Desmond Payne is one of the most well recognised distillers in the world today. Even for those new to the Gin world, his is an obligatory name, consecrated in more than 50 years of distilling. For a long time connected to the Pernod Ricard universe, Desmond now has his name linked to Beefeater and Plymouth, but despite more than half a century of distilling, it was only in 2008 that he created his first Gin, Beefeater 24. Meanwhile, the history of the iconic London Gin began a good few years earlier.
Desmond has always had a taste for travel. The desire to find new places, cultures, people and flavours and aromas, always directed towards the less common tourist destinations. It was on one of these journeys, crossing Asia, that he fell for the tea that they used as a substitute for tonic water in Gin. They were times of shortages and tonic water was pretty hard to find. Missing the bitterness of quinine, Desmond found comfort in the astringency of local teas.
Years later, while already developing Beefeater 24 and looking for something totally different and revolutionary, Desmond brought back his good old times in Asia and began a process of research to select teas which would give a light floral touch to the old British tradition. He found the answer in Japanese Sencha tea and Chinese green tea. Their lower oxidation confers a greater freshness and lighter floral note than other teas, complementing the sweet citrus touch of grapefruit and reinforcing the juniper.
These two teas naturally give good results when they are used to flavour a Beefeater 24 and tonic, but we didn’t want to limit ourselves to these two and tested 5 serves all using tea and citrus.
To the original recipe for Beefeater Dry were added three new botanicals. Chinese green tea, Japanese Sencha tea and grapefruit. We began with the more obvious and added Sencha tea to grapefruit. Gentler than Chinese green tea, Sencha finds its ideal partner in grapefruit which is one of the subtler citrus fruits. It is almost like drinking a Beefeater 24 with only tonic water, but with extra aroma.
For the Chinese green tea, we chose lemon. The astringency and vivacity of the tea only find a parallel in the acidity and pungency of a ripe lemon zest. It is a fresh and light proposal, ideal for a hot day in summer… but doesn’t go badly on a cold winter night in front of the fire.
White tea is made by infusing very young leaves which are protected as much as possible from the sun. It is a more floral and aromatic tea than green tea and for that reason it was combined with orange, which has a more intense flavour than grapefruit. It is a bolder proposal which carries more aromas and can be an alternative for those who like a lot of fruit. However, for the purists, this flavour mix might be too sinful since it hides the aromas of the Beefeater 24.
Lemon balm tea is one of the most popular teas in Portugal and for that reason it made sense for us to try it out. Its fresh and slightly astringent touch awakens all the aromas in Beefeater 24. To it we added a carpaccio of kumquat for a gentle citrus note which can also serve as a snack for the more adventurous.
We used the same method to flavour all the serves described above. In a separate glass we made an infusion of Beefeater 24 with each of the teas, using an infuser. The process is pretty straightforward and similar to the way normal tea is made, with the advantage of not having to heat the liquid. Just fill the infuser with the selected tea and place it in the glass. Between 30 seconds and 1 minute will be enough, but you can stir it to accelerate the process. One infuser full of tea leaves is easily enough to flavour 20 gins.
Lastly, the most exotic and the most practical version. Here, instead of flavouring the Gin with the tea, we sped up the process and used a flavoured tonic, Schweppes Match. Matcha is also a green tea, which comes in the form of a bright green powder and a flavour which is more astringent and fresh than the others. For even more freshness, we added yuzu zest, yuzu being a Japanese citrus fruit which is making its way to Europe.
It was clear to us the strong connection between Beefeater 24 and tea and its adaptability in all the varieties we tested, and we are certain it would also work well with a wide variety of floral botanicals. The link to citrus fruits is also easy and natural. The grapefruit remains our favourite when we talk about Beefeater 24 but all the other citrus fruits gave good results.
Fancy a Beefeater 24?