Foraging into the deeper tastes of The Botanist

Revamping the gin ‘n Tonic.

I am by no means an expert of alcohol, spirits, wines or even beer and was thus quite unsure about how to take on the challenge of reviewing The Botanist gin. The bottle itself is an imposing force, so beautiful and carefully designed and crafted, you almost feel scared to pop the cork — yes there is actually a rubber cork (that’s how I generally classify alcohol to be the good stuff). It was more than a week that The Botanist was looming unopened on the dining room table before I had the courage to take it on, and honestly now after I have explored its delicate tastes, I don’t think I can ever turn to any other alcohol again.

Distilled and hand crafted, The Botanist is an artisanal gin distilled at the Bruichladdich Distillery on the wild Hebridean island of Islay in Scotland (many of you will know the area for its famous whiskeys). What makes this spirit special? It has been infused and distilled with 22 of the island’s aromatic herbs and flowers foraged by hand, dried and prepared. Instead of a sharp, chemical-like taste gin is often known for, The Botanist holds soft floral notes and is extremely light on the palate. Even for me who hates the taste of spirits on their own, The Botanist is actually quite delicious lying on its own with a bed of ice with a squeeze of lemon.

Since gin on its own (even a tasty one as The Botanist) isn’t quite everyone’s drink of choice, I’ve tried out a number of cocktail recipes concocted and developed by some of South Africa’s top bartenders and drink masters. Shake ‘em up and be ready for a tantalising treat!

1 The Botanist Club

This beauty is a homage to long hot summer days swooping in to be the saviour with the lightest and freshest tastes. In this sense The Botanist Club cocktail is absolutely magical in that you cannot quite put your finger on what exactly it tastes like. The elderflower cordial with the fresh lemon adds a slightly sweet note, with the grapefruit looming like a mystical flavour in the background being infused with the gin and then also used fresh. The gin itself is so subtly masked with the grapefruit, shaped to such gentle curves it’ll change the way you see gin forever.

Ingredients:

50ml Grapefruit infused The Botanist gin

25ml Green elderflower cordial

12ml Fresh grapefruit juice

25ml Fresh lemon juice

Glass: Tumbler

Method: Shake all ingredients

Strain into glass over ice

Ice: Cubed

Garnish: Grapefruit wedge

2 Botanical Garden

This is one will give you the more traditional tastes you expect with a gin cocktail. Freshness is key with the Botanical Garden. Personally, I’m not too sure what Pélargonium leaves are, but substituted with mint it is equally divine. Top tip: you can make your own sugar syrup by boiling equal amounts sugar and water. No fancy stuff needed!

Ingredients:

50ml The Botanist gin

25ml Lime juice

15ml Simple sugar syrup

Handful of Pélargonium leaves

Glass: Coupé

Method: Shake all ingredients

Fine strain into glass

Garnish: Peppermint Pélargonium leaf

Notes: Substitute Peppermint Pélargonium

with mint

3 The Forager

A fun and slightly more adventurous alternative to the Botanical Garden, this recipe is my personal favourite. After attempting to grow my own basil garden for years to balance out my use of the herb in almost everything I cook, my love and respect for this plant is beyond measure. The sweet yet zingy herbiness of the basil marries perfectly with the herby gin and paired with a zing of lime ends up being something similar to a margarita, but ten times more flavoursome. Be sure to shake with torn basil leaves and don’t be afraid to garnish with a heavy hand of basil either.

Ingredients:

50ml The Botanist gin

15ml Sugar syrup

30ml Fresh lime juice

Handful basil

Glass: Tumbler

Method: Shake all ingredients

Strain into glass over ice

Ice: Cubed

Garnish: Basil leaf

4 Carla’s creation

Testing out various gin recipes, you pretty quickly get into the spirit of channeling Tom Cruise in Cocktail. Seriously, the one moment you don’t know about elderflower, the next you can talk in depth about its various liquid forms and uses. Fun fact, did you know elderflower is used to make medicine for sinus, flu AND diabetes? Anyway, making cocktails is easily the best after-work past time I’ve discovered since yoga. So here is my take on the humble gin and tonic:

Ingredients:

50ml The Botanist gin

25 ml Fresh orange juice

25ml Elderflower syrup

25ml Fresh lemon juice

Fresh mint

Tonic water

Method: Shake all the ingredients together except for the tonic water. pour over ice and pour tonic water to finish with crushed mint

Where to buy The Botanist? You can buy The Botanist online here or at all leading liquor stores.

Be sure to follow The Botanist on Instagram for some more amazing cocktail combinations and scenes from its origins in Islay

This article was originally written and published for More Than Food on 25/02/2017

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