Sipsmith, London’s first new gin distillers to open for 200 years, was started by old friends Sam and Fairfax. A fair few years ago they were both out working in the US, here they were witnessing the burgeoning craft beer scene emerge and an idea came to them, why couldn’t they do this back in the UK and with that most British of spirits.
Taking the idea of craft small batch production and creating a micro-distillery initially hit a rather large brick wall in the law. After waiting for six months for a distillers license they were eventually informed that their business was too small and would be classed as a moonshine operation. Prudence, their glorious copper still was only 300 litres in capacity, the law at the time had a minimum of 1000, and Beefeater’s smallest still was 3000 litres. Eventually the law changed and the distillers license arrived and they were good to go. So they and drinks historian Jared Brown started making their London Dry Gin, with a recipe dug out from London’s Gin making history, along with their barley vodka.
There is a lot in the Sipsmith story that inspires confidence in their products and faith in the future of the company. From the commitment to staying small and craft, the patience to wait those two years, the simpleness of their HQ even. Though one thing that really got me was upon visiting was the detail, passion and in a way the geekiness behind the team. They walked me through the whole distillation process explaining at every juncture why Sipsmith did it this way or that way and why that made it a better spirit. From the ingredients to using the high wastage method of one-shot distillation, a method which involves distilling the botanicals with the spirit rather than making a concentrate which is blended with the neutral spirit.
We spoke to Head Distiller Oliver Kitson about Sipmith’s Fruit Cup – the Summer Cup. Most of you will have experienced a refreshing Cup in the form of the all consuming market leader Pimms. A brand that has become as associated with what it makes as Hoover did with vacuum cleaners.
Oliver tells me that once upon a time every pub would have had their own version of Fruit Cup sat behind the bar. The Victorian founder of Pimms was the first to bottle his recipe and take it to market – since then it has become ubiquitious. This didn’t stop perenial convention breakers Sipsmith from making their own artisanal version. The lemon verbena used is foraged from distiller Jared Brown’s garden. Other ingredients include Earl Grey and Angostura bitters – leading to a more bitter taste than seasoned Pimms drinker would be used to.
Slowly Sipsmith are spreading the word about their perfect summer drink- it is currently flying off the shelves as the drink of choice at the Royal Academy’s Summer Exhibition.
Simple Summer Cup Recipe
Fill a wine glass with ice
Add 35ml Summer Cup
Top with a good quality clear lemonade
Garnish simply with a slice of lemon to lift all the citrus notes of the gin