Gin Done Wright

Foraging expert and River Cottage regular John Wright treats us to a fabulous cocktail creation sure to astound and impress even the most discerning of drinkers. He originally put this to us as a festive show-stopper, but we think it’s a winning concoction year-round, and particularly when it’s this chilly.

Smoked drinks take a bit of preparation and some homemade kit, but it’s well worth the effort for the spectacle alone. It’s also a sure-fire way to guarantee you bragging rights for being an awesome host. Some love the flavour of smoked drinks, some are not so keen, but it’s still a fun thing to do at a party.

What you’ll need (prepare yourself – it’s mad):

  • Camping kettle
  • Demi-john cork
  • Short length of plastic/ metal tube
  • Metre-length of flexible plastic tubing
  • Gas stove (camping or kitchen)
  • Puffer-bulb (used for cleaning computer keyboards)
  • Handful of oak/ applewood chips
  • Sheet of card or paper
  • Lovely spices like juniper, clove, mace, cinnamon and star anise
  • Sloe gin (your own if possible)

What to do:

Punch a small (2.5mm) hole in the side near the top of a camping kettle. If it has a whistle/ lid, break it off ruthlessly. Take a demijohn cork (which will have a hole in it) and insert a short length of plastic or metal tube. Attach a metre length of flexible plastic tubing. Insert the cork into the spout of the kettle. It should fit, but you can pack it with paper if not.

Slide a handful of oak or applewood chips into the kettle using a folded sheet of thin card or paper. Add some spices such as juniper, clove, mace, cinnamon and star anise. If you’re a forager, I highly recommend including the lichen known as oak moss (evernia prunastri). Shake the contents to mix them. Pour two shots of sloe gin into tall wine glasses. Gently heat the kettle full of woodchips and spices over your gas stove. When things start looking a little dangerous, insert the nozzle of the puffer into the hole in the side of the kettle and puff furiously. When smoke starts to appear from the end of the plastic tube, bubble it through the sloe gin for a few seconds, then fill the airspace above the drink with smoke for dramatic effect.

John Wright is our go-to foraging expert for a reason – he’s mad about everything wild and has heaps of top tips for livening up the dinner table. His latest book, Booze – River Cottage Handbook, is jam-packed with exquisite libations.


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