Britain has become a nation of liqueur makers
Last year, the UK consumed 51 million bottles of gin. It spent £461million, with an average consumption of 0.55 litres per person.
The British gin boom spawned “hand-crafted” artisanal gins made not only from junipers but nettles, saffron ,watercress, sea lettuce, truffle and an assortment of other weird and wonderful ingredients.
Including now “Stag’s Breath”, jammy dodger, bacon, candyfloss and bubble gum.
And the tears of humanely raised unicorns.
British liqueurs however are the new gin. Last year, The UK bought 4million, non-creamy liqueurs. The market is now reportedly worth £1.2billion.
Pimm’s is considered a liqueur. Invented in 1823 by James Pimm, a farmer’s son who ran an oyster bar in London near the Bank of England. His gin-based concoction was originally sold as an aid for digestion and served in a“No 1 Small Cup.” 2019 is the 160th anniversary of Pimm’s No 1. being sold commercially.
In 1903, Berry Bros & Rudd of London ( est.1698) created their “King’s Ginger” for King Edward V11. But probably the oldest British liqueur is Drambuie (from the Gaelic ‘An dram Buideach’ which means “the drink that satisfies”. It was meant to have been offered to him on Skye where he fled after the Battle of Culloden in 1745.
“Bailey’s Irish Cream” was only launched in 1974. Every year, 8000 dairy cows produce 220m litres of cream specifically for the drink. “Gravity Drinks”, Shoreditch, London produces Café Marula liqueur. Every bottle provides a donation to the “Elephant Whispers” conservation campaign. Marula is the elephant tree.
The orange-flavoured “Grand Marnier”, named after its inventor and co-investor by the hotel owner Cesar Ritz, first became available in 1827. “Triple Sec” dates to 1834, its birthplace being Saumur in the Loire.
“St Germain” was the first elderflower liqueur. Italy’s almond “Amaretto”, first made in Saronno, was reportedly given to one of Leonardo Da Vinci’s pupils by a model.
The success of British small-batch gin has given birth to a new generation of boutique liqueurists. Hobbies have now become successful businesses.
Words by Kevin Pilley