When winter encroaches, dreams of icy cold, citrus-spiked gin and tonics turn to cosier options, things such as red wine and whisky. But lovers of gin shouldn’t worry, distilleries are increasingly releasing winter-style gins with special seasonal ingredients and a couple Sydney bars are offering the spirit mixed with rich winter-fruit flavours, smoky notes and warming spices.

Here’s some recipes and cocktails for you to try over the next couple months.

SYDNEY BARS TO VISIT FOR WINTER GIN

The Barbershop, a hidden hotspot, is offering Smoke and Bandages – a compelling blend of Bombay Sapphire gin, cherry, orange and smoked-rosemary that peats to levels whisky drinkers will love.

Meanwhile Gin Lane is embracing rich berry and spice flavours via its Spiced Blueberry Daisy, which is balanced with a blend of five spices to really warm things up.

Negronis are always popular, but its rich and bitter flavour makes them particularly well suited to winter imbibing. The Saxon Negroni is a potent twist on the traditional drink and can be found at Redfern's Moya’s Juniper Lounge. Here the vermouth has been replaced by Four Pillars Bloody Shiraz Gin (see below), and they have amped up the gin component by using Four Pillars Navy Strength.

GIN RECIPES

BLACK-TRUFFLE GIN MARTINI
Bathurst’s Stone Pine Distillery, about a three-hour drive from Sydney’s CBD, infuses a seasonal, savoury gin with black truffles from a neighbouring farm. The dark musk of the truffles married with the heat of the alcohol and black pepper lends a warming quality to the gin. I like it best in a dry martini garnished with burnt-butter sage leaves. If you can’t make it to Stone Pine, here’s a recipe to try at home.

Ingredients:
60ml Stone Pine Black Truffle Gin
5ml dry vermouth
1 tbsp butter
A few fresh sage leaves

Method:
Melt butter in a small pan. When it starts to brown add fresh sage leaves and fry for a few moments until they become crispy. Drain leaves on a paper towel.

Combine gin and vermouth in a mixing glass filled with ice. Stir gently for a minute or two, or to your desired dilution. Strain into a martini glass and garnish with a few burnt-butter sage leaves.

HOT GIN PUNCH

I heard rumours of a Victorian-era hot-gin punch made with oloroso sherry and I knew I had to recreate the recipe for winter. Punch was particularly popular in the Victorian era, especially in the summer where early versions of the now universal Pimm’s cup were dreamt up. But this punch recipe has been warmed for winter indulging.

I chose the Abel Gin Co Quintessence Gin for its bold, spicy flavour, and a mid-range Spanish oloroso. After a bit of experimentation with ratios I am pleased to share this recipe for a spicy and well-balanced hot gin punch. Now there’s no excuse to leave the gin in the cupboard until spring.

Ingredients:
1 part water
1 part sugar
2 parts lemon juice
2 parts oloroso sherry
4 parts Abel Gin Co Quintessence Gin

Method:
Dissolve the sugar in boiling water. Combine all other ingredients in a small pan and heat gently (do not boil!). Serve warm in a teacup or small mug.

SLOE GIN

Sloe gin is a British winter classic. Essentially it’s a ruby-red coloured liqueur made with gin and sloe (blackthorn) berries, which are a small fruit relative of the plum. It’s sweetened with sugar, which gives it a sweet but tart flavour. In Australia sloe berries are only grown in Tasmania and some of the finest berries make their way into Rex Burdon’s Nonesuch Sloe Gin in Hobart.

Burdon was inspired to open his distillery specifically to make sloe gin. The dry gin was carefully formulated to pair perfectly with sloe berries. This liqueur-style drink is gently sweetened and comes in at just 27 per cent ABV (alcohol by volume), so Burdon suggests you enjoy it neat, and I concur. It also goes down well in an early 20th-century cocktail classic – The Suffragette. Here’s a recipe you can make at home.

The Suffragette
Ingredients:
30ml Nonesuch Sloe Gin
30ml dry vermouth
30ml red vermouth
Dash of orange bitters
Strip of lemon peel

Method:
Combine all ingredients (except the lemon peel) in a cocktail shaker with lots of ice and shake generously.

Double strain into a martini glass and garnish with lemon peel. Ready to serve.

BLOODY SHIRAZ GIN

Cameron Mackenzie, the head distiller at Four Pillars Gin, had many enquiries from customers about his sloe gin after the rare dry gin was released in 2013. But now he’s done something a bit different. His Victorian neighbours in the Yarra Valley grow some of the finest cold-climate shiraz grapes in the country, so he decided to infuse the gin with these grapes to create a Bloody Shiraz Gin, which is now a winter staple in the Australian spirits market. The 2018 vintage has just been released and Mackenzie says this year’s vintage features a particularly deep plum and berry flavour.

Bloody Shiraz Gin is significantly stronger than sloe gin with an ABV of 37.5 per cent. It’s made with much less residual sugar, too. The adventurous drinker can still enjoy it neat, or I love it served in a Bloody Jasmine cocktail. Here’ a recipe you can make at home.

Bloody Jasmine
Ingredients: 20ml Four Pillars Bloody Shiraz Gin
20ml Campari (or a similar bitter-orange aperitif)
20ml orange curaçao (or a similar orange liqueur)
20ml lemon juice

Method:
Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker with plenty of ice. Shake for a few seconds and double stain into a coupe glass (a champagne glass).

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