Guest post: Muddling Through Ginuary (sans muddling stick)

And today, Jenn checks in on her Ginuary experience. I’m sorry I let you down and didn’t post the full recipe for last year’s tart, Jenn! I will take the blame for that traumatising experience. Thank you so much for taking on the Ginuary challenge with me, it was a blast! Readers, follow Jenn’s exploits at Soaked in Beer, twitter and instagram.

So, my first Ginuary journey has come to an end. I’m a little bit sad, but also a little relieved. My liver is preparing to throw a party and my credit card is breathing a sigh of relief, but I’m going to miss having that little daily goal. There were times when I was slightly freaked out by the prospect of not being able to make it through. Now I’m at the end, I feel like I could use a few more days. There are things I didn’t get to try, places I didn’t visit…now I have to wait a whole year to do them? Well, of course not. I’m pretty sure Ginuary spirit will live on throughout the year.

Looking back on the month, there were highlights, and a couple of lowlights. Mostly highlights though. I took the opportunity to try my hand at beer cocktails. I had been somewhat sceptical about the use of beer in cocktails before. I knew it had been done (and not just Micheladas), but I guess I didn’t take it seriously. Somehow Ginuary has made me see beer in a whole new light. I was lucky enough to be able to try a professionally mixed beer cocktail (‘East Meets West’ at Cookie), but also did a few experiments of my own. I kept them all fairly simple, but was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed making and drinking them. I won’t lie – there were times when I definitely felt that the addition of gin to beer made the beer better. Writing those words makes me feel treacherous to my love of beer, but it can be true. I’m also thrilled that I inspired Miss Ginuary to dip her toe into the beer cocktail pool as well.

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Seeing as cooking with beer is something of an interest of mine as well, I couldn’t go through the month without trying my hand at cooking with gin. First I tried my hand at curing salmon in gin. The recipe was simple enough (you can find it here on taste.com.au), and while I think it could use some tweaking (I found it a bit too salty) it worked really well. I’d never cured anything before, so I was kind of surprised how easy it was. However, as you don’t cook it as such, I get the feeling the alcohol remains. I think I may have got a little drunk. Drunk on salmon. Amazing. My second attempt at being a gin-chef was the famous gin & tonic tart. I’d first seen it on this very blog during last year’s Ginuary shenanigans, and knew one day I had to make it mine. Unfortunately the recipe came from an old copy of Delicious magazine and they don’t have it on their website, but I found a recipe online that was supposed to be based on it. They had changed it to make small individual tarts, so I had to change it back, but halve the quantities as I only have a little pie dish. This was slightly failtastic, as I am a noob when it comes to pie, and forgot I would need to increase the cooking time. This ended in the loss of about a quarter of the pie filling, which ended up on the inside of the oven, on the kitchen floor and a little on me. I almost lost the accompanying syrup too, when I got distracted by massaging my chicken. I thought women were supposed to be able to multitask? Not me, it seems. Despite the disaster-chef dramas, the tart did taste very good…and that’s all the matters, right?

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The absolute highlight of the month was provided by professionals, of course. With stellar timing, newish Melbourne bar & restaurant, Virginia Plain, had just introduced a negroni menu. A negroni was always going to feature in Ginuary for me, so I decided to check it out. There are five variation on the negroni theme to choose from, but only two feature gin – The classic negroni and the VP Smoked negroni. I couldn’t choose, so had to try both. The classic was just that – your classic, bold and bitter negroni. The VP smoked, however, was out of this world. If you haven’t worked it out, the VP in the name stands for Virginia Plain. This cocktail is their own take on the negroni, and yes, they put smoke in it. Their own special blend of secret herbs and spices are burnt in this little contraption with a hose that pours the fragrant smoke into the glass, then they pop a coaster on top to keep it in. It’s presented this way, so the customer can release the smoke at their leisure. I left it for a few minutes, so I could (a) marvel at the wonder of a smoked filled glass and (b) instagram it. When you lift the lid, the smoke wafts up and hits you with its woody, herbal aroma (the husband likened it to smelling like a bushfire). While this is great theatre, it also tastes amazing. Consider the slightly sweet, bitter hit of a negroni, with an added smoky depth and complexity. I guess you need to like smoky flavours, as it is very prominent and bold. I was also amazed that the smoke flavor remained right until the last drop. Virginia Plain certainly know what they are doing when it comes to cocktails, and I hear that plans are underway for a gin cart.

