Wednesday 28 August 2019

Gin-in-a-tin gets exotic

Over the years I’ve come across various attempts at premixed cocktails. The sticking point is usually that some ingredients like lemon juice need to be preserved in some way—the Coppa ones clearly had some sort of preservative and some very synthetic-tasting ingredients, while the KÖLD range came in foil pouches that you partially freeze before opening, though I’m guessing the foil also meant you could pasteurise the pouch after sealing, meaning it should stay uncorrupted until the pouch is opened. I don’t know if they do do this, but you run the risk of altering flavours through this “cooking” process. (I think that the Funkin fruit juice pouches are preserved this way—their lime and lemon juice certainly tastes rather cooked.) Both these ranges were heavy on fruit, or at least on fruity flavours.

The only successful range I’ve encountered is Master of Malt’s Handmade Cocktail Company range, which are proper grown-up cocktails. They get round the preservation problem by only making classic recipes that consist mostly of spirits, bitters, etc. Moreover they maintain the high alcoholic strength so that less stable ingredients, like vermouth, are effectively preserved by the alcohol.

Now That Boutique-y Gin Company have launched their own range of “cocktails in a can”, using some of their exotic spirits. This should bode well, as their spirits are generally pretty poised and thoughtfully constructed, even when they contain some whacky flavourings.

The first thing to note about these cocktails is that they are not really cocktails—they are really spirits with mixers. The second thing to note about them is that, like the Coppa and KÖLD ranges, as well as the M&S samples I tried, they are remarkably low in alcohol. I’m assuming that this is to control duty and therefore price—probably because, as with Coppa, there was no getting away from the fact that the marketplace you’re in contains things like Bacardi Breezers and other alcopops. If, like me, you tend to mix two parts tonic to one part gin, you end up with a drink about 13.5% ABV (akin to a beefy wine). The Boutique-y range are around 5% (lager strength), meaning that the spirits must have been pretty heavily diluted.

Moonshot Gin with Citrus Tonic
The Big Idea with Moonshot Gin is that the botanicals (all of them, apparently) have been sent into near-space and back. This subjects them to very low temperature and pressure, though no one seems to be suggesting that this will have had a known effect on the flavour. Ironically they are then vacuum-distilled (so mimicking the low pressure they have just endured). Apparently they throw some moon rock into the vat, but effectively this is just gin.

And you can certainly tell that there is gin in this premix (the ABV is higher here than in the others, at 7.2%). But it’s dominated by a distinctly synthetic-tasting lime flavour, presumably coming from the tonic.

Yuzu Gin Collins with Jasmine Tonic
Given that this is all about the Japanese citrus fruit the yuzu, I was surprised that the citrus flavour here is less in-your-face and more natural-seeming than in the previous mix. But you don’t get much sense of gin—given the ABV of 5.2% it must have been diluted by a good 8:1. You really just get a sense that you are drinking lemonade.

Pineapple Gin Mule
This is the serve that we tried in June, when TBGC were pushing its spit-roasted pineapple gin in time for International Pineapple Day. However, this is not the same drink as the one I made at home. It’s not too bad, and you can certainly taste pineapple, but you can’t really taste the gin itself. It also doesn’t have much body; you mostly have a sense of drinking sweet, fizzy water. Even the gingeriness of the ginger beer seems lost (and you would expect that if they had skimped on the gin then this should be more prominent by comparison). I note that it is not actually the same recipe as the one we tried at home, as they seem to have included pineapple juice—presumably you wouldn’t otherwise get any pineapple at all, given the low gin content.*

Cherry Gin Cola
It’s recognisably cola, with a strong vanilla hit reaching you first, plus an obvious cherry flavour, though I’m not sure I would guess there was any gin in it. As with the pineapple, this has actual cherry juice in it, which may be a way of getting some cherry flavour to make up for the lack of gin in the blend (or it may be a way of describing the gin itself—gin and cherry juice), plus added cardamom and orange blossom. It has a slightly chocolately finish.

Strawberry and Balsamic Gin Fizz
We previously decided that the TBGC Strawberry and Balsamic Gin served with sparkling wine was a thing of great beauty, but sadly this is not that recipe, but a blend of the gin with cream soda, vanilla and orange blossom. There is proper strawberry on the nose, and on the tongue you get vanilla too, as well as orange, but it is still rather synthetic-seeming. Having said that, this is one of the nicer ones from the range and I did finish it (unlike one of the others which ended up going down the sink).

So, are these premixed cocktails? No, despite the “craft cocktails” blazon on the can. Are they good mixed drinks? Hard to say, as I don’t have much of a sweet tooth and almost never drink cola, lemonade, cream soda, etc. You don’t really taste much gin in any of them, but given that they are beer-strength they may make sensible session drinks for a hot summer’s day—my cans even came with a branded cool bag just the right size and shape for half a dozen of them—assuming the cloying sweetness doesn’t send you into a diabetic coma before sundown…

*Here I’m assuming that they literally make these premixes from their gins, though I suppose it’s possible they somehow use some of the individual components in different proportions. It’s also possible that when they list the ingredients as including London Dry Gin and “fresh pineapple juice”, this is actually just a legal way of describing the process by which they make the gin itself—judging by the colour, the pineapple gin has clearly been infused with pineapple post-distillation, so there must be actual pineapple juice in the bottle. The same goes for the cherry gin.