This week's cocktail is a special tipple based off of the main botanical in Siderit gin: Orris root. Siderit’s creators acclaim orris root as the “most important” of all the botanicals in their gin, but what exactly is this exotic-sounding ingredient? Read on to find out how this curious ingredient makes the seriously delicious Gin Daisy.
Orris root is in fact derived from the bulb of the iris plant (from the species Iris germanica or Iris pallida), whose vivid, aromatic flowers come in many hues but are perhaps most familiar to us in its gorgeously purple incarnation.
The dried root and essential oil (also known as orris root butter) has been used as a fixative in perfumery for centuries. It is widely used in gin production for similar reasons, helping to fix and bind the aromas and flavours of its fellow botanicals. As Siderit’s David Martinez Prieto says, “without it, the merger of the others would not be possible.”
As well is working to bring other flavours together, Orris root also has its own unique aroma and flavour, both woody and floral, and a little like violets.
Italy’s Tuscany region, particularly around Florence, is one of the main places from which orris root is sourced, and iris flowers are grown there extensively, not for their beautiful blooms but for their valuable rhizomes, or root systems.
The botanical is obtained from the roots of plants that are between three and four years old. The plants are carefully dug up and chunks of the rhizome broken off, leaving a section that can be replanted the following year to maintain stocks of a suitable age.
After harvesting, the roots are peeled and cleaned, before being dried for anything from two to five years. The resulting hard, dried root is then ground before use.
There is a long-held superstition, perhaps related to its real-life fixative properties, that orris root can help find and keep hold of love. Orris roots were traditionally be carried and worn around the neck by those seeking romance, or the powder sprinkled on bedding or clothing.
Orris is also sometimes used as a spice and is often included in the Middle Eastern and North African spice blend ras el hanout. Literally meaning ‘top of the shop’ in reference to the fact that it’s made from the most expensive spices, it’s particularly common in Morocco and typically rubbed into meat or used to flavour stews.
But we’ve got a more unusual (and ginny) use for the mix – which is available in many supermarkets. This recipe is a spicy twist on a Gin Daisy, which is thought to be a forerunner of the Mexican Margarita – in fact, ‘margarita’ is the Spanish word for ‘daisy’. Cheers!
Spiced Gin Daisy
30ml freshly squeezed lemon juice
15ml grenadine syrup
1tsp ras el hanout
Shake gin, lemon juice, grenadine and ras el hanout with ice.
Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into an ice-filled glass.
Top with soda water.
Garnish with a slice or lemon and sprig of mint if desired.