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I ended my Ginuary journey with a visit to the Gin Palace. I’d never been to this cosy little underground bar and it seemed like the right way to see off Ginuary 2013. It truly is a palace of gin, with an impressive list that runs for several pages. Their focus seems to be on Martinis, but I was still surprised that I had to go off-menu to order an Aviation. Surely such a classic gin cocktail is worthy of a place in the palace? Still, it was no problem and I was able to say my farewells in the way I had planned.

There were a few bumps in the road. Discovering too late that a White Lady is supposed to have Cointreau in it, not triple sec like my cocktail app seemed to think. I put a dash too much bitters in my Ellison. Then there was that extra hot day when I was rushed for time and grabbed a couple of bottles of Gordon’s premixed G&T. Many years ago they were my go-to pre-mixed beverage. My helpful husband had gifted me with a beautiful purple plastic margarita glass. You know, one of the flashing ones, so I drank it from that and it was dubbed ‘The Bogana’. So tacky, but on a searing hot day it hit the spot. I guess it was kind of cheating as well, as I had already had a G&T on day two…but not Gordon’s pre-mix…and certainly not from a glass with its own light show.

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Considering how unplanned and last minute my decision to embark on Ginuary was, I think I’ve done okay for a first timer. Although would you believe I still don’t have a muddling stick? I’ll make it a goal for Ginuary 2014.

Guest post: I know it’s over.

I’ll admit, I feel a little lost post-Ginuary.  Who knew that an alcohol-themed month could give one such a sense of purpose?  I spent my days sneaking peeks at the Internet while at work, looking for ginny inspiration (?ginspiration), and my nights shaking and muddling and then sinking into the couch in a lovely gin-haze.  Oh Ginuary, I didn’t know how much you meant to me until you went away.

My Ginuary exploits were unfortunately interrupted by work, travel and natural disaster, but I did get a few nice little drinkies in before the end of the month.

Blood Plum Aviator at Albert St Food and Wine in Brunswick.

Blood Plum Aviator, made by the beardy fellow in the background.  (Albert St Food and Wine, Brunswick).

I spent a few days during Ginuary in Melbourne doing Melbourne things.  I’d heard some fancy people say nice things about Albert St Food and Wine, so I popped in there with my bf in between visits to record stores.  The fellow at the bar made me this wonderful Blood Plum Aviator (he did spend quite some time beforehand explaining what was in the drink and what it would taste like, but if he had said,”it’s got gin in it and it’s a really pretty shade of pink” that would have been enough for me).

There were plenty more opportunities for gin drinking in Melbourne, but I got a bit off track and ended up drinking lots of beer at various locations, and ouzo at Hellenic Republic.  Next Ginuary I promise to be more disciplined.

Blackberry Smash.

Blackberry Smash.

I purchased a muddler this Ginuary and I love it.  Using my muddler makes me happy, in the same way that popping bubble wrap makes me happy.  I smashed these little blackberries within an inch of their little berry lives, and made this yummy drink.

You're the bees knees but so am I.

You’re the Bee’s Knees but so am I.

I’m pretty lazy at making cocktails.  I like the cocktails that are just about sloshing everything together quickly so that the gin can quickly get down my gullet.  But I made honey syrup on the stove and then waited for it to chill for this Bee’s Knees cocktail, so I was pretty proud of this little baby.  It reminded me of the lemon and honey drinks that my mum used to make for me when I was sick, except it gave me a much better night’s sleep.

The Bloody Bastard.

Humphrey V The Bloody Bastard.

I like the concept of the Bloody Mary (mostly the fact that it seems to be fairly acceptable to drink one quite early in the morning), but tomato juice just doesn’t do it for me.  It’s cold tomato soup as far as I’m concerned, and I’m not even that keen on hot tomato soup.  So I was very excited when I found this recipe for The Bloody Bastard:  a ginny, beetrooty version of the Bloody Mary.  It was like nothing I’d ever had before.  Humphrey had never seen anything like it before either.

The End of Days gin cocktail.

The End of Days gin cocktail.

I had a few more gin tricks up my sleeve for the end of the month, but then Cyclone Whatshisname hit and took out my power and water supply for 4 days.  The novelty of wearing a headlamp and eating all of the icecream in the freezer before it melted soon wore off, and my bf and I decided the best course of action was just to play board games and get a bit drunk.  I had some Emma and Tom’s raspberry juice in the fridge, and some little ice cubes that were gallantly hanging in there, so we did our best with what we had and got to work on the leftover gin.  I can certainly attest that gin does make Electronic Battleship even more fun than it usually is.

