When it came to alcohol I was late to the party. Whilst my classmates were downing three hammers on ‘Stoners hill’ I was at home playing scrabble and watching Poirot. There is nothing like making up for lost time. Over the last year I have fully embraced DIY booze, filling my wardrobe and my weekends with quietly infusing spirits.
Alcohol production takes both time and money, so obviously it is important that you don’t waste your efforts and resources producing something sub-par. I have therefore decided to take one for the team and sample my entire homemade liquor cabinet, in order to provide you with the benefits of my experience. I am purely a concerned citizen here. Hopefully this post should provide you with some inspiration and ward you off some of the grim recipe suggestions that Google assured me were a good idea.
1. Watermint Vodka (probably)
I picked the botanicals from my local park and wouldn’t want to commit to the variety. It is at the very least mint of some kind.
The taste: Ah Listerine!
The verdict: It might work for dental hygiene but it’s not doing it for me, 4/10.
I made this with some 95% ABV rectified spirit that one of my colleagues liberated from Italy. On the recommendation of my colleague I diluted the base using a ratio of 1:1:1 alcohol:water:sugar.
The taste: Wooahh, This is unbelievably strong!! I am seeing my colleague (or the booze hound, as he shall now be known) in a whole new light. I am also now seeing three of this bottle.
Ok, now my head has stopped spinning I can confirm that this liqueur is fantastic. It is gorgeously tart but not bitter, sweet but not sickly. It is bringing to mind images of sun-soaked verandas and lines of white linen sheets drying in the wind. It also lacks that syrupy quality that plagues many shop-bought varieties.
The verdict: Well worth going blind for, 9/10 (maybe with a splash more water though!)
3. Sloe Gin
This is of course the DIY spirit that everyone talks about. I have found that the foraging community, usually so eager to assist, are rather reticent about revealing where they source their sloes. I spent a day scouring my neighbourhood to find a suitable stash. The question is, will it live up to the hype?
The taste: It’s bright and fruity, with almond and menthol tones. Nice, but not revolutionary. This batch is only 6 months old so it is highly likely that the complexity and flavor will develop as it matures.
The verdict: Sure, I’d happily sip from a hip flask. 7/10
4. Beech Leaf Noyau
This gin based liqueur is apparently an old English countryside classic. I made it because it has a great name. Noi-ouwwww. I am sceptical about the lack of colour that has been transferred from the leaves to the drink, and fear that my Noyau will basically taste like sweet, watery gin.
The taste: This tastes of sweet watery gin. It has all the impact of a beige rug on a cream carpet.
The verdict: Waste of sugar, water and gin, 2/10.
5. Alexanders Gin
It’s not Alexander’s its mine. In case you didn’t know Alexanders or Smyrnium olusatrum is a cultivated flowering plant, belonging to the family Apiaceae. It was known to Theophrastus and Pliny the Elder ( or so Wikipedia tells me). It grows in the park near my house and tastes kind of funky, but you never know it might be the basis for a new Gin sensation.
‘In these matters the only certainty is that nothing is certain.’
-Pliny the Elder
The taste: Utterly rank. I’ve essentially created alcoholic spinach juice with hints of egg and hell-fire. Good grief its appalling. I should have known better
No mortal man, moreover is wise at all moments.
-Pliny the Elder
The verdict: Alexander can keep it. 1/10.
6. Elderberry Surprise
A mix up with a batch of Gin and Vodka lead to the accidental creation of this love child. The big question is Godka or Vin? Raw elderberries have a very unique taste which I have never acquired. I have been reassured that the flavour vastly improves when marinated in spirits.
The taste: Hmmm…Whist this liqueur has developed a rich winey taste with notes of blackberry, it unfortunately retains something of a damp and cloying aftertaste common to the raw fruits. Also I can’t escape the fact that it would be significantly better if it was either Gin or Vodka.
The verdict: Meh, I’m ambivalent. 6/10, it works in a fizz.
7. Rose Petal Vodka
My housemate lovingly tends a beautiful arch of roses in our back garden, which I periodically vandalise for culinary purposes. This is my latest creation (greatest to come).
The taste: As you can probably imagine this tastes floral and light, with notes of nectar. I feel a bit like I’m sipping perfume. It is the flavour of love and spring. If I have one complaint it would be that the taste is a little too subtle.
The verdict: With my housemates gracious permission I shall be producing more, much more. 8/10. Click here for the full rose petal vodka recipe
8. Rose Hip Gin
I made this last autumn from the abundant local crop. It’s supposed to mature for a year but I’ve already polished off the entire batch. This may hint at my opinion of the taste.
The taste: Heavenly! Simultaneously fresh and sweet, with fruity, floral and citric overtones. As far as I’m aware you can’t buy anything like it. This spirit has slightly more heft than its blossom-based relative and can therefore stand up for itself in a cocktail, as well as working neat. I can verify that it makes a banging G&T.
The verdict: 9/10. I’m so sad it’s all gone.