While we’re still loving a flavoured gin into the summer, Jack Mannering, resident gin expert and distiller at Serata Hall, says it’s definitely less in demand this year. “People are now starting to favour carefully crafted gin, which is shown in the rising popularity of small batch gin.”
However, those who are still into their flavoured gin, Jack says pink gin made with berries always comes out on top as the most popular. Hannah Sharman Cox, Founder of DrinkUp.London says we should keep an eye out for more sophisticated flavours, such as blood orange from the likes of Beeteater and Whitley Neill. “We also predict that gin & soda rather than gin & tonic will be the next big thing to drink at home.”
Hannah says that alongside flavoured gin, flavoured spirits in general are big right now. “We’re seeing a lot of flavoured rums – Plantation’s Pineapple Rum is great. Even vodkas had a bit of a facelift – the new Ketel One Botanical, which is distilled with real botanicals and infused with natural fruit essences, has launched three new flavours: grapefruit & rose, cucumber & mint and peach * orange blossom. We predict this’ll be an easy upgrade from Pimm’s as the summer party go-to.
Baijiu has been a favourite of Jefferson Coltro, bar manager at Imperial Treasure, for a while now, but is set to come into its own this year. It has been China’s most popular and traditional drink for over 600 years, dating back to the Ming Dynasty. “It’s a big part of Chinese culture and is often drunk to mark special occasions,” Jefferson tells us. “In Ancient times, the Chinese believed it had lots of health benefits and soldiers would celebrate their battle victories by drinking it.”
According to Jefferson, there’s many different varieties of baijiu, each with its own unique taste, but it’s hard to explain the taste without talking about one particular variety. “Its flavour is different from any other spirit around,” he tells us. “Though it’s most likened to whisky in terms of complexity and how it should be enjoyed. It’s often categorised by four key ‘aromas’: sauce (highly fragrant), strong (sweet and mellow), light (delicate and dry) and rice (clean and slightly aromatic).”
So how do you drink baijiu? This isn’t one for the faint of heart: It’s traditionally drunk neat in small glasses at room temperature alongside a light meal like chicken or seafood. For vodka or gin drinkers, Jefferson recommends a light aroma; for whisky and rum drinkers, a strong aroma. But if you’re new to the spirit, best to drink it in a cocktail.
CBD is making its way into everything we consume right now, from our beauty products to our food. And turns out, it’s set to make an impact in the spirit world too. “CBD is definitely an ingredient to watch out for because its health benefits are gaining traction.” says Hannah. “There’s more CBD products launching all the time, too – there’s even a new CBD bitters called OTO, which is a very quick and easy way to add a little something extra to an Old Fashioned, for example.”
The Originals With A Twist
We all love a G&T, don’t get us wrong – but what are the new season twists we can add to liven it up a little? Hannah says it’s all about the garnishes: “They don’t just change the appearance of the drink, but they add aroma, too. And as you smell before you taste, this really has an effect on the whole experience.” Try adding fresh herbs, citrus, spices or even things like pea shoots or coriander to add depth and complexity to simple drinks.
Jack agrees that the garnish is an important part of making a classic seem fresh again: “For a twist on a G&T, I’d add a sugar snap pea as a garnish,” he explains. “Or if you’re feeling daring, try a shot of cold brew coffee – that’ll give it a real kick.”
Jack also adds that if you want to play it safe, you can’t go wrong with a citrus flavour, like grapefruit, but if you want to impress your friend with something a bit quirkier try five-spice berry: “It’s also known as schisandra berry – it’s an unexpected flavour that works really well. The spice really showcases a spectrum of flavours – make sure you give it a try!”
And as we know, an Aperol Spritz will never go out of style, but if you find them a bit too sweet, both Jack and Hannah recommend giving vermouth a go. “Try a Vermouth Spritz: rosé vermouth, soda and topped with a drier sparkling wine like Crément,” Hannah advises. “Serve with a side of olives and dream of the Riviera.” While Jack suggests trying a white Negroni: “It’s made with gin, Suze liqueur, dry vermouth and a lemon twist – it’s an excellent take on a classic.”
Quick & Easy Recipes
We’re always up for a party – but sometimes our drinks trolley might not be as ready. Luckily, our experts have two great cocktails you can make with just three ingredients, so you’ll never be stuck if you’re friends decide to pop over for a tipple.
“You just can’t beat a Negroni,” Hannah enthuses. “The classic recipe calls for equal parts gin, Campari and sweet vermouth, but we believe there’s no wrong way to mix this drink, so experiment with ratios and ingredients to find out what suits your palette best.” (DrinkUp.London run monthly Cocktail Experiments to help you learn about ingredients and how they work well together – you can check it out here.)
And Jack goes for an oh-so simple Cucumber Smash with gin, cucumber and lemon juice – super easy but perfect for those lazy summer days.
If you’re intrigued by Baijiu and willing to give it a try, there are plenty of great options: try mixing Maoutai Baijiu with sweet vermouth and three dashes of pine liqueur in a whiskey glass with one ice cube for a new take on an Old Fashioned – for sweeter options mix with elderflower, lemon and prosecco.
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