I moved towards the bar with all the best intentions of ordering a mineral water.
But, inevitably, I was sorely tempted as I looked through the drinks menu, and when I was told that my meeting with the hotel director at The Pig on the Beach was slightly delayed, and she was asking if I wanted a cocktail on the house while I waited, all my good resolutions evaporated. It seemed a shame not to accept.
My eye was immediately caught by the concept of the Candy Pig. It was made from lemon and basil-infused Chase gin, strawberry juice, and gastric cider garnished with cornflowers and marigold petals. What was gastric cider? I wasn’t sure it sounded all that good… Jack, the very gallic barman, helped me out. “Eet eez cider zat ‘as been reduced to a syrup”. Unconvinced, I nevertheless liked the sound of the infused gin so I forged on with the order.
A few minutes later Lora Strizic arrived in a flurry of tan (she’s just back from holiday) and a mass of tight curly blond hair.
“What did you choose?” she asks, looking dubiously between me and the glass. She rightly assesses that I found the strawberry juice a bit sweet, but agrees the infused gin is excellent. “A lot of the produce of the kitchen garden is used for infusing gin” she tells me. Having had a look at the garden that sounded good to me.
“Have a different cocktail” she invites “I know what I think you’ll like”.
Well, she’s either a gifted clairvoyant, or she’s taking a massive punt. The drink that arrives is powerful – not just in terms of the strength of the gin, but in terms of the taste. I love smoke (something to do with my father and his rum-soaked pipe tobacco) so if you’re not keen on a smoky depth to your food or drink move to the next post NOW.
If you are, however, read this description of the Pig’s fabulous Smoky, Dirty Martini and vicariously savour this new king of cocktails.
Jack sets the drink down carefully in front of me and warns me not to eat the crispy fish skin…. it’s just for decoration he explains. I don’t normally approve of non-edible fancy decorations but the mottled skin mocks the blotty-dotty surface of the oily cocktail and I can’t help but smile.
Between sips of admiring appreciation I ask Strizic how they got the smoke into the gin. “It wasn’t easy” she recalls ruefully, “We did all the development and experimentation a year before we moved in and opened the hotel. We tried everything, attempting to collect the smoke over the barbeque for example and then puffing it through gin, and it was all hopeless. Of course we smoke our own salmon here, and in the end we tried hanging a bit of muslin in the smoke house and then infusing the gin with that. You don’t want to leave it in the spirit longer than an hour or it becomes overpowering. You could try doing the same thing using the cylinder lid of the barbeque and saturating your material with the smoke captured inside” she adds helpfully.
Personally, I don’t think so – this drink is hovering precariously between perfection and disaster and success requires a practiced hand; much as I’d enjoy time spent honing my skill I still have a day job.
“It’s not just the smoke” I persist “there’s something else which is making this so different…” I sniff investigatively. Strizic arches an eyebrow. “You’re right” she confirms with a throaty chuckle, and then reveals the trump ingredient, “it’s lobster oil!”
Regretfully I refuse an offered second helping saying I feel I must err on the side of caution. Two cocktails, a la Wheatabix, is quite enough for me. “Yeeess, zat one eezz dangerous” drawls Jack approvingly. But very kindly he writes out the recipe for me. For when I retire.
And here it is for you:
Recipe for The Pig’s knock-out, dirty martini
• 50 ml beechwood home smoked gin
• 15 ml antica formula
• 3 dashes of lobster oil
Shake the first two ingredients together and drop on the lobster oil for this gin martini.
For the interview with Lora Strizic, Director of The Pig on the Beach, follow this link.
Hot on smoke? You may also enjoy the following posts:
Want to know how to make the perfect dry martini? Follow this link.