Coffee has never really had an effect on me, in that near cliche way of leaving the drinker wide eyed and wired. I can quite easily drink a ‘cup of Joe’ last thing at night, and know that I’ll still be able to sleep like a baby (i.e. wake up screaming and wet the bed three times).
But as the saying goes, play with fire and eventually you’ll get burned… or in this case coffee (though the sentiment still stands true!).
My wife-to-be and I were sat in a cliff top restaurant in Lanzarote in the summer of 2008, admiring the breathtaking views and a fabulous meal. As the waiter presented the dessert menu, and asked for our fancy, my eyes lit up on seeing one of my favourite sweet treats listed; Tiramisu. There’s something about the mix of mascarpone, coffee soaked sponge and liqueur that really floats my boat, and I’ll often struggle to look past it once spotted.
Without needing time for consultation, I immediately placed my order, additionally requesting for it to be accompanied by a double espresso to finish the meal off in style.
A look of bewildered concern suddenly replaced the waiters previously ‘happy go lucky’ demeanour, with his facial expression doing little to mask his feelings of worry. Well, it was that or he had gas…
He politely informed me that the Tiramisu was ‘homemade’ using A LOT of strong local coffee, and that a side dish of espresso may not be my wisest choice if I was planning to sleep that night. I now faced a dilemma; graciously accept the advise of the well meaning waiter, or save face in front of my girlfriend by sticking to my guns. A tricky situation, I’m sure you can appreciate.
What did I do, you ask? Well, I won’t bore you with the details. But suffice to say that my eyelids did not meet that evening, as I sat working my way through a paperback collection of Jeremy Clarkson books and rueing my decision to throw caution to the wind. When morning finally came around, I not only possessed some new and controversial points of view, but I also swore to never again douse myself in so much caffeine when planning to head up the ‘wooden hill to Bed-fordshire’…
But then again, that Tiramisu was bloody delicious!
The reason for my little foray back down ‘Memory Lane’ and clock hand defying insomnia you may ponder? Well, a recent ‘hot’ delivery to my doorstep had arrived from an old friend, promising to deliver a strong caffeine hit but without the sleepless nights! I was about to get to know the latest addition to the Sipsmith family; Sipspresso Coffee Gin. Best stick the kettle on…
Sipspresso Gin; Let’s make a Pact
Sipspresso Coffee Gin is the third expression of the Sipsmith limited-edition ‘Sipping Series’, a series of limited edition gins originating from the teams experimental gin membership, the ‘Sipping Society’.
Previous releases have seen the fruition of the ‘Lemon Drizzle’ and ‘Chocolate Orange’ gins, both of which proved so popular that they ended up becoming part of the core range! Perhaps most intriguing of all, was the launch of the Chilli & Lime Gin, which I had the great pleasure of reviewing in ‘the year that was’ 2020.
You can find my full review of the Sipsmith Chilli & Lime Gin here:
For the Sipspresso Coffee Gin, Sipsmith have teamed up with the bean roasting legends at Pact Coffee, to create what they describe as being “the perfect blend of the finest Brazilian and Rwandan coffee beans, distilled alongside cinnamon and fresh vanilla for a true, full-bodied flavour”.
In sticking to their core principle of using only the finest botanicals, Pact were selected as the perfect partner for the project not only for their expertise in their field (or plantation!), but also “their ethos to bring amazing coffee to the UK, while making life better at source for coffee farmers”.
It’s a noble endeavour, where sustainability is given a priority seat at both ends of the table.
Indeed, to Sipsmith’s credit, the pioneering packaging in which the gin is beautifully presented has been created using a dynamic combination of chemistry and smithery, taking disposable paper coffee cups that would have ended up in landfill and breathing new life in to them.
A very clever move, turning one persons rubbish in to another’s treasure.
And speaking of beautiful presentation, the iconic Sipsmith bottle remains timelessly in tact, glistening in all of its elegantly embossed glory.
Only this time, you’ll find the hallmark Cygnet is coated in golden caramels and a dusky latte colour scheme to reflect the caffeine inspired elixir inside.
Sipsmith Sipspresso Coffee Gin to taste
Distilled using the Sipsmith flagship gin base, and the Pact Coffee ‘Fruit & Nut espresso’ blend, cinnamon and fresh vanilla are incorporated to create a full bodied flavour profile. But would it deliver the caffeine kick I was hoping for? Or would this be a case of all dream, no steam? There was only one way to find out. It was time to wake up and smell the coffee…literally.
On the nose, I am immediately drawn to bitter cocoa nibs and indulgent dark chocolate, evoking images of snapping a square (or two) from a premium bar of rich chocolate. Earthy tones of black coffee weigh in to provide support – and whilst not amplified to the levels of sniffing freshly ground granules from a jar, it is definite and deliberate in its strength and depth. When combined with the hints of vanilla that occasionally expose themselves, thoughts turn to vibes of ultra cool coffee house lattes.
