A night of gin tasting and cocktail making with Tarquin’s gin of North Cornwall
Reverend JW Simpson, 32 Goodge Street, W1T 2QJ
Tonight was a special night because it was the first time I had seen Sarah (Food for Think leader) since she left us for a much sunnier Australian climate, almost a year and a half ago! And what better way to celebrate her returning exactly the same shade of pale as when she left, than by drinking loads of straight Cornish gin. We got to Rev JW Simpson, a super stylish basement bar on Goodge Street (and one of my favourites), at around 7pm and were greeted by very affable staff who seated us in a cosy corner and walked us through the itinerary for the evening. Southwestern distillery, made famous by Tarquin’s gin and pastis, had pitched up to allow a group of gin enthusiasts to indulge in an array of cocktails, attempt some mixology and learn about the history of what is undoubtedly one of the more intriguing alcohol brands to have emerged in recent years.
We started making our way through the delicious cocktails that were on offer. The plan was to find our favourite so we could learn to recreate it, or at the very least, something resembling it, in the cocktail making session to follow. I first went for the ‘Jim and It’, a hybrid of the traditional ‘Gin and It’ and ‘Sazerac’ cocktails containing an infusion of Tarquin’s gin, blood stained liqueur, vermouth and a touch of pastis. I have to say I’m not Pastis’ biggest fan, but it certainly complimented the collection of flavoursome ingredients resulting in a delicious (and strong!) drink that set the tone for a great evening. The other inventive options available included various mixes of gin with limoncello, nettle syrup, coconut liquor and strawberry jam syrup, among others. All were tasty, but we decided on ‘Mum’s the Word’ for our cocktail making session; a composition of Tarquin’s gin, lime, dry white wine and homemade nettle syrup. Surprisingly, our replicas actually tasted rather similar to the originals, although having had several drinks at this point we may have possibly been a little too self congratulatory in our assessment.
The final part of the evening comprised of a tasting session and history lesson from a very knowledgeable Tarquin’s employee. First came the gin, similar to that of classic London dry gin but with the addition of Devon violets and orange zest. As a gin fan, it was superb, both neat and with tonic. You could certainly taste the fruity aromatic influence of Cornwall, and everyone nodded in approval as generous portions were passed around. The gin has done incredibly well since it came on the market in 2008, winning the Gold award at the international wine and spirits competition in 2014. The Southwestern distillery seem to have broken the mould in their production technique, erring on the side of tradition and shunning the idea of mass production. Only 300 bottles are created in each batch, and the stil is fired by flame with a complex and old-fashioned one-shot distillation technique. Tarquin, the 28 year old founder of the distillery, signs every bottle created by hand, a nice touch in keeping with the family feel of the brand.
Next we tried a ‘Navy proof’ 56% version of the same gin (the original is 42%). This was certainly a lot sharper and perhaps better served with tonic for all those who wouldn’t describe themselves as die-hard gin lovers. We were also treated to a really good fact, which I’ve enjoyed reeling of regularly ever since. Navy alcohol is always distilled at 56% so that if the bottles are smashes onboard, the gunpowder could still be ignited if soaked by spirits that are 56% alcohol. Finally, we sampled the pastis, which I have to say, despite its excellent branding (Cornish Pastis), I wasn’t a fan of unless heavily diluted in a nice gin cocktail. All in all, a great evening from which we emerged more than a little tipsy, and with a new favourite to add to the gin collection. Check out their website for other upcoming events!
£25 which includes three cocktails and gin tasting
Book in advance at http://www.revjwsimpson.com