juniper base. 

Flowstone Wild Cucumber Gin is another good option, combining cucumber notes and an edge of herbaceous kiwi fruit with medium notes of the juniper.  

The nose… 

Pour half a teaspoonful into a small glass. (Glyn recommends one with incurving edges.) “With the glass just below your nose and your lips slightly apart, breathe in slowly and gently. A long slow in breath is the secret to unlocking the aromas. See if you also experience the gin flavours gently at the back of your mouth.” 

You will only be able to do a few sniffs before your nose becomes overwhelmed. 

Rest a while, sniff a few coffee beans and off you go again. 

The taste…

At formal gin tastings, the gins might be served neat or with just a splash of water, but that’s an acquired taste, says Glyn, adding that it can actually be difficult to discern nuances in this format. “Rather dilute the gin 50:50 with water or place a small piece of ice in the neat spirit and swirl it to let the ice melt a little.”

Now, take the tiniest sip and let it move through the different areas of your mouth.  With a good gin you’ll experience different tastes in different parts of your mouth. “See what the tastes make you think of and have fun trying to put names to the flavours,” she says.

Have a glass of water for each guest so they can clear their mouths between sips and between different gins.

Time for the tonic…

The flavour profiles of most gins were developed to work well with tonic and there are many lovely tonics around. “Serve a selection and see how their flavours, and colours, work with the different gins,” Glyn advises “see if a citrus flavoured tonic goes better with a complimentary citrus gin or with a contrasting herb flavoured tonic, or try an Indian tonic to hero the gin? Then try the other tonics.” Remember the magic formula is 1:4. So it’s usually whole tonic with a double tot gin (50mls). But for a single shot (25 ml) try just half a tonic- otherwise you swamp the delicious gin.

You can also try your gins with freshly squeezed orange juice, as well as still and sparkling waters.

Salad days…

“Garnishes should be the crowning glory of a ‘perfect serve’,” says Glyn. “To choose the perfect partners, go back to the flavours you experienced when tasting the gin and think of what would complement those. Say you tasted a hint of cinnamon; well, cinnamon and apple are best buddies, so a thin slice of apple in that gin would probably be wonderful.” Mulberries are fantastic with any gin that has notes of freshness and hints of fruitiness, she adds. “Spread out a smorgasbord of possible garnishes and include unusual options like celery, toasted nuts, bay leaves, coriander, thin curls of carrot, edible flowers (check on Google first!), fresh lemon leaves from the tree in your garden, nasturtium leaves… And let your friends mix and match.”  

Glyn’s final tip for the perfect serve, is to aim for visual contrasts: say, a slice, a curl, and a segment. “Add sprigs of fresh herbs for height, use contrasting colours, or go a themed palette – try all pinks with just a highlight of green for contrast. You’re looking for that beautifully served and garnished G&T – a drink that mesmerises the eyes and gets the taste buds dancing.”

Her last word of advice? “Have fun with your imagination and creativity. Get to know your friends better and make wonderful memories. Enjoy!” 

Glyn’s Perfect Serve

Dry-charred cashew nuts (“3 or 4 for the gin garnish but they are so delicious, do more for nibbling”) Tempered and crushed fennel seeds (“lightly toss in the hot pan after you’ve done the cashews, then crush in a pestle and mortar”) 

50ml Flowstone Bushwillow Gin

Fitch & Leeds or Barker & Quinn Indian tonic

Sprig of fresh thyme

Float the charred cashews on top of your G&T.  Sprinkle a mere pinch of the tempered fennel on top. Take the sprig of fresh thyme, smash it between the palms of your hands then float it on top.

“We call this perfect serve, the ‘Gin Char’. The garnishes perfectly complement the woody earthiness of our Bushwillow Gin. As you lift the glass to your lips the rich charred notes marry perfectly to the sip that follows. Warning – very, very more-ish.”

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