How to master your own at-home gin tasting

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Curating your gin collection is as much looking the part as it is about knowing your gins. Whether you’re using a tray or - if your budget allows – a trolley, having the right pieces will show your guests you are seriously inspired!

Jean Buckman, founder of The Gin Box, and Susan McCoubrey, the head merchandiser at interiors store, Block & Chisel, tell us exactly what you need to up your style-game with a guest-wowing gin display. 

How do I set up a good trolley? What style tips should I consider?

Susan: The key is to make it interesting – pick a selection of different gin bottles to give depth in height and shape, and add colour, through the gins, to the garnishes and tonics. Different shaped glassware and a mix of containers keep the eye entertained. Include something unexpected,  maybe  candles or an unusual ornament.

Jean: Our local craft gins are flavoured with local fynbos and fauna, so you can bring in fresh flowers and plants to bring your display to life. Before your guests arrive, make sure all your fresh ingredients are on the tray – fresh garnish, fruit, ice, etc. 

How many gins make a party?

Jean: You need at least 3 different South African craft gins on your tray, more for a trolley. Don’t compromise, stick to local craft gins. If you have foreign gins, drink them now, enjoy them and then finish off so that you can focus on your SA collection! 

Does it matter what tonic and garnish I use?

Jean: It’s worth doing a little homework on your gins to know what garnish works best, but there are no rules with creating a G&T, so let your guests have some fun and pick from a selection. Some unusual ideas might include ruby grapefruit slices, blueberries, pomegranate seeds, a few cinnamon sticks, sliced strawberries, rosemary sticks, basil or fennel leaves, as well as the traditional lemon and cucumber slices. We can highly recommend dehydrated fruits, which add an amazing ‘look’ to your drinks tray. Keep these in glass jars with lids.

You’ll also need a collection of tonics, such as Fitch & Leedes or Barker & Quin, and maybe a few Fever Tree if your budget allows. Put all these on the tray or in a bucket of ice before your guests arrive. 

What about other tools?

Susan: Great glassware!

Jean: Yes, a range of whiskey tumblers, a large balloon glass known as a Copa de Balon (this gives a huge G&T), or short cocktail glasses. If you want that professional bartender look, include a cocktail shaker, silver tot measure, cocktail stirrer or use a skewer stick if you don’t have one. 

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Gin for beginners: all you need to know about this popular spirit

Brush up on your gin-telligence! So... first things first... What exactly is gin? Well, according to Collins, gin is 'an alcoholic drink obtained by distillation and rectification of the grain of malted barley, rye or maize, flavoured with juniper berries.' Where does it come from?