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With so many questionable bottles of mango rum and cupcake vodka on the market, it’s easy to be dismissive of flavored spirits. But gin might be an exception. In a way, the botanical-steeped spirit is already flavored to begin with.
Three years ago, London distillery Sipsmith introduced its Lemon Drizzle gin to the Sipsmith Sipping Society, a membership program sending the distillery’s more esoteric experiments out to fans several times a year. “It was deemed so popular with consumers that we added it to our core line,” says Sipsmith co-founderSam Galsworthy.
And now, after hundreds of requests to sell the gin stateside, it’s available in the U.S. for a limited-time release.
Lemon gin, fine. Lemon drizzle gin? Lemon drizzle cake, while less familiar in the States, is a British favorite that tastes quite like it sounds: a lemony pound cake with a light sugar glaze. The gin echoes those flavors remarkably, with a bright burst of citrus—thanks to lemon peel, lemon verbena and fresh lemon—and a slightly biscuity sweetness and warmth. But the flavors of a classic London dry are still in the foreground.
“Lemon Drizzle was inspired by the very popular citrus gins from the early 20th century, a style of gin that was drier and less sweet,” says Galsworthy. “Myself, [distiller] Jared [Brown] and the team at Sipsmith wanted to celebrate that moment in gin’s history and present a product that brings out that style much more.”
The processes that Sipsmith uses to dial up the lemon are simply those of gin-making itself. Lemon peel and orange peel are two of the most common botanicals in gin, along with coriander, which is complex and citrusy in its own right.
“We macerate our classic London dry recipe and, on the day of distillation, add a lot of dried lemon peel and even more lemon verbena to the pot,” says Galsworthy. There are ways to amp up the sweetness, too. “We dial up the licorice to sweeten the gin pre-distillation the classic way, instead of after, to keep the product a classic London dry.” Finally, coriander, essential in this style of gin, is punched up as well, to further highlight the citrus notes. “We then peel a large amount of lemons and add the zest to the vapor chamber, for more delicate and fresh lemon notes that you can’t achieve from the pot,” he says.
The gin is lively and aromatic with an unmistakable citrus zing. It’s easy to see why it’s so popular: bright and juicy enough to sip straight, juniper-heavy enough for even gin purists and an obvious choice for cocktails. Any number of gin classics feature citrus, and the Lemon Drizzle adds another layer of citrus flavor to them all.
“I love Lemon Drizzle in a Tom Collins or a Rickey,” says Galsworthy. “These two cocktails are a bit more citrusy, and this gin really shines in a light, refreshing drink.” A French 75 works brilliantly, and even a simple Gin & Tonic, with a lemon wedge garnish, not lime, lets the gin’s own flavor come through.
In the U.K., the Lemon Drizzle proved popular both with bartenders and home gin enthusiasts, and Sipsmith hopes to connect with both sides of the market in the U.S., as well. Says Galworthy, “We want to reach the gin enthusiasts who are open to trying something new that has historical roots and is classic in style.”