So, my Ginuary sort of ended with a whimper rather than a bang.

 

I look forward to seeing you again next year, Ginuary.  We’ll be together again, and it will be like we were never ever apart.

xxx

P.S. I want to thank doctorsister for playing along at home and sharing this awesome month with me; she’s an absolute doll and I grinned every time something ginny appeared on her photo stream! Follow doctorsister on twitter and instagram.

 

Guest post: Everyday is like Ginuary.

Hello there, fellow gin devotees.

Miss Ginuary has kindly asked me to share with you my experiences of Ginuary so far.

I must say, come January 1st, after an evening of free-flowing New Years pina coladas, I was perhaps a little hesitant about joining the Ginuary festivities. But after a day or so, I was back on the gin-soaked bandwagon. By no means am I as dedicated to the cause as our intrepid leader, Miss Ginuary, but I have been enjoying frequent ginny adventures this month.

My lapcat and I launch into Ginuary.

My lapcat and I launch into Ginuary.

Last year, I bought a bottle of St Germain during Ginuary, so I’ve been trying to use that in a few drinkies this month. This first one was a Tanqueray/St Germain/cranberry combination. (My cat does not drink gin, although he doesn’t mind sticking his little paw in my Bailey’s when I’m not watching).

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Guest post: GINUARY MEANS NEVER HAVING TO SAY AFD

My favourite thing about Ginuary is seeing others playing along, too. I asked a couple of regular contributors to the #Ginuary hashtag on twitter/instagram to write a guest post or two, and Jenn sent her first one through last night (if we encourage her, she may be back to make a final report at the end of the month!).

Without further ado: Jenn (twitter/instagram).

pinkgin&tonic

I made a last minute decision to play along with Ginuary this year. I had no idea what I was getting myself into, but I do love gin. I’ve just kind of neglected it in light of my overwhelming obsession with beer. I’d had a very beery December though, visiting at least eight breweries, including one on Christmas day. You know what they say though, a change is as good as a holiday. Returning to work on the second day of the year I needed to do something to keep me in holiday mode.

It was easy to start with – I had a bottle of Red Hill Brewery Gin Barrel aged Temptation (Belgian Style Strong Golden Ale) to kick things off. Yes, I started Ginuary with a beer, naturally. This beer is the perfect storm though – my two boozy loves coming together at last. It makes me sad that it was only a limited release and I only have one bottle left.

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The next day I had a gin and tonic , and the next a martini…then I realised I had already exhausted my repertoire. I’m not much of a cocktail drinker, and less of a cocktail maker. It could come down to shear laziness I guess. I like beer (did I mention that yet?). You knock the top off and pour it into a glass. The hardest part is choosing the glass. You can even drink it straight from the bottle and only a small select group of beer nerds will blink an eye. Cocktails have their own strange terminology, exotic ingredients (so many ingredients) and even their own glass wear rules. And tools. Never did I think I would need a muddling stick. I still don’t have a muddling stick. I am yet to correctly muddle. The shame is palpable.

I am, however, sometimes stubborn and determined and would not let myself be defeated so early on. At the beginning of Ginuary I only had two bottles of gin, and both were half empty. They just happened to both be Australian – The Oxford Scholar made by D. Baker and Sons (who are better known for their Bakery Hill Whisky) and a West Winds Gin Sabre. I knew I’d need to call in reinforcements. Thanks to the kindness of my supportive husband, I gained a bottle of Bombay Sapphire. I stumbled across Tanqueray at a very good price, and on an early morning trip to Dan Murphy’s to pick up other cocktail ingredients, I accidentally ended up with a bottle of Hendrick’s, as you do. I would dearly love more, but my credit card has other ideas (we might need to sit down and have a serious discussion about that though).

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Despite not having a muddling stick, I do own a cocktail shaker (because shaken not stirred), and some passable glasses. I have dry vermouth, because it comes in such a big bottle for something that I only use a vague amount of. I also have a garden full of mint and prodigious lemon tree. I made simple syrup (it really is simple). I picked up some soda water.

I did some research and discovered that you can change something as simple as the garnish and have a whole different cocktail (seriously – put onions in a martini and it becomes a Gibson!). I became inventive with watermelon and a free bottle of ginger cider.. I went to my local bar – which is know for its excellent range of craft beer – and ordered a cocktail. It felt wrong , but it tasted so good.

All this has helped me make it through the first few weeks. With the addition of bitters, elderflower cordial, various juices, some planned trips to cocktail bars and some crazy ideas….I think we’re going to make it.

GinFizz

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