London Holiday: Beefeater Distillery and Gin Recipes

You can’t get much more British in a pub than ordering a gin and tonic. The herbal liquor has a rich history in this town and is also made right along the Thames River at the Beefeater Distillery. And for a cool £12, you can take a tour through the museum and get an inside look into the factory and how it’s made.

When you meander through the backstreets of Lambeth and finally find the entrance to the building that looks much like a warehouse, you first enter the gift shop. It’s no secret they want you to buy their gin. They even give you a coupon incentive for a full bottle of the namesake liquor. Armed with our coupons (that we later pitched because gin is still cheaper in the supermarkets), we walked through the big wooden door to the museum.

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We booked our tickets in advance, and we were the first to arrive right when the place opened. They have you go through a museum before you get to the proper tour with your guide. It’s a nice approach because this allows you to go as slowly or quickly through the history of gin before all congregating for the tour of how it’s made.

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Gin became very popular in the early 18th century during the “Gin Craze.” Relations between the English and French were being tried, and the English were not as big on the French brandy anymore. But because gin was so cheap, over-consumption became a real problem. Parliament tried desperately to enact laws to keep people in line much like the U.S. Prohibition, but if history has taught us anything–if there is a will, there is a way.

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Interestingly, this was also the time where Port wine became popular as well. It was all thanks to the French upsetting the alcohol lovers in England that gave rise to fortified wine from Portugal and gin, also known as “Mother’s Ruin.”

Gin consumption continued to get out of hand as incomes increased and the price of food decreased. There were two federal acts put through Parliament to try and curb production. In 1736, the Gin Act raised the price by 20 shillings per gallon, and it cost £50 (roughly £7,000 today) for a pub to get a license to serve it. This was quite impossible for most pubs (only two licenses were ever given out), so it was then illegally served in gin bars and underground clubs.

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In 1751, license fees went down considerably and therefore, the gin craze started to go downhill. It’s all fun and games until someone makes it legal. But before then, there were some crazy ways citizens would imbibe the alcohol. In Richmond (near Kew Gardens), a house was rented with a metal, engraved cat mounted on the wall. A metal pipe was underneath the paw, and when someone would say, “Puss, give me two pence worth of gin,” and the cash was put in the cat’s mouth, the allotted amount was poured out.

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But this time also gave rise to “Bathtub Gin.” This was a homemade version of whatever was on hand made in a bathtub. This became popular a bit later than the Gin Craze, but the U.S. needed their alcohol fix also when the Prohibition took over in the 1920s. This was incredibly dangerous since glycerin and other “filler” agents were used to help dilute or prologue the alcohol.

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We finished through the museum and came together in a small area with tubs of each ingredient used to make gin. It’s quite amazing to see all the different flavors and smells that goes into each bottle. You have everything from the classic juniper berry to orange peel and liquorice to smell and touch as the tour guide tells you how the alcohol is made in the large copper stills.

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We got a full view of the large stills as the master taster himself walked through inspecting his machines. It was nice to see him with his team in full official fashion doing what he does best. We gave him a little wave before we were whisked to the bar where the guide turned bartender and served us up pre-10am gin and tonics.

Beefeater Distillery was created in 1862 when James Burrough bought the distillery from Rectifier and Compounder for a whole £400. The first official gin was made in 1863.

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What I found interesting when we were in Edinburgh, we were told that most whiskey distilleries make gin first to get their operation profitable since whiskey must age for at least 3 years before distribution. The favorite Hendrick’s Gin is actually owned by William Grant and Sons who owns Glenfiddich Distillery.

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It would not be a blog entry about gin without a few recipes for holiday classics. I am quite partial to gin, myself, and my go-to is the Vesper made popular by none other than Mr. James Bond.2015-06-09 10.14.27

Vesper Martini
makes 1

2 oz gin
1/2 oz vodka
1/2 oz vermouth
Lemon peel

1) Combine the gin, vodka, and vermouth in a shaker and include a generous amount of ice. Shake vigorously and pour into a martini glass.
2) Garnish with the lemon peel and enjoy.

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We just got back from Spain for the Christmas holiday, and what I saw everywhere was vermouth as an apéritif! I had never had it by itself, so I decided to use the opportunity of being in a foreign country to try it. It was delicious!

All you have to do is pour in a good glug of White Vermouth or Vermouth Blanco and add ice with a slice of lemon.

It pairs beautifully with tapas, appetizers, or by itself. If you have gin, you must have vermouth in the house, so give this a try!

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Since it is New Year’s Eve, here is a fun holiday drink to use the classic cocktail.

Honey Sage Gin Fizz
makes 1
re-blogged from How Sweet It Is

3 oz gin
1/2 oz honey sage syrup (recipe below)
1/2 oz fresh lime juice
5 oz tonic water or club soda
Fresh sage leaves for garnish

1) Put a couple sage leaves at the bottom of your glass and cover with a generous amount of ice cubes.
2) Add the gin, syrup, and lime juice. Stir to combine.
3) Top with club soda and enjoy!


Honey Sage Simple Syrup

1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup water
5-6 sage leaves

1) Combine all ingredients in a saucepan and stir until it’s boiling and the honey is completely dissolved. Stir constantly.
2) Remove from the heat and let it cool completely before removing the sage leaves. Then bottle it and use it to your heart’s desire.

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I hope you all had and continue to have a wonderful holiday season. Thanks for reading this year. It’s been amazing having you on board reading my crazy stories.

What is your favorite New Year’s Eve drink? How do you plan to ring in 2016?


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