Cocktail of the Week: a halfpenny for Rock Rose's hooch of health

Below is an excerpt from the August 2015 edition of GINNED! Magazine about Rock Rose Gin and the Dunnet Bay Distillery. Every month, Craft Gin Club Members receive a bottle of amazing small-batch gins and gin complements accompanied by GINNED! Magazine which is full of information about the gin, the distillery and loads of fascinating features.

St. John's Loch: throw in a half-penny for health

St. John's Loch: throw in a half-penny for health

As the vapours of Rock Rose Gin’s base spirit pass through the botanical basket and collect in the condenser, the steam is returned to liquid through the cooling process fueled by the waters of the nearby source, St. John’s Loch. With the loch’s waters, the gin becomes just as steeped in legend as it does in the flavours of its botanicals, botanicals that hold medicinal properties similar to those that generations past believed the loch to hold. 

Lore of St. John’s Loch as a healing pond was first recorded in 1840 by a local reverend Thomas Jolly who wrote of believers arriving from all over Caithness, Sutherland and the Orkney Islands to perform the ritual from which they absorbed the supposed beneficial powers of the loch. The mile-long and half-mile-wide pond, which takes its name from a Roman Catholic chapel dedicated to St. John that once sat on the loch’s banks, was visited traditionally on the first Monday of each quarter of the year - known as the “Raith” - by the sick and invalid seeking a cure.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the waters demonstrate no medicinal qualities. Jolly wrote, “It is astonishing, that in these days such a superstitious rite should be continued; but so it is, and people who should know better have recourse to it,” having convinced his own followers that the tradition was a sham built on nothing but a myth that evolved over the years. Still, the sick continued to visit. 

Their ritual was to arrive at the loch early in the morning on the Raith to walk - or if one were too ill, be carried - once around the pond, wash ones face and hands, and throw in a coin, normally a halfpenny. The coin-tossing element is believed to be linked directly to the since-vanished Catholic chapel where its priests used to gather alms, a practice which evolved into throwing coins through the loch’s blessed ripples.

Bowling spare change into bodies of water is a timeworn practice whose mysterious origins range from early European tribes thanking the gods for clean water sources to the use of metals as water purifiers. 

Rock Rome: Trading Tartan for Trevi Treasure

Rock Rome: Trading Tartan for Trevi Treasure

Such legends continue today, most famously with the world’s most famous fountain, Rome’s Trevi Fountain. After the 1954 film Three Coins in the Fountain popularised the notion that if a tourist threw one coin over their shoulder into the spray they would return to Rome; with two coins they would fall in love with a Roman; and with three coins they would marry said Roman. The superstition has so penetrated the mind of tourists that well over £2,000 worth of coins are estimated to be thrown in the fountain daily, coins collected by the Roman Catholic Church for its charity Caritas. Perhaps the Church should use some of that money to rebuild St. John’s Chapel on the shores of the eponymous Scottish loch

Jody's Choice Rock Rose Cocktail

  • 50ml of CGC Distiller’s Edition
  • 12.5ml of Maraschino
  • 12.5ml of St. Germain
  • 12.5ml of fresh lemon juice

Method: Shake and strain, and serve with an apple fan and cherry.

Thanks to Jody Buchan, Rock Rose's Brand Ambassador for concocting such a delicious cocktail!

Get GINNED! Our club magazine free into your inbox each week