Wine & Spirits: Gin It Up for the Olympics

Beefeater Gin offers up some medal-worthy mixology for London 2012.

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Serve Beefeater Gin Jamboree Punch for your Olympics viewing party.

You say “London Olympics,” I say “gin.” (To be fair, I answer gin to pretty much any question posed to me…) But certainly, all those shots on television of Big Ben, the Millennium Wheel, double decker buses and the Union Jack make me even thirstier than usual for England’s national spirit. And a potent gin and tonic during the Opening Ceremonies definitely helped to banish images of that well-intentioned but creepy-in-execution giant baby…

Luckily, the folks at Beefeater Gin are more than equipped to satisfy our hankering for a good botanical-based beverage while we watch the Games. The brand is, after all, the most famous London Dry Gin to still be distilled in London. (The term “London Gin,” by the way, actually refers to a style, rather than a location, of production — London Gins get their distinctive flavoring by redistilling a neutral spirit with botanicals.)

Whether you are a fan of the backstroke or the balance beam, synchronized swimming or diving, the hoops or the hurdles, here are some classic and modern gin-based tipples to enjoy over the next few weeks (and beyond.) Let the shaking begin!

Olympic Refresher
Brand Ambassador Simon Ford created a drink that speaks to the couch Olympian in all of us. His refreshing combination of gin, aloe vera and cucumber is joined by splashes of sake, St. Germain and Lillet. A great cocktail to sip while watching the battles between Phelps and Lochte, or the Fantastic Five.

1 ½ oz Beefeater London Dry Gin
1 oz Aloe vera juice
½ oz Junmai Ginjo Sake
4 Cubes Kirby cucumber
½ oz St. Germain
Splash Lillet Blanc
Cucumber wheel, for garnish

Muddle cucumber in a mixing glass. Add all other ingredients except garnish. Add ice, and shake until chilled. Double strain into a chilled martini glass, and garnish with a cucumber wheel.

Beefeater Jamboree Punch
If you are hosting a viewing party to watch the Games with some friends, set out a self-serve punch station so friends can help themselves (and you don’t have to miss the photo finish…) This punch was created by British mixologist Dre Masso to celebrate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. Its blend of gin, strawberry, lemon and grape is a perfect combo for the summertime. Use a whisk if necessary to make sure the jam gets fully blended with the other ingredients.

10 oz Beefeater London Dry Gin
5 tbsp Strawberry jam
5 tbsp Lemon juice
3 ½ oz Dubonnet
10 oz Red grape juice
Lemonade
Lemon wheels, fresh strawberries sliced in half and sliced red grapes, for garnish

Pour all ingredients except lemonade and garnish into a punch bowl or large jug. Stir well, making sure the jam is thoroughly mixed in. Top with lemonade and garnishes. Serve punch in highball glasses over ice.

The Gold Medal combines Beefeater 24, bell pepper, pineapple and curry powder.

The Gold Medal
It’s savory, sweet and spicy, and its bright yellow tinge reminds us of each athlete’s penultimate goal. Los Angeles, Calif.-based British bartender Martin Cole created this libation for an Olympics-themed party in his home city. Muddled pepper lends a vegetal note, while pineapple and curry give it a little taste of the exotic.

2 Yellow bell pepper slices
1 ½ oz Beefeater 24 Gin
½ oz Simple syrup
½ oz Fresh lime juice
1 ½ oz Pineapple juice
Pinch curry powder
Yellow bell pepper slice, for garnish

Muddle 2 yellow pepper slices in a cocktail shaker. Add all other ingredients except garnish. Add ice, shake until chilled, and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a bell pepper slice.

Vesper Martini
If you thought one of the highlights of those head-scratching Opening Ceremonies was the scene with the Queen and Daniel Craig as James Bond, you may be a fan of the Vesper Martini, a cocktail created at Duke’s Bar in London for James Bond writer Ian Fleming. (The Martinis at Duke’s Bar have been called the best in the world. I stayed there a few years ago during a gin trip, and while I found their bar to be a lovely spot to throw back a chilled Martini before dinner, I didn’t quite agree with the highest praise bestowed on their gin and vermouth combos. But I’m an admitted Martini snob.) Nevertheless, the Vesper brings together vodka and gin in a perfect blend. It is rumored that it was at Duke’s where Fleming came up with the line “shaken, not stirred,” though Martini fans and purists (myself included) would never think to shake either a Martini or a Vesper…

The classic Vesper combines gin and vodka.

2 oz Beefeater London Dry Gin
½ oz Absolut Vodka
¼ oz Lillet Blanc
Lemon peel, for garnish

Add all ingredients except garnish to a cocktail shaker. Add ice, and stir (or shake, if you must) until chilled. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass, garnish with a large, thin slice of lemon peel.

Gin and Tea
The Brits love their tea, and the Gin and Tea cocktail pays homage to their affection for those steeped leaves, often taken in the afternoon with some scones and clotted cream. Beefeater 24 Gin was released a few years ago — it’s a deliciously complex blend of rare Japanese Sencha Tea and Chinese Green tea. Beefeater’s Master Distiller Desmond Payne (whom I had the pleasure of getting to know during the aforementioned gin trip) was inspired to create this Beefeater variant after coming across a fragment of a pricing list from Beefeater founder James Burrough’s father, a prominent tea merchant. While this new English staple calls to mind comparisons to a Long Island Iced Tea, it’s more fragrant, lighter and requires fewer ingredients.

2 oz Beefeater 24 Gin
3 oz Chilled English Breakfast tea
½ oz Simple syrup
Lemon wedge
Lemon wheel, for garnish

Pour gin, tea and simple syrup into a Collins glass over ice. Squeeze a wedge of lemon into the glass and discard. Stir, and garnish with a lemon wheel.

Kelly Magyarics is a wine and spirits writer, and wine educator, in the Washington, D.C. area. She can be reached through her website, www.kellymagyarics.com, or on www.twitter.com/kmagyarics.

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