Cocktails Gin Issue One Laura Foster

A Taste of the Med

Why Mediterranean gin brand, Gin Mare, works so well with food

In the thorny world of spirits and food mixing, where suggested pairings often fail miserably, one gin brand is making great strides ahead. 

Gin Mare, the distinctive Mediterranean gin brand with botanicals that include thyme, rosemary, basil and arbequina olives, which results in a distinctively savoury flavour profile, has been working with top chefs for years in fascinating ways. From Albert Adrià, to Mark Hix and José Pizarro, plenty have explored the gastronomic edge of this unusual gin. But why? 

‘It really works with food,’ enthuses Stuart Bale, a top drinks consultant who often creates Gin Mare drinks to pair with chefs’ menus. ‘When I first came across Gin Mare when I was a bartender, I didn’t really think it tasted like a gin. It’s recognisable as a gin, but it’s out of the stratosphere. I realised that you could apply it in different ways. 

‘There’s not another gin that’s so versatile as this. It’s savoury, it just sits by itself. I really love working with it.’

ON THE MENU 

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the gin’s food-pairing partnerships were born out of its provenance. ‘We define ourselves as Mediterranean,’ explains Gin Mare global brand ambassador Jorge Balbontin. ‘For a lot of people around the world, this means a state of mind, distinctive colours and distinctive flavours.’

‘Gastronomy is part of our culture,’ continues Ivan Herrera, communications manager for the brand. ‘The act of sitting down at the table is a social act that is so important for the region – it can bring the family together, close business, or even, establish new relationships… We wanted to apply this idea to the way we develop Gin Mare.’

One of the first chefs to work with Gin Mare was Ángel León, the proprietor of two Michelin-starred restaurant Aponiente in Cádiz. Known as ‘the chef of the sea’, he’s worked out how to grow plankton, and the innovation led to a particularly memorable G&T, which saw sachets of dehydrated plankton turn the drink a distinctive green, and give it a further marine-like salinity.

Since then the brand’s work in the UK alone has seen Gin Mare Martinis sold alongside oyster platters at the Richmond restaurant in Dalston, and a G&T ice cream parlour created in the Hoxton Hotel. Mark Sargeant created a Gin Mare seafood menu at Rocksalt, while Hix even used it to make a jelly shot recently, combining it with wild strawberry for a delicious spiked dessert to end his menu. 

For all of these projects, Bale worked alongside the chefs, turning out riffs on Martinis, refreshing coolers stuffed full of melon balls, and twists on the Red Snapper (the gin equivalent of a Bloody Mary).  

TIPS OF THE TRADE

So, what’s best when you’re trying to pair gin with a meal? 

It’s tricky to pair neat spirits with food, as the high ABV often obliterates delicate flavours in the food. This is where cocktails step in – drinks with an ABV similar to wine are ideal, and can incorporate ingredients that play off both the notes in the spirit and the dish that the drink is accompanying. 

As Bale says of the desired ABV of cocktails for food pairing, ‘I reckon between 11-15% ABV is ideal – anything above that starts to interfere with the food, and gets towards the getting drunk during dinner territory.’

He also suggests thinking about the texture of the food you’re eating as well as the flavour, but admits that creating pairings can be a ‘minefield’, because sometimes you need contrasting flavours rather than complementary ones. 

Don’t be disheartened if your spirituous concoction doesn’t sing with a dish, however – not all food will lend itself to gin cocktails, or vice versa. Bale recalls how Pizarro decided to bring out a bottle of Rioja to accompany one of his dishes instead. ‘You don’t want to force a square peg through a round hole,’ he laughs. 

PERFECT PAIRINGS 

Bartender Stuart Bale picks his best cocktail and food pairings from the Gin Mare chef dinners he’s collaborated on… 

 

APERITIF 

THE OLD MAN AND THE SEA 

Paired with gordal olives and anchovies on a research trip with José Pizarro

‘Kombu (seaweed) contains MSG, so it naturally stimulates your appetite and enhances the flavour of everything that’s to come. The drink has a salinity to it, like a dry Martini. The kombu plays well with protein.’

GLASS

Cocktail 

INGREDIENTS

• 50ml Gin Mare

• 25ml kombu-infused fino sherry

GARNISH

2-3 drops of olive oil on top

METHOD

Stir over ice, strain into glass and garnish.

 

MAIN 

RED SNAPPER GIMLET 

Paired with salt-aged lamb with crushed heritage potatoes and arbequina olives
by Mark Hix

‘This drink was meant to go with a different course, but we realised that it worked much better with the richness of the lamb. The chanterelle provides a big umami hit, and I centrifuged the tomato juice to clarify it, meaning that it was a really big flavour but had a light texture, so it didn’t overpower the food.’

GLASS

Cocktail

INGREDIENTS

• 50ml Gin Mare

• 25ml spiced tomato cordial

• 1 dash chanterelle salty water

GARNISH

1 fermented chanterelle 

METHOD

Stir over ice, strain into glass and garnish.

 

DESSERT

ESPRESSO FLIP 

Paired with chocolate truffles by Mark Sargeant

‘This is a big, rich, indulgent drink. The tonka grating added a top note and lifted the whole flavour of the drink as well as the chocolates. It ticks all the boxes, mixing a coffee with a digestif and the whole egg gives it great body.’

GLASS

Cocktail

INGREDIENTS

• 50ml Gin Mare

• 15ml Merlet C2 Coffee Liqueur

• 15ml sugar syrup (2 parts sugar to 1
part water)

• 1 whole egg

• 1 espresso

GARNISH

Grated tonka beans and edible
gold dust

METHOD

Put the ingredients in a shaker, shake hard without ice, open and add ice, shake again, then strain into the glass. 

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