You'll often find similar botanicals in most Gins - Juniper (obviously), some sort of citrus peel, spices like cardamom or coriander seed, roots such as orris or angelica, and even nuts like almonds - but the development of the Gin category has been such that distillers are playing about with flavours more and more in a bid to stand out. And we’re all for it!
While it's true that there are some things that probably shouldn't be distilled into Gin (fish eyes, earwax, old socks…), it all comes down to personal preference, and without experimentation we'd all be drinking the same damn thing, anyway.
So keep an open mind while we take you through some of the most unusual ingredients you'll find in Gin - from the fun, to the far-fetched, and even the down-right weird.
Anty GinThe result of a collaboration between England’s Cambridge Distillery and Nordic Food Lab, as you might have guessed, this Gin contains ants. Essence of ants, to be exact. Red wood ants are collected, then placed in ethanol and distilled into a Gin (with other botanicals, too). But how does it taste?
Well, perhaps surprisingly, ants taste like citrus due to the formic acid they produce as a defense mechanism. Bizarrely, these guys weren’t the first to distill ants; that’s how formic acid was made hundreds of years ago.
Unfortunately, only 99 bottles were made, and Anty Gin has sold out, but perhaps that’s a good thing for your wallet - each bottle retailed at £200 and contained the essence of 62 ants.
From one limited edition Gin to another...
Portobello Road Pechuga GinPart of the Director's Cut range (and the third in the series that has so far included Asparagus Gin and Smokey Gin), this edition copies a method of production favoured by Mezcal producers in Mexico, whereby a turkey breast is suspended over the still, where it is cooked by the vapours and is said to flavour the Gin.
Treated myself to a early Xmas present. Portobello road pechuga gin, Only 1000 bottles produced. Distilled with plums, apples, spices, raisins and tropical fruits. Oh and also vapour infused through a turkey breast! This delicious gin has been mixed with Cointreau, apricot, aperol, lemon and peychaud bitters. #mamnottinghill #allsaintsroad #portobelloroadgin #pechugagin #portobelloroad #cocktails
To make it, the distillers at Portobello Road Gin redistilled their signature blend with apples, pears, plums, currants, raisins, sultanas, apricots, brown rice, passion fruit, cinnamon, cassia bark, nutmeg and mace. A spiced, warming Gin.
Ok, ok, enough of the super-rare Gins. Now for one you can still buy!
Cruxland GinMade by South African producer KWX, this is a grape-based spirit, and features truffles from the Kalahari desert (which look, rather unappetisingly, like potatoes). The truffles are a rarity, specifically chosen by the producer to tell an African story, as do the other botanicals; aniseed, rooibos, lemon, coriander, honeybush, almond, juniper, cardamom.
Some of the kids took me looking for #kalaharitruffles on Friday. They told me we were going to dig up “wild potatoes,” but I found out later that these things are fungi. They’re known as !Nabas in Nama and Afrikaans or Mahupu in Setswana. They grow only a little beneath the surface, but they’re hard to find. There’s nothing to mark where they hide except cracks in the sand. This one was found by a little girl who’s not yet in school, and was too shy to tell me her name, but really wanted to show me what she found.
Flavour-wise, this is a bold, complex Gin. It’s dry yet sweet, bitter and spiced at the same time. This isn’t necessarily a crowd-pleaser, but it’s certainly different and tells a story of discovery.
Dà Mhile Seaweed GinThis Welsh Gin (pronounced da-vee-lay) was launched on St David’s Day in 2014. After distillation, the Gin is infused with handpicked seaweed from the Celtic coast for three weeks, giving it a very pale green hue.
The exact recipe and botanical list is a secret, but Seaweed Gin is loosely based on the original small batch Gin from Dà Mhile with some botanicals replaced by herbs associated with seafood. Try it with elderflower tonic and rosemary sprig garnish. Delicious!
Jinzu GinInfused with sake, Jinzu Gin is the product of East meets West - featuring a number of traditional Japanese botanicals (yuzu and cherry blossom) in a classic British Gin. Jinzu Gin was created by bartender Dee Davies for Diageo’s Show Your Spirit competition in 2013 (and was the winning spirit!).
It’s a Gin-lovers Gin for sure, with lots of juniper and coriander, but the addition of sake adds a creamy mouthfeel, and the cherry blossom adds floral notes to lift the whole thing.
And for something slightly sweeter to finish…
Sacred Gin Christmas PuddingBased in Highgate, London, Sacred is a micro distillery which produces spirits under vacuum. Alongside Vodkas and Vermouths, they make a vast number of Gins; from Pink Grapefruit to Old Tom. But our favourite is the oh-so-festive Christmas Pudding Gin.
An 8kg Christmas pudding is infused in English grain spirit for two months before being redistilled to create the clear, Christmas Pudding Gin. As you might expect, it’s sweeter and spiced. Do as the Sacred team suggest and drink it as a shot, ice cold from the freezer.
What’s the most unusual ingredient you’ve found in Gin? Let us know in the comments.