On Saturday my partner and I went along to Coventry Cathedral for the Gin Festival. I am a massive gin fan, him not so much, so to be faced with more than 100 gins was going to be a challenge.
On arrival we were handed our Spanish style balloon tasting glasses, a Gin Explorers Guide and a handy across the body bag. Then we were directed to the tills to purchase tokens – this is the important bit – the bars do not accept cash and just like a coffee shop loyalty card each time you purchase a drink and mixer your card is stamped. A fiver gets you a shot of gin, mixer and garnish.
Then free to wander to the four bar stations A – D each containing different optics it was decision time. Classic London Dry? A sweeter Plymouth blend? A malty genever or fruit infusions?
Based on a very scientific method of attractive bottle shape, funky names and ingredients we would not associate with gin we chose –
Created by a chef, vanilla and cinnamon are the standout flavours in this gin distilled in Staffordshire.
Aged in oak casks with a rose gold colour this is a sweet and peppery gin from Sunderland.
Infused for three weeks, the lemon, thyme and fennel make a striking combination in this Welsh gin.
Special ingredients here are flowers that only bloom for a week to give this graceful French gin its honeyed taste.
As with beer and wine pairing with food, there are also recommendations on which mixer to accompany your gin.
According to the sponsor Fever Tree, juniper and robust gins go with an aromatic tonic; citrus and herbaceous gins benefit from rosemary, lemon and thyme; sloe and damson varieties need a lemon based tonic while fresh and floral gins match well with elderflower tonic.
A team of mixologists were also on hand creating a menu of gin-based cocktails (at £10 or two tokens each).
As well as sampling gins, you can also learn more about the different brands, so we sat in on the Tinker Gin talk – a Spanish style gin which is distilled in Yorkshire.
If not the first, then one of the earliest UK touring events Gin Festival was set up in 2013 by husband and wife team Jym and Marie Harris. Across the country you can find new gins, learn more about the spirit and buy directly from distilleries.
My top five tips for getting the best out of a Gin Festival event are:
- Buy more tokens than you think you are going to need, as you can purchase a ‘takeaway tipple’ 25ml shot in a mini jar to take home with you.
- Ask the bartenders to go easy on the ice, so as not to dilute the delicate spirit too much.
- Make a note of your favourites in the Gin Explorers Book (unless you have a photographic memory.)
- Don’t expect a great selection of food, only olives and tapas were on offer in Coventry, this event is all about the booze.
- Fill in the mail order form and leave it with the onsite off-license so that you don’t have to carry your purchases home.
The next Gin Festival in the Midlands will be held in Stoke on Trent at the Victoria Hall, from Friday 23 – Saturday 24 June.
Don’t forget to check my blog next week, for my round-up of gin tastings to celebrate World Gin Day on 9 June!