Gin & Tonic: A brief history

Gin and tonic summer

When you settle in the evening and take that first lingering sip of your Gin & Tonic, do you ever wonder how and why?

Probably not… in fact, you probably don’t even care but we do so we’re going to tell you.

We haven’t lost the plot. We’re talking about the origins of the G&T, of course!

It’s quite a fascinating story and there were plenty of twists (we make no apology for that pun) and turns in the life of the Gin & Tonic.

It’s had an eventful past, from being used as a cure for malaria and scurvy to becoming the ultimate gentleman’s drink in the mid-19th Century.

We won’t go too far back, we’ve already talked about the history of gin in an earlier blog, which you can find here.

This time we’re focusing more on what makes Gin and Tonic the drink we all know and love today.

A malaria cure you say?

Yip, malaria and scurvy were big problems in India and other tropical regions where the famous East India Company plied much of their trade. It was discovered that quinine could be used to prevent and treat the disease. Of course its bitter taste wasn’t great. Enter gin!

British officers in India in the 1800s began to add sugar, water, lime and gin to the quinine tonic and, boom!

They created the greatest thing ever created by man, in our opinion. If it were not for those chaps trying to sweeten their quinine, you would have no NB Gin today! It’s an awful thought, isn’t it?

Gin? Who drinks gin?

The Gin & Tonic never really went away. It was hugely popular through pretty much every decade of the 20th Century but it did have the occasional dip and blip.

Perhaps 20 or so years ago vodka – with the help of some heavy-hitting marketing – began to rule all. Vodka bars were in. Gin, and the Gin & Tonic, were shunted to the back of the bar.

There were still plenty fans of the cocktail – including we at NB Gin – but it just wasn’t trendy. Asking for a Gin & Tonic in a stylish bar wasn’t the thing to do. Many gin lovers kept their gin love as a dirty little secret for the house! But then something changed.

The gin revolution

Over the last 10 years, but especially the last five, the whole world has gone crazy for craft and artisan gin and the Gin & Tonic is once again the drink to enjoy, whether at home or in a bar.

The gin revolution shows no signs of slowing and we’re incredibly proud to be part of it at NB Gin!

It has had its ups and downs over the centuries but the Gin & Tonic has proved that classics never die. Now, we’re off to open the NB Gin and a bottle of Fever Tree Tonic. You should too… don’t forget the ice and garnish!

Chin chin!

You can buy your NB Gin and NB London Dry Citrus Vodka from our friends at Lockett Bros here.

From world’s best London Dry gin to world’s first London Dry citrus vodka

NB Vodka Twitter

Steve and Vivienne Muir, the husband-and-wife team behind the award-winning NB Gin, are now bringing their very own brand of premium vodka to the market. But this isn’t just any vodka. NB Distillery has broken new ground by producing the world’s first London Dry citrus vodka.

NB London Dry Citrus Vodka is certainly no ‘flavoured’ vodka. All the taste comes purely from the botanicals used in the distillation method and absolutely nothing is added after this. It is simply blended down to bottling condition at 40 per cent alcohol.

Like many great things, this game-changing spirit came into existence with an element of chance. When creating NB Gin, which is also produced using the London Dry process, the master distiller ran some micro test batches using only a very small number of botanicals to explore the different flavour groupings this process could create. One of these was a citrus run and the Muirs were hugely impressed with the smooth, subtle and long citrus flavour which was created.

It took another 18 months, hundreds of samples and countless tasting committee sessions to come up with the final version of the new London Dry drink. Vivienne Muir says: “Like our gin, we’ve not compromised on quality, using only British pure grain spirit and the best botanicals we can find. What we’ve produced is totally new and we think that it will throw a curveball into the vodka market in terms of its uniqueness.

“There are no gimmicks or strange quirks involved. The innovation lies within its extremely stringent production method, which has allowed us to create something very classic, very natural, and of the highest possible quality, following the London dry process to the letter. There are no additives or sweeteners in our London Dry vodka. And it’s very versatile, so it’s delicious on its own but is also an excellent base for cocktails.”

As part of their final tasting committee, Steve and Vivienne once again engaged the expert services of Charles Maxwell at Thames Distillers in London, who concluded: “This is an exceptionally well-balanced vodka with lovely subtle citrus notes. I’m not aware of anyone else producing citrus vodka though the London Dry process. Quite an achievement.” An excellent endorsement from such a leading industry expert.

