Saturday, 23 January 2010

Our Lady in Havana

Heading optimistically for Cuba, a nation of rum drinkers, this lady felt like a modern day crusader. By the end of her secret mission the locals would be drinking gin. Armed with a few key Spanish phrases - Si, Ginebra, Gin-Tonic and 'Te pido disculpas por mi comportamiento de anoche' she was feeling pretty confident.

A trip to the Museo del Ron in Havana confirmed suspicions, we were about as likely to stumble out and find a branch of Starbucks as to discover that gin had overtaken rum in popularity. But when in Rum...a tour followed in this heavily branded Havana Club 'museum' (looked like a bar to us) and attached shop and we felt it our duty to try Havana Club 7 anejos . Not one for mojitos, this is a feisty sort to be sipped straight and savoured.

I hopped into the back of a 1955 Blue Plymouth and was whisked across town to Hotel Nacional. Sipping a G&T on the lawn I reflected this Communist lark wasn't all bad. Good intentions followed and a trip to the local shop proved there is a small demand for gin. An assortment of lesser known brands and only one bottle of Beefeater left...

I stumbled into a bar to contemplate this evidence of an underground gin drinking network. I perused the cocktail menu. It would appear that mojitos cost around £1.50 while a gin was around a fiver. The ladies of the lane are nothing if not frugal. A two week fiesta followed, memories of salsa, thick cigar smoke and the smell of fresh mint - Gin darling, it was just the once and I was thinking about you all the time.

P.S. If you are heading there soon, bring us gals back a Cohiba each and a bottle of Havana Club Barrel Proof. Just for research purposes of course.

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Me, my gin and I

Abandoned.  This seems the only real way to describe my present situation.  How dare the other two ladies go on holiday?  I could perhaps bear the pain if I knew they were having a dreadful time, holed up in some primitive lean-to at a budget Butlins spin-off.  Alas no, Vietnam and Cuba I'm sure are wholly fabulous.  Well whoop-dee-doo.

I miss them so, it's quite difficult to avoid imagining one's life as a teary montage, with Celine Dion's 'All By Myself' on repeat.  Of course, this could be an opportunity to explore a life outside of the Gin Lane bubble, to amuse oneself in the company of others... so to speak (damn those ginnuendos).  But no, I am an independent lady, not in a Beyonce way, but independent nonetheless.  Let's do this properly.

In my kitchen has been sat a bottle of Miller's Westbourne Strength gin for quite some time.  To this point, I've been apprehensive to try it.  One of only a handful of 'super premium' gins on the market - those with an ABV of over 45% - Miller's Westbourne Strength sits patiently, safe in its 45.2% ABV knowledge that it will most certainly get me entirely titted.  Tanqueray No. 10, a rival at a staggering 47.3% ABV, knows this too.  It's seen me, holding desperately to the edge of bars, in the all-consuming fear that my face will soon be swiftly and inelegantly introduced to the floor.

But look.  There are no bars here, nor are there people.  The potential embarrassment of disgracing oneself in a drunken way is all but completely removed when drinking at home, is it not?  And, I can wear my Christmas slippers to boot.  The perfect opportunity - the ladies will wish they had stayed.

Miller's Westbourne is the big brother to the much loved Miller's Gin - itself a delightful premium gin, most excellently suited to a Martini, FYI - and the the little brother of the cripplingly strong Miller's Gin 10th Anniversary Strength (54% ABV!) which was rated the best gin in the world no less, by the Beverage Tasting Institute.  On first sniff, Miller's Westbourne is a rich, rooty specimen, not so much screaming 'GIN' at you, but rather singing it in a deep, manly baritone voice.  You'd like Miller's Westbourne to be in a musical.  It'd scoop you up in its big, strong arms and carry you off into the sunset in the final scene.  Miller's Gin, in comparison, is far more citrussy, more of a tenor of a man.  He'd probably just send you an email or something.

It is in a gin and tonic (two parts tonic to one part gin, please) that Miller's Westbourne triumphs.  Mixed, as I did, with Fever Tree tonic, and a good chunk of lime, it has a richness that many gins lack.  Gone is the hairsprayish twang present in so many gins, replaced by a velvety thickness that demands you have another and kick off your festive slippers. 

A perfect gin to drink alone, if needs must.  And I only played Celine ONCE.  Or twice...