At last, summer has shown us her pretty face. Some of us are lucky enough to be languishing by the beach, pool, stream or away from our usual mad-paced lives.
It's time to relax and let go after a hectic Christmas while still enjoying thirst-quenching drinks and fresh, revitalising food.
I love pairing summer drinks with food. The go-to pairing is usually wine - but when it's hot and slightly tropical, cocktails and long cool drinks and spirits are on the table.
Gin has become such a cult in the past ten years, and there are tons of unfamiliar and interesting examples of the spirit to blend in a long glass with your favourite tonic or garnish.
Often characterised by the flavour of juniper berries, gin makers produce gin by infusing a neutral spirit with botanical ingredients during the distillation process. For liquor to be classified as gin it must contain no less than 40 percent alcohol by volume (ABV).
"Ginstronomy' is a thing. Foodies are exploring the various complexities that lurk around in all our artisan examples of this spirit, as well as the myriad of different styles of gin available and putting them face-to-face with dishes that can keep guests entertained and satisfied.
One of the obvious pairings with a traditional gin and tonic, is smoked salmon. Add some lemon juice or lime to marry to the citrus or herbs you are using to garnish. Smoked salmon blinis, sushi, crepes filled with cream cheese and smoked salmon, or a smoked salmon roulade with roquet, lettuce are pure magic together.
Afternoon tea, or a high tea on a hot day, definitely calls for a cocktail or long cool drink. Cucumber sandwiches with avocado and lime will fit the bill.
Apparently lobster and lobster tails are going to be slightly cheaper this season, and to make a great lobster roll, you don't need a lot of the meat. Blend with Japanese mayonnaise and a touch of wasabi and fill a soft roll with some coriander and butter lettuce. A great big mouthfeel of flavours with a gin and tonic that has a good juniper base flavour with a touch of the oriental in it.
If you are lucky enough to be close to a good fish and chip shop then try your sundowners with battered fish and good quality thick chips. Gin is able to withstand garlic, so choose a tartare or aioli with a liberal splash of garlic.
Goats cheese or a smoky cheese will balance well with a fruity, citrus-based gin or try a goats cheese tart, asparagus or artichokes as part of an antipasto platter.
Which brings me to tapas - in its true Spanish form. Smoked meats, chorizo, olives and a crusty bread will round off the day perfectly with a gin highball. Choose a tonic with some aromatics to it and a dryer one than usual. Throw in some spicy guacamole and you have the perfect end to a summer's day.
Some traditional gins will have layers of fennel and liquorice behind the juniper aromatics. This makes for a great drink to enjoy with steamed mussels in their natural state with just a dash of Tabasco.
If you favour a floral style of gin, or those that have a pink tinge to them, then try them with a medley of berries or strawberry shortcake with cream.