Take a trip around the world without leaving the comfort of The Crown Club bar at The Old Government House Hotel & Spa. Celebrating the bar’s unusual history and extensive collection of gins, The Crown Club Gin Passport allows visitors to sample their way through 37 different locally and internationally made gins, each served with a bespoke garnish and tonic. Bar Manager, Aisling Machuca, talks us through The Crown Club’s gin collection and the secrets to the perfect G&T.
Why did you decide to create The Crown Club Gin Passport experience?
The passport was inspired by one of our regular guests who really enjoyed trying all our gins. However, keeping track was tricky as it wouldn’t always be the same barperson on duty when they visited. So, taking inspiration from the history of The Crown Club, which used to be the Crown Office in Guernsey, we decided to tie it all together and create the Gin Passport so guests could keep track of every gin they tried. We’ve also added a fun reward element in that once you’ve completed the Gin Passport, guests can choose a bottle of their favourite gin to take home.
What are your personal favourites from The Crown Club’s extensive gin collection?
I really enjoy the Pink Pepper gin for when I want a slightly sweeter style of gin and tonic. Distilled with Tonka beans, which are part of the vanilla family, that add a really interesting sweetness. When I feel like something a bit more classic I’ll go for a Chase Extra Dry, it makes a really clean refreshing gin and tonic. For something more unusual I’ll have the Eden Mill Hop Gin. It’s distilled using hops that would otherwise be used to make beer. I enjoy it with a bit of orange and apple and an elderflower tonic. It isn’t for everyone but I think it’s great!
Can you talk us through some of the locally produced gins?
We have two locally-produced gins in our collection. Wheadons and Blue Bottle. They are two really different styles of gins. Wheadons is made using pink grapefruit and rock samphire, which creates a fresh and bright gin and tonic. The Blue Bottle is a different style of gin using nutmeg, gorse flowers and cubeb pepper, which gives a well-rounded spiciness that’s great in a gin and tonic.
How did you go about choosing the bespoke garnishes and tonics for each gin?
I try to garnish so that the gin is complemented and not over powered by the garnish.
I like to know about the history and inspiration behind the gin, so firstly I have a little read up to see what the distillery’s story is. From there it’s all about testing. Try the gin, what do I smell and taste? What do I know work as great flavour combinations? Do I what to emphasize the obvious flavours or highlight the subtle ones? If I’m really stuck I’ll look through books (usually borrowed off chef!) You can find some really interesting combinations in there that you might not find elsewhere.
Do you know of anyone who has managed to sample all 37 gins so far?
We’ve had a couple of people now. In fact, one person was so keen that they did it in a really short time! I’m hoping that as word spreads about the Gin Passport, we will start to see more people completing them soon.
In your expert opinion, what’s more important: the quality of the gin or the quality of the tonic?
I honestly think that the quality level applies to both. If you have a gin that has had so much thought and effort put into it, it deserves a tonic to match. The selection of tonics out there now is huge so there are endless options to play with.
Do you have any top tips for making the perfect G&T at home?
I think for drinking gin at home you just need to have things that you enjoy. So, for me I like to make sure I simply have enough of everything! Nothing worse than going for a bottle of tonic to find that its flat and the last one! As gin is my drink of choice there is always a little selection in the cupboard to choose from and if I’m feeling creative there is always something that can be used as a garnish in the kitchen.
Aside from the classic G&T, what are your favourite gin-based cocktails?
I love a classic Martini. It’s a great way to experience gin in its purest form.
Having said that though, not all gins are suited to a Martini so citrus style cocktails are something I would order mostly.
Gin has become an increasingly fashionable spirit in recent years, with many boutique distilleries launching new gins. What do you think it is that makes it so popular?
I think it’s the diversity. I don’t think you’ll find any other spirit that can offer it.
Even the two gins distilled here in Guernsey are a good example of how different one spirit can be.
Are there any dishes from The Crown Club menu that you think would pair well with the gins available as part of the Gin Passport?
I think that the Durban bunny chow matched with a spicier style of gin like Ophir works. One of the botanicals used to distil that gin is cardamom so that really complements the curry.
The Crown Club is open from 10am Monday-Saturday and 11am on Sundays.
Image Credits: All images courtesy of Red Carnation Hotels.