The Sloe & Steady Portfolio

With Brexit slouching towards Britain to be born, a couple of jokers vying for the helm of the sinking ship that is the United Kingdom, and a low-functioning sociopath clogging up the White House’s (metaphorical?) plumbing with his (metaphorical?) shit, where the hell should you invest? A question to which, you may well believe, Old Parn devotes much thought and sage analysis. Please be aware, while reading the post that follows, that I am neither licensed nor qualified to provide investment advice, but I’m going to anyway.

These handsome jars are, I predict, one of the best investments I’ll make this year. Alongside, y’know, the emotional investment of getting married, and suchlike… But, yeah, I certainly expect the next few years’ impact on the liquid contents of these jars to be rather more benevolent than their impact on my FTSE All Share tracker fund holdings.

The trick with sloe gin is always to make more each year than you drink, allowing yourself to accumulate increasingly valuable stocks. If you’ve never tried homemade sloe gin that’s been kept for years (I mean 5, 10, perhaps longer), you won’t realise how fabulously good this drink can be. And you thought it was pretty good after one or two, didn’t you?

Best strategy of all: keep yourself going with other more short-term investments in the meanwhile, preventing you from prematurely drawing down your long-term investment. The alcoholic equivalent, I guess, of one of those fixed-term high interest savings accounts or something.

YOU WANT METAPHOR, DON’T YOU? YOU GOT IT.

A row of jars containing homemade quince brandy, sloe gin, greengage gin and blackberry gin

This year’s short term investments are blackberry gin, greengage gin and (Amy’s concoction, this) quince brandy. Because these are all softer fruits, without the austerity and tannin of the sloe, they’re likely to be less rewarding of years spent maturing.

I shalln’t bore you with recipes, as you can Google those and I’m no expert. I just half-fill the jar with the fruit, then add gin. The important thing (in my opinion) is not to add the sugar until you’ve finished the fruit-steeping, as it’s bloody hard to get the balance right if you can’t taste what you’re doing. Once you’ve strained the liquid, you can simply make up a sugar syrup (heating equal weights of water and sugar gently in a pan until the sugar dissolves) and add it to taste.

Anyhow, that’s it. Those jars are going back in the cupboard. I guess I’ll entertain myself watching the stockmarket while I wait.

What could possibly go wrong?

Fort Gin Review: Mighty Fortress or Crumbling Ruin?

Now, a fort is supposed to protect you against danger, right? I’m not convinced. Fort Gin, y’see, is pretty damn dangerous in itself. Take a gulp and you’ll understand why…

Portsmouth! Following last week’s account of our adventures at Portsmouth Fish Market, we’re back to Pompey today — but this time we’re swapping fish for fortifications. Specifically, Fort Gin (£31.95, Master of Malt), which is made by the Portsmouth Distillery.

The name Fort isn’t arbitrarily chosen: the distillery occupies one of Portsmouth’s old naval fortresses — designed, I suppose, to ward off whatever bunch of undesirables Portsmouth was worried about at the time.

You’d expect a gin called fort to be rather solid, heavy, strong — wouldn’t you? Probably pretty classic, punchy stuff? Well, follow me, my pretty one. Follow me into the Fort and you may be surprised…

I had my first gulp of Fort Gin at a tasting here in Petersfield, organised by the lovely General Wines. But a gulp was not enough. On the back of that gulp, I went to General Wines’ shop and bought a bottle of the stuff.

Fort Gin, you see, is bloody delicious. This is so smooth a gin that you can very happily sip away at it without any tonic or other accoutrement, pretending to be all mannered and sophisticated. Because that’s how society regards people who drink gin neat, isn’t it?

It’s smooth and it’s sweet. I don’t mean actually sweet in the sense of being sugary, but the botanical elements give it a powerful impression of sweetness. There’s definitely juniper there, but there’s also a lot of (warm, aromatic) spice, which we’ll talk about more below.

As usual, I’ll burble a bit about how Fort Gin tastes in three contexts: the G&T, the Negroni and the Martini. But I do suggest you try this bugger on its own too.

