Christine Austin hails Yorkshire''s love of gin and serves up some cocktail recipes


‘The cocktail scene in Leeds is astonishing,’ said Chris Hill, Proprietor of Latitude in The Calls, Leeds.  ‘Just a couple of years ago we had 50 gins and we thought that was a lot.  When I last counted, we were up to 140 gins and more keep arriving.’

It seems that there is a new gin launch every week, many of them designed around local botanicals and local pure water sources.

Sara Birkinshaw, launched Leeds Gin just 9 months ago and already has listings in dozens of bars and retailers (£35 a bottle at Latitude).  It is made from a combination of botanicals, including juniper, coriander, ginger, Yorkshire forced rhubarb and Yorkshire honey which are steeped in pure spirit, then distilled in a small copper alembic still.  This is artisan gin-making in the heart of Leeds.  The style is crisp with notes of cinnamon and orange and an edge of sweetness that makes it perfect to drink as a Martini, although Sara likes to drink it as a Gin and Tonic with a twist of orange peel as garnish.

The Leeds Gin label sports a cheeky owl, reminiscent but definitely not a copy of the civic emblem of the city, and Sara is keen to make her gin as Yorkshire as possible.  ‘The bottles will soon be made in Yorkshire and if anyone can find me a source of Yorkshire juniper I would really like to know.’

Over at Harewell House Farm in Nidderdale, the Whittaker family has transformed an old pig shed into a distillery and are making a range of gins, using juniper, coriander and angelica root as well as bilberries and bog myrtle which adds a spicy aroma and savoury note.  They have just produced the first batch of Harewood Estate gin (Harrogate Fine Wine £41.99) using mulberries from a tree planted on the estate in 1912, and pineapple which used to grow in the estate’s greenhouses.  The range of Whittaker’s Gins includes the Original, a navy strength (57%), a clear Sloe gin and Pink Peculiar made with pink peppercorns and all are widely available in Yorkshire merchants.  The Original costs £25.99 for 50cl from Harrogate Fine Wine.

Raisthorpe Manor in Malton has introduced two new gins to the market, made using water from the local chalk stream ‘Gypsey Race’ as part of the process.  They also use fresh botanicals including watercress which used to be farmed around the Gypsey Race floodplains. The oak-aged gin has been stored in whisky barrels to add a touch of vanilla and spice.  Find Raisthorpe Manor gins, including their terrific range of sloe and fruit gins at Bon Coeur Fine Wine and online at

To get the best selection of gins you need to go to one of our many   independent wine and spirit merchants in Yorkshire.  Then make sure you don’t drown your expensive gin in poor quality tonic. Fevertree is my particular favourite tonic (widely available, including Waitrose), but Fentimans (Latitude and others) and Franklin and Sons (Latitude) are also highly recommended, especially Franklin and Sons Sicilian lemon tonic which is refreshing in its own right but goes wonderfully with a splash of gin on a hot summer day.

Under no circumstances use a sugar free tonic in a decent gin.  Artificial sweeteners always get in the way of the gin flavour and if you are watching your waistline you can off-set the extra calories in the full-sugar version by avoiding the olives and crisps that will inevitably be served up alongside your drink.

The ingredients of a decent gin and tonic are so simple it is surprising that not all of them hit the spot.  Despite the trend to big balloon glasses I still prefer a straight tall glass, several chunks of ice and a good measure of gin, topped up with quality tonic.  As for garnish I have swung from a slice of lemon to a chunk of lime and back again.

If you decide to opt for cocktails at your New Year party, then don’t try to run a complete bar service – that is for the professionals only.  Instead select a few favourites, practice them this afternoon and serve them in the right glasses with stylish garnishes.  Here are a few recipes to try.

Winter Punch

You can buy sachets of spices to add to wine, but it is easy and more fun to make your own.

Take an orange, cut it in half and stud the peel with a dozen cloves. Place in a pan and add half a pint of orange juice, a small piece of fresh ginger, a cinnamon stick, two star anise, 50g granulated sugar and the juice of a lemon. Gently warm these ingredients then leave them to infuse for at least a couple of hours.  Then strain the syrup and use it to add the spicy element to a bottle of port, such as Taylors First Estate (Sainsbury £10 on offer).  Warm the mixture up when your guests arrive, but don’t let it get too hot or all the alcohol will evaporate.

Vodka Spritz

Suggested by Daniel at Hedonist Project in Leeds

25ml Finlandia Vodka

25ml Aperol

10ml Raspberry Syrup

5ml Lemon Juice

50ml Soda

Top up with Sparkling Wine (Prosecco)

Shake the first 4 ingredients in a cocktail shaker then strain into a wine glass full of cubed ice. Top with soda and sparkling wine and stir; finish off with a fresh mint sprig, blueberries and a dust of icing sugar.


Williams Chase Sloe and Mulberry Cobbler

50 ml Williams Sloe and Mulberry Gin (£28 for 50 cl Waitrose)

1 blackberry

3 raspberries

25ml cranberry juice

2 teaspoons of sugar syrup

2 teaspoons of freshly squeezed lime juice

Add the fruit to a cocktail shaker and crush them with the back of a spoon or muddler. Add all the other ingredients and shake with cubed ice. Strain into a glass over crushed ice and garnish with fresh fruit.






About The Author

Christine is a wine writer, broadcaster and a wine judge for several international wine competitions. She has a technical background and spent five years as a buyer for a major supermarket before moving to wine writing.She writes for The Yorkshire Post Magazine and organises the York Festival of Food and Drink. She has won both the Lanson and the Roederer prizes for wine writing.

Let us know what you think