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So did my DIY gin win the annual contest?

OK, I had to abandon the idea of using a “dry” infusion; it wasn’t achieving a strong enough flavour in time. But I’d also done a “wet” infusion, which worked a treat. I’ll even give you my winning recipe.

The following measurements may sound over-precise, finicky, but they’re basically scaled-up multiples (usually of eight) of a successful blend of two of the earlier, much smaller, experimental batches.

For every 400 ml of vodka (Tesco Everyday Value this year) add the following:

  • 92 juniper berries, lightly crushed
  • 48 coriander seeds, lightly crushed
  • 8 cloves
  • 2 star anise
  • 1 piece of Chinese cassia bark, approx 2.5 inches long
  • 1 piece of standard cinnamon (non-cassia), approx 2.5 inches long
  • The pared peel (avoiding the pith) of 1 medium sized orange
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon of liquorice root powder
  • 1 large sprig of this year’s other secret ingredient – fresh applemint

These were left to infuse in a Kilner jar for a week, then strained through a double layer of muslin. Finer filters will give a clearer liquid, but you’ll come to love the golden glow of a DIY gin. And don’t panic if the infusion looks murky and unpromising before it is strained.

gin-mix-1For next year’s competition I’ll tweak the ingredients again. If the botanicals are like parts of an orchestra, I’ll be taking the lead instrument (juniper) and pushing it through the equivalent of a Vox AC30 amplifier to increase its overall presence. And that’s just for starters.

I’ll also explore how to refine the infusion technique – ways that are so obvious in hindsight:

  • Start the infusion weeks earlier, then taste frequently to find the optimum overall steeping time
  • Stagger the times when the various botanicals are added, rather than bunging them all into the jar at the same time

The BBC Good Food magazine suggests the following rough guide about these varied steeping times:

  • Leave strong chilli, vanilla, cardamom or citrus for less than a day
  • Hardy spices and strong flavoured vegetables will need 5-7 days
  • Berries and strong fruit can take around 3-4 weeks to fully impart their flavour
  • Milder additions like apple, melon, lemongrass and florals will take up to a month

There is no perfect time to stop the infusion and the flavour will only intensify over a number of weeks, sometimes even morphing into something completely different. The trick is regular tasting.
– Jo Farish from The Gin Garden