The Fort Gin and Tonic

Right. You need to use a light tonic here. Fever Tree Naturally Light is the one I’d suggest. And don’t you go sloshing it into your glass like a maniac. Because this gin needs remarkably little tonic to reach its ideal balance, in my view. Try it with 1:1 ratio and see what you think.

The Fort G&T is bloody good. It has that delicious creaminess of toasted nuts (almonds or cashews), and while there’s plenty of juniper to keep us anchored, the dominant flavour I taste is cardamom. Which is good, because I happen to like cardamom quite considerably. There’s also coconut and plenty of floral shenanigans going on. In concert, those flavours gel beautifully, as they might in, say, a South Indian curry. Double down on that, I suggest, by chucking a wedge of lime in there. Sodding delicious. A benefit (or danger) of the fact that Fort requires so little tonic is that you can get a good few drinks from a single Fever Tree mini-bottle or can.

You’ll get through them quickly, I’ll warrant.

Fort Gin and Tonic Verdict

Verdict: Neck it!

The Fort Gin Negroni

Hmm. This one’s a bit weird. The negroni context amps up the sweetness already present in Fort Gin, which isn’t really called for. What’s more, adding cardamom to the negroni’s already crowded flavour profile turns it into a bit of a riot. It’s still nice, I should say, but rather all over the place. You don’t get the benefit of Fort’s elegance and subtlety, here, that’s for sure. It does have a rather lovely creamy aftertaste though.

Personally, I’m not sure you’d want to spend over 30 quid on a bottle of Fort Gin only to use it to make negronis.

Fort Gin Negroni Verdict

Sip it!

No. Instead of negronis, you want to use it ALL for…

The Fort Gin Martini

Christ, this is smooth. Smooth and sweetly floral. Rose. Soft cinnamon. Vanilla. Cream — oh god, cream.

A Fort Gin Martini is alarmingly easy to drink. It makes a martini that slides down your throat in the sweetest, softest, most beguiling way. It’s rather a long way, then, from the typical experience of this noble cocktail: if you’ve read me blathering on about the perfect martini, you’ll know that my platonic ideal of the martini is a pretty punchy piece of work.

A Fort Martini, though, caresses rather than thwacks. It’s, as I may have mentioned, extraordinarily, creamily smooth. It makes an extremely accessible martini. It is not standard Parn issue stuff, but it is bloody delicious nevertheless.

Serve it with lemon twist, for god’s sake; an olive in this context would be barbaric.

I tried it with Blackdown Vermouth (£20.15, Master of Malt — made in neighbouring Sussex; review in the works) and the result was almost indecently floral. Genuinely quite extraordinary. I also tried it with my staple, Dolin Chambery (£10.49, Waitrose). I prefer it with the more austere and pared-back Dolin: I don’t think Fort Gin needs extra florality and sweetness, and the Blackdown slightly over-eggs a pretty damn deliciously eggy pudding. The Dolin keeps it in better balance.

Fort Gin Martini Verdict

Verdict: Neck it!

In summary, then: this is a very fine gin. If you prefer your gins trad, or aggressive — or if you don’t like cardamom — it won’t be for you. But otherwise I urge you to give it a gulp. Hole yourself up in your fortress, mix up a martini, sit back and enjoy the siege.

Lone Wolf Gin Review

Lone Wolf is the kind of gin of which the captain of secret police in a repressive, totalitarian regime would heartily approve. Question is, does Old Parn feel similarly…?

Come in! Come in! Fortunate favourite of Old Parn — or else not so fortunate.

Okay, this is a bloody good gin. Depending upon your feelings about those publicity-hungry scamps Brewdog, you’ll either be heartened or dismayed (or, perhaps, a complex and unsettling mixture of the two) to know that Lone Wolf Gin is affiliated to the aforementioned company. But we’re here to talk about the booze, not the bizniz, aren’t we? So let’s get on with it.

Lone Wolf falls squarely into the punchy quadrant of the Old Parn gin-o-gram. So punchy, in fact, that it punches a hole through the gin-o-gram and splits the (stone) table it was sitting on. This is a gin that’ll have you reeling.

And that’s good, alright?

Lone Wolf Gin and Tonic

My usual G&T for gin review purposes is 1 measure of gin to 2 of tonic. I mixed one Lone Wolf G&T with Fever Tree Light Tonic Water and one with Fever Tree Regular. I also made G&Ts with Tanqueray, which I used as a frame of reference against which to compare, and certainly not an excuse to have more gin and tonic.

