Tuesday, 17 August 2010

A pint of Negroni and a fishfinger sandwich

 "The bitters are excellent for your liver, the gin is bad for you. They balance each other."
Orson Welles

We at Gin Lane have been showing our appreciation to this year’s balmy summer weather. Let’s be honest, it has been somewhat splendid, and naturally, gin is quite the perfect spirit for such a summer. Rehydration can come in no finer disguise than a cold, sturdy gin and tonic.

But in the interests of equal gin rights, we of course are obliged to look further afield to many of the other fine gin drinks. I for one am on the Gin Lane Bitters Committee, and have been busily compiling a paper* on Aperol – the oft overlooked little cousin of Campari – and as such have been conducting some highly scientific, late-night experiments at Gin Towers with the neon booze juice.

In the past I have used my treasured bottled-sunset Aperol sparingly, having successfully brought it home with me from Venice, where I spent three days dachshund-spotting and drinking obscene quantities of Spritz (fyi: Prosecco, Apreol, soda water, orange and/or olive). This was until I realised how absurdly easy it is to make a Negroni.

Oh the Negroni. Is there a more beautiful drink? If it is on the cocktail menu – as it is at Purl and Caravan - I will be ordering it. No matter, as was the case with my last Caravan visit, if it is to accompany my breakfast. It is the ultimate democratic gin-based drink. Elegant enough for a lady, and yet weighty enough for a chap, it is as fine a drink for summery outdoors drinking as it is for Saturday-night-saddo solo boozing.  According to most reports, it was invented (read: ordered) in Florence, 1919,  by a certain Count Camillo Negroni, who wanted a stronger version of his favoured Americano cocktail.  Thusly, gin replaced the soda water in the Americano, and the drink become the Negroni we know and love today.

Of course, we spend most of our time mingling amongst London’s most upstanding of citizens and the finest of palettes. However, in the interests of research, this lady recently spent a Saturday night in at her Shoreditch abode making Negronis and fishfinger sandwiches. Borne from a mere four ingredients, the Negroni is the ultimate DIY cocktail. Not only is the list of ingredients concise, but the making is a doddle, even for the most inebriated of ladies. Consisting of equal parts gin, Campari (or Aperol) and sweet vermouth with an orange twist, it also lends itself wonderfully to making in large quantities… like, say, pints.  Count Camillo himself put 'Antico Negroni 1919' into production as a readymade version

So, next time you find yourself without a Saturday night plan, just take the cat off the hook, ask the neighbours to look after the phone and make yourself a pint of Negroni – it’s Orson Welles / Gin Lane approved.

* due to be released within the next 2 months, on the back of a packet of  Marlboro Light Menthols

Sunday, 1 August 2010

The OriGINal Rebrand

Gin in fancy dress
The Gin Lane Ladies were fortunate to be given a faded parchment which documents the first ever marketing meeting, back when people actually went to market and didn't think about stuff so much. We reprint it here, in its full, dramatised for Radio 4 version.

Scene: 1823, a dark study in the home counties. A faint smell of fish lingers in the air. A man is sitting with his back to us.

Tarquinine enters, he has a rather impressive moustache, "James! How's the oyster business going?"

He turns, "Ah Tarquinine - good to see you. The oysters are selling very well. Commuting is something of a problem as Waterloo, King's Cross and Paddington haven't been built yet, but one mustn't grumble...although..."

"What is it James?"

"It's the gin they drink with the oysters Tarquinine!"

"The gin?!"

"Well the thing is people don't... well they don't really like it! I mean obviously it is medicinal but it's got a bit of tang to it..and the reputation is terrible. Women selling babies clothes and whatnot."

"You're right James - but at least it takes away the taste of those bloody oysters..."

"Well there is that. But we need a way of selling gin so even people who don't like it will drink it..."

"You could...I don't know...disguise it!"

"Disguise it Tarquinine? Maybe I should shave off that moustache of yours and disguise it with that. Haw haw haw!"

"Haw haw haw!" Tarquinine lets out a loud snort, "What I meant dear fellow is just pop along to Covent Garden and buy some of those fruit and vegetables and shove them in the gin..."

"Fruit and vegetables! Are you mad?"

A few days later James wanders round the market. His hand hovers over a potato and a banana. Then he snatches up an orange, a lemon, a cucumber, some strawberries and a fistful of mint. This is ridiculous he thinks. Stupid Tarquinine! Later that afternoon Tarquinine pops into James' oyster bar, customers are quaffing gin with enormous amounts of fruit and vegetables in. Sales have tripled.

"How are you James?"

"Well hello! This was a great idea of mine...the customers are very much enjoying my new drink. I just need massive jugs and a name for it so people don't know it is gin...I might even call it after myself. JAMES!"

Tarquinine is speechless.

"No wait, it shouldn't be James..." Tarquinine looks hopeful. "It should be the family name...I'll call it Pimm's!"

So now you know. Ladies and gentlemen who profess not to like gin at all are actually consuming by the jugful as soon as there is the slightest whiff of sunshine. We rest our case.*

*It's not just Pimm's either, many other household names also disguise their gin origins including Branston Pickle, Coco Pops and PG Tips. A good clue is to look for the Royal warrant as we all know they like a gin or two.