Take it sloe: Neil Beckett shares his take on the best winter gin cocktails
The Kingston Distillers founder shares why Beckett's Gin is championing sustainability in its English juniper usage
Premium gin is often considered the quintessential drink of the British summertime, but it is also an under-appreciated tipple in the winter months, according to Kingston Distillers Neil Beckett. Beckett is the creator of Beckett's Gin, a range of flavoursome gins created locally and sustainably with English juniper berries.
In addition to his flagship London Dry, distilled in the country's capital, Beckett's gins also include the Spirited Gin, a bold, higher-proof gin flavoured with juniper and Kingston mint, and the Sloe Gin, which features a sweet cherry and almond flavour.
"A Beckett’s sloe gin is perfect on a cold winter’s day," says Beckett. "It has a wonderful cherry, plum and almond flavour with a lovely warm finish and is lighter and cleaner than most sloe gins – so you don’t get that unwanted cloying oversweetness on the finish. For a longer drink, it works really well with ginger ale or lemon tonic."
Beckett says that sustainability is crucial to his gin-making process, and in fact partners with the National Trust to collect the juniper berries that are crucial to the process, yet an important species for conservation under the UK's biodiversity action plan.
"We collect a strictly controlled number from National Trust land at Box Hill in Surrey with their kind permission and that of Natural England," explains Beckett, who launched a long-term project in 2014 to repopulate struggling juniper populations. >>
"Introducing a new juniper population onto Southern England’s chalklands using seed from local populations is a very long process, taking several years. Our project commenced in October 2014 when, with the Forestry Commission and the National Trust, we picked the first juniper berries for propagation from Box Hill in Surrey. We continue to do this every Autumn, picking some juniper for gin production and some for our conservation work in the expectation that we will ultimately have a continuous supply of young English juniper saplings to plant out in England."
Beckett says the conservation of English juniper is not just important for our natural habitats, but for its unparalleled taste profile. "The juniper berries are key to gin as they are its very definition. I find our English juniper berries to be more tart than those typically used in other gins; hence why I always use mint in my gin, as it complements the juniper beautifully to create a perfect and natural bittersweet quality."
As for serving suggestions, Beckett believes simplicity is key no matter the season. "From the freezer, maybe with a sprig of mint is excellent, though a little dangerous. I suppose some would call that a very dry Martini," he says. "Our gins are fantastic in a wet Martini too, and really shine in some classic cocktails like a Southside, Negroni or Bramble. I have also created a few cocktails of my own that show off my gin really well. For the classic G&T, it is best to use a clean simple tonic to let the gin really shine."