Zounds! The Lone Wolf Gin and Tonic is a belter. With both types of tonic, it tastes far stronger than the Tanqueray (itself hardly mimsy). It’s full of juniper and spice and pine. Cold, dark, coniferous forests fragrant in a winter downpour. Really quite excellent, in my view. This is how I like a G&T: powerful, serious, uncompromising. Wolfish.

Bottle of Lone Wolf Gin close-up

I think I prefer it with Fever Tree Regular Tonic, though it’s good with Light Tonic too. Regular smooths and softens it just a little, teasing out some warmth, some voluptuousness. With Fever Tree Light, things are just slightly more perfunctory.

It’s not exotic (the prominence of pine is the most strikingly atypical thing about it, but it still very much tastes like gin), and the hoofing deep/dark flavours are nicely cut with citrus, keeping it from being too gruff. I’d suggest serving it with lemon (or grapefruit if you have one kicking about) — or you could chuck in a sprig of rosemary if you want to amp up the woody stuff even further.

Lone Wolf G&T Verdict

Verdict: Neck it!

The Lone Wolf Negroni

The Negroni game is harder to play with a bossy bastard like Lone Wolf. My first attempt was terrible: equal measures of Lone Wolf Gin, Campari and Cocchi Vermouth di Torino. The Cocchi is crowded out (except for its sweetness), resulting in a Negroni with a thudding bass, a bit of shrill treble, but not much filling out the mid-range — like listening to your neighbours’ amorous antics the other side of your bedroom wall. There may well be good stuff involved, in other words, but you’re not getting the benefit.

What you need to make a Lone Wolf Negroni work is a similarly assertive vermouth. You may recall that I have an open bottle of Asterley Brothers English Vermouth lingering lugubriously in my fridge and that works far better. I also — as is my wont — substituted Sacred Rosehip Cup for Campari. This made for a hugely superior drink: quite a distance from the typical Negroni, but balanced, complex, strong. Rather damn nice.

Bottom line, though: Lone Wolf is not ideal for a Negroni, primarily because it’s too damn full of flavour itself. With Campari, there’s a bit of a clash (two motormouths at a dinner party). Work around it as I did above, or (perhaps more sensibly) save it for drinks where gin is unquestionably the focus.

Lone Wolf Negroni Verdict

Verdict: Sip it!

I guess the clue’s in the name. This is a Lone Wolf, after all, not a goddamn Pack Wolf.

Which makes it no surprise at all that this egocentric gin should excel in the context of…

The Lone Wolf Martini

Yes, finally, the martini test. I was impatient — and so are you, because you already know it’s going to be good. Therefore I went for a Duke’s Hotel-style martini (no pissing around with ice and stirring, just a freezer-cold glass, rinsed with a little vermouth, freezer-cold gin poured straight on, large lemon twist) and, Christ alive, it’s good.

The pine and juniper heavies mug you at the beginning, in that charming mockney way of theirs — don’t worry, they won’t break the skin — and afterwards, as you lie there in the gutter, blissfully concussed, you’re in for a long, toasty-warm, creamy-dreamy finish — I’m talking ten, twenty seconds (exhausting, eh?) — during which the taste becomes ever more sweet and perfumed. If you squint your tastebuds, there’s rose in there. Fucking rose. This is the kind of thing that got Edmund into deep shit in The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe, gobbling Turkish Delight while being whisked through the snowy forests by the queen of ice. If that’s not Lone Wolf Gin in the Witch’s magic hipflask, I don’t know what it is.

Oh, yeah, well done if you saw the Narnia metaphor coming. Your attentiveness makes this all worthwhile.

So sod Peter, Susan, Lucy and that fucking Faun. I’m in the sled with Ed. Ed, the Witch and the Wolf.

Lone Wolf Martini Verdict

Verdict: Neck it!

Lone Wolf Gin is £31.95 at The Whisky Exchange and also stocked in Tesco and Sainsbury’s if those are more your (5p) bag. It has an ABV of 44%. I advise that you ignore if you can the fact that it is described as ‘gin for punks’. Brewdog, eh?

