When I arrived in England in 2003, the G&T was considered a classic, old school drink. An uncomplicated but highly satisfying cocktail, easy to fix at home, an irresistible cheerful bubbliness. The gin revival a few years ago brought it brought it to a new level, sophisticated it. I judge a bar by looking at its variety of gin and whisky bottles these days… But why would the quality of the spirit only matter? Let’s look at the dynamic in your glass: well, mainly tonic. You want it to enhance your experience, not drown the wonderful botanicals of your gin. This is where Frankin & Sons come in.
The name may sound familiar. We’re talking pure Victorian heritage here: the brand was funded in 1886 by three brothers, all 3 originally carpenters by trade. Inspired by American carbonated soft drinks, they decided to create their own blends: first tonics, then flavoured sparkling beverages, which proved a huge success. Sadly, the company was bought in 1990 by a big name and faded away. Franklin & Sons are now making a come back – vintage inspired glass bottles and labels, all inspired by their previous designs, and a real expertise when it comes to the perfect balance between quality ingredients and taste. Think Cinchona bark extract from Ecuador for the quinnine, sugar beads, Sicilian lemons (the best in the world!), steamed ginger root mixed with Staffordshire spring water… In a nutshell: they seriously are going to up your G&T game.
I joined Franklin & Sons for a masterclass on tonic and gin matching, presented by the famous Joel Harrison and Neil Ridley. Gin first – think of it as the trailer to a movie. The nose could be compared to the trailer, the taste on the palate the main story, the aftertaste at the back of your throat the discussion with your friends at the pub after. We tastes four samples, each taking us on a different journey. First was the City of London Dry (nicknamed COLD), which beautiful blend of angelica, liquorice, coriander seeds bring a wonderful aniseed, pine like touch. To my delight, we also tried Silent Pool – the distillery is not far from where I live and I’m a great fan. It’s creamy, gingery, spicy even. Add a drop or two of water, give it a swirl and you will get a more citrus note. Next was a slow gin, often considered these days like “that drink you grandmother used to make and of which you still have a bottle somewhere in a cupboard”. Sipsmith – who started the gin revolution in 2009 – though should change your mind. Not as syrupy as expected, you see, more a dessert. Marzipan, almond come to mind. If you like port – give it a try. Last but not least was Warner Edwards rhubarb gin, which I had never encountered. I’m told it is made using a crop of rhubarb originally grown in the kitchen garden of Buckingham Palace during the reign of Queen Victoria. A delicate, ravishing jamminess quality.
Their main point? My friend, your drink should show off your personality… And you have three options to make it your own: gin, tonic and garnish, which does not have to be lemon or lime. How about orange? Crushed juniper berries? Cinnamon stick? Star anise?
And so the fun begin. The City of London Dry was paired to Franklin and Sons’ tonic water, nice bubbles, its great minerality sharpening it, a beautiful, luxurious classic. The Silent Pool was matched to the Natural Light Tonic Water, letting the floral note blossom. My favourites were the two last ones though. Sloe gin and the Sicilian Lemon Tonic – oh WOW. The tonic lighten it, gives it a gorgeous candy like quality. This, very chilled is a gorgeous summer drink… Equally astonishing was the rhubarb gin with… ginger beer. Quintessentially British and excellent with cheese, apparently. I loved that cocktail but tasting the ginger beer on its own, it’s rather difficult to choose. It may not be alcoholic but it has a lovely fieriness that makes you want one more sip. That’s it, you’re hooked.
What a lovely idea for Christmas, isn’t it? Either as a present, a lovely present of gin and Franklin and Sons’ vintage style tonic bottles… or simply if you are hosting a party, let people experiment with their drinks!