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I’m standing in front of supermarket shelves staring at the lavish selection of gin bottles, each one sculpted in glass and embellished with poetic descriptions enticing me to taste their exotic contents. The one that keeps coming back to my inner eye is the bell jar shaped bottle of Gin Mare with its pale blue liquid contents and its understated, silver label. The price on the shelf is €38. Then I spot a special offer, a bottle of Tanqueray Gin and a Fever Tree Tonic Water for just €13. I pop the special offer in the trolley and move on. But in the pit of my stomach I’m disappointed. The Mare bottle is calling my name, haunting me all the way home.
I cannot believe that I seriously considered paying €38 for a bottle of gin.
I blame it on the Pyrenees.
“Join me for a gin and tonic after dinner,” Ramon Pau, Manager and Head Chef at Els Caçadores Hotel in Ribes de Freser, had said as we enjoyed a pre-dinner beer in the bar. Never one to have to be asked twice, later that evening I found myself in the Moon Salon on the top floor of the hotel while Ramon prepared the sexiest gin and tonics I have ever laid eyes on.
In my youth I was an avid gin and tonic drinker, it was the cocktail of choice for me and my partner in gin, Jo. Every few weeks we would embark upon a ‘gin night’, heading to the local pub where we’d begin the night with a pint of lager and a gin and tonic each and then gradually reverse the quantities as the night went on, eventually dumping the beer altogether and just ordering triple gins. I shudder to think what it was doing to my liver but in the folly of youth, we had a ball. With maturity came vodka and then wine, spirits being relegated to a glass of malt whisky on Burns Night and the occasional rum and movie day when I visit Jo in La Gomera.
The bottles of gin on Ramon’s drinks trolley bore no resemblance whatsoever to the choice of Gordon’s, Beefeater or London Dry Gin I was faced with the last time I looked at spirits on a supermarket shelf. Nor did the glasses. Elegant bubble glasses stood in line, filled to their generously proportioned brim with ice, sprinkled with juniper berries, red peppercorns and a twist of lime rind.
Ramon reached for a bottle of Gin Mare and poured the measured quantity over the ice and berries. Next he removed the cap from a bottle of Original blue tonic water, stood a silver cocktail stirrer in the centre of the glass and drizzled the tonic down the stem. A gentle stir and then he handed it to me.
For all the bottles of gin I have consumed in my life, never has one G&T tasted so good. This wasn’t just a well mixed cocktail with quality ingredients, this was a revelation, a renaissance of a love affair long since extinguished. It took me the best part of an hour to consume that glass of blue Heaven and its flavour was as lightly intense at the last sip as it had been at the first.
I admit it, I’m a sucker for good marketing. Put something in a sexy wrapper, jazz it up, give it an enticing name and a well written descriptor; fill its website with videos of sharp dressed men and beautiful women playing out our fantasies to Indie soundtracks and I’m hooked. I’m a marketing man’s dream. While I’ve had my back turned on the spirit world, it has been given the Madmen treatment. Bottles of gin and vodka have been turned into the Don Drapers of the supermarket drinks aisle, their tonic water partners the Betty Drapers.
No longer the curse of the working classes or Mother’s ruin, gin has become cool and I, for one, have fallen head over heels for its reincarnation. As soon as I’ve perfected the art of mixing and have equipped myself with the necessary accoutrements I shall be back for that bottle of Gin Mare. Hang the expense.
Andrea (Andy) Montgomery is a freelance travel writer and co-owner of Buzz Trips and The Real Tenerife series of travel websites. Published in The Telegraph, The Independent, Wexas Traveller, Thomas Cook Travel Magazine, EasyJet Traveller Magazine, you can read her latest content on Google+