Whilst craft beer, tequila and mezcal are having a moment, gin continues to be the perpetual trend amongst Northern Ireland’s post-work drinkers and weekend party-goers.
This summer, as we flock to enjoy the sun in our gardens and favourite rooftop bars, gin is set to dominate for another season.
However, we wanted to do some serious investigative reporting to find out how you can stay ahead of the curve when enjoying your favourite tipple in the weeks ahead.
We spoke to Gareth Irvine, the founder of Co. Down-based company Copeland Spirits. He has shared his insight into the cool and the not-so-cool of gin for summer 2018.
Gareth says: “Provenance has always been a huge part of the gin trend with consumers connecting to a brand because it champions local grains or botanicals – this hasn’t changed but is has developed some. This summer rather than sampling premium craft gins from across the world, consumers are homing in on gins from their local communities.
“In the case of Northern Ireland, all of its most-popular gins are produced in the heart of the countryside and call on indigenous ingredients giving the unique flavour profile and artisan quality NI gin-lovers have come to expect. Each gin in the Copeland range is infused with fruits which are grown locally, creating flavour combinations that surprise and excite and a memorable, unique tasting experience.”
Gareth reminds us that as the seasons change, drinking occasions change too.
He says: “The better weather sees us enjoying a few during the day or after work, maybe at a BBQ or in our favourite outdoor hotspot. We can find heavy or strong cocktails don’t refresh us in the sun and we’re more likely to crave light and refreshing serves.
“Allowing your gin to be the focus of your serve by pairing with a classic tonic water over ice is ideal in summer. Choosing light garnishes like mint or raspberries will add that flavour kick but still keep the palate fresh, perfect for pairing with typical picnic or BBQ foods.
“Alternatively, flavoured or infused gins are an ideal base for creating new summer serves but do your homework. Most flavoured gins are actually liqueurs and can be quite heavy with the gin flavour masked. However, there are flavoured gins that come in at 37.8% or so, such as our range. These are perfect for mixing and can withstand a pairing with other spirits and garnishes.
“My favourite summer serve is our take on the classic Tom Collins, the Copeland Collins. Simply pour 25ml of our Rhuberry Gin into a highball glass, add a generous dash of freshly squeezed lemon juice and two tablespoons of caster sugar, stirring gently. Fill the glass with fresh ice, top up with soda water and garnish with a wedge of fresh lemon."
“Wimbledon will be a key event this summer. The event has always had a strong association to fruity, fizzy drinks like Pimms but this year, gin will come to the forefront as part of the trend too. Pimms and gin work really well together and are ideal for making sharing pitchers and exploring new fruit garnishes.
“Take the classic Pimms No.1 cup and pour into a large jug, add your favourite gin along with oranges, cucumber and mint.”
We’re thinking first and drinking second. Gareth says, “Summer is a time when we appreciate the world around us that little bit more. What we’ve noticed in the last couple weeks is that cocktail menus are changing slightly as bars find ways to minimise food waste.
“Some garnishes produce a lot more waste that we realise – there’s lemon rind, egg yolk, orange peel and more that can end up in the bin. Rather than sweeping them into to the bin, some spear-heading bars have been making sure all waste is used in a trend called ‘closed-loop’ cocktails.
“Excess fruit might be used to create a natural syrup or saved for the pitcher style Pimms and Gin. We’re really conscious about our eco-footprint at Copeland, given we rely so much on the land to produce our infused gins so development is music to our ears.”
Gin over ice is a yes, but gin in ice is a no. Gareth explains: “In summer the temptation to enjoy a slushed, ice-based drink can sometimes be unavoidable, and yes gin does feature on the frozen cocktail menu regularly. Our advice to gin-lovers entertaining at home is to chill your glass in the fridge before you use it. Fill your glass with totally frozen, good-quality ice all the way - it will melt more slowly as a result meaning your drink will stay cooler, fizzier and enjoyable for longer.
“Typically, Northern Ireland’s talented bar-folk know how to serve up a great gin but if your glass could fit more ice, then absolutely ask so you can chill out exactly how you intended without having to sip over a melted mess.”