And why oranges and lemons lend themselves so well to the spirit, says Sam Wylie-Harris.
The phenomenon of flavoured gins is nothing new. But what if you love the simplicity of a G&T, ice and a slice – and then bemoan that you skimped on the lemon, or should have garnished the glass with the refreshing zestiness of an orange segment?
“Citrus has always been a key element to gin production. From the bright fragrant zest of a fresh lemon to the candied marmalade notes of dried orange peel – the flavours are varied and powerful,” says Joe Brayford, brand ambassador at City of London Distillery (COLD).
“Many classic cocktails and traditional serves for gin have citrus at their base, so having a gin led by citrus notes makes perfect sense.”
Award winning COLD looked at the rapidly growing market for flavoured gins and wanted to find a way to add a little tradition, and make them their own. By using these flavours, which are common in both contemporary and traditional gins, they found a way to bridge the gap and bring the two sides together.
Their new release, City of London Distillery Murcian Orange Gin (£35, 70cl, City of London Distillery) swiftly follows City of London Distillery Six Bells Lemon Gin (£35, 70cl, City of London Distillery) – both of which have a London Gin botanical base with ‘citrus notes that sing’.
Here’s how citrus gins differ from other flavoured gins, and bring some extra zing to a G&T…
Why are citrus gins special compared to other gins?
“The range of flavours available from different types of citrus gives us lots of scope to experiment with the botanicals we pair them with,” says Brayford.
“For our lemon gin, we can still emphasise our juniper notes, as the fresh pine notes of the juniper complement the bright zesty lemon perfectly. With the orange, we pair cardamom and cassia bark to bring a warming winter spice and create a richer, deeper flavour.”
What should we expect from drinking them?
“If you prefer a brighter, lighter style of spirit, opt for something led by lemon or grapefruit,” says Brayford. “Lemon, particularly when added fresh, will give a very fresh and sharp note to the gin, whereas grapefruit will be oily and slightly sweeter.
“For something a little richer, dried orange can bring a lot of depth depending on the variety, with bittersweet notes of marmalade or candied orange. Ingredients such as coriander seed, lemongrass, thyme or even hops can all bring notes of citrus, along with more aromatic or herbal qualities.”
What cocktails do they work best in?
“Citrus gins are so versatile. A bright, fresh citrus gin will really complement citrus based drinks, for example our Six Bells Lemon Gin works really well in a Tom Collins, but will equally uplift stirred down darker drinks like Negronis.
“A richer, deeper citrus gin like our Murcian Orange will bring complexity to lots of cocktails, lending a rounded body to your long spritz style drinks and layers of complexity to already heavily spiced aromatic serves.”
Is there something about citrus gin that might surprise us?
“Citrus doesn’t necessarily have to come from citrus fruits. Coriander seeds are one of the most commonly used botanicals in gin for their aromatic citrus notes,” explains Brayford.
“Ingredients like thyme, lemongrass, timut pepper and hops can all bring interesting citrusy flavours, as well as lots of depth and complexity. They’re all perfect to pair with traditional citrus to bring extra complexity and character.”