GINblogger concludes a two-part interview with Richard Gillam, talking to the internationally renowned mixologist about what the juniper based spirit brings to the party when it comes to producing the perfect cocktail.
Know your gin
Richard Gillam first made a name for himself working in London at establishments like the Kenilworth Cocktail Lounge before going on to win a number of awards and accolades for his adventurous offerings. He has since worked in Singapore and across Asia as a consultant, including designing bars and devising drinks menus.
He went on to be responsible for beverages at the Big Idea Group which owns Oriole Coffee and Meal Mobile, as well as the supposed home of the Singapore Gin Sling, Raffles. Less than impressed, Richard set about revitalising the way in which they made and even stored the ‘pre-mix,’ as well as the way bar staff introduced fresh ingredients: in order that the customers’ experience matched up to the venue’s historic reputation. Now, after returning to the UK a year ago, he finds himself reinvigorated as the Brand Ambassador for No 3 Gin at the equally famous Berry Brothers & Rudd. Like Richard, No 3 is a multi-award winner, and as he described it, “The pinnacle of London Dry Gin.”
When I asked him if he still mixed or invented new cocktails, Richard replied that: “I’m always coming up with new drinks for events or guest bartending shifts! You can’t just turn off creativity or inspiration!” Furthermore, he firmly believes gin is a key ingredient for most cocktails, explaining: “It’s a flavoured spirit so the flavour elements – botanicals as we call them – are key. The fact each gin will have a different recipe of botanicals allows for so much creativity in the field. Gins can enhance cocktail character in so many ways – spice notes, or citrus, floral, herbal, earthy. The list just goes on.”
“No 3 is a multi-award winner”
Richard continues: “In terms of actual flavour – it is down to the botanical recipe and how prominent it is. Some gins are lightly flavoured whereas some are huge juniper heavyweights; or they may have strong flavour or character, but enhance other botanicals apart from juniper.”
Those who read last week’s interview will recall Richard is also adamant that the actual base NGS or neutral grain spirit is crucial to the overall quality and taste. He said that: “This (the NGS) coupled with our slow distillation allows us to produce a rich, oily and exquisitely smooth spirit with a gorgeous mouthfeel – and that’s not even mentioning our luxurious flavour profile of six quality botanicals.” I quizzed him then about the relevance of a gin’s strength or ABV, to a cocktail and he confirmed: “Yes, it will always be a factor. The extent to which they do will be down to the bartender and whether or not they are choosing other ingredients to compliment or contrast or enhance those found in the gin itself.”
“It’s noticeAble that high strength gins seem to bolster the citrus elements
of cocktails, the fruitiness of some gins is more apparent in the lower
And apart from No 3, what have been his favourite gins over the years? “Besides No.3, I’ve always had a soft spot for The Botanist – the incredible gin made by Bruichladdich on Islay. This is a traditional style of gin, but augmented with 22 hand-picked, foraged botanicals from Islay. Also Apoteca Gin which is made by my friends Honey Spirits Co. in the Peak District – drawing on Lithuanian Herbal remedies for botanical inspiration, along with Bee Bread, Propolis and Sea Buckthorn for a more holistic approach to gin. They also do wonderful flavoured releases such as blackberry, elderberry and my favourite so far, horseradish!”