Gin Mare: The Freshest Gin in Town

The weather is clinging on for dear life and it’s still outside-drinking weather. What better way to enjoy the last of the summer with a refreshing G&T?

We all know that – like most booze – there’s more than fifty shades of gin: that means some types are better than others, but it also means we can have lots of fun finding out.

I don’t know about you, but I generally don’t spend more than twenty quid on a bottle of gin. Especially not a 70cl bottle as opposed to a beefy litre. But sometimes it’s worth spending a few extra coins on a truly memorable tipple.

Gin Mare is just such a tipple. Pronounced ‘mar-ee’, it’s named after the sea in its native Spain (‘mar’) and that’s no surprise when you taste it.

A herby blend of thyme, basil and rosemary, it’s also boasts arbequina olive and mandarin as part of its make-up. These exotic additions add up to a massively refreshing gin – sun-drenched and dangerously drinkable.

It will set you back a few pounds though – one of the cheapest buyers we could find is One Click Vintage which sells a bottle at £35.08 with free shipping. The good thing is we think this is seriously worth it.

What’s your gin of choice? Tell us about it in the comments, or on our Twitter and Facebook pages?


Wine and Cheese – yes please!

I LOVE cheese – just putting it out there. And I LOVE finding the perfect wine to go with cheese – that moment when you get that it just goes, without even realising why. Recently I came across a fantastic article about cheese and wine matching in Aussie food and wine magazine, Selector, which put the art very simply; The whiter and brighter the cheese, the lighter and crisper the wine. The harder and darker the cheese, the darker and richer the wine. Another key point to note is that regional pairings also work very well, for example a goats cheese from the Loire Valley in Fance will pair well with a Loire Sauvignon Blanc.

If it’s the perfect match you’re looking for, it may be better to keep it simple and have just one cheese with one sensational wine match that your guests will remember – a full cheeseboard with a selection may prove more challenging. If this is the case, whites usually fair better as they go with a wider vareity of textures and flavours without being overbearing. At the end of the day, all palates are different and heavenly match for one guest may not work for another.

Try these classic matches to impress friends with your wine and cheese knowledge!

Sauvignon Blanc Soft goats or sheep’s milk cheeses
Chardonnay (oaked) Creamy Brie or Camembert – fat food, fat wine!
Viognier, Gewurztraminer or Riesling Sweeter cheeses like Swiss Emmental, Gouda or strong washed rind cheeses
Sticky sweet eg. Sauternes Blue cheeses – mouldy cheese with rotted grapes!
Sparkling wine or Champagne Hard cooked cheese like Parmesan or Gruyere
Pinot Noir or Cabernet Lighter pressed cheeses like Gouda, Manchego
Shiraz Mature, sharp, cheddar
Sherry Hard cooked cheese like Parmesan or Gruyere
Port Blue cheeses

As a self proclaimed wine and cheese aficionado (well, it’s great for a Friday night in!), here are a few of my favourite pairings:

Hardys Crest Chardonnay Pinot Noir NV Sparkling, Tesco, on sale at £6.99!! , with a deli Parmesan

 – Les Coteaux Tufiers Demi Sec, Vouvray, £6.95, The Wine Society*, with Lincolnshire Poacher

 – Saintsbury Chardonnay, Carneros, £16.99, Majestic**, with a creamy Brie

 – Cape Nelson Shiraz, South Africa, £8.99, Sainsburys, with a mature vintage cheddar like Davidstow

 – Campbells Rutherglen Muscat, Waitrose, £11.49, with a strong blue cheese like Stilton

For more great cheese and wine pairings – with a patriotic tick of approval – check out this great piece about Perfect Partners, put together by The British Cheese Board and English Wine Producers.

Cheers! Or should that be cheeeeese!

* Note that you do need to be a member to order from The Wine Society! Lifetime membership is a one-off payment of £40

**Note that minimum order is 6 bottles, but delivery is free when you spend £40

Cheese plate photo taken from cwbeucheler’s photostream on flickr.

Heavenly Hip Flasks: Pin-Up Girls by Hair of the Dog on Etsy

Our quest to find the coolest hip flask in town continues.

We know you can technically use hip flasks for all kinds of tipples, virgin or otherwise, but we reckon these ones definitely call for proper booze.

Hair of the Dog are an American seller on Etsy. We don’t normally feature overseas sellers, but their postage charges are so ridiculously reasonable we thought we’d go nuts.

The other thing that tipped it over the edge was the fact that their designs are utterly beautiful. They do plenty of varieties, but our favourites from the range are their delicious vintage pin-up girls.

Sexy without being smutty, and yet delightfully cheeky, they could not be more suited to adorning a hip flask.

We love this gorgeous girl in a yellow dress flashing a bit too much leg.

How about this saucy saluting girl? I know we’re supposed to be fixated on her upper assets but I just really, really like her shoes.

I love this lady of leather. She reveals nothing, and yet there’s something very sexy about her. Let’s face it, we all want to take a photo looking fabulous in that pose.

Okay, I pretty much want to be this woman in a red bathing suit.

These gorgeous flasks are $19 (that’s about £12.27 for you and I) with $8 (£5.17) shipping to the UK. Now you just have to choose which of these fantastic women you want in your pocket.