Those who are familiar with NB Gin, which was recently judged as the world’s best London Dry gin*, will know just how firmly NB Distillery is wedded to the London Dry process. ““It’s immensely difficult to control with a vast number of variables, including temperature and run time, which can change the outcome,” explains Steve Muir.

“It is only this method which allows us to create the most subtle of variations to flavour and our smooth and distinctive long taste.”

The inaugural batch of 300 bottles of the new London Dry Citrus Vodka has already been snapped up by Lockett Brothers in the spirit’s home town of North Berwick, and will go on sale from Thursday 28th May. It follows in the footsteps of NB Gin, which was launched at the same location in October 2013.

NB Vodka is only available at Lockett Bros. Buy it from the online store here or visit the shop at 133 High Street, North Berwick.

How to make a Ramos Gin Fizz that will blow your mind!

Ramos Gin Fizz

Legend has it that after barman Henry Ramos invented this firecracker cocktail back in 1888, he employed a group of “shaker boys” who would shake the ingredients vigorously for five minutes, to keep up with the demand.

Thankfully, we at NB Gin don’t need to talk anyone into shaking our Ramos Gin Fizz for us today as we only make our cocktails for ourselves and, let’s be honest, a good cocktail shake can be passed off as a workout, can’t it?

We’ll say this quietly… but you could also use a blender if you’d prefer a less active method of making your Gin Fizz. Of course, Mr Ramos would be absolutely disgusted at that notion if he were around today.

The Ramos Gin Fizz, with just the right amount of NB Gin, is one of those cocktails that makes you ask yourself why you don’t make cocktails more often.

Get the ingredients right and it will blow your mind, trust us!

As with all cocktails, there are a few variations, and we’d encourage you to experiment a little.

The other thing to bear in mind with the original Ramos Gin Fizz recipe is that it includes raw egg white. There are obvious risks in this so it’s really up to you if you want to include this. Powdered egg white is a good alternative for those who have concerns.

Think about whether you want to use lemon or lime juice in your Gin Fizz. Dryer gins tend to work better with lime, which is what we would go for, but it’s entirely down to your preference.

Ingredients

  • 2oz NB Gin
  • 1oz lime juice
  • 1oz cream
  • 1oz simple syrup (equal parts sugar and water)
  • Few drops of orange flower water
  • Drop of vanilla extract
  • 1 egg white (or powder)
  • Soda water to top off
  • Ice

This stunning drink really couldn’t be simpler to enjoy. Add all the ingredients to a shaker (or your blender if you’re being lazy) but don’t add the soda at this stage.

The longer you can shake the ingredients, the better the result. Let’s say two minutes for this part. Next, add the ice and get ready to shake like it is the last cocktail you will ever make… although we truly hope it won’t be.

When you have a cold, frothy, inviting mixture then it’s time to enjoy it. Strain it into a glass, top it off with a little soda water and then – this is the best bit – drink it!

What’s your favourite NB Gin cocktail? Have you invented your own? We’d love to hear from you. Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook here for more news and prizes.

Chin chin!

London Dry Gin – What is it and how is it made?

NB Gin still

Now, now before you all get too excited and start thinking you’ll be making your own NB Gin tribute after reading this, there’s something we must tell you. We won’t be giving away any NB Gin secrets. Sorry!

Come on, did you honestly think we’d tell the world how we make our artisan gin? That’s a guarded secret, up there with the secret of who the subject of the Carly Simons’ hit You’re So Vain is. Right, that’s that cleared up, so on to the process.

NB Gin is a London Dry Gin. This is a very particular way of producing gin. There are other ways and processes but the London Dry Gin process is regarded as the best way to make a higher quality drink, and so that’s why we use it.

We didn’t want NB Gin to be anything other than the absolute best quality so we were never going to use any other process.

London Dry Gin is made in a traditional still – ours is one-of-a-kind with a little kink that makes it unique – and the process sees the re-distilling of ethyl-alcohol with the botanicals, which are the natural flavourings for the drink. We only ever use our eight botanicals to make NB Gin.

