Scottish gin maker Caorunn hopes to spread some cheer across the festive period and into the new year, offering its own variations on popular cocktails, devised by master mixologist Walter Pintus.
Pintus has worked at numerous world renowned bars, including the Connaught, the Ritz and the Mandrake Hotel, and scooped multiple awards for his cocktail creations. When he offers a spin on the classic G&T and Martini, we’re all ears.
We meet, inevitably over Zoom. “It’s been a privilege for me to work with such a high-end spirit,” he says by way of introduction to his hosts.
Caorunn, for those yet to sample its delights, is a small batch gin, distilled and bottled in Scotland. Specifically at the Balmenach distillery in Speyside, which can trace its origin back to 1824. The location, we’re told, is key to its flavour profile.
Caorunn, it transpires, is the Gaelic word for Rowan Berry, the Celtic botanical that’s very much at the heart and soul of this gin.
It’s personally crafted by master distiller Simon Buley, from Scottish water, fine grain spirit and a mix of eleven botanicals, six traditional and five more unique botanicals grow in the surrounding region, and foraged specially. These unique botanicals are referenced on the bottle label itself.
So what’s in the bottle? Pintus knows. In addition to Juniper, there’s some lemon and orange peel, coriander seeds, angelica roots and cassia bark, the latter used to give a spicy note, he says. Those more unique botanicals are the titular Rowan berries, which contain antioxidants, myrtle, heather, Scottish blush apple and dandelion leaf, which apparently adds sharpness. These botanicals don’t come into direct contact with the liquid, but are absorbed by vapours and then condensed back, resulting in a very subtle interaction.
The result is a Juniper-forward gin, with flora, citrus notes and a slightly spicy aroma. It’s really clean, with a long finish.
Pintus has worked at numerous world renowned bars and scooped multiple awards for his cocktail creations. When he offers a spin on the classic G&T and Martini, we’re all ears…
Caorunn gin & tonic
The first Pintus Carunn cocktail, is a tweak on the classic G&T. He guides us through the process against a background of festive lights and Christmas tree.
Walter’s preferred ratio is three parts gin, one part tonic. “So if we have a 200ml bottle of tonic, I just leave a little bit behind, when I’m using a full shot of gin (50ml).”
The spin is in the garnish. He doesn’t advocate a lime or lemon wedge, but an apple. “Cut a few slices,” he advises. “Using apple announces the character of Caorunn and brings a little bit of fruitiness to it. It works really well. I like the aromatic profile of the gin.”
You won’t find many places doing this serve, he admits, but I think it’s worth asking your bartender if they don’t mind adding a couple of slices of apple to your G&T.
So what tonics would Walter recommend? “I personally wouldn’t go for Schweppes. I find it too sugary, to be honest,” he says. “Sugar is a flavour carrier, and it takes away some of the clean profile of the gin. Fever Tree is very good, I think it’s one of the very top tonics. But ultimately you should choose what makes you happy.”
Caorunn Christmas Martini
Next up is the Martini, traditionally garnished with an olive, or lemon twist. “This variation is slightly more Christmasy, with a softer profile,” he says.
The Pintus approach involves infusing the dry vermouth, with mandarin peel for about 24 hours. “For 500ml of vermouth I use the peels of three mandarins. If you infuse it for longer, it becomes bitter, and you don’t want that. After 24 hours, drain it off.”
For his vermouth, Walter opts for an extra dry Martini, which he says works really well. The final touch is 10ml of Italicus Bergamot liqueur, which adds a citrus zing.
“Stir for 30 seconds with ice and then garnish with some mandarin peel, its oil squeezed onto the surface of the drink,” he says.
Finally, we’re offered something a little different. “This is technically a milk punch,” says the master mixologist. “It traces its origin back to 1688. The milk punch is a mixture of milk, sugar and spices.”
Milk Punch – A Winter’s ‘tail
Dubbed A Winter’s ‘tail, this is a uniquely festive concoction that looks the part. The cocktail is simplicity itself, but preparing the clarified milk clearly takes a little more effort. “I know the milk part is not the easiest process, but believe me it’s not very difficult. It just takes patience,” we’re told.
The ingredients comprise 35ml Caorunn gin, 50ml clarified milk and 20ml pear cider.
To make your clarified milk, you’ll need:
400g caster sugar
Peel from two lemons
Three coriander seeds
1 Cox apple
4 star anise
500ml Jasmine tea
100ml Apple juice
500ml whole milk
150ml lemon juice
Muddle all the spices and fruit with sugar, add the lemon zest and the hot tea. Let it cool down, and then add the apple juice juice and let it rest for 24 hours, well covered in the fridge. Strain the punch in the jar. Warm up the milk, add it to the punch while you are pouring the lemon juice in.
After 30 minutes, it naturally curdles, and solids float to the top. Once strained, you’re left with a slightly cloudy milk base for your drink.
“If you don’t have pear cider, you can definitely use normal cider, as that will give you even more apple elements,” says Pintus.
Stirred over ice, serve in an Old Fashioned glass, and garnished with a dehydrated apple.
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