This weekend is the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and what better way to celebrate than by drinking something quintessentially British?
I have seen dozens of Jubilee-themed drinks promoted in supermarkets and newspapers, all of which have been packaged in Union flag designs in order to lure in the punters. I’ve even seen my fair share of foreign drink being recommended as Jubilee tipples (Pommery Champagne comes to mind) despite there being more than enough British alternatives.
Since this weekend is all about celebrating what it means to be British and become as patriotic as possible, all of my recommendations here are as UK-centric (except for one minor exception) as I could muster given the importance of the occasion.
It used to be that if we wanted some fizz we had to look to Champagne to satiate our desires. But not any more. English sparkling wine has suddenly become a force in the market, so there is almost no excuse for drinking Champagne this weekend unless every retailer in the country suddenly runs out.
Something to try:
Nyetimber Classic Cuvée 2004 (£24.99, Majestic)
This is the granddaddy of all English sparkling wines, having been one of the first to garner attention as a Champagne-beater. Citrus fruit, nutty aromas, brioche and all the flavours you expect in a traditional sparkling wine are here.
Ridgeview Cuvée Merret Bloomsbury 2009 (£17.34, Waitrose Wine Direct)
A cheaper, but still excellent, sparkling wine from another great producer, the Bloomsbury is a little lighter and less full-on than Nyetimber but it still has all the wonderful aromas and satisfaction you want from bubbly. If you want more options, consider Ridgeview’s Grosvenor at around £24 a bottle or the South Ridge range of sparkling wines, which are made by Ridgeview, sold online and in store at Laithwaites.
2. White or rosé wine
In addition to all the great sparkling wines England produces, there are also a few refreshing whites and rosés worth trying. Estates like Chapel Down in Kent have a full range on offer that is sure to satisfy most tastes, while Denbies has won international awards for its efforts at making the pink stuff.
Something to try:
Denbies Chalk Ridge Rosé 2011 (£11.99, Denbies)
Light pink in colour and smelling of strawberries and pears, this is a classic rosé that is light in alcohol at just 10.5% but is refreshing and delivers a great deal of satisfaction.
Chapel Down Flint Dry 2011 (£7.49 btl/£89.88 case, Waitrose Wine Direct)
Made by one of England’s most famous wine producers, Flint Dry is a blend of the bacchus grape and several other varieties in a dry style. Said to be made in a style reminiscent of Chablis, it has crisp, clean fruit and a refreshing finish. If you fancy something with a bit more fruity, consider Chapel Down’s Bacchus instead, which is loaded with citrus and gooseberry flavours.
If this isn’t an alcohol that screams Britishness, I don’t know what is. Yes, Scotland has put the UK on the map for making the world’s greatest whisky, but if you think of something that screams Britishness like no other, it’s gin.
The notion of a gin and tonic was developed in India by the army of the British East India Company. In tropical countries the threat of malaria was always present and the treatment for the disease, quinine, had an unpleasant, bitter flavour. The solution? Add water, sugar, lime and gin to the quinine to turn it into a refreshing drink. Tonic water has changed a lot since then, being lower in quinine and higher in sugar, but the concept remains the same.
Another mixing option is a gin and Dubonnet. This is a favourite drink for the Queen, one she inherited from the late Queen Mother. It consists of about 30% gin and 70% Dubonnet. The market for this aperitif, made from red wines sourced in the South of France, has all but dried up in the UK, but it is still available from some retailers. One such stockist is the Whisky Exchange.
4. British beer
A beer revolution has taken place that has transformed ale from something only your grandfather would drink into something complex and compelling enough to be swirled, sniffed and sipped just like wine.
Breweries producing their own take on ale have popped up all over the UK, some of them in major centres, some in distant small towns, some in small houses in Nottingham and some, believe it or not, at the top of remote hills in the Peak District.
You can fine a real ale in nearly any style to suit beer drinkers ranging from the unsure novice to the experienced connoisseur. If you want it smooth, opt for something malty; however, if you like your beer sharp and challenging, something with a lot of hops in it might be your best bet.
I could rattle off more great beers here than would be necessary, so instead I suggest readers visit a local pub or supermarket that has a decent real ale selection and experience. Suggested producers consist of Marston’s, Fuller’s, Meantime, Wye Valley Brewery, Thornbridge Brewery, Young’s.
And if Chapel Down weren’t ubiquitous enough in the drinks market, they have also launched their own range of beers, consisting of a lager, an India pale ale and a porter.
There are many more worth listing, and I know many on this list are larger, commercial outfits (or even small, local outfits difficult to find nationwide), but it is impossible to please everyone all the time.
What is a bank holiday weekend, particularly one where we celebrate the Queen’s 60 years on the throne, without that most classic of British drinks – Pimm’s?
This is the moment when I confess I’ve only knowingly drunk Pimm’s on one occasion in my life, just a couple months ago. But my excuse is we don’t have this drink in Canada – that I know of – so it is somewhat alien to me.
Classi Pimm’s consists of one part Pimm’s and three parts lemonade mixed with mint, cucumber, orange and strawberry. But don’t let that stop you from branching out. There are also recipes making use of pomegranate juice, ginger ale and, for winos like me, sparkling wine.
Knowing as many people as I do who drink cider, this one cannot be left off the list. Just like beer, there are far too many great ciders to list here so I will choose only a small selection.
Dunkerton’s Organic Black Fox Cider (£2.25, Waitrose)
Made the old fashioned way using a press, this company has been around for more than 30 years now and makes a range of ciders and perrys. This particular cider is medium-dry, meaning it has a sweet edge to it, with a good burst of fruit on the palate.
Aspall’s isn’t from a classic cider region, being based in Suffolk, but few can resist drinking this one over ice. Light and refreshing, this is a nice accompaniment to a hot summer day.
7. A non-alcoholic option
I have to confess I was nearly stumped on this one. What is a distinctly British drink to have during the Jubilee that doesn’t contain alcohol? Well apart from tea, which is likely a given for most people anyway, why not something made from elderflower cordial?
Something to try:
Apple and elderflower cordial mojito is made very much like any one containing alcohol, just with a different range of ingredients. You’ll need apple juice, elderflower cordial, sugar or syrup, lime juice, mint leaves, soda water and ice.
You can make this from fresh limes and sugar, but to make something more consistent it is best to use lime juice and a sugar syrup to make sure the flavours mix properly.
- 35ml apple juice
- 25ml elderflower cordial
- 2 brown sugar lumps
- ½ lime juice
- 12 mint leaves
- Crushed ice
- Soda water, mint sprigs and sliced apple, to serve
Mix the juice, cordial, sugar, lime juice, mint leaves and ice together vigorously to make sure the mint flavours are spread throughout.Top up with soda water and ice.
(Pic courtesy of Gene Hunt via Flickr)