Seeking Botanicals with Fraser Dodge
Seeking Botanicals with Fraser DodgeIf your appreciation of gin has moved an inch forward since the year 2000, then you will enjoy the prospect of a balloon glass, filled to the brim of perfectly poured small-batch gin with a tonic infused with complementary herbs or spices, a curled citric fruit zest hiding amongst Titanic sinking ice cubes. Apart from the sometimes OTT pageantry which forms part of the pour, a good gin and tonic are now found almost everywhere.
Why, you might ask? Because of the Spaniards, that´s why, would be my retort.
Thanks to the insatiable desire to revive this spirit from a two cube, tube glass, slice of lemon and a straw nightmare into the artful balloons we can seek out today, the Spanish taste for gin has reignited a stagnant sector and breathed new life into craft distilleries across Europe. For it was here in Spain that the humble, nan´s drink the G&T was reinvented into the heady cocktails heights it enjoys today.
Spain is one of the largest gin consumers on the planet. Gordon´s and Beefeater might be trumpeting their new berry flavoured distillations, but it is the Spanish they are following.
Much like the craft beer sector, gin was once the preserve of the traditional city trend drivers, Madrid and Barcelona. Thankfully that has changed and there are small distilleries nestled in villages and towns across Spain. At El Grifo, you will typically be able to find 15-20 individual bottles from each corner of the country and the bits in between. It is a point of pride that we try to stock Spanish gins exclusively, much like our craft beer selection. Of course we do have some international brands making an appearance, but that is the exception, not the norm. It boggles y mind that with more than 90 craft gins available in Spain that most bars still stock the usual macro suspects.
Not to take anything away from the successful gin companies. But when faced with equal or superior quality gins, produced in the country, why not support the local independent?
A gin from Ronda, 1895, is a fantastic example. It heaves with dry, balanced, citric flavours. We serve it with lime zest, green cardamom, dried orange blossom and a Fever Tree tonic. It beats a Bombay and Schweppes by a country mile. But go to the local hole in the wall bar and see if you can get it. Madness.
Then there is Nordes form Galicia, Simbuya from Malaga, 1211 from Granada, 1947 and Wint & Lila from Sevilla, Santamania from Madrid. The list is endless. Each has its own quirk and expresses its character when paired with a tonic that might not be a Schweppes.
We need to impress the benefits of supporting these lovingly crafted products into the mind of the locals and tourists alike. After all, you´re not going to go to Belgium, sit in a monastery and ask for a Bud Lite, are you? No, of course not, because you know that the monks know their shit about beer.
So why are so many of us guilty of not taking this mindset into the spirits world? As a consumer you have power. The power of your euro going elsewhere. Ask the bartenders and if they don´t stock local spirits, especially gin in Spain, ask why not. Get to know your local distiller, visit, support, buy direct. But do something rather than the apathetic acceptance of a mediocre G&T where you could have your nipples hardened by an exceptional local alternative.