READY FOR SCHOOL - THE EUREKA KITCHEN AT SIMPSONS Christmas cake and mince pies. Chris recommends choosing between six and nine additional botanicals, so we go for a heap of traditional festive spices - ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and allspice - as well as tonka bean, sloes and cacao; after all, it isn’t Christmas without a bit of chocolate. I like a nice, dry gin so we go heavier on the juniper, while citrus hits come from lemon and both sweet and Seville orange, which adds a more marmalade-y tang. With botanicals at the ready, it’s finally time to get making our gins. I tip my selection in to the pot - which already contains our alcohol, a neutral grain spirit which is a 50/50 mixture of water and ethanol - whack up the heat and then? We wait. The distillation comes in three parts; the head, the heart and the tails. And it is the heart, which is the good stuff. Captured as the alcohol distills down from 85 to 77 per cent ABV, the heart is the optimum point at which the alcohol captures all of the botanicals’ flavours. Chris instructs us to do three pours as our gin drips through the still; however, my still is on a go-slow, so Chris offers to take over while we head off for lunch. And what a lunch it is. Three courses of delectable fayre, it’s hands down the best ‘school’ dinner any of us have ever tasted, I’m sure. Upon our return to the classroom, Chris has completed everyone’s pours, meaning it’s time to blend down and finish our gins. To each distillate, Chris adds Malvern spring water, a quality spring water which dilutes the gin to an appropriate strength, before testing the finished strength with a handy gadget. My Christmas gin rocks up at a none-too-shabby 42 per cent ABV, landing it in the premium gin category. London dry sits at 40 per cent ABV while navy-strength comes it at a whopping 57 per cent ABV. Cris pours us each a sample of our gins, mixed with tonic - however, he advises that it takes around three days for the flavours to completely round out and to eliminate any spikiness on the palate. We’ve ended up crafting four incredibly different gins; as well as my festive tipple, there’s a delicious tropical inspired gin, a fruity blueberry-dominated one and a bold, traditional citrus gin with a smoky black cardamom hit. As a final touch, the bottles are sealed with wax, ready to take home and enjoy. My Christmas gin, with its warm, spicy and subtly chocolate notes, proves a hit - the perfect winter alternative to my usual fresh, citrus-heavy gins. And if it turns out that your creation is a winning one, then you don’t ever have to worry about running out. Chris keeps a record of every recipe used and will happily whip up a new batch of your unique gin, just for you. Gin Britannia at Simpsons is priced at £150 per person or £250 per couple sharing a still, including a full day of gin-based fun, a few gin and tonics to get the creative juices flowing and a three-course Michelin starred lunch courtesy of the talented Simpsons kitchen team - plus, of course, your very own bottle of gin to take home. Classes take place on Fridays, however any booking of four or more, or private parties or corporate bookings can be booked on a Thursday and Wednesday. Evening classes are also available. For more information call Chris on 07772 423302 or visit www.ginbritannia.com. To book a place call Simpsons direct on 0121 454 3434 or visit www.simpsonsrestaurant.co.uk/ginbritannia-at-simpsons. Gift vouchers are also available - perfect for a Christmas treat for the ginlover in your life, perhaps? WITTY RACONTEUR CHRIS SHARES HIS KNOWLEDGE OF ALL THINGS GIN DURING THE CLASS 8
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