Gin has always been the most aristocratic of drinks. The gentry’s preferred tipple.
Ideally, it must be poured, mixed and served by a haughty, swallow-tailed butler wearing white gloves and dove grey.
Or, at the very least, marched in on a silver salver by a handsome, all-in-charcoal, waistcoated under-butler or footman who hovers above you and asks in a post-Edwardian way, “Orange or lemon wheel today, Countess?” or “Can I freshen up your rosemary sprig, Marquess?”
There are many celebrity gins. But only one celebrity gin makes you feel like your home is a country seat and you have a best friend called Lady Sibyl.
Ryan Reynolds’ Aviation Gin doesn’t do that.
Hampton Court Gin doesn’t have the same impact. Buckingham Palace gin reminds you that the royal family are always on the make.
Highclere Castle makes you feel like you own an orangery.
Famous around the world as “the real Downton Abbey”, the location of the hit six series English period drama, the 1679 Highclere Castle also offers its own award-winning gin made in England’s oldest distillery. The recipe was crafted over four years by American spirits entrepreneur Adam von Gootkin and the 8th Earl and Countess of Carnarvon.
It uses estate-grown oats and botanicals from the castle’s herb gardens originally planted in the 9th century by the Bishops of Winchester. Von Gootkin is co-founder of Connecticut-based “Onyx Moonshine”.
Head Butler Lui Coelho has researched the castle’s archives to create his own cocktail list which includes the following five cocktails.
Lavender Lady is a mix of 50ml Highclere Castle Gin, 25ml Lavender Syrup, 25ml Lemon Juice and one Egg White.
“You can buy lavender syrup or make your own very easily. If the blooms are picked early in the morning. Add the gin, lavender syrup and lemon juice along with ice into a cocktail shaker and shake until cold. Remove the ice, add the egg white and shake again. This is called a reverse shake. Strain into a chilled coupe cocktail glass.”
To make Hanky Panky you will need 50ml Highclere Castle Gin, 50m Sweet Vermouth, 2 dashes of Fernet Branca and an orange twist. Put all the ingredients into a mixing glass with ice, stir until well chilled, strain into a chilled cocktail glass and finally garnish with the orange twist.
“This cocktail was created in the 1920’s by the bartending legend Ada “Coley” Coleman who became the first female head bartender at the Savoy.”
The English Garden is a mix of 50ml Highclere Castle Gin, 25ml Elderflower Liqueur (St Germain), 15ml Lime Juice and 75ml Apple Juice. Shake the ingredients in a shaker and strain into a glass filled with ice and garnish with apple and ribbons of cucumber.
To create The Bramble you will need 50ml Highclere Castle Gin, 225ml Lemon Juice, 12.5ml Sugar Syrup 15ml, Crème de Mûre (Blackberry Liqueur) and Blackberry Lemon slices for a garnish. Simply Fill an old fashioned glass with crushed ice, add the gin, lemon juice and sugar syrup and stir together before pouring in the Crème de Mûre and garnish.
And finally, onto His Lordship, which is a mix of 50ml “Highclere Castle Gin, 22.5ml Elderflower Cordial, 25ml Lemon Juice and one spoon of Orange Marmalade.
Stir all the ingredients together as that helps to dissolve the marmalade, before pouring them into a shaker. Add ice and shake until cold. Then double strain into the glass, leaving the ice in the shaker. (Double strain is when we use two strainers with different mesh to make sure that no crushed ice passes into the cocktail glass).
The family manservant concludes by saying:
“Highclere Castle has been renowned for its entertaining and house parties featuring gin cocktails through the years. Our gin has been distilled by the discerning for the discerning.”
Kevin Pilley is a former professional cricketer and chief staff writer of PUNCH magazine. His humour, travel, food and drink work appear worldwide and he has been published in over 800 titles.
Photographs courtesy of Highclere Castle