Monday 10 August 2015

A Gin filled weekend

Sometimes you book something so far in advance that it creeps up on you without notice. That is exactly what happened after myself and one of my best friends Faye decided to attend the Gin festival in Leeds.

Almost a year ago, I received a message from a very excitable Faye regarding the Gin Festival. Now we are in no way gin experts, but it was hard to pass up an opportunity to try something a little different for a Saturday afternoon. With the festival touring all over the country, we had wanted to venture over to a new city and make a weekend of it - turns out we both lead rather busy lives and were therefore only available for the Leeds weekend. Typical. City break in our home town it had to be. We even booked an apartment-hotel for the weekend. We don't do things by halves!

Sometimes I do love to play mother hen, so after checking in and confirming that Faye was en route, I set about making our room a home and got a shuffle on with dinner. I think it turned out rather well if I do say so myself.

In case you're wondering, we have mango and lime chicken with a hint of chilli, parma ham wrapped asparagus and cous cous with toasted almonds and mint. Delish.

Armed with full bellies, we set off into Leeds for a civilised cocktail or two and a long over due catch up. Delightful as it was to be back in each others giddy company, we had to call it a night and prepare our long awaited Gin excursion the following day. 

The Gin Festival was held at the Leeds town hall, and it really was a beautiful setting. I think the photos speak for themselves here!

Upon arrival we were gifted with our own Gin glass (pretty sure it could hold an entire bottle), this does of course now take pride of place in my kitchen and makes regular appearances. The glass is purposfully designed to keep your Gin and Tonic at an optimal frosty temperature, but I get through my G &T's at such a rate, it's just nice to have a fancy glass to drink it from. Along side this was our Gin Bible detailing every single gin available on the day. The Gins were separated into 4 different bars, with the 4th bar containing flavoured gins. 

My first Gin of choice was 'Pinkster'. 

'Deliciously dry, with raspberries adding a gentle fruity flavour, juniper follow-through and a smooth finish. Launched in July 2013 and inspired by the creator's wheat allergy. Only uses 5 botanicals and raspberries. Garnish with fresh mint and raspberry. ABV 37.5%'

Many of my friends will tell you that I'm a sucker for a gimmick, in this case it was a garnish. Raspberries are a firm favourite of fine and so I couldn't pass up the opportunity to try this subtle pink offering.

Faye opted for one of the flavoured varieties; 'Rhubarb Warner Edwards'.

'This gin is smooth and earthy with an exquisite fruity balance of sweet and sour. The rhubarb combines natural acidity with the fruity sweetness to create a real palate cleanser that's very quaffable. The rhubarb used in this gin was originally grown in Queen Victoria's garden. Garnish with lemon. ABV 44%.'

The rhubarb was more of a subtle after taste but it really was a delightful change from your usual gin and tonic. 

After a quick pit stop for some food, we had a little nosey at some of the gin bottles and gifts available to purchase. I had to showcase some incredible self control not to walk away with the lot, especially considered you could order at the festival and have your goodies sent to your door ...

Time for drink number 2. Ever the fruit and garnish lover I decided to punt for a bit of apple with my gin; 'Hunters'.

'Hunters Gin is a wonderful premium gin developed in Cheshire. It's made in traditional copper pot and rectifying stills (some of which are more than a century old!) a London Dry Gin, with heaps of citrus aroma and taste. Hunters is a 300 year old recipe given a contemporary twist with the introduction of Cheshire apple peel in the botanicals. Garnish with apple juice and a slice of apple. ABV 43.3%'

Toddling back to the flavoured gin section, Faye was taken in by one of the featured choices; 'Ginfused strawberry & mint'.

'*An exclusive to Gin Festival* A quality London gin infused with mint and strawberries. Also tastes amazing with fizz! Garnish with fresh mint. ABV 30%'

After enjoying some live singing featuring tunes from the 40s, it was unfortunately time to call it a day. A wise move considering it was barely 4pm and we had made our way through many varying gin samples along side our fish bowl measure G & Ts.

The delights didn't stop there. 

Dinner time.

Not quite on par with my previous nights creation, but tasty nonetheless. Instead, I opted for one of my new simple cocktails of choice, Spiceberry.

Jägermeister Spice topped with Prosecco, garnished with blackberries, strawberries and mint (or it would have been if ASDA hadn't sold out).

Again, aiming to make the most of our home based city break, we put on our glad rags and headed off into the centre. I had recently purchased my absolute dream shoes and I couldn't wait to slip them on and show them a good time!

The fruity creations in question. Sophia Webster, Jessica Watermelon pumps

First on the agenda was a trip my cocktail bar of choice, The Alchemist. I think it's already pretty obvious that I frequent this bar on perhaps more occasions than I should, but this point was cemented when one of my favourite bar tenders commented 'I've not seen you for a while, I started to worry. Where've you've been!?' Yes. I'm there too much. Perhaps celebrating my return, I was treated to a classic cocktail, the Martinez. A cocktail that packs a punch, it is a mix of gin (of course), sweet vermouth, maraschino liqueur and Angostura bitters. I couldn't say no after it was stated 'and I'll make it better than probably anybody else here.' Challenge accepted. 

I liked it. Thumbs up Elliot!

If you've never been to the alchemist, I suggest you take a wonder over if you are ever in Leeds (there are also 2 in Manchester and 1 in London). Situated on the 2nd floor of the trinity shopping centre, it has a gorgeous balcony overlooking the city, perfect for this time of year. Even in the colder months, there are heaters and some unbelievably snug fur blankets to snuggle up in to keep away the chilly air. 

Of course a balcony selfie was called for.

Following on from the cocktails, we took a wonder down Call Lane. A firm favourite with the locals, call lane has a wide mix of small bars, perfect if you want to settle in for the long haul or decide to bar hop from one to the next. 

Always on hand to cater to my odd requests, Bar Fibre were more than happy to supply me with my late night mix of choice, Patron XO with milk.
Yes you read that right! Coffee tequila topped up with milk and plenty of ice. The first time I ordered this, the bartender slid it over stating 'and here's you're bed time drink'. I have to say, served warm it could be quite the nightcap!

When it was finally time to call it a night, myself and Faye somehow reverted to our 10 year old selves. Cosying up on the sofa with pizza, popcorn, chocolate and sweets, we popped on the Disney classic 'Aladdin' and sang away to our hearts content. If you happened to be in the room below us ... I hope you enjoyed our rendition of  'A Whole New World', if not then I can only apologise. Late night karaoke just seemed like a good idea.

And so our long awaited weekend came to an end. The Gin festival certainly lived up to expectations and I'd love to hop along next year. 

If you want to see when and where the next festival is happening, you can find more information here.

Have any of you been to the gin festival or something similar? What were your thoughts?



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