Lab 22 Cardiff Cocktail Bar Juniper 22

Juniper Martini 22

Gin has had an incredible buzz around it for the past 10 years and has quickly become the drink choice of the summer sippers. The number of Gin distilleries in Britain has more than doubled since 2010, not to mention the rest of the world. Whether it’s a craft gin with obscure botanicals from an exotic country or a classic London Dry, gin is in!

Mankind’s obsession with Gin and Juniper is no new thing, Juniper berries are actually seed cones of the evergreen coniferous tree Juniperus Communis in the Cypress family, they are found throughout the northern hemisphere. The best flavoured are thought to come from central and southern Europe in places like Croatia and Italy, although they’re more fragrant in the warmer limestone areas of France. The berries and twigs have prevalence in medicine for thousands of years, from the traditional Chinese to the Guna people from the Blas islands off Panama who used to smother their bodies with the piney seeds to ward of parasitic Catfish. A lot of liqueurs, spirits and tonics were originally devised to improve health (think of the quinine in tonic water used to prevent Malaria or Digestifs to settle a stomach) so it is no surprise that Juniper would eventually find it’s way into our alcoholic tipples also.

Through the 14th and 15th century the lines between medicinal curative and social lubricant began to blur. It was in the low countries area (which is were current day belgium and Netherlands is situated) that originally championed Juniper in spirit, they called this Genever after the french word for Juniper. The Genever of the 17th century is very dissimilar to the refined gins of today, as technological advances in how it’s made, society’s tastes change and rules on what defines a Gin were created (EU regulation 110/2008 which states a gin ‘must be flavoured with Juniper … [and be] the predominant flavour’). Modern day Gins are now changing the rules by often having a different botanical in the forefront (think of the overt cardamom in Ophir or the of obvious berry in Brockmans).

A juniper berry can, all at once, be herbal, citrussy, mossy, woody, fresh and warm, this is due to the different flavour compounds found in everything in nature. Ever wondered how oak aged whisky tastes of Vanilla? It’s because of the Vanillin (the same chemical found in the pod) that’s also found in oak, is passed onto the liquid. Juniper’s main compounds, called mono-terpenes mainly consist of Alpha-Pinine, Myrcene, Sabanine, Linanool and Limonene. These compounds all contribute to the flavours of juniper but are found throughout nature, for instance the Limonene which gives the berry it’s fresh fragrance is also found in citrus fruits, Sabenine if often found in Oaks.

I really wanted to combine my love for Juniper (and it’s variety of flavour profiles) with the elegance and longevity of the undeniable cocktail god that is the Martini! Our new menu was the perfect excuse to introduce something I’d seen in bars such as The Connaught, a tailor made martini made at the guest’s table. As my bar is molecular themed, I decided to focus on the chemical compounds. These are atomised spray of tinctures which should compliment the gin, for each compound I’ve created a delicate and more robust version which are meant to replace the twist or olive as an aromatic garnish.

Alpha-Pinene- Pine-cone – delicate
Beta-Pinene- Rosemary & Sage -Robust
Myrcene- Cardamom – delicate
Myrcene- Bay & Thyme -Robust
Limonene- Lemon & grapefruit peel- delicate
Limonene- Orange & Bergamot peel -Robust
Linalool- Mint & Lime peel- delicate
Linalool- Coriander & Rosewood -Robust
Sabinene- In-house Oaked Gin (4 days)- delicate
Sabinine- In-house Oaked gin and nutmeg (7 days) -Robust

I’ve also added a curve-ball by including Quinine as an option (this is a simple reduction of specifically chosen tonic waters [2 parts Fever tree:1 part Fentimen’s original), intended to be sprayed into the mixing glass instead of on top of the drink (also a great way of added chinchona’s bitterness to mocktail instead of bitters) Juniper’s long relationship with humans has no indication of slowing down as more and more craft gins are being created. The question of what gin will taste like in the future is still a bone of contention but we can all agree it’s something to keep a (slightly glazed-over) eye on!