The other night sitting on the terrace of Kingfisher restaurant, a new haven of calm and good taste in Port Soller, I mulled the cocktail menu. Nudging out nearly every other traditional offering were gins. And not just any gins. No, sir. Most of those featured were of the new botanical variety bursting with aromatic flavours and zest.
As it happens, on a hot and sticky summer night in Majorca, many are opting for refreshing gin and tonics either as an aperitif or digestif. It’s the same on the mainland where gin bars are all the rage in Barcelona and Madrid with some specialist drinking dens offering as many as 50 varieties. In the Baleares alone there are now a baffling number of artisan gins from Cabraboc, Ca’n Vidalet’s Onze and Gin Eva in Majorca to Lô and Gin Xoriguer in Menorca. Even Ibiza is muscling in on the act with IBZ, a premium gin infused with rosemary and thyme and let’s not forget highly prized Gin Mare from north eastern Spain. It’s therefore hardly surprising that Spain is now one of the world’s biggest gin consumers per head of population.
Of course some Britons might express a little concern at this new obsession that has gripped Spain over the last five years. Lest we forget that in the first half of the 18th century in England, the ‘gin craze’ or ‘mother’s ruin’ as it was known, swept London after Dutch jenever was imported from Holland in the 1680′s to resounding success. The much stronger and cheaper British version – doled out to poor working class Londoners – often contained dastardly ingredients such as sulphuric acid and even turpentine. In fact by 1730 there were an estimated 7000 gin shops in London while ten million gallons of gin were distilled annually.
Thankfully the new breed of classy botanical gins are a far cry from the gut-rotting variety sold for less than a penny a glass to the poorer classes in Georgian England. Now we are spoilt for choice as small distilleries create heavenly concoctions that can be accessorised with cucumber slices (in the case of popular Hendrick’s) cardamom seeds, juniper berries, hibiscus, pink peppercorns and grapefruit and lemon peel.
It is also essential to choose one’s tonic water with care. Where once we all relied on Schweppes, there are now exciting additional options such as Fever-Tree, Fentiman’s, Nordic Mist, Quina Fina, Thomas Henry, Markham, Quina Va from Mexico or 1724 from Peru. Even Schweppes, moving with the times, has created natural, premium mixer tonics to suit the new vogue and the likes of Tanqueray gin now boasts exclusive No Ten.
Where the current gin fever will go who can say but for my money on a pulsating summer night in Spain when the mosquitoes are out in force, there’s no better medicine than a delicious gin tonic on ice, whatever the brand and tonic.
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