Stratford-upon-Avon independent gin-maker Shakespeare Distillery shows how to make a Tudor Tom Collins cocktail
Independent artisan gin-maker Shakespeare Distillery has been offering the on-trend spirit to discerning drinkers for more than five years. The distillery on Drayton Manor Drive just off the A46 on the outskirts of Stratford now houses a state-of-the-art gin school and shop.
Director Peter Monks and mixologist Sam Evans filled the Herald in on what is happening in the gin world before offering expert instruction on one of their favourite gin cocktails.
The good news for the distillery is that the gin market continues to boom – with an incredible 83 million bottles sold in the UK last year, according to the International Wine and Spirit Association.
Undoubtedly people have been seeking solace through the pandemic – using spirits to lift their spirits.
“The first lockdown was incredibly busy for us,” confirmed Peter. “And then all through the year until Christmas really when we opened up our pop up shop on Stratford High Street. People were keen to support a local business and we saw an uplift in people buying gin as a gift.”
Now that pubs and restaurants are closed, Peter thinks that people are seeking out the more upmarket gin that they offer as a bit of a treat.
“People now come in and buy multiple bottles – so a selection of our Stratford gin, rhubarb and mulberry. We’ve also had a new blackberry gin and that has been really popular.
“Another popular innovation has been home tasting kits – samples of gins and mixers – and our cocktail kits. They are great for virtual get-togethers. We can also host live sessions online.”
As the gin school is currently shut due to restrictions – although the shop remains open – Peter says 2020 has also given them time to experiment with future products, which includes making their first rum, to be launched in spring. One of the first cocktails that we came up with is the Tudor Tom Collins. It’s a simple drink, with gin, lemon, sugar syrup, and soda. The Tom Collins was first made in the 1870s and has become a classic.
It’s an easy one to make and doesn’t involve tonic – good for those who don’t like it or who are bored with the standard G and T, this is a fresh alternative. You get that really nice balance from the sweetness and the citric of the lemons – it’s an easy one to make doesn’t involve complicated ingredients, and a real favourit
In ordinary times Sam would be on the road, selling gin and working as a brand ambassador, but for now he is confined to the distillery, conjuring new cocktails or riffing on the classics.
And it’s the latter that he wants to show Herald readers how to make.
STEP ONE Gather your ingredients
l 50 ml Stratford gin
l 2 to 3 lemon wedges
l 12.5 ml sugar syrup
l Rosemary sprigs - optional
STEP TWO Equipment you will need
l Boston shaker
l Hawthorn strainer
l Fine strainer
l High ball glass
Obviously you can improvise and use whatever equipment you have at home – a container with a lid, the bottom of a rolling pin, shot glass and sieve will do in place of shaker, muddler, jigger and strainer.
STEP THREE Making your cocktail
Muddle the lemon segments with 12.5 ml – half a shot – of sugar syrup to really get the juice out, and then before you add the gin just try it (I dab it on the back of my hand with the muddler) to see if it’s too sweet or too sour. Obviously it will be lemony but you don’t want too much of a sting at the back of the throat nor do you want it overly sweet.
Then add a double shot of our Stratford gin – so 50ml – and then that is literally all that goes in the tin.
The botanicals in Stratford gin are inspired by Tudor times, based on what was grown in the Knot Garden at New Place, so lovage, sage, rosemary and lemon balm. To enhance that Tudor flavour I like to put a few sprigs of rosemary in – but that’s optional.
Then fill the tin with ice and the glass with ice, lid on and shake. One of the nice things is that it isn’t a strong yellow colour but more of a subtle haze.
Double strain it into the glass, so taking out the lemon and rosemary, which makes it a really smooth drink. Then top it up with soda water and garnish with a wedge of lemon and some rosemary – and that is our Tudor Tom Collins.
Don’t spare the ice – a lot of the time people use one or two cubes of ice at home, they think more will dilute the drink. But actually more ice creates the maximum chilling with the minimum dilution – less ice has the opposite effect. So fill the glass with ice.
You should look to have two to four times the amount of tonic. So play around with those ratios and check you are not overpouring. The best tip is to always use a measure. A lot of people will do it by eye and go that looks about right – but it often isn’t! I even know people that will use the jigger to measure out the gin and the tonic – just to keep the ratios precise, it does really change a drink.
We use Fevertree mixers, it’s a good one and not too fizzy. But there are hundreds of brands out there, and really it’s down to consumer preference, so play around and find your preferred mixers. Different gins will pair better with different tonics.