Ever dreamed of tasting the world’s best (and worst!) craft gins for a living? (AKA the best job in the world!) Meet Clementine, the ginologist in charge of sourcing Craft Gin Club’s Gins of the Month!
How did you become Craft Gin Club’s resident gin expert, and what does being a gin buyer entails?
I started off as a bartender, and then worked for many years as a cocktail bartender, which is where I gained most of my spirits knowledge. Then I worked organising events and running tastings, both in wine and spirits, which led to my last job as a spirits buyer at a drinks wholesaler. Since then, I’ve moved on to Craft Gin Club, where I can focus on my favourite spirit: gin! It’s much more fun.
A lot of my job is researching what’s new and exciting in the world of gin and, of course, a lot of gin tasting comes into it! I also spend a lot of time getting to know distillers – that’s my favourite part. It’s so fun working with distilleries, seeing what they’re up to and how they’re developing.
My background in cocktails has been really helpful in this job. I get to play around with a lot of flavours, which is always interesting and fun. I’m also looking at three ingredient serves that people can make at home, to make mixing gin more approachable. Not everyone’s got a full bar kit!
How many gins have you tasted? What flavour profiles are your personal favourites?
I’ve quite possibly tasted close to the thousands. If we’re talking about spirits in general, I couldn’t even begin to say. But for gin, the late hundreds is definitely close to the mark.
The flavour profiles I prefer depend on what I’m drinking. For a gin and tonic, I go for a citrus-led or a floral-led gin. But, if I’m having gin in a cocktail, I prefer piney and more savoury notes.
What do you look for when tasting to find a truly spectacular gin?
I’m looking for something different and exciting, yet still rounded and well balanced, something that will stand out from the other gins on the market. Generally, an all-around pleasant drink is what we’re looking for.
What’s your go-to gin cocktail for making at home?
The Tom Collins, a classic drink from 1876. The original recipe is a combination of a sweeter style of gin, sugar and lemon, topped with soda – easy to mix and delicious to drink.
I like to add bitters – either peach or orange – and also to swap out the sugar for flavoured cordials and syrups. The Tom Collins pre-dates so many better-known gin cocktails we have today, like the Clover Club, Gimlet and Gin Fizz, and it’s so easy to adapt to your mood or what you have to mix with in the cupboard.
What tips do you have to help people at home become master gin tasters?
Try your gin neat. You usually need a couple of sips to neutralise your palate to the alcohol, and then botanical notes will start to come through.
Gin is made for mixing, so the tonic or mixer you’re using is quite important. When you’re trying different gins, it’s good to try them neat to see which flavours you prefer. Then pick a tonic or mixer to match.
Piney and herbaceous gins will often go well with ginger ale, ginger beer and juices. Lighter gins go better with herbal and floral tonics. In short, it’s always good to have a wide variety of tonics and mixers in your cupboard!