Last week I attended a night of informative and fun, Gin themed entertainment hosted by the Midlands leading Gin raconteur ‘The Gintleman’ aka Carl Hawkins.
Whilst Carl’s events are perfect for house parties, venue collaborations and client entertaining, on this occasion we were there for a new Gin masterclass which Selfridges food hall are now undertaking.
There were two sitting that night and I attended the first one at 6pm.
First thing that hits you, is the beautiful and colourful environment of Selfridges itself. As a former member of staff at Rackhams in the 1990s, it brought back fond memories of working in a large swanky retail business with the same attention to detail and that special sense of occasion you get from wondering around, the different concessions, diversity of customers and staff all prim and poper with bright lights illuminating all the lovely things I can never seem to afford – ha!
Sophia from Selfridges, provided a warm welcome and introduced us to our host, Carl Hawkins, who took the limelight from there on.
Without boring the pants off everyone, his comical yet professional approach left you wanting to ask more questions than he could possibly answer in the one hour we were there..
We were given a brief history on Gin and its benefits. Carl is a real fountain of knowledge. Without boring the pants off everyone, his comical yet professional approach left you wanting to ask more questions than he could possibly answer in the one hour we were there, which, to my mind is goal achieved as I wasn’t really a Gin fan until this point.
First thing Carl asked us to do was rub some juniper berries between our fingers, and have a sniff. Immediately you get that lovely Gin aroma, and it excites the taste buds, creating great anticipation for the making and tasting of our Gin concoctions throughout the masterclass.
Surprisingly facts begin to unravel, such as the drink evolving from a herbal medicine in the Middle Ages, to its introduction to England by the Dutch – Dutch courage was not needed for this evening, just a strong pair of hands for the cocktail shaking. The rounded glasses we all now use for Gin was a fascinating fact, but I won’t give too much away for those who wish to give this masterclass a try! And the story behind the humble Espresso Martini was an intersting one.
Other snippets of information that stick in my mind, range from Gin being good for gout, and how the more ice you have, the less your drink will be watered down i.e. you want your Gin to remain strong, whack in those cubes to the top as fewer cubes melt faster.
Three different shaped glasses were laid before us for each person. Carl carefully talked us through the careful process of making our drinks. One with Champagne, a simple Gin drink with tonic and an Espresso Martini cocktail. From how to shake a cocktail, to the use of fruit rinds in and around the glass.. I found myself absorbing the information whilst slowly developing that warm happy feelings you only seem to achieve from strong Gin.
..think Mr Blacks Coffee Liqueur, McQueen Spiced Chocolate Orange Gin, Sacred Cardomom Gin, Lemon Malfy Gin, the aromatic fruit, peels and tonic.. an overload of your senses!
It is an interactive condensed experience, and as a small group you feel like there is less rush, with plenty of opportunity to ask questions, and to get involved but in a relaxed way. My favourite part of the class, making of the Martini, which Carl was surprised to hear, was my first ever cocktail attempt. I will be honest, it actually gave me the incentive to do one of these again.
The combination of spirits were all superb and the focus was on taste and how various combinations work so well together – think Mr Blacks Coffee Liqueur, McQueen Spiced Chocolate Orange Gin, Sacred Cardomom Gin, Lemon Malfy Gin, the aromatic fruit, peels and tonic.. an overload of your senses!
We ended the event with Carl donning a large beaked bird mask. There is a Gin connection with these and their use during the Plague where doctors wore bird-like masks to protect them from being infected by the disease, which they believed was airborne. I cannot actually remember what the connection with Gin was though, because at this point I was feeling a bit high on Gin fumes and had quaffed all the drinks I made, which was not compulsory I should add! I’ll had to go through it all again just to find out.
In all a brilliant event and one which I can recommend for Gin lovers, or anyone who wishes to delve into the history of this fascinating drink whilst being entertained by a true don, in the lavish bustling retail environment which is Selfridges.
Bravo The Gintleman & Selfridges Food Hall
The Gintleman Gin Masterclasses are a different theme each month, 3 drinks over an hour 6-7pm or 7.30-8.30pm £25 a head of which you get a voucher back to spend in the Wines & Spirits department.
The next event Autumnal gin flavours Thur 14th Nov, Gingle Bells Thurs 12th Dec.
All enquiries via Selfridges Wines & Spirits department.
Words by Nick Byng for Grapevine Birmingham