‘Believe me my young friend, there is nothing, absolute nothing, half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats…’
From the moment my young ears received this infinite wisdom from Kenneth Graham, via Ratty, via the lips of my mother imaginatively mimicking what she thought a water vole would sound like if one could speak, I’ve been fascinated by boats. (By the way Ratty is a misnomer, Ratty is actually a water vole).
Having grown up an actual stone’s throw away from the sea and surrounded by gallons of crystal clear welsh mountain lakes, many have questioned why, if so enamoured, I didn’t learn to sail – we’ll gloss over that (I’m a shit hot swimmer though). Whether I can sail or not, stepping onto the deck of a boat and (having someone else) casting off, the lap lap lap on the hull and the slightly hypnotic to-fro swaying, is what makes me happiest in this crazy world of ours.
The bars of city centre Manchester aren’t renowned for their proximity to either crystal clear lakes or the salty tang of the sea; but what they do have is a) a canal and b) the genius of the The Liquorists to work out that the only thing better than messing about in boats – is messing about in boats with a tonne of cocktails. And in this case, a tonne of gin.
|Our captains and the lovely Lowry|
We got our sea (manky canal water) legs ready and were met with large grins (and even larger gins) by The Liquorists who had commandeered the L.S Lowry for the Gincident; a veritable vessel steered by the chaps from City Centre Cruises – luckily for us, they were wise enough not to let any of the reprobates from The Liquorists play captain.
|Salmon thanks to Tone Photography|
On board we were served an exceptional meal from Hannah Eddleston; The Liquorists usually serve up some good food, but this was amazing – cured salmon with dill was tender and light, melting spiced ham hock with juniper and jewelled cous cous, succulent spicy chicken drumsticks on white bean salad and an inspired savoury strawberry salad.
Hannah took inspiration for her dishes from the botanicals used to flavour the gins we were sampling that night, coupled it with her exceptional cooking skills and then served us hefty portions to soak up the torrent of booze that we were about to receive – she’s one talented girl.
As with any Liquorists night, the aim isn’t just to get sozzled (that’s just a happy coincident); the nights are an educational meander through different versions of one type of spirit – the Gincident, very obviously, being about gin.
|‘Jamie Jones and THAT jacket|
Our gin journey was lead by the very amiable/competent/dashingly dressed Jamie Jones (just look at that blazer!); he’s just been crowned G’Vine’s Global Gin Connoisseur 2013, so I’m not sure there’s anyone more proficient in gin-knowledge – he certainly seemed to know his stuff.
We started with the history of gin; this terribly British tipple actually started life as genever over in Holland – there has been a history of distilling juniper based white spirits to cure medical ailments since medieval times, but it wasn’t till we went to war in the 17th century that we got our hands on it.
Gin started being distilled in the UK in the 18th century; some of it was frankly frightening stuff and lead to many social ills, Hogarth producing THAT drawing and earning it the moniker ‘Mother’s Ruin.’ These days, thankfully, it’s a quality spirit that has been given the attention of many premium and craft brands – with Jamie Jones at our helm, he steered us through his favourite expressions of the spirit and showed us there is more to the G and T than just gin and tonic (indeed check why we put tonic in our gins HERE).
|Bloom – thanks Tone Photography|
|G’vine – thanks Tone Photography|
|Miller’s – thanks Tone Photography|
|Massimo – thanks Tone Photography|
Miller’s – uses Icelandic water to give it a clean taste.
Bloom – the most floral of the gins we tasted.
G’Vine Floraison – made from grape spirit in France; Flouraison is the sweeter one.
G’Vine Nouaison – far more musky than Flouraison.
For each spirit we received one shot to sip (sip that is, not down, this was a civilised boat tour or something), whilst Jamie talked us through the botanics used to flavour each; then, for each gin, we were given a cocktail made by the unmatchable Massimo – each one using ingredients to match the botanics in each.
Cruise over, the sights of Manchester and Salford (and many cool birds including a grey wagtail, cormorants, sand martins and a kestrel family) seen, we gathered our slightly less steady sea legs and departed into the warm summer Manchester night – all happy faces proving that gin is far from a mother’s ruin these days.
Ps The cruise we took can be booked, sans booze/Liquorists, through City Centre Cruises – it really is a good way to see the sights and excellent for bird watching.
Pps The good pictures were all kindly supplied by the ace Tone Photography.
Please note I was given my ticket to the Gincident for free, but I’m not inclined to say anything nice, The Liquorists are just tip top at what they do. And I did like Jamie’s jacket.