We all know gin is made with juniper, but what about the other botanicals in London Dry gin? Read on to learn about the 10 ingredients we use to give Sipsmith London Dry Gin its uncompromising character.
It took a lot of experimentation to reach the perfect recipe – that’s made with English wheat spirit in our copper-pot stills – and the 10 classic gin botanicals we settled on each contribute a different element to the spirit. They’re also wonderfully traditional: nothing in our London Dry Gin would surprise an 18th- or 19th-century gin distiller – except the vastly purer base spirit, that is. From juniper and citrus peels to spices and beyond, discover the botanicals in London Dry Gin.
As our illustrious master distiller Jared Brown notes: “Juniper is where gin begins, and where it gets its distinctive flavour and its name.” To officially be classed as a gin, a spirit must taste predominantly of juniper – so expect notes of soft pine, sweet citrus, earthiness, warm spice, and other complex, aromatic qualities. Juniperus communis hails from the northern Mediterranean and was recognised as far back as 1250AD, when Genoese merchants began exporting it to the rest of Europe. The rest – as they say – is history.
2. ORANGE PEEL
“Harvested in areas of Spain such as Seville, orange peels are hung against the south faces of old stone houses to dry to perfection in the sun,” says JB. You can make the most of the bright, zesty quality that the botanical brings to our London Dry Gin in an Orange Sour, which is made using the juice of two orange wedges before being garnished with an orange twist. This botanical also plays a key role during distillation, as it’s the first aroma to come through the still. As JB explains: “We use the orange scent as an indicator to begin collecting the heart cut of the distillate.”
3. LEMON PEEL
“Like the orange peel, our lemon peel is hand-harvested and sun-dried in Spain,” says JB. “The lemon is subtler than the orange, bringing dry freshness and a hint of bitterness.” Enjoy the tingling tang of lemon by shaking up a White Lady. The 1920s cocktail is made with 35ml London Dry Gin, 25ml Cointreau, 25ml freshly squeezed lemon juice and 25ml simple sugar syrup. Combine all four ingredients in a cocktail shaker and dry shake, before adding ice and shaking again. Then strain into a chilled martini glass and garnish with a lemon twist.
4. RUSSIAN CORIANDER
It took us a number of attempts to find the right coriander for our gin and we tested nine or 10 different strains before settling on Russian coriander, which has a citrusy flavour that’s a bit like lemongrass mingled with a hint of black pepper. As JB notes: “The ingredient is most distinct on the finish. By using citrus peel and coriander, we have a citrus undertone backing the soft pine of the juniper for the entire sip.”
5. ORRIS ROOT
This botanical – the root of the Florentine iris flower – hails from Italy and looks like ginger root, except for its chalk-white inside. “Orris brings floral notes into the mix, and is often described as tasting like violets,” says JB. That means we use it sparingly in each distillation, so as not to overwhelm the other flavours. If the sound of a violent-tinged cocktail appeals to you, then it’s time to discover a pre-Prohibition cocktail that has recently made a glorious return to bar menus around the world. The Aviation is made with London Dry Gin, maraschino liqueur, freshly squeezed lemon juice and purple-hued creme de violette.
6. LIQUORICE ROOT
“Liquorice is a fascinating botanical to distil,” according to JB. “Despite what you might think, it imparts no liquorice flavour at all. What it brings to the gin is the perception of sweetness on the palate. We could throw 10kg of sugar into the still and the resulting spirit would taste no sweeter. However, just a tablespoon of liquorice makes a big difference in a 300-litre batch. It is used sparingly, as we want it to subtly support the sweet notes of the juniper.”
7. ANGELICA ROOT
It may sound obscure, but angelica root is a classic gin botanical that’s worth getting acquainted with. It helps that the ingredient is a powerhouse: “Like juniper, angelica has a remarkably complex flavour. The roots have earthy notes, yet they are also herbaceous, sweet, bitter and a little warming,” says JB. With its oversized leaves, sturdy stalk and globes of flowers, the plant thrives in Britain and is frequently found in ornamental gardens.
8. CINNAMON BARK
We love cinnamon for the warm, spicy notes it imparts to our gin. For a seasonal twist on a refreshing Collins cocktail, use cinnamon syrup to make a Spiced Apple Collins. Simply combine 50ml Sipsmith London Dry Gin, 25ml fresh apple juice, 10ml sugar syrup and 15ml cinnamon syrup in a highball glass filled with ice. Stir to combine, top with soda water and garnish with a cinnamon stick. Talking of which, a cinnamon stick is also one of our favourite G&T garnishes.
9. CASSIA BARK
Cassia is similar to cinnamon, but serves its own purpose: it is hotter, spicier and more impactful in distillation. And it’s this extra boldness that means cassia is often mislabelled as cinnamon in grocery shops. However, cassia lacks cinnamon’s more complex flavours, which is why it’s valuable to use the two botanicals in tandem.
“Though it is said that almonds bring a marzipan flavour to gin, their function here is predominantly for the mouthfeel,” JB explains. Almonds lend a delectable creaminess to our gin and – thankfully – nut proteins typically remain behind in distillation, so a distillate of almonds normally contains no allergens.
Take a photo of your London Dry Gin creations and tag us @sipsmith – we’d love to see what you think of our special blend of botanicals.