Gin

Celebrity chef Valentine Warner talks gin and food pairing

By Nicholas Robinson contact

- Last updated on GMT

Warner: 'Gin and food pairing can be done'
Warner: 'Gin and food pairing can be done'

Related tags: Cheese, Wine, Cabernet sauvignon

Gin may not be the "easiest drink to pair with food", but celebrity chef Valentine Warner has given it a good crack and revealed his top tips.

Warner, who regularly stars on television cookery programmes and is part owner of the Northumberland-based Hepple Gin brand, said while gin, and spirits for that matter, aren't usually paired with food in the UK, it can be done.

"Gin and food pairing is quite an odd one," he told delegates at a recent Ginposium organised by the Gin Guild. "We're not like the Turks here [in the UK], we don't drink raki all of the way through our meals.

"We don't tend to drink spirits with our meals... it's not really like us."

Yet, recent research by spirits giant Diageo showed there was a potential £100m market​ that operators could tap into by pairing food and cocktails.

Most of the botanicals used in many gins are actually quite complementary to many dishes, the celebrity chef pointed out.

Landscape offers inspiration

For instance, as more distillers were taking inspiration from the landscape​ near their production sites, chefs could tap into the same inspiration.

Hepple Gin's surroundings had inspired Warner to develop several dishes, including roast lamb with juniper and Douglas Fir, he explained.

"You see the sheep on the hills near the distillery and they brush past the juniper bushes used in the gin production," he explained.

Juniper, however, tended to go well with many red meats and there are many more opportunities for gin and food to work together.

A spicy gin, such as Opihr, which is made using oriental spices, would work well with curries or even Moroccan food.

Edinburgh Gins' Seaside gin, which is inspired by the beach and uses botanicals found along the coast, would make a very good pairing with light fish dishes and sushi, he added.

Simple dishes

Even simple dishes that don't take much time to prepare, but are all about the sourcing of the ingredients – such as antipasti – should not be discounted either.

Cured meats and cheeses like goats' curd or blue cheese, for example, have flavour profiles that would be excelled by gin.

And because distillers are beginning to experiment with gins aged in barrels other than former Bourbon casks – such as ex-wine barrels – the flavour profiles of gins would lend themselves better to more dishes.

"Cotswolds makes a gin that's aged in old wine barrels and if I was to eat a heavy meal of something like wild boar stew, that would work very well," he added.

But, dessert was where gin could come into its own, claimed Warner. "You could even use gin in a granita, or Hepple has a melon aftertaste and that means it would pair well with melon.

"But gins also go with citrusy flavours an herby spicy flavours, so a nice orange tart with cardamom, for instance," he added.

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