Many of you will drink a spirit with a mixer. A Gin & Tonic, Vodka & Lemonade or a Whisky & Coke would not be frowned upon if ordered at a bar, pub or restaurant. But do you ever take notice of what that mixer is? You are more than likely going to ask for your preferred brand of gin in your gin and tonic than wonder what mixer will be added. But what if I tell you that from a bartenders point-of-view, or indeed anyone who has ever tried anything other than Schweppes or Britvic, that your choice of brand for a mixer too can change not only the drink you have ordered, but possibly even made it better than you thought? Surely if you order a drink, you would expect said drink to be of the highest quality? Even if it is something as simple as a vodka and coke?
I would like to offer a challenge to anyone who reads this. The next time you order a spirit with a mixer, ask the bartender what mixers they have. If they offer you Britvic or Schweppes don’t panic, it’s not the end of the world and there’s certainly nothing wrong with them. Just politely mention that you would like to try something named Fentimans. Fentimans are an English brand with over 100 years of history steeped into each of their portfolio offerings, and one of them is a tonic water. If you enter one bar and order a gin and tonic and receive a gin mixed with Schweppes, then in your next bar order the same gin but instead mixed with Fentimans Tonic, i would like you to tell me the difference (and there will be one), and post your thoughts below / tweet your comments.
I set this challenge for one reason and one reason only. It’s only recent that I started to come accustomed to drinking a gin and tonic. Before that I thought tonic water was too dry, lacking flavour and overall rather pointless to ruining a good gin – until I tried Fentimans. As a man who will give all brands a go, hand on heart Fentimans gave me a so-called new lease of life to my gin and tonic fear. As you can see from my tasting notes below, I was genuinely surprised at how light it was on both the nose and palate. There was to be no hint of dryness at all. No wincing like you’ve sucked a lemon and no search for water to help the tonic slip down the throat. Fentimans offered something fresh – and also offered alternatives when was the last time you could say that to Britvic?
So a little history on Fentimans –
Back in 1905, an iron puddler named Thomas Fentiman, hailed from Cleckheaton, England and was to be approached by a fellow tradesman for a loan. A deal was struck and a recipe for botanically brewed ginger beer was provided as security. The loan however was never repaid so Thomas became the sole owner of the unique recipe. Thomas began using the recipe and produced botanically brewed ginger beer which he then delivered door-to-door using a horse and cart for transport. His ginger beer was stored in hand-made stone jars known as ‘grey hens’ which were stamped with an image of Thomas’ pet dog ‘Fearless’, itself an award-winning dog triumphing in the obedience category at the famous ‘Crufts’ dog competition. Fentiman’s ginger beer quickly became very popular and the family business grew, with several production factories being opened in the North East of England. The business is still in the Fentimans family to this day and is owned by the Great Grandson of Thomas Fentiman. The recipes haven’t changed either and still go by the time-honoured method of botanically brewing the finest natural ingredients. Their production processes have also been updated through the addition of mild carbonation to replace the carbon dioxide lost in during pasteurisation, which gives the product a longer life.
As mentioned, Fentimans prides itself on its method of botanical brewing. But what exactly is it?
Well its a simple process that involves herbs and plant roots. Thomas Fentiman’s original recipe involved milling ginger roots before tumbling them into copper steam jacketed pans and leaving them to bubble and simmer which would release all their flavour. The finest herbs, natural flavourings, sugar, brewer’s yeast and fresh spring water were then added to the liquid which was transferred into wooden vats where it would be left to ferment. Initially the liquid went on fermenting after it was bottled and corked in the old stone jars where it would fully mature and be ready to drink by the end of the week. However modern techniques of adding mild carbonation helps give the product a longer life.
So a rather simple brewing process that is steeped in traditionalism and can offer so many possibilities too. Take a look below at the Fentimans range, both soft drinks and mixers, as well as my tasting notes on each –
Fentimans Tonic Water
Very fresh on the nose with subtle herbal aromas. Incredibly light on the palate with no hint of dryness but rather a mouth-watering effect. A long offering.
Fentimans 19:05 Herbal Tonic Water
Bold, fresh notes of juniper and orange blossom on the nose, with a soft flavour of lime and lemongrass upon the palate. Slight dry spice with a long finish.
Fentimans Rose Lemonade
A blend of lemons and pure Rose Otto oil from the Rose Valley in Kazanlak, Bulgaria.
Delicate rose on the nose, with lots of floral citrus aromas following behind. Light, with a dry rose texture that also offers some ginger flavours slicing through. Long and refreshing.
Soft Drinks –
Fentimans Wild English Elderflower
Sweet elderflower aromas on the nose that become delicate and bold. Clean, light with subtle pear and elderflower flavours blending nicely on the palate. Short and crisp on the finish
Fentimans Rose Lemonade
Very light on the nose with a small hint of rose compared to a good dose of fresh lemon. Rather sharp on the palate but mellows quickly with a balance of rose and lemon more obvious. A long offering.
Fentimans Cherry Tree Cola
Fresh and lively on the nose with lots of cherry and a dry herb aroma. Soft herbal flavours on the palate balance well with the cherry, with a refreshingly subtle sweetness.
Fentimans Brewed Shandy
Instant dark, bold hit of malt on the nose followed by a lively attack on the palate. Very dark and very sweet but is smooth and with a long after-taste. Not as fizzy as you would expect.
Fentimans Cool Ginger Beer
Strong on the nose, although rather fresh and ripe that mellows slowly. Fresh ginger flavours on the palate that are incredibly soft and smooth, albeit a little dry near the end.
Fentimans Dandelion and Burdock
A strong, rustic aroma that mellows quickly on the nose, however the palate enjoys a very soft offering with small hints of flavour that doesn’t overpower the senses.
Fentimans Curiosity Cola
Soft and light on the nose with a slight sweet aroma. Refreshing burst on the palate that instantly mouth-waters, with a slight tangy ending with a dose of malt.
Fentimans Victorian Lemonade
Lots of citrus flavours on the nose that are both light and fresh. A good hit of lemon is present on the palate too, but softens out over a lengthy period. A little dry at the end.
Fentimans Traditional Ginger Beer
Slight musty aroma lingers around a strong dry ginger offering on the nose. A soft entry on the palate though with a slight kick near the end of spice which creates a mouth-watering feel.
Fentimans Mandarin and Seville Orange Jigger
Fresh with a slight sharpness on the nose with lots of rich orange aromas. Very smooth on the palate that’s soft with a slight ginger flavour creeping in.
Hollows and Fentimans Ginger Beer – 4%
Lively and fresh on the nose with lots of ginger aromas. An instant ginger flavour hits the palate with a smooth, soft feeling. Slight dryness near the end.
A traditional aroma of lemons creates a dry nose, and become slightly bitter on the palate. Although it mellows rather quickly and burst a little with a freshness of a honey flavour that sticks around with the dry texture. Short however.
Personal recommendations? Hendrick’s and Rose Lemonade is a quirky alternative to a normal gin and tonic, whilst the Cool Ginger Beer would be an excellent addition to rum and ginger beer, with the use of Havana 7yr or possibly Bacardi 8yr.
Fentimans is widely available and can be found in most places, just make sure you ask for a certain brand next time – you will not be disappointed.
© David Marsland and Drinks Enthusiast 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog/sites author and owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to David Marsland and Drinks Enthusiast with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.