As the neat gin opens up in the glass, liquorice notes start to step forwards, alongside bolder suggestions of aniseed. The herbaceous and citrus character of the flagship gin take much more of a backseat here, save for a delicate nod towards coriander and orange zest somewhere amongst the mix.
To taste neat, and the spirit takes on a far bolder character and personality than I had anticipated. The flavour notes from the nosing are there and then some, elevated to a much grander scale. To my palate, the coffee actually overtakes the velvety smooth profile of the cocoa, brining with it complex aromatics that would bring a smile to even the hardiest of hipster bearded baristas!
The aniseed and vanilla is ratcheted up, imitating the flavour sensations of a chai latte, whilst at the same time I am reminded of drinking iced coffees on a summers day. Whilst I do manage to pick out hints of orange on the back of the tongue, it’s the chocolate and cassia dust sweetness across the tastebuds, followed by the delightful bitter and almost smoked finish to the gin that brings me the most satisfaction.
The gin is as full bodied and expertly balanced as promised, bringing intrigue and excitement, whilst remaining deliciously smooth on the mouthfeel. The warming spiced longevity of each sip is a fitting nod to the hot beverage from which it takes its inspiration.
Sipspresso Coffee Gin to serve; Can I have a name for your order please?
. 40ml Sipspresso Coffee Gin
. 25ml Pact Coffee Fruit & Nut Blend espresso
. 20ml Kahula (I used Copenhagen Distiller Mexican Coffee Liqueur)
. 10ml Sugar Syrup
How did I serve it? How do you think I bloody served it?! Sipsmith laid down their marker with the title of their latest expression, and it was almost inevitable that this gin would end up in an espresso (or Sipspresso) Martini.
I have to admit to approaching the serve with a certain amount of trepidation prior to sampling. I mean, amongst such bold bed partners, surely ‘a gin – is a gin – is a gin’ within this cocktail?! Can you really notice a difference?…
Yes. You can.
With the juniper, citrus and herbal backbone being reduced to more of a whisper, replaced by more luscious flavours of cocoa and coffee bean, the gin is made for this cocktail menu favourite.
Enjoyed with friends to kick start our evening, these party pieces are as impressive on the taste as they are on the eye.
Just don’t ask me to do the chocolate swan dusting. I’m rubbish at it!…
And if you’re tempted by some wider serves, why not checkout some further suggestions from Team Sipsmith;
I’m a big fan of a ‘Turbo G&T’ (classic gin & tonic, served with cold brew or coffee liqueur), so this gin is a natural contender to provide a coffee-forward twist to a classic cocktail.
50ml of Sipspresso Coffee Gin, alongside your favourite tonic water and an orange twist garnish and you’re away!
Coffee & Ginger Spritz
Described as a ‘match made in heaven’, here you’ll need 35ml of Sipspresso Coffee Gin, 25ml of cold brew or chilled espresso, topped up with Fever-Tree (other brands are available!) Ginger Ale. Whack in an orange twist garnish for the win…
You’ve heard of the Irish Coffee. Well here’s a serve that really tickles my fancy, particularly with the colder nights setting in.
Pour 150ml of hot black coffee in to your favourite mug (or fancy heatproof glass), add 50ml of Sipspresso Coffee Gin and 20ml sugar syrup. Combine by stirring, and finish by floating a thin layer of double cream on the top. Garnish with coffee beans, and await your cockles being thoroughly warmed!
Sipsmith Sipspresso Coffee Gin; Espress yourself…
I like to drink my coffee in the same way that I like to describe myself; white, weak, short, cold and a little bit bitter…
But that’s not really important right now.
What you have in the Sipspresso Coffee Gin is something quite special, and an expression to be savoured and truly enjoyed. Where other recent Sipsmith releases, including the Strawberry Smash Gin, have been more subtle and reserved in their deviations from the classic London Dry feel, this one packs a punch in the flavour department. And it’s very much to its credit, with this standing out as a unique entrance in to the London Dry market.
Note: you can check out my full review of the Sipsmith Strawberry Smash Gin here: https://theginshelf.uk/2021/04/09/sipsmith-strawberry-smash-gin/
But don’t get me wrong, this is still very much a gin and you’ll be left in no doubt of its grown up credentials. Designed to sit well across both the classics and cocktail menus alike, this could well be yet another example of an experiment that makes its way in to the core lineup before long.
In a season where Pumpkin Spiced Latte’s will soon become the order of choice, you can make mine a Sipsmith. And no…I don’t need room for milk.
Huge thanks to the legends at Sipsmith for my complementary bottle of their Sipspresso Coffee Gin & bag of Pact Coffee ‘Fruit & Nut Espresso Blend’ (which is also absolutely delicious!).
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