The Negroni Manzanilla with Sacred Rosehip Cup – Recipe

As if a normal negroni weren’t good enough… Thanks to Poco Tapas, Old Parn discovers the majesty of the Negroni Manzanilla and Sacred’s Rosehip Cup.

I love a negroni. And before I went to Poco Tapas Bar during a visit to Bristol last summer, I believed I made a pretty damn good one.

Poco Tapas Bar’s Negroni Manzanilla took that belief of mine to one side and gave it a bloody good shoeing.

Because Poco’s Negroni Manzanilla is a work of exquisite dipsomaniacal genius.

The classic Negroni (come on, you know this) consists of gin, Campari and red vermouth in a 1:1:1 ratio, stirred over plenty of (chunky) ice cubes and lifted by a twist or wedge of orange.

Poco’s version changes this in two main ways. The first you’ll have guessed (unless your deductive reasoning is extraordinarily weak): the addition of Manzanilla sherry. The second is subtler but equally revolutionary: Campari is replaced with a fabulous liquid called Rosehip Cup, made by Sacred, and I guess this is the one Poco uses. It’s a good deal more expensive than Campari and a bit of a pain to get hold of offline (I ordered mine from the Whisky Exchange for £27.95), but — trust me, dear reader — absolutely worth your while and your dosh.

Why is this take on the negroni is so bloody good? It addresses the most significant drawback (in my view) of the classic: the fact that Campari’s bitterness is (to my taste — and it’s perhaps worth mentioning I am somewhat intolerant of bitter flavours…) slightly harsh and one-dimensional. The Rosehip Cup is smoother, fruitier, gentler. The crucial bitterness remains, but rather than the melodramatic bitterness of a romantically spurned adolescent, it’s the nuanced bitterness of a twice-divorced deputy headteacher who needs to keep things civil for the kids’ sake.

You can quote that in your marketing if you like, Sacred.

Bottle of Sacred Rosehip Cup and a lily in a glass

The better balance of a negroni with Rosehip Cup transforms it from a drink of which one is generally enough (before moving onto other fare, natch) into one of which the prospect of a second is spectacularly enticing.

And the Manzanilla. Let’s talk about the Manzanilla.

Now, you could comfortably change up your negroni game simply by swapping out the Campari for Rosehip Cup and leaving it at that. Indeed, if you’re anything like me, once you’ve tasted the Rosehip version, you’ll struggle to return to Campari. The addition of a splash of bone-dry sherry, by contrast, remains an optional flourish (the Negroni equivalent of a Dirty priligy la Martini, perhaps). The Manzanilla variant has a fabulous aromatic openness. While a classic negroni is a tightly coiled fist of a drink, the addition of Manzanilla loosens it a little, relaxes that tight grip. It hardly makes it into a long drink, but it’s definitely less short. I don’t think it replaces the classic, but it’s a bloody lovely alternative. I now buy EVEN MORE sherry (buy more sherry!) so that I can make these critters whenever the fancy takes me. Which is frequently. Try it and you’ll thank me.

Except you won’t thank me, you rude bugger. You’ll be too busy drinking negronis.

Recipe for Manzanilla Negroni

  1. Fill a glass (I use these elegant blighters from Ferm Living because I believe drinks should look handsome) with chunky icecubes
  2. Pour over 1 part gin (Tanqueray is a classic choice but there are hundreds of other possibilities)
  3. Add 1 part Sacred Rosehip Cup
  4. Then add 1 part red vermouth (Martini Rosso is the widely available one, but try others as and when you find them: Cocchi is currently stocked in my local Waitrose and works superbly. The choice of vermouth makes a massive difference to the drink, y’know… But that’s a topic for another post, methinks)
  5. Finally, add 1 part Manzanilla sherry
  6. Finish with a twist of orange (use a paring knife or peeler to slice off a strip of orange peel, fashion it into a twist in your big clammy hands, making sure to give it a good squeeze to release the oils)
  7. Neck the bastard

