You’ve three seconds to name a refreshing, quintessentially English pre-dinner cocktail...
Nine out of ten people would likely blurt “gin and tonic”, but what if we told you that gin and tonic recipes aren’t solely the preserve of the English? Gin cocktails are historically a very Spanish thing. In fact, the Spanish are the world’s biggest gin drinkers.
Before we reveal Basco’s Chef Javier De La Hormaza’s Top 5 Spanish Gin Cocktail recipes, let’s explore a little about the distinctive glass that contains many of them.
We’ve seen a rapid explosion in popularity of the big bulbous ‘copa de balón’ gin cocktail glasses bursting with garnishes and spices. These originated in Spain, and particularly in the Basque country, birthplace of Javier himself. But why the copa de balón or ‘balloon glass’?
Legend has it that nine years ago, Michelin-starred chefs from the Basque area started using large Bordeaux wine glasses filled with ice to keep their gin and tonic cocktails cool in the furnace heat of their hectic kitchens. The large glass kept the cocktail considerably cooler and created less dilution, unlike traditional tall Tom-Collins glasses. Also, the balón shape intensifies the aromas from the spices and natural botanicals of gin based cocktails.
You won’t find a gin and prosecco cocktail, gin elderflower cocktail or gin fizz cocktail making our list. Javier concentrates on gin cocktails for Summer with a distinctly Spanish twist.
So, which is the first of Javier’s Top 5 Spanish Gin Cocktails?
1. Xoriguer Gin and Tonic
To create this classic Spanish gin and tonic, I reach for what is indisputably Spain’s most iconic gin, Xoriguer. Distilled exclusively in Mahon, on the island of Menorca, Xoriguer is the only gin, other than Plymouth gin, to have a designation of origin. I love this stunning gin and tonic cocktail because it is lightning quick and easy to prepare. The gin has a fascinating aromatic nose that takes warm herbaceous notes and kicks them into life with the sharp citrus bite of freshly cut chunk of lemon peel, offset with some casually crushed juniper berries. Finally, I find a Schweppes 1783 tonic water adds just the right amount of crispness. Try making one of my favourite easy gin cocktails here.
Sipping straight vermouth is a tradition in Northern Spain, especially as a Sunday aperitif. Visit and you’re likely to hear ‘la hora del vermut’ – ‘vermouth time’ – before lunch drinks and tapas. My Top 5 had to include the vermouth-based cocktail Marianito from my beloved Basque Country. The origin of the Marianito gin cocktail recipe remains a mystery. Some say it originated in Bilbao and was named after its creator, who knows? This Marianito isn’t a long drink. In fact, it’s not dissimilar in style from a Negroni. So, rather than a copa de balón, I first select and chill a martini class. I then mix Vermouth Lacuesta Rojo with Siderit dry gin and Campari with ice, add three dashes of Angostura Bitters, then strain into the martini glass. I then garnish with a zesty orange twist and plump green olive. It’s a very sophisticated way to enjoy vermouth that you too can enjoy here.
3. Fino Martini
Creating bone dry martinis is a real passion of mine but sometimes, instead of selecting a bottle of Spanish vermouth, my hand wavers, then instinctively grabs a fino. Delicate and elegant, Alvear Fino is a very dry Spanish sherry with fresh aromas of yeast and tropical citrus fruits with a wonderfully salty finish. It’s so distinctive. To make a Fino Martini, I set a martini glass chilling, then add one part of Alvear Fino Spanish sherry to a glass with ice, then two parts of Iradier y Bulfy Gin and gently stir. This smooth, sweet and rounded gin is without doubt the best Spanish gin I have tasted. Infused with botanicals such as cocoa and black pepper, it’s distilled from the finest Basque barley. I then drain into the martini glass and present with a simple twist of lemon. Ya está! Fino Martini recipe in full here.
4. White Lady
Where do we start with the White Lady, one of Laurel and Hardy’s favourite drinks? At the beginning. It has at least two hotly disputed origins. Did Harry MacElhone create it at Harry's New York Bar in Paris in 1929 or did Harry Craddock at the Savoy first mix one, with the recipe appearing in the 1930 Savoy Cocktail Book? I don’t know which story to believe! What I do know is that my recipe is a timeless classic that uses Spanish ingredients from a family distillery in Catalunya called Mascaro. I take a cocktail shaker with ice and add Mascaro Gin 9 – a rare double-distilled gin made with wild juniper from the Penedes area of Sierra Llacuna – rich, lively and velvety Mascaro orange liqueur, freshly squeezed lemon juice, sugar syrup and egg white. Remove the ice, shake again and serve with a lemon twist. It’s such one of my favourite gin cocktails for summer and the recipe is not too challenging.
5. Gin Bloody Mary
My Bloody Mary is a great Sunday brunch-time drink and a lifesaver I’ve used to kickstart many mornings after lively nights before. This recipe is very Spanish as I switch vodka for gin and add a dash of fino sherry – I admit it’s unusual, but I have heard it called a ‘Red Snapper’ somewhere. Anyway, to make one, I coat the rim of highball glass with celery salt, fill it with ice and set it to one side. In a cocktail shaker glass, I add Siderit dry gin, Alvear Fino sherry, a few cracks of pepper and salt then squeeze in half a lime. I then introduce tomato juice along with horseradish, Worcester and Tabasco sauces. Shake (not too loudly if hungover) then strain into your highball glass and garnish with a lime wedge and fresh celery. Relax, sip and recover. Here’s the recipe.
I do hope you have fun making and enjoying my Top 5 Spanish Gin Cocktails, not necessarily all in one session. I’d be really interested to hear what difference you think of the Spanish gins, sherries and liqueurs make, too. Feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Salud!