On the release of their first cocktail book, Sam Wylie-Harris catches up with Jared Brown, co-founder of London’s famed Sipsmith micro-distillery.
“One morning a camera crew showed up to the Sipsmith distillery, complete with a make-up artist. At one point she said, ‘I guess this isn’t an average day for you’. I thought about it a moment and replied, ‘No, but then I don’t think I’ve had an average day in years’,” declares Jared Brown.
The Sipsmith co-founder has become rather used to not-exactly-average days.
Pioneers of the recent ‘ginnaissance’, Sipsmith were the first copper-pot based distillery to set up shop in London in more than 180 years. Theirs is a classic, juniper-heavy gin, with a floral sweetness and spicy finish that’s ‘bold enough for a G&T and smooth enough to sip in a martini’.
We go behind the scenes to hear more about a ‘typical’ day for Brown, his beehives, and how he spends his time in between foraging for botanicals…
“A morning at home begins with me making coffee for Anistatia, my wife, setting it quietly on her bedside table before heading out to the garden. Here, I check on my beehives. On all but the coldest, wettest mornings the bees are already stirring. They say bees recognise faces. I couldn’t attest to that, but they’re always very gentle and even seem happy to see me.
“From there, a walk through the botanicals. I use ingredients such as angelica, orris fiorentina, Russian coriander and liquorice in our uncompromisingly handcrafted Sipsmith London Dry Gin, so I grow these in my garden. I couldn’t possibly grow enough to supply the distillery, but you have to grow ingredients – nurture them through their life cycles from seed to harvest – to truly know them.”
Onto the admin
“Now, head cleared, it’s time to check messages. Between emails, Facebook and WhatsApp, there’s usually about 30-60 minutes of questions from bartenders and other industry people from around the world. These are people who have discovered I’m truly passionate about drink and drink history. These are people who share my passion, or are at least curious enough about a drink to message me.”
“If I don’t have the answer at my fingertips, I turn to our 1,200-volume collection of books on drink and the newspaper archives. Our new book was definitely influenced by decades of casual research for friends, as it was by my formal research for this book and the dozens of less consumer-focused books that preceded it.
“It’s borne out of my and the Sipsmith team’s firm belief that with a bottle of Sipsmith London Dry Gin, gin lovers can make a variety of cocktails that don’t need to be complicated to taste utterly delicious.”
Time to hit the road
“Then, it’s either a train ride to the office (the train really is my office, I’m writing this on a Paddington to Oxford train), or a day in the garden, or a car to Heathrow for a trip to… Edinburgh? Tokyo? Berlin? Seattle? New York? Sydney?
“Lately, there’s been lots of trips to the distillery as we press through a bunch of new product developments. Lots of fun things happening there. Internationally, I mostly share new discoveries in drink history – from finds that change the history of gin, to others that change our understanding of the birth of civilisation.”
“A workday often includes a cocktail. For me, it’s usually a smallish martini: Classic Sipsmith London Dry Gin, a bit of dry vermouth from a freshly-opened bottle (I’m partial to Martini Dry). Give the drink a few throws and strain it into a very cold glass. Now, squeeze a lemon twist over the glass and discard it without touching the rim of the glass or dropping it in the liquid.”
Home for dinner
“At home, Anistatia and I are both trained chefs and we love to cook. Dinner is never a hurried or casual affair. It starts in the morning with one of us asking the most important question of the day, which is: ‘What would you like for dinner?’ Last night, it was monkfish wrapped in prosciutto, served on half a roasted Lebanese courgette from our garden.”
And then to bed
“Before bed, it’s usually a choice between the rowing machine or Pilates. I let Anistatia decide.”
Sip: 100 Gin Cocktails With Only 3 Ingredients is published by Mitchell Beazley, priced £15.99. Available now.