Beyond Whiskey & Beer: Stand Out with Irish Gin

Image: Glendalough Distillery

Pretty soon, bars will be touting specials on shots of Jameson and pints of Guinness. Why not mix it up a little by sipping a botanical spirit from the Emerald Isle?

These unique spirits—made from wild foraged botanicals and local ingredients—truly show a sense of place. Try them neat, in a G&T, or in your favorite gin cocktail.

Sláinte!

Glendalough Distillery Wild Botanical Gin -

Glendalough Wild Botanical Gin

With sustainable botanicals foraged from the Wicklow Mountains added to the small copper pot still within hours of picking to allow their essential oils to be preserved, you know this gin made in one of the lushest and greenest counties in the country has got to be aromatic, fresh and herbal.

“Our aim is to leave no trace that we were ever there,” says brand manager and co-founder Donal O’Gallchoir. “It means harder work but it's worth it to keep our mountains the way we like them—wild.” The gin shows green notes, citrus and juniper on the nose, flowers, honey and nectar on the palate and fruit, spicy and earth on the finish.“It is all four seasons of 'The Garden of Ireland' in a glass,” O’Gallchoir points out.

Try it mixed with a premium tonic and garnished with an orange slice and fresh basil, in a Bee's Knees cocktail or in the Bancroft’s Castle.

Bancroft’s Castle

Recipe courtesy of Dan Lynch, Cultivar

  • 1 ½ oz. Glendalough Wild Botanical Gin
  • ¾ oz. Lime juice
  • ¾ oz. Simple syrup
  • 2 bar spoons Clear Creek Douglas Fir Brandy
  • Dash absinthe
  • Mint and fennel fronds to garnish

Add all ingredients except garnishes to a cocktail shaker, add one large cube, and shake until chilled. Double-strain into a double rocks glass, top with pebble ice, and garnish with the mint and fennel.

The Connacht Whiskey Company Conncullin Irish Gin -

Conncullin Irish Gin

The first gin released from The Connacht Whiskey Company is named for Loch Conn and Loch Collin, two lakes in County Mayo that give the distillery its pristine water for distilling and proofing. It was created by gin master Robert Castell using Irish botanicals including rose hips, elderberry flower and hawthorn berry; many are actually grown along the walkway from the Ballina town center to the distillery. Distilled by hand in a copper pot, it’s rich, smooth and sophisticated.

“Conncullin is a gin with a heavy juniper note, but distinctive in that it has a balance created by the supporting botanical which creates a complexity in the spirit,” Castell says. “It was purposefully intended to be unlike anything else on the island of Ireland.”

Stir it into a Martini with Dolin Dry Vermouth and a few dashes of orange or lavender bitters, or mix it with Fever Tree Elderberry Tonic, garnished with a lemon wedge.

Concullin Gin & Tonic

Recipe courtesy of Kelly Magyarics

Build the drink in the glass over ice with the gin and tonic, stirring to combine and garnishing with the lemon wedge.

Highbank Orchards & Distillery Kilkenny Apple Crystal Gin -

Highbank Orchards Organic Kilkenny Apple Crystal Gin

This spirit made on an organic farm in County Kilkenny is truly unique, as it’s a single-estate gin, meaning that it’s crafted from estate-grown organic fruit (in this case, apples). It also uses twelve organic botanical sources nearby.

"Whilst the flavour is predominantly juniper, the fruity apple is very much to the fore,” says organic farmer and distiller Rod Calder-Potts. “The other botanicals have been cunningly chosen to support the Juniper/apple pie feeling.” He likes to drink it in a traditional G&T, but also says mixing it with a light ginger tonic is a “marriage made in heaven.”

Most important is not to drown it with a mixer: use a maximum dilution of a 2:1 ratio.

Highbank Orchards & Distillery Salt Yard Gin with Strawberry and Thyme cocktail -

The Salt Yard Gin with Strawberry and Thyme

Recipe courtesy of Highbank Orchards & Distillery

  • 2 oz. Highbank Orchards Organic Kilkenny Irish Crystal Gin
  • 6 strawberries, 1 reserved for garnish
  • Slice of apple
  • Quinine tonic water, to taste
  • Sprig of thyme to garnish

Muddle the gin, 5 strawberries and the apple slice in the bottom of a tall glass. Add ice and tonic to taste, stir and garnish with the thyme sprig and remaining strawberry.

Kelly Magyarics, DWS, is a wine, spirits and lifestyle writer, and wine educator, in the Washington, D.C. area. She can be reached through her website, www.kellymagyarics.com, or on Twitter and Instagram @kmagyarics.