‘We could come across as bumpkins, but epic bumpkins,” Tom Warner and Sion Edwards laugh as they think about the challenge facing their Northamptonshire company this Saturday, when they take part in the Ginstock cocktail contest in London.
Such modesty is surprising coming from the owners of gin distillery company, Warner Edwards, which set up less than a year ago at a barn conversion in Harrington, but is already close to becoming a household name.
News of their Warner Edwards gin has spread, leading to successes including an appearance on BBC1’s Countryfile and a silver at the San Francisco World Spirit Awards, not to mention a string of new retailers – such as Fortnum & Mason – selling the product.
This weekend, Tom will be hoping he is neither shaken or stirred when he takes part in a cocktail contest which will see the relatively small Warner Edwards brand pitted against gin giants, such as Bombay Sapphire, Beefeater and Tanqueray. Tom explained: “There will be 10 main brands there, we will be up against the big boys.”
To help prepare for the event, Tom and Sion gave me a cocktail masterclass, which proves the pair have genned up on their mixology skills.
First, a classic martini is made. Tom explains: “The ‘dryness’ is determined by the amount of vermouth. A two to one measure of gin (two gin to one vermouth) is a wet martini. I’m going to do a dry one.”
Winston Churchill famously chose to drink his martinis so dry that the vermouth element was practically non-existent. I watch as Tom puts ice cubes in a glass before coating the ice with vermouth, which he then tips away, leaving the ice in the glass. Then he adds 50ml of gin and stirs 20 times.
He then takes a serving glass, which has been chilled, and tips the drink (without the ice) into it, adding a lemon peel slice as a finishing touch.
Tom said: “Our gin has quite a complex flavour and a lot of mixologists come up with different flavours, even a simple martini will be different in every bar you go into.”
Tom said: “One tip to remember is that a bottle of vermouth, if kept in the fridge, has a three-week lifespan. After that it does go off and deteriorates.”
Next on the menu is an elderflower gimlet.
Tom said: “This is a twist on a normal gimlet.
“We will use an elderflower cordial because of the elderflower botanicals (used in making the gin) we get from my farm and Sion’s farm. The drink is perfect for a summer barbecue.”
Ice is added to a cocktail glass, while 20 ml of cordial and a handful of ice are added to a shaker, joined by 50ml of gin and juice from just under half a lemon. The concoction is shaken, ice is removed from the cocktail glass, the drink is poured into it and a mint leaf added. With cocktails currently so popular, the pair are hoping to soon put regular tutorials on the internet, teaching people how to make their favourite mixes.
Sion said: “Nowadays I almost prefer a cocktail to a pint of beer. It’s the classic cocktails which are so fashionable at the moment.”