VALENTINE WARNER’S TIPS ON GIN AND FOOD PAIRING

With such a wide range of gins covering such a spectrum of flavour, gin now accepts a much wider range of food pairing than ever before, and when it comes to matching Hepple with food we have our own ideas about what works best.

Gin and food is most obvious pre-dinner with bar snacks and canapés.

Unlike the Turkish with Raki, or the Russians with vodka, the British tend not to drink spirits over a meal. But I am known to drink gin and tonic throughout a meal; what’s more Hepple Gin with its fresh, floral fragrance, citrus notes and delicate structure makes it sympathetic to food pairing.

In order to put forward any suggestion of an arranged marriage between our gin and a particular food, there has to be strong starting point of investigation – terroir, history or geography – in order to build a bridge between the two.  

Often there is an overlap, whilst surprising little affairs occasionally occur out of playful experimentation.  Only the other day, I was delighted to find that very fresh raw mackerel, trout and lemon sole served raw as sashimi (importantly, with fresh Japanese soya sauce) went well with a chilled neat Hepple on ice, with a wafer thin slice of lime.  

Terroir  

On leaving our distillery door we are literally stepping on and walking through or beneath many of our botanicals and this plays to Hepple’s strengths when food matching. Generally speaking where different ingredients, plants and animals, all edible nature, exist side-by-side the chances are they will sit well together on a plate and in a glass.

Our tangled wild raspberries grow in the woods under the shade of the Douglas fir, only a field away from the junipers, so a raspberry and pine sorbet, (perhaps a Douglas needle biscuit ) and a chilled Hepple gin for sipping would be a good idea. Alternatively pour the gin over the sorbet like the French desert Le Colonel.  Blackcurrants with Hepple are wonderful; they also happen to be among our botanicals.

In Northumberland black face sheep barge through the ancient juniper, passing by the ceps growing among tufts of moorland grass. Why not dry rub the lamb with juniper, fennel seeds and salt, grill it over deeply perfumed dead juniper wood and serve along side the grilled cep mushrooms dressed with a little lemon. Fine autumnal fare next to a long beer and Hepple gin cocktail (hopptail).

Juniper has long been used with game

A Hepple Martini (1 part gin to 10 parts Noilly Pratt and a thumbnail of lemon rind) would do well followed by a classic roast grouse or pheasant with Sauerkraut and mustard sauce.

We know cucumber to be a good pairing with gin in general. whilst Hepple uses lovage form our kitchen garden. Below the Hepple distillery snakes the Coquet River where salmon and sea trout may be found. 

Dining al fresco on a sunny day, a fat tranche of trout or salmon with the classic accompaniments of herb mayonnaise with dill, chive and lovage and a lightly pickled cucumber is a good thing; while other strong herbs such as tarragon and bay, can also be supported by Hepple Gin.  Bay in fact may be likened to the bog myrtle distillate found in our recipe.

Although we do not use the gin in recipes, I will often use the botanicals found on at Hepple and within our gin to cure salmon. Simply mix salt, muscovado sugar, juniper pine needles, coriander and fennel seeds to use as the salt cure. Serve the sliced salmon with bread and butter and a martini.

I will end by saying that it is a tried and tested certainty that, because of its links with India, gin goes well with Indian cuisine especially the food of the south. A perfect Sunday brunch is kedgeree doubled up with an 11 o’clock gin and tonic or try grilled chicken wings in cardamom butter or a prawn curry of curry leaves, toasted almonds in a creamy saffron sauce.

A other recipes that have worked well with Hepple Gin:

  • Roast venison,  liquorice syrup in the gravy,
  • Duck à l’orange,
  • Lamb Biryani,
  • Flounder in green sauce,
  • Kidneys in mustard sauce, 
  • Smoked mutton,
  • Summer salad (peas, broad beans, chives , lettuce tomato avocado French vinaigrette,
  • Blackcurrant ice-cream,
  • Coronation chicken, toast butter, 
  • Blue cheese croquettes,
  • Crab salad,
  • Fennel salad with yoghurt with grilled white fish,
  • Late afternoon tea; of Lapsang souchong Tea, Gin and Tonic,  ginger bread and sausages…… 

For more tips on Gin and Food Pairing we recommend drinks expert, Fiona Beckett’s wise words on tasting Hepple Gin:  Hepple Gin and Venison Tartare >