And four more bonus tips…

  1. You can buy half-bottles of Manzanilla from The Wine Society for £5.95 a pop, so you don’t have to crack open a whole 75cl bottle for the sake of a single negroni (though far be it from me to dissuade you…)
  2. Because the Rosehip Cup is less bitter than Campari, you might want to experiment with a heftier vermouth. I recently tried Asterley Brothers’ fabulous English Estate Vermouth (£23.25), which deepened the drink (and also the colour) considerably. This offset the breeziness of the Manzanilla/Rosehip combo in a way that felt appropriate for winter.
  3. You might want to experiment with the ratios of ingredients. For instance, a half-measure of Manzanilla still imparts some aromatic openness, but preserves more of the negroni’s punch. Depends what you fancy.
  4. Poco Tapas Bar is well worth a visit for more than just its negronis.

The Best Tonic for Gin and Tonic

In which an array of nine tonic waters are put through their paces in an attempt to find, once and for all, the tonic to rule them all

This post is part two in a three-post series devoted to the gin and tonic. Part 1 endeavoured to find the best gin. Now, in part 2, the mission is to find the best tonic for gin and tonic…
A closeup of a mini can of Schweppes Tonic

Some time ago, we had the gigantic joust of the gins. Now, at long last, it’s time for the titanic tiff of the tonics.

Oh, fuck, how much of a wanker does that pair of alliterations make me sound? DON’T ANSWER.

Today’s mission, then, is to find out which tonic makes the best gin and tonic. The deal here was pretty much the same as with the gins: taste ’em blind in one joyously ginny lineup. The gin used was my favourite common brand, Tanqueray.

(When I say common, I don’t mean lower class; I mean the kind of gin you’d be able to find at any half-decent UK supermarket or off-license.)

And I make no apologies for the fact that the lineup includes no slimline tonic varieties whatsoever. Because slimline tonic is the corrosive piss of satan.

Anyhow, here — from worst to best — are the results…

The best tonic for gin and tonic — results

9. Schweppes Tonic Water

Oh Schweppes, oh Schweppes. You fell, my boy. You fell bad. You landed on your arse.

I grew up on Schweppes G&Ts. Since my first mini-fridge at university, I always had a rank of yellow-and-silver mini-cans available, on ice. Alas.

Schweppes came out bottom of the taste test. Not marginally; clearly, and by some distance. It has a back-of-the-throat catch that I associate with artificial sweeteners, and a cheap, metallic quality to it. That said, it does also have bite. And it’s sure as hell better than sodding Britvic, which is a heinous tonic I didn’t even bother to include in this tasting. Compared to other tonics (including all the supermarket brands) it made for a sweeter, blander, more tacky gin and tonic. A saccharine blagger of a tonic, a little too confident that his illustrious background will win your admiration. The kind of tonic who hangs around in Chelsea and talks shit all the time.

I should add, though, that even the Schweppes G&T was nice. I criticise it relative to the others, but, Christ, let’s keep a sense of perspective.

8. Marks & Spencer Tonic Water

M&S only seems to do tonic in big 75cl bottles. A silly omission. In a G&T, M&S tonic is inoffensive. It’s got an unexpected bready sort of quality, but not much bite. It’s refreshing, but rather nothingy. A diffidently pleasant tonic without much to say for himself. Probably enjoys listening to Coldplay.

7. Fever Tree Mediterranean

The first of three Fever Tree variants, this character didn’t combine enormously well with Tanqueray. Like M&S’s effort, it sits toward the inoffensive side of the spectrum. It’s also a tad on the sweet side. A slightly wet ex-hippy of a tonic.

6. Waitrose Tonic Water

A gin and tonic with Waitrose tonic is a balanced sort of affair. It too has a slight breadiness, which I rather like. Again, though, there’s a tendency towards oversweetness — though neither as extreme nor as artificial as that of Schweppes. A balanced, middle-of-the-road kind of tonic. Squarely a Radio 2 listener.

5. Fever Tree Naturally Light

Nice. The gin and tonic made with Fever Tree Naturally Light — perhaps unsurprisingly — was less tonicky than most. With a bolshy, no-nonsense gin like Tanqueray, that’s not particularly necessary, but for the more subtle, aromatic, delicate gins (Greenalls Bloom, for instance, or Hendricks), this would be rather a splendid thing. A sensitive, quietly-spoken tonic; a good listener.