A-Z Spirits and Liqueurs: G is for Grappa

Now, it would have been easy for me to say G is for Gin, but we already have a little obsession with gin and frequently post about different flavoured gins that pop up around the place, so I’ve gone for something different!

What is it? Grappa is a Northern Italian grape-based brandy, traditionally made from pomace – the stalks and seeds which are a by-product of the normal winemaking process.  Its firey, at 40-60% abv, but has been developed to become tastier than the original product, which was made around 15th century to warm up the farmers and peasants who were out in the cool Italian winters.

How can I enjoy it? Serve as a slightly chilled shot after a meal, sipping slowly from a tulip shaped glass, or in a ‘caffe corretto’, ‘corrected coffee’, by adding to a shot of esspresso for true Italian sophistication. Like many spirits, it can also be used in a number of cocktails, but I think this one is unique, and best served on its own.

I want it! Where can I get it? Like wine, there are a number of different producers making Grappa, even as far as Australia. For a little bit of Italy at your next dinner party, serve Nardini Bianco Grappa – Italy’s best selling premium Grappa, which is well balanced with notes of jasmine tea and honey. At 50%, its fiesty, but take your time and sip slow – it is also thought to aid digestion. You can pick up a 70cl for £34.99 from online retailer The Drink Shop.  For pretty Grappa serving glasses, you can’t go past this bargain on Amazon. At £14.99 for six 90ml glasses, they are not just for Grappa, but could also be used for other fruit brandies and maybe even Limoncello…..L is for…. !

Actually factual: Although Grappa can only be labelled so if sourced and produced in Italy, the French equivalent is Marc – such as Champagne can only be labelled Champagne if it is from that region.  Much Grappa production is packaged in fancy bottles to enitce buyers (namely tourists) but producers insist it is not to mask the frightfully potent blend which it contains! I’m game if you are… !

Pretty Grappa bottles picture taken from Paul and Jill’s photostream on flickr.

English Tipple: Damson Gin

Possibly the most quintessentially English thing to do on a sunny weekend (besides going to the pub!), is to go to a Country Show. I spent a gloriously sunny Saturday last week pretending to know the differences between cow breeds, oohing and ahhing over piglets suckling, watching sheep shearing and dog training, drinking Pimms, and convincing my boyfriend we do not need to buy chickens!

By far the best part of this experience, for me, is the fantastic local produce on display; cheeses, pickles, chutneys, sausages, pies and pasties and local tipples. I tried, (and subsequently purchased!) this deliciously tart Damson Gin by Foxdenton Estate – specialists in English Gin & Gin Liqueurs.

Made from Damsons grown in Herefordshire, this gin is vibrant red in colour and tastes like tart cherries and sour plums. It can be enjoyed in summer with chilled sparkling tonic or soda in a long glass with ice, or in winter as a neat shot. You can also try adding to fruit puddings for a extra kick. But what excited me the most was blending this tipple with Champagne to make a sophsitcated cocktail called a Damn Shame. Of course, for the penny conscious, you could try with Prosecco or Cava – it is still delicious! Garnish with a strawberry to make it look extra pretty :-)

Although the show has been and gone for this year, the Hatfield Country Show is an annual event, usually in August. However there is also a fantastic Christmas Frost Fair in November which is great for finding Xmas gifts and crafts, whilst sipping on mulled wine – can’t wait!

Weird & Wonderful Wine: “You F*** My Wine?” from Cahors

Let’s face it: we are all tempted to pick a wine because it has a very silly name.

Sometimes, you do so only to be disappointed: all the money has clearly gone into the branding, not the winemaking. You find yourself licking the label in despair to see if that tastes better. No? Just us? Oh.

Anyway, we’re dedicated to finding wines with talking-point names that won’t let down your dinner party guests.

Take, for instance, the obscenely named “You Fuck My Wine?!” by Fabien Jouves. He grows wine in the Cahors region of  South-West France, and he does it very well indeed. But what led the normally conservative French to name a wine “You Fuck My Wine?!”

The story behind this name is twofold: firstly, the Cahors AOC regulators told Fabien he has to remove the Jurancon Noir grape from his wines and – being that it’s one of his favourite grapes – he decided to make ‘You Fuck My Wine?!’ to show the authorities how wrong they were.

Secondly – and I have this  straight from the horse’s mouth as I was lucky enough to meet him this year – he just really likes Robert De Niro.

It’s a deeply fruity and dark wine with a lot of potential for food. You can pick up a bottle from The Sampler for £16.20 – they’re the awesome wine shop we talked about a few weeks back. Why not?

Heavenly Hip Flasks: Engraved from Berry Red

We love a good old-fashioned looking shiny thing. Especially when that shiny thing holds liquor and has silly writing engraved on it.

We’re still shocked by the sheer number of sexy little hip flasks there are on the market – they’re clearly more sought-after than we thought.

Berry Red have got their hands on these ‘hip’ hip flasks by New York designer Izola. Erring on the kitschier side of kitsch, they are still lots of fun and we love the fat, round design akin to more traditional hip-flasks. Proper pirate-wannabe stuff (we are dead-set on filling them with rum).

They come with three different engravings, but our fave is the cheeky ‘To My Health‘. Not because we find it funny, but because we all know a bloke that will. The flasks range from £21.50 to £23.50 and they come boxed – perfect gift-fodder for the drinkers in our lives.

What do you think? Tell us in the comments, or on our Facebook or Twitter pages.