We had always been partial to a gin and tonic but the way we make The Botanist has unveiled the natural world to us in a new way.
We enjoyed a standard sundowner with a slice of imported citrus. But all around us, all the time – in our lawns, on common land, shores, moors – there were aromatic, sophisticated, edible plants waving to us, beckoning on the breeze. We just hadn’t made the connection that these less conventional wild herbs and flowers had a food and flavour value, and that could have a direct impact on the gin and tonic that was in our hand.
As distillers, we are sitting on a great means of capturing and concentrating essences. And that’s how our Islay dry gin, its core botanicals overlaid with the smells and feelings of being on the island, first came about. [See details of our 22 Islay botanicals here >]
This process of creating an Islay drink for people around the globe to enjoy doesn’t end with the distillation. The great thing about The Botanist is that the layers of flavour lend themselves to further improvisation. More importantly, the spirit of the Botanist is to be open to your own environment, wherever you are in the world. Opportunities to discover wild flavours are everywhere, literally underneath our feet, or in our peripheral vision.
One of the simplest and yet most creative steps to be taken is in how you garnish a gin and tonic. The garnish is the thing that first hits your nose as you tip the glass, so anything edible that smells good is worth trying.
Think common garden flowers like rose, elderflower, honeysuckle, the clover or daisies that pop up through the grass, lavender, pelargonium, begonia, nasturtiums. Trees can be a good source – cherry blossom, lime flowers, rowan blossom, evergreen sprigs of fir or spruce, larch, eucalyptus. Herb families like the mints, sage, or thyme have an impact; rosemary is great because it has the same key flavour compound [read more>] as juniper. Fir / spruce carry it too.
There’s the visual angle to consider. Weeds like Rosebay Willow herb, thistle, dead nettle, vetch which is in the pea family so has climbing tendrils, violet, dandelion flowers; they look stunning in the glass. You’ll be reaching for your instagram…
You can play with combinations of these things, something aromatic with something visual; something herbal with something floral. Add something from your average fruit bowl. Stone fruits go brilliantly with roses because they are in the same plant family [read more>]. Before you know it, no two drinks need ever be the same again.
What you put in the top makes a big difference to the experience of the drink. Plus, you know the exact story of the moment and the geo-coordinates and the light and weather and the company you were keeping; you were writing that story. The next time you look around that garden or park or hedgerow, it has a purpose and you have some purchase. Same world, different world. Cheers.
If you want to let flavours develop for longer, you can leave them sitting in gin, this will infuse and become a tincture. From there you can make bitters, which are great for adding a unique twist to a cocktail.
Or you can catch a flavour in a simple syrup of sugar and water, and that can become a new seasonal mixer, or a further cocktail ingredient.
Foraged B&T: three professionals’ perspectives