Closeup of the yellow label of a mini-bottle of Fentimans Tonic Water4. Fentimans Tonic

Here’s where things start to get interesting. Fentimans makes for a damn good gin and tonic. It’s crammed with flowers (violets!) and citrus. I’d gleefully drink this tonic on its own; in many ways it has more in common with something like bitter lemon than what I think of as tonic — there’s so much goddamn fruit in there. The gin and tonic it makes is delicious, lemony, full of zing and zang. But, I have to say, it’s nothing like my idea of a classic gin and tonic. An unabashed attention-seeker — the kind of tonic that ignores the dress code — but you can’t help liking it, nevertheless.

3. Sainsbury’s Tonic

Wow. This one came in from left-field. The coveted Old Parn Value Award goes to Sainsbury’s for this fantastically strapping tonic. Savoury, bready, confident.  Really far in excess of my expectations of a supermarket own-brand tonic, it’s a diamond in the rough — a good looking charmer in a down-at-heel nightclub.

2. Fever Tree Regular

Yup. It’s good. It’s very good. This is Fever Tree’s most successful tonic for a straightforward G&T. It’s balanced and rather delicious. What keeps it from topping the poll is a slight oversweetness. Far less pronounced than elsewhere, but I’d still prefer a bit less sugar; a bit more bite. Nevertheless, a very fine tonic indeed. Generous, charismatic and considerate.

A bottle of tonic water by 6 o'clock1. 6 o’Clock Tonic

And, finally — just sneaking in ahead of Fever Tree — comes 6 o’Clock Tonic. This is goddamn outstanding. A pity it’s a bugger to find (I’ve so far only been able to locate it in Whole Foods and online), because it has everything I want in a tonic water (including pleasantly minimalist packaging design). Why do I like it? Because it’s dry, it’s grown up. There’s a leafiness to it, a sharp, bracing sting. It’s not even slightly confected, not sugary or patronising. Set a gin and 6 o’Clock Tonic alongside a gin and Schweppes tonic and compare the two. You will be astonished at the difference — at how facile and glib the Schweppes one tastes.

A self-confident tonic with a dry wit and fucking excellent style — and deservedly crowned Old Parn’s best tonic for gin and tonic.

Archive: 2012’s Gin Tasting

In which Old Parn — with the able assistance of Amy — blind-tastes an array of seven gins in a noble quest to find out which gin makes the very finest of gin and tonics

A cut-glass tumbler of gin and tonic, with an out-of-focus blue bottle of Bombay Sapphire gin in the background

This post is an old one, from 2012. A much newer, bigger, better and ginnier version can be found here: The Best Gin for Gin and Tonic — 2019 Edition.

Below, for posterity/shits & giggles, the old version…

***

Skip straight to the results

How (without the aid of a convenient butler) does one compare seven of the most commonly available gins — side by side — without knowing which is which? Such was the conundrum that faced me and Amy (you remember Amy? She gave me a pear, a few episodes — I mean posts — ago. Get used to reading about Amy, won’t you?).

The difficulty is as follows: whoever mixes ’em will (obviously) know which gin is in each — but when you taste ’em, you both need not to know. Finally, after you’ve tasted ’em, you must both be able to find out which was which.

Sounds complicated, eh?

No. For Old Parn, ’tis a mere bagatelle:

‘So I mix the gins and I make a numbered list of the gins. Then I give you a list of the numbers, Amy, but not the gins, and you make a list of — no — wait … I mix the drinks and I make a list of numbers. I give you the gins, and — um — damn it — wait a minute…’

Amy interjects: ‘Tom. Just make the drinks. I’ll work out the rest.’

And so it came to be that Amy took charge of methodology. And, with the aid of selotape and scraps of cardboard scavenged from the recycling, we constructed our experiment. Amy does this stuff with small children every day. She may not have expected to do it during her weekend as well. But if she felt a sense of weary deja vu, she concealed it gamely.

The upshot? Six anonymous tumblers of blessed gin and saintly tonic. Each with ice, a small wedge of lemon, a measure of gin and regular ol’ Schweppes tonic — to keep things simple.

A line of six tumblers of gin and tonic, receding into the distance

We tasted ’em. We compared ’em. WE EVEN WROTE NOTES. We know how to have a good time, Amy and me. Believe it.