This bit is very important – all the botanicals must be approved natural flavourings and these must come forward during the distillation process. Any other way and the result would not be London Dry and our master distiller would be a very angry chappy (you wouldn’t like him when he’s angry).

The use of artificial flavourings is strictly forbidden and the mere mention of the word “artificial” is enough to make the NB Gin distiller refuse to ever speak to you again.

After this carefully managed distillation process, the resultant distillate is the base for what eventually becomes a London Dry Gin of the absolute best quality.

Other processes would see sugars added at this stage but, of course, the clue to London Dry is in the name and there are no added sugars to what we produce.

The distillate goes through a very exact and time-consuming blending process that, eventually, leaves the produce we know as NB Gin – a stunning London Dry Gin that is enjoyed all over the world.

Producing something of such quality takes patience, an eye for detail and, perhaps most importantly, an unswerving desire for perfection.

Gin, and London Dry Gin in particular, is one of the purest spirits you can enjoy, so the process must be pure in every sense in order that nothing other than the best is produced.

To that end, NB Gin is a small-batch gin. We never produce more than 100 litres at a time from our little distillery in North Berwick, Scotland. That way we can be 100 per cent sure that our gin is 100 per cent perfect. Yes, we like to be 100 per cent with just about everything we do.

That way, you get to enjoy our drink 100 per cent of the time!

Chin chin!

North Berwick: The place where NB Gin was born

North Berwick

They say home is where the heart is and any company that is born out of a labour of love should also have a heart and a place to call home. For NB Gin, it’s the beautiful town of North Berwick in East Lothian, Scotland.

This is the place that NB Gin is produced, or you could say crafted, before it makes its way all over the world to be enjoyed and savoured by a rapidly expanding fan base.

For us, there could be no better place to produce our artisan gin. North Berwick is woven into the tapestry of our company, even if we haven’t been around for all that long.

We like to think there’s a little bit of North Berwick in every gin and tonic or NB Gin Martini that you enjoy; it’s part of who and what we are and we’re very proud of it. If you listen carefully, you can just about hear the waves lapping on the shores of our seaside town as you pour yourself an NB Gin.

Okay, so perhaps that’s a lyrical stretch too far for some but North Berwick got into our soul; under our skin, and we’d urge our fans to visit the town and take it all in for themselves. You might love it so much you’ll stay and build a distillery!

It really doesn’t get more picturesque than North Berwick. If you spent your childhood holidays at the seaside then you’ll probably already have an appreciation for it but there are now whole generations who didn’t get that, due mainly to the rise of package holidays to the Med.

North Berwick most certainly retains that old seaside town charm of those days gone by but it has something else too.

Where, sadly, many traditional seaside towns were as good as killed off as tastes in holidays changed, North Berwick has been an omnipresent fixture for those wanting to get away from it all.

There’s a heady mix of culture, creativity and good old-fashioned charm here. It has a spirit; a feeling of bohemian freedom on every street. You only have to look at the array of craft producers, artists and artisan stores that are dotted around the town to realise that North Berwick is a little town that positively buzzes with things to see and do.

It’s that spirit, and perhaps the obvious can-do attitude of those who call North Berwick home, that rubbed off on us and compelled us to launch NB Gin in this beautiful little corner of the world.

So you might think that we’re going a bit over the top about how much of an influence North Berwick has had on our artisan gin, that’s okay, we might have been of the same opinion before NB Gin was born.

But we’d urge you to come for a visit and see for yourselves. Have a wander around the beautiful stores and galleries, talk to the friendly shopkeepers, grab a coffee from one of the exceptional cafes and enjoy the sea air as the Firth of Forth entices you on to the seafront. Do that and then you’ll understand why we get so misty-eyed about our little town and why NB Gin calls North Berwick home.

Chin chin!

Gin – The drink at the centre of a revolution

NB Gin beach

When NB Gin was born, it was around the time of a new gin revolution in the UK and what has happened over the last two years has taken even the most enthusiastic gin lover a little by surprise.

It’s no longer a UK gin revolution, it’s a worldwide gin revolution and we’d like to think that from a beautiful little corner of the country in North Berwick, we’re doing our bit to help it roar on.

It seems that gin is the spirit on everyone’s lips… we couldn’t resist that little pun.

