Lanarkshire is emerging as a leader of the pack in the burgeoning Scottish drinks market, as the country’s world-class producers sweep the board at acclaimed awards ceremonies which toast the best in the business.
Many of them are members of regional food group, Lanarkshire Larder, and are go-to destinations on its food and drink trail that takes connoisseurs on an exciting journey around pitstops on the county’s culinary map.
Chairwoman of Lanarkshire Larder, and owner of South Lanarkshire-based Errington Cheese, Selina Cairns, said she was “delighted” the cohort had a variety of small and medium-sized businesses offering an array of fantastic world-class drinks.
The Lanarkshire Live app is available to download now.
Get all the news from your area – as well as features, entertainment, sport and the latest on Lanarkshire’s recovery from the coronavirus pandemic – straight to your fingertips, 24/7.
The free download features the latest breaking news and exclusive stories, and allows you to customize your page to the sections that matter most to you.
Head to the App Store and never miss a beat in Lanarkshire – iOS – Android
She told Lanarkshire Live: “Many of our members are creatively producing small batch drinks that are winning awards throughout the UK.
“Each producer has their own unique selling point which makes them stand out.
“The gin market is continuing to grow and Lanarkshire continues to be one of the key regions in Scotland for award-winning craft distillers.”
Among them is Ellis Gin, proud winner of the Scottish Prestige Awards’ Retailer of the Year crown for the second consecutive year.
The brainchild of Uddingston-based entrepreneur, Carol Jackson, Ellis Gin was launched in October 2018 as the producer of a unique range of small batch, Scottish gin.
On launching, her aim was to bring fun and color to the vibrant gin market, with two of the company’s gins changing color when mixer is added.
Ellis Gin, which has received a clutch of awards, includes in its repertoire a pink gin with a mesmerizing shimmer, and a refreshingly zesty lemon gin, which is described as ‘sunshine in a glass.’
Move to South Lanarkshire and you’ll discover Pentland Hills Gin, which last week proudly announced that its Firework Winter Warmer Gin has been named the Best in Scotland 2022 by gin lovers’ bible, the International Gin Guide.
Made from the finest ingredients and specially selected botanicals, chief distiller Phil Cox produces gin from the small holding he shares with Tabatha McCree-Cox, by Tarbax, close to Carnwath on the western end of the Pentland hills.
Good things come in small packages, and their gin is no exception. Hand-crafted and produced in limited quantities, it is an expression of the place where it’s made; unique, sustainable, surprising – and, of course, Scottish.
Their gin recipe calls on the flavors of nine homegrown aromatic ingredients and botanicals, including juniper berries, pink peppercorns, angelica, coriander, cardamom and orris root, paired with a subtle infusion of orange, mint and cocoa nibs.
Not far away is the Biggar Gin Company, spawned by brothers Stuart and Euan McVicar, who chose World Cocktail Day 2022 to launch their new Biggar Herbaceous Gin.
The pair are proud of what they call their small batch gin’s ‘Biggar Mentality’ – a philosophy that reflects a passion, ambition, and a mighty taste.
From their home at the foot of the Tinto hills by the South Lanarkshire town of Biggar, the use of local botanicals has inspired the brothers to think big by producing a gin that punches above its weight.
Their Original Recipe Biggar Gin is mellow, with aromatic citrus and a hint of hedgerows, married with gentle spice, notes of lavender and woody cassia. It’s smooth and initially sweet on the palate, followed by an almost creamy juniper and citrus burst.
Also included in the brothers’ award-winning repertoire is the Bigger Strength Gin, which really packs a punch, and the limited edition seasonal Clyde Valley Plum Recipe Gin.
Back in Strathaven at the starting line of the Lanarkshire Larder food and drink trail are another couple of proud and passionate producers of gin.
Firstly, there’s the Jaunty Camper Gin – a recipe which was developed by wedding and funeral celebrant Yva McKerlich on a campervan road-trip in the spring of 2019 in a copper pot-still by the sea.
The botanicals were chosen for flavour, but also because Yva wanted the gin to taste of adventure, with a grounding in the Scottish seaside village where she was born, coupled with hints of the far-flung places at which she’s marveled over the years.
The trio of gin essentials are there – juniper, coriander and angelica – and she calls on her herb garden at her Strathaven home for different varieties of coriander, including a fragrant Vietnamese leaf.
Yva includes in her recipe robust, salty Scottish seaweed as a nod to Kyle of Lochalsh, from where her family hails.
And for a touch of sweetness, Jaunty Camper Gin also includes pistachio – a tribute to Yva’s beloved classic, pistachio-coloured VW campervan, Jasmine.
It was a mutual love of gin that introduced Yva to Colin McLean, when she signed up for a tasting session of the McLean’s Signature Gin with its kick of rich aniseed which he distilled from a small cupboard in his modest tenement flat in Glasgow’s Battlefield area.
Like Yva, mechanical engineer Colin uprooted from Battlefield to settle in Strathaven, when the pair became reacquainted.
