Drink: move over, Guinness. Mine’s a gin this St Patrick’s Day | Fiona Beckett | Food


I may be showing my age (OK, I am), but I get increasingly irritated by the way the year’s minor milestones have become occasions for massive media hype. St Patrick’s Day was once a good day simply to spend in a Dublin pub, Bastille Day a charming midsummer’s day off for the French, Hallowe’en for carving pumpkins and kids (for kids, not for carving kids). But you get swept up in it, don’t you, to the extent of finding yourself mildly regretful that Aldi sells its shamrock-infused gin only in the Republic, not least because it’s just the kind of steadying drink you need to hand for watching the Wales v Ireland game tomorrow.

Anyway, I’m sure most of you aren’t nearly as grumpy as me and are gagging to celebrate St Paddy’s Day this weekend, but may I suggest ringing the changes slightly and switching from Guinness to gin? That’s not as inappropriate as you might think – gin is booming on both sides of the border, and a couple of weeks ago, an Irish gin, Dingle, from Co Kerry, was named the world’s best at the World Gin Awards. Leaving aside whether you can actually have a “best” gin – surely it depends on your taste? – I must confess that Dingle is very, very good, a proper London gin (it was also the winner in that category), with the addition of less-usual botanicals such as rowanberry, bog myrtle, hawthorn and fuchsia. It also goes well – praise be – with a standard Indian tonic water, so you don’t have to stress about what to serve with it.

Also playing on its Irish roots is Glendalough Wild Botanical Gin, from Co Wicklow, which features even more obscure botanicals foraged from the distillery’s neighbouring mountain slopes – it’s the first gin I’ve come across to include lady’s bedstraw. Glendalough also makes an appealingly natural-tasting rose gin, as well as a whiskey, should you be ginned out.

North of the border, the gin scene is also flourishing. One of the latest additions is the Symphonia range devised by former chemist Ulrich Dyer, who uses a variety of hi-tech processes to gently extract the maximum flavour from his botanicals. I like the basic gin in the range, but the apple gin, made with Armagh bramley apples and redolent of a good schnapps, is absolutely outstanding. And Belfast distillery Jawbox has a cracking, if lurid-looking, Rhubarb & Ginger Gin Liqueur (currently on promotion at Ocado for £19, 20% abv), if fruity gins are your thing.

Four gins to enjoy on St Patrick’s Day

Dingle Original Gin

Dingle Original Gin

£31 Amazon, £31.25 Master of Malt and The Whisky Exchange, 42.5%.

Recently voted best gin in the world, and my own favourite.

Glendalough Wild Botanical Gin.

Glendalough Wild Botanical Gin

£33.75 Amazon, £33.75 Master of Malt, 41%.

There’s a distinctive, herbal flavour from the local botanicals foraged from the Wicklow mountains, and an appealing floral note, too.

Drumshanbo Gunpowder Irish Gin

Drumshanbo Gunpowder Irish Gin

£25 (50cl) Asda, Tesco, Amazon, 43%.

Intriguingly spicy, made with gunpowder tea and oriental botanicals, including cardamom, star anise and makrut lime.

Symphonia No 2 Apple Gin

Symphonia No 2 Apple Gin

£38.49 Master of Malt (you can get a 3cl sample for £4.74), £39.75 Nickolls & Perks, 40%.

Flavoured with Armagh bramley apples, and utterly delicious. Drink on the rocks.

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