Keep your gin up

Strong, gindependent woman Stacey Black lifts her spirits with a bit of Mother’s Ruin

Never mind the cider, Bristol has enjoyed a gin boom of late. The juniper revolution has well and truly hit the city, and there is now a wealth of places to enjoy this elegant spirit.

At gin o’clock, I headed to The Clockwork Rose for an evening of gin tasting and cocktails. Steampunk-style speakeasy The Clockwork Rose is a cosy and unconventional cocktail and lounge bar. All gleaming dark wood and polished brass, this place is certainly quirky. The huge curved bar is the central point, and racks of glowing bottles of wines, spirits and other libations populate the shelves behind.

The attention to detail is astonishing, and you get the feeling that every vintage object and antique in this place carries a story. The menu offers a huge array of cocktails designed around the fictional character of Captain Sebastian Commodore; intrepid explorer and master of his airship. Ordering off the menu is always an option, and the talented mixologists are happy to create a unique cocktail, should you want something more bespoke.

However, on this hot and sunny evening, we were here to sample the offerings of Bristol’s-own 6 O’Clock Gin. Brand ambassador Tristan Darby was there to exhibit the gin range, and to say these bottles are beautiful is an understatement. Each one has been meticulously-designed to reflect the contents and inspiration of each concoction. Handcrafted in small batches and using traditional techniques, the family-run team are clearly proud of their artisan product. Taking our seats on a comfy Chesterfield in the centre of the room, we kicked off proceedings with a refreshing Brunel Edition Gimlet. Two parts gin and one part lime juice, this certainly blew the cobwebs off. Invented to fight scurvy for sailors in the British Royal Navy, this was served straight up in a chic Martini glass.

Our tasting glasses were refilled with the London Dry Gin. Crisp and fresh, the juniper was never overpowered by the other flavours of coriander seed, elderflower and orange peel. I’d rarely tasted gin neat before, and I was surprised to discover how incredibly drinkable this was. When topped up with premium tonic, this was delicious.

Next, we tried more of the Brunel Edition gin. An export-strength version of the London Dry edition, the team describe this as “a giant of a gin!”. Tristan explained that this has been engineered with added juniper, as well as six extra botanicals to provide a much more complex flavour. I love cardamom, and was pleased to find that this was one of the main botanicals, along with nutmeg, cumin, cassia bark, cubeb pepper and lemon. Certainly more full-bodied, but still sweet and spicy, this was intense but enjoyable. Sloe gin was next on the roster. Berry red and vividly tart, this is created by soaking a considerable amount of hand-picked hedgerow sloes in London Dry Gin for at least six months. This extra maturation period means that the resulting gem-coloured gin is smooth, rich and fruity, with hints of plum and cherry.

Similarly, the Damson Gin is also created by steeping fresh-picked damsons for six months or longer. More sticky-sweet and unctuous than its sloe counterpart, I could imagine a cheeky nip of this around Christmastime. At 40% proof, this one certainly delivers quite a wallop, which is apparently quite unusual for a fruit gin. We ended the evening with our final taster, and this was something quite special. Inspired by the French ‘bouquet garni’, Jekka’s Edition is a limited edition gin that packs in all the flavours of Jekka McVicar’s carefully cultivated herb garden.

London Dry Gin is the foundation of this aromatic gin, and has elements of tarragon and other fresh green herbs, citrus and star anise. Perfect for a summer cocktail, this one was certainly my favourite. The bar was suddenly replete with delicate-looking confections, and we were treated to a generous selection of gin-infused cakes and sweets courtesy of local pastry chef, Jonny Hull.

Teacups filled with a palate-cleansing gin fizz were also on offer, but feeling the slight effects of an evening of drinking spirits, I nursed my glass of Jekka’s Edition. I’ve visited The Clockwork Rose on a few occasions, quite often birthdays or other celebrations, but it’s worth a trip just to work your way through their cocktail list for no other reason than they are genuinely interesting. And with other tasting events like this one on the horizon, I’ll be back.

Bottoms up!

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