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When is gin not a gin?

Gerry Calabrese last night unveiled the finished version of Hoxton Gin  – which features overwhelming flavours of coconut and grapefruit at the fore. The unusual spirit got the drinks business wondering whether the product should actually be classed as a “gin” at all.

Calabrese, owner of trendy London bar The Hoxton Pony, has spent three years devising and refining the product.

The six botanicals involved are coconut, grapefruit, ginger, tarragon, juniper and iris and the product, in Calabrese’s words, is designed to “introduce new people to gin”.

The botanicals are macerated for five days before a single distillation in a 150-year-old copper pot still and are then blended with the grain spirit. The gin is then reduced to 43% abv, filtered and then rested for two months in steel tanks.

As a standalone product – indeed, the signature serve is neat in a Martini glass with a twist of lemon peel – it stands up as a relatively refreshing, sweet drink that holds plenty of appeal as a drink on its own.

Calabrese told db: “My missus hates normal gin, but she loves this.”

All well and good – but is this really introducing new people to gin, or giving them something so far removed from the traditional product that it is essentially a whole new type of drink?

EU regulations clearly state that “gin” must feature a predominant juniper flavour – this is certainly not the case with Hoxton Gin.

Interestingly, however, upon mixing the overpowering tropical flavours of coconut and grapefruit give way to more recognisable gin-like flavours.

Regardless of the debate, the drink is set to cause quite a stir, with Harrods set to feature it as its Spirit of the Month throughout May.

Calabrese told db he has already secured over 40 listings in UK bars and aims to reach the 100 mark over the next couple of months, while he has also secured listings with the likes of Coe Vintners and The Whisky Exchange.

“We will also be rolling out in Italy, the US, Russia and Spain,” Calabrese told db.

“I just wanted to put a totally new twist on a drink that had lost its appeal to a lot of younger drinkers,” he added. “I just woke up one day with coconut and graprefuit in my head and took it from there.

“It’s been a long process, but I believe we’ve come up with something totally unique and exciting – the first time we’ve been able to say that about gin for a long time.”

Hoxton Gin’s RRP in the off-trade will be between £24-27, with Harrods selling it for £29 during May.

Alan Lodge, 27.04.2011

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