To celebrate their nuptials, Colin and wife Jess made a new gin, which they named Something Blue.
Made with buchu leaf from South Africa and tonka beans from Panama – the destination of the couple’s first holiday together – Something Blue combines for the first time ingredients from opposite sides of the globe.
Something Blue is now among the flagship products of McLean’s Gin, an enterprise that has sold thousands as wedding favors in 5cl labeled bottles.
Proud additions to the McLean’s gin family include Classic Citrus, with its notes of rosemary, bay and a pinch of ground black pepper – perfect for the classic G ‘n’ T lover.
Then, there’s striking violet Floral, with a beautiful bouquet of rose, hibiscus and orange blossom, a touch of soft cardamom and a dusting of hand-harvested fennel pollen.
And, to end the seasonal glide through the McLean’s Gin flight, there’s ‘Christmas in a glass.’
To be relished by a roaring fire, McLean’s Spiced Gin has a rich, woody appeal and a smooth finish of cinnamon, clove, pine and ginger.
McLean’s range of premium, artisan spirits – including Strathaven Hedgerow which is crafted with 100 per cent locally-foraged botanicals – sits comfortably alongside The Jaunty Camper behind the bar in The Strathaven Hotel.
ellis gin: Ellis Zesty Gin Sling
To a shaker, add:
45ml Ellis No.1 Zesty Gin
1 tablespoon of lemon curd
100ml pineapple juice
shake shake shake
Strain into a tall glass
Top with soda water
Garnish with lemon or pineapple.
Pentland Hills Gin: The Doggyjito (a light and refreshing Mojito, named after Chocolate Labrador, Panza)
100ml Pentland Hills Gin
10 min leaves
4 wedges of pink grapefruit
50 ml sugar syrup
100ml apple juice.
Biggar Gin Company: Biggar Herbaceous Gimlet
50ml Biggar Herbaceous Gin
25ml apple juice
25ml lemon juice
12.5ml sugar syrup
1 sprig rosemary
5 sage leaves
Muddle the leaves and gin in a cocktail shaker
Add all other ingredients and plenty of ice to a cocktail shaker
Shake for approximately 20 seconds
Double strain into a cocktail glass
Garnish with a sage leaf.
Jaunty Camper Gin: The Fizzy Damsel
25ml Jammy Damsel Gin
Topped up with 100ml of fizz
Garnished with a kumquat (or orange peel)
Serve in a champagne flute
Simple, but classically delicious.
McLean’s Gin: Lavender Lemonade
50ml Strathaven Hedgerow Gin
25ml *home-made lavender syrup
25ml freshly squeezed lemon juice (approx. half a lemon)
Stir with plenty of ice
Top with soda water
Garnish with a pinch of lavender petals and a slice of lemon.
(Colin’s top tip: “To make the syrup, gently warm 2:1 sugar:water on the stove until fully dissolved, then add 20g/L of dried lavender flowers and continue to heat for a further 10 minutes to allow the flavor to be extracted by the syrup. Strain through a sieve and keep in the fridge for up to three months.”)
Cocktails were originally inspired by 18th century British punches – big bowls of spirits mixed with fruit juice and spices.
It’s unclear who was responsible for creating the first cocktails but, whoever it was, they’ll forever be the toast of connoisseurs the world over.
Ironically, cocktails became especially popular when alcohol was prohibited in the United States from 1920 to 1933.
Speakeasy drinking clubs began to sell inferior spirits because they were easier to produce illicitly.
Then, they started to add honey, fruit juice, and other flavorings to mask the foul taste, enabling customers to drink faster, which was crucial in case of a raid.
The Industrial Age made a major contribution to the evolution of cocktails with the production of ice.
In the ’90s, a group of bartenders at New York’s famous Rainbow Room reintroduced classic cocktail culture and followed strict quality standards.
Today, there is a substantive cocktail culture in the art of mixology, which draws on traditional cocktails, but uses novel ingredients and complex flavours.
Ernest Hemingway had a recipe
Author of For Whom the Bell Tolls and A Farewell to Arms, Hemingway invented his cocktail named ‘Absinthe and Champagne’ or ‘Death in The Afternoon.’
The Sourtoe cocktail, which can be found in Yukon, Canada, reputably has a real human toe in it.
Stirred, not shaken
Despite the preference of 007 James Bond, Martini cocktails are traditionally stirred, not shaken.
Drink a cocktail, gain Chinese wisdom
Cocktail umbrellas traditionally contain hidden scrolls of Chinese newspapers, which can be read like fortune cookies.
A drink or a drug?
Some cocktails can help heal or ease certain diseases, including the Atomic cocktail, which is said to cure minor fevers, headaches, and depression.
* Trivia from National ToDay
Don’t miss the latest headlines from around Lanarkshire. Sign up to our newsletters here.
And did you know Lanarkshire Live is on Facebook? Head on over and give us a like and share!
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.