It’s not that gin ever really fell out of fashion as such. The beautiful, refreshing spirit has always had a passionate following but vodka has reigned supreme for decades. You could say that gin perhaps got lost in the super-marketing of other big spirits, namely vodka. Not now though. Gin is back and we’re glad to say it’s here to stay.

In fact, in a recent survey of London’s top bars, the majority of mixologists named gin as the most important spirit on the shelf and the one that most customers class as the ‘drink to be seen with’.

One of the biggest factors in the gin revolution is the changing drinking habits of the public.

Perhaps as a result of the huge success of the craft beer scene, people are now far savvier about drinking quality spirits rather than the mass-produced, heavily marketed options that flood the industry.

In short, drinkers place far more weight on quality than they do on marketing tactics and that bodes well for artisan and craft producers, like NB Gin.

As we’ve said before, for us it will always be about the quality of our product. We only ever produce in small batches of no more than 100 litres at a time. That way we can be absolutely certain that our gin is perfect every time.

The gin revolution shows no sign of slowing (or should that be sloe-ing?) and we feel quite honoured that our drink is one of the names mentioned by experts when talking about world-class artisan gin.

Cocktails have helped to make gin cool again too, especially in a time when no self-respecting bar would be without a mixologist who really knows his or her stuff.

Our very own mixologist and brand ambassador TJ Littlejohn from Bar In A Box loves to mix with gin and he even created three brand new NB Gin cocktails to wow the celebrity guests when we serve them our gin at the Brit Awards.

All this talk about ‘being in’ and trendy bars might lead you to think that this revolution is about style over substance. No way, we say! In fact, we’re pretty sure that anyone who has ever enjoyed a good quality gin and tonic will know that it’s all about what’s in the glass.

The fact that gin is on trend again is a mere side point to it being one of life’s little luxuries and we’re so happy to be part of it. Chin chin!

The kink that makes NB Gin perfect, in an imperfect kind of way

NB Gin waitresses

Would you rather be perfect or unique? For NB Gin, those two are not necessarily mutually exclusive. In fact, we like to say that we are unique in our own perfection.

Not many would consider a kink to be perfect. It’s usually the result of a mistake; of a heavy hand or an unfortunate collision but the kink that we are talking about is now integral to the gin we produce. You could say it’s engrained in what we do.

When the copperhead still was being lovingly put together, we ended up with a kink in one of the pipes. Others would fix that sort of thing right away but when NB Gin was first crafted in that still, the result far exceeded what even our high expectations were. Why would we want to change that?

You see, fads come and go in a flash, especially when it comes to drinks, but quality will always endure.

We’re most definitely at the centre of a gin revolution, as many of our fans will tell you, and we’re definitely not stuck in our ways but there are some things you simply don’t change. That kink would probably drive neat freaks to distraction but to us – in a weird kind of way – it’s as an integral to our artisan gin as the eight botanicals that go into NB.

All this talk about kinks and imperfections might make you think that we are nonchalant about how we produce our gin but that could not be further from the truth. We spent countless hours in the early days making sure absolutely everything that went into NB Gin was as perfect as it could be and, believe us, that commitment has not changed since those formative distilling days.

Our master distiller would never compromise on anything. You could call him a hard task master distiller… but we would never say that.

It goes back to that word, perfection, again. For him anything less than perfect just will not do. It’s that simple.

Okay, so practically every fine drinks producer might wax lyrical about quality and perfection but to many of them, they’re just words. They’re part of a marketing operation to sell more units. Talk to our master distiller about marketing and watch his reaction. He doesn’t have time for that – there’s another batch of NB Gin reaching a crucial stage in the distilling process!

Long before we thought of telling the world about our drink, we tested, we trialled, we plagued friends to sample our product. Only once we were absolutely sure that the artisan gin we had produced was of a quality that could rival the best gins in the world, then we cast a fleeting glance at the market. Not the distiller though, his focus is only ever on that still, with its little kink.

 

All this talk of kinked pipes might lead you to think we’ve spent too long tucked away in the distillery. Maybe we have, but give NB Gin a try and you’ll probably understand why we’re so keen to keep our process consistent. Like we said, we’re unique in our own perfection… or imperfection.

Visit our website for more information or to contact us. Chin chin!