Then we ranked them from one to six. And, finally, we tried to guess which was which.

(Unfortunately, thanks to an administrative failure, we were unable to include Bombay Sapphire in this test. But I blind-tasted it against a couple of others, subsequently, and added it to the rankings.)

Anyhow. You’re slavering like a goddamn pitbull, aren’t you?, to hear the outcome. Well, for god’s sake, wipe your chin and slaver no more. You disgust me. I mean, honestly.

Right. The grand unveiling. Which is the best gin for gin and tonic? Here’s what we thought.

The logo of Beefeater London GinDecidedly our least favourite gin and tonic was made with Beefeater gin: drab, bland and insubstantial. Of all the gins we tried, this’n had the least gob-presence, the least to say for itself. Compared to the others, it tasted generic, weak. The overall effect, in Amy’s word: ‘Lemonadey’ — because the tonic was allowed to dominate the drink, giving it an unpleasantly sugary taste. Nicht so gut. (Tasted blind, we both correctly guessed that this was Beefeater.)

The logo of Hendrick's GinNext from bottom — and the enormous surprise of the proceedings: Hendrick’s. Hendricks! Now, I thought I liked Hendrick’s a lot, and I’d fully expected it to rank accordingly. So I was somewhat alarmed to find that, tasted blind, we found it slightly empty. Not unpleasant, but a tad meek. It has a nice breadiness to it, which I rather like — but not enough to set it apart. (I’d guessed this was Gordon’s, and Amy thought it was Plymouth. Alack!)

The logo of Greenall's GinIn 5th place, Greenall’s. Greenall’s is quite extraordinary: the stuff goddamn-well reeks of violets. It’s like drinking a flowerbed. But without the soil and grubs. It’s heady and hedonistic — and made the least G&Tish of all the G&Ts. Indeed, it was such an anomaly that we weren’t sure how to rank it: it’s undeniably enjoyable, in a decadent, fin de siecle kind of way. But not, really, y’know, what you’d turn to at a time of gin-thirsty crisis. (We both correctly guessed the identity of the Greenall’s gin and tonic.)

The logo of Plymouth GinAnd then, in 4th? Plymouth. Which is nice and dry and punchy and altogether rather satisfactory. Maybe a tad middle-of-the-road, we thought — but when the road is signposted ‘Gin and Tonic’, who cares if you’re in the middle of it, eh? This was pretty much what we expect a gin and tonic to taste like. Bloody nice, in other words. (I identified Plymouth correctly, but Amy thought it was Gordons.)

So — the top three. These were all very sodding good indeed. Any of them would be a credit to your tumbler, and each one takes the noble drink in a different direction.

The logo of Gordon's GinThird place — in the second surprise of the evening — went to Gordon’s. Which was really very good indeed. Crisp and supple and complex and savoury. And citrus, my friend, citrus! It’s got herby shenanigans going on, too, and it’s noticeably deeper and more serious-tasting than many of the rest. I was very surprised when I found out this was Gordon’s, because, honestly, it tasted more expensive. (We both thought this was Hendrick’s. And we were both wrong.)

The logo of Bombay Sapphire ginIn second place, just marginally above Gordon’s, was Bombay Sapphire. It’s a lovely savoury gin, with a riotous fanfare of corriander and brilliant balance.

And the best gin for gin and tonic?

The logo of Tanqueray GinThe splendid Tanqueray. My scribbled note on this bad boy from the tasting: ‘BOSH.‘ Bosh indeed. Because this is a gin and tonic that doesn’t mess. It doesn’t flutter its lashes or mince around on the dancefloor. It grabs you and chucks you onto the bed. Fucking bracing stuff: big and dense and concerted like a punch. Masculine and dominant. Excellent.

So there you go. Of course, there are gins we left out. And to a great degree, the rankings above reflect our own notions of what a gin and tonic should be — a subject of almost philosophical weight. So if you like your G&Ts delicate and floral, you probably won’t agree with our elevation of Tanqueray.

Get over it.

And — hey — if you love gin and tonic as much as we do, I wholeheartedly recommend that you try your own blind tasting. You may be surprised.