National Gin Day

Gin is well known as a British product, we see Beefeater all over the place. It is, after all, London’s national drink and many famous gins are produced here.

However, the first known date for the production of gin was in 17th Century Holland.

It was sold in chemist shops to treat stomach issues, gout and gallstones. The first known mention of it is in 1269 in a Dutch publication.

It was also known for treating urinary tract infections, heart failure and gonorrhea. Today, however, it is believed it may affect your blood pressure and possibly irritate your stomach and intestines. Another concern is for diabetics with its possibility of your blood sugar dropping too low. Usual medication lowers it but so does the juniper so it’s a double whammy. Keep in mind, these are all possibles so speak with your doctor.

Gin made from Juniper Berries. The full recipe has been kept secret for 250 years.

Interestingly, pregnant women should not consume juniper berries as it could cause a miscarriage. If you’re trying to become pregnant or are breastfeeding, avoid it as well. Large amounts for anyone is not recommended either. The volatile oils in the berries could cause mild toxicity symptoms such as diarrhea, kidney damage, convulsions and DNA damage.

Traditional dosage was between 2 and 10 grams of berries or 20 to 100 milligrams of essential oil. If you’re making a tea, limit yourself to 1 to 2 cups per day of steeped berries or twigs from the juniper plant. Take a break from it after 2 weeks. Again, talk to your doctor especially if you currently take any medication.

History, Continued

The English discovered gin during the 30 years war in the 17th Century while fighting in Holland. The Dutch soldiers were drinking Jenever to boost morale before a battle. Hence, the term Dutch Courage.

150 years later, the English produced their own version and have grown since to become a huge gin producer. To browse the many varieties, visit the Gin Guild.

The Royal Navy mixed it with lime to combat scurvy and they mixed it with the tonic water for its benefits of quinine which battlled malaria. See previous Gin and Tonic post for a refresher.

Aside from the grain that is distilled to produce gin, such as barley, juniper berries is a main ingredient.

Other common ingredients are coriander, citrus peel, cinnamon, cucumber, rose, lavender, lemon peel,  black pepper, almond, or licorice. Any variations of these can be blended with the distilled grain to produce gin.

There are versions with as little as 3 ingredients and a Scottish version, The Botanist Islay Gin, with 31! The Citadelle runs a close second with 19.

60 million cases  of Gin are sold worldwide every year. About 45% of that is consumed in the Philippines.

You’ll easily find a London gin at the liquor store but if you are looking for the Dutch version, keep an eye out for Genever which is basically the same. LCBO carries Bols Genever.

As a reminder, try Jack’s Tonique which is available in Ontario and Quebec. Visit their site for all retailers, which is rapidly expanding, and establishments that use it for mixing their drinks.

How Else To Enjoy Gin

Earl Grey tea with Gin and tonic.

Chamomile tea with honey and lemon, oh, and gin.

Lavender syrup, if you can find it, with elder flower liqueur and gin. Add some lemon to cut the sweetness. Elder flower is an awesome mix and will compliment any home liquor supply.

Try a refreshing gin and sparkling wine or champagne.

Shake gin with mint and cucumber for a fresh summer drink, top with club soda.

Drop into your favorite local bar and your server will surely come up with a delicious concoction for you.

Posted by Kim Ratcliffe-Doe on June 10, 2017


It’s National Mimosa Day!

The Mimosa, that delicious breakfast drink that is so popular on holidays, special family events or any old Sunday brunch, and is so easily prepared with equal parts champagne, or sparkling wine, and orange juice.

Champagne and sparkling wine are really  the same. If this wine is made in Champagne, France then it can be labelled as Champagne. If it is produced anywhere else it gets titled sparkling wine.

Many accounts name Frank Meier as the inventor of The Mimosa in 1925 while he worked at the Hotel Ritz in Paris, France. Meier tended bar at the American Bar, preparing cocktails, one being his signature drink, the Bees Knees. Perhaps you know his published book The Artistry of Mixed Drinks.

It has been recently discovered that Frank had become a spy for the French Resistance yet continued working at the bar during WWII while Hitler Occupied France. Many of The Ritz’s staff doubled as spies for the French and British. He fabricated false documents for Jewish individuals, staying at The Ritz, to avoid concentration camps, passed notes for the attempted assasination of Hitler. He later disappeared when he was caught embezzling money.

A surprisingly captivating book I read not too long ago, The Last Time I Saw Paris, is a story about the French Resistance set in and around the Hotel Ritz during the 40’s. If you’re interested in reading this great book, I would be happy to loan it to you. (If you are in the Ottawa area, of course).

If you’re in Paris, seek out these interesting sights:

Pere Lachaise Cemetery

Pere Lachaise – an estimated 300,000 to one million people are buried at this cemetery and park. Visit the graves of Jim Morrison, Oscar Wilde and Chopin.

Of course, another story exists. Captain Herbert Buckmaster opened a gentleman’s club, Buck’s Club, in 1919, to rival the other “stuffy” bars, and is famous for Buck’s Fizz which debuted in 1921. The bartender at the time, McGarry, created the more potent drink with 2 parts champagne to 1 part orange juice.

A Gentleman’s Club is a members only establishment. By the 19th Century, over 400 of these clubs were in operation in London. They provided an escape for the British elite from their ‘open book’ lives to relax, gamble, socialize with friends, play parlour games, such as charades, or get a good, hot meal.

Interesting to note, Buck’s Club usesjosper grill  It is an oven and grill in one unit and is soley powered using charcoal. To experience this, you can find them at 18 Clifford St., London, England. Good luck finding much information on this club. Their ‘website’ offers only an address and contact information as they are by invitation only.

While in London, tour the reconstructed outdoor Shakespeare Globe Theatre. The original was demolished due to a miss fired cannon during a Henry VIII performance.

I made an exciting discovery! The Torchlight Shakespeare Festival will be playing here in Ottawa this summer. I have never experienced an outdoor play and now have the chance to see one. Plays will be featured at various parks throughout the city each night this summer from July 3 August 19 at 7pm. Believe it or not, this company has been setting up their plays in parks for the last 15 years and have never charged a dime, only asked for donations (suggested amount $20). Use the link if you want to receive emails on locations or even if you want to join their ranks as an actor. I actually did.

Got a little off topic.

Meanwhile back in London, the obvious places to see are, of course, Westminster Abbey, the Thames River and Kensington Palace. However, here are a few unusual things to see and do in the London area.

Perhaps, the Frank Meier concoction was truer to today’s equal parts version, and less intoxicating. Also worth mentioning, Alfred Hitchcockcock claims to have popularized drinking mimosas as a brunch specialty in the 1940’s.

In Ottawa, you can enjoy a Mimosa at The Red Lion, in the Byward Market, or the Wellington Diner at 1385 Wellington Street and at Stoneface Dolly’s on Preston St., just to name a few. You may have to wait for the weekend breakfast to get one, though.

Made in Germany

I found these handy single serving bottles at the LCBO for $12.95. Great for those days when you only want one Mimosa instead of feeling pressured to polish off a full champagne bottle because now you’ve opened it!

Posted by Kim Ratcliffe-Doe on May 16, 2017.