It is a truth universally acknowledged that a drinks writer in possession of a blog must be in want of free stuff from PR companies. Maybe so, but I have felt obligated in the past to create drinks with less than high-calibre freebies after rashly accepting them, So now, I try not to accept samples unless I feel I’d try them out anyway. Yes, I know that’s still swampy moral ground but whatever helps me sleep. Luckily, my latest offer was something there had been good buzz about – a bottle of Caorunn gin.
A handcrafted, small batch Scottish gin, Caorunn contains five ‘Celtic’ botanicals alongside the more traditional cassia bark, angelica, coriander, lemon and orange peel and juniper. It’s these Celtic ingredients – rowan berry (Caorunn is the Gaelic word for rowan), bog myrtle, heather, dandelion and coul blush apple – that give the gin a unique identity amid a market awash with small batch producers. I was also sent a lovely little education kit of the botanicals so I was anticipating those flavours would dominate.
The end product is actually more traditionally ‘ginny’, sweet and silky smooth with (very) subtle honey and apple notes – so subtle I wonder if I detected them only because I knew they were there? Nonetheless, it’s extremely pleasant but with its slightly sweet flavour profile perhaps one I’d reserve for specific drinks rather than an everyday gin and tonic.
Talking of specific drinks, I had one in mind almost as soon as I’d opened the box. At some point I’d love to try Caorunn with a home-made rowan berry cordial but in the meantime I had a special ingredient that I’ve longed to incorporate into a drink. My kind friend Ben who works at Mortimer and Bennett, donated an extraordinary bottle of vinegar: LA organic apple balsamic (it’s expensive but hot damn, is it good). It seemed fitting to bring these two bonus bottles together in a Caledonian-influenced tribute to a modern English classic – the Bramble.
I hoped the vinegar would complement the apple in the gin – it did – but as this is something of a luxury brand, a mix of ordinary balsamic and cider vinegar might be a good replacement. I used heather honey for my syrup – again to pick out one of the botanicals but any full flavoured honey would work well – and frozen raspberries (defrosted), which yielded much more juice than fresh with little loss of flavour.
The recipe was instantly formed in my mind but I struggled, as I so often do, to think of a name. My flat mate Susie suggested The Ramble- ‘because the ‘Ra’ is a nod to the use of raspberries and on a ramble in the Scottish hillside you’d likely see all the botanicals the gin uses’. I don’t think the name is killer but her explanation was too lovable not to use it.
The Bramble is a brilliant drink for summer and the Ramble would be too; tart yet sweet, refreshing yet complex. My only regret is my London location and concomitant lack of lawn meant I couldn’t use my first choice of a fresh, sunshine-yellow dandelion as garnish. Somehow, I doubt any PR companies will be queuing to help out with that…
50 ml gin
35 ml heather honey syrup (1:1 ratio honey and boiling water)
20 ml vinegar
15 ml Lagavulin
Shake gin, honey syrup, vinegar and raspberries and finely strain into a tumbler. Top with crushed ice and drizzle with Lagavulin. Garnish with lemon slice and a raspberry. Or a dandelion.