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The Ten Commandments of Gin

It is World Gin Day, tiny darlings. Everybody get naked!

We shouldn’t need to be reminded of gin’s loveliness, of why our beloved spirit is a holy elixir of truth and beauty, but who am I to shun an entire day of gin talk/drinking/bathing?

This weekend, I shall be reviewing new gins at the sensationally sexy Junipalooza (read my write of last year’s extravaganza here, here click here now) and bringing you other gin-based banter via the blog and Twitter.

In the meantime, it is only right that we should all start World Gin Day with the sacred and ancient Ten Commandments of Gin that I just made up.

  1. Thy Lord is thy gin, thou shalt have no others but it.
  2. Remember thy garnishes, to keep them citric.
  3. Thou shalt not make unto thee any homemade gin. In a bucket, using dried juniper berries, an entire pepper grinder, spring water, magic fairy dust, and a piece of a burger. At 3am. Because this is why he left you.
  4. Thou shalt not take thy gin’s name in vain, not in anger, sadness or the height of passion.
  5. Thou shall not buy cheap tonic, thinking ‘ah it’ll be fine’. It’s like smearing fillet steak with mud.
  6. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s gin. Unless it’s Sipsmiths. If it is, steal it and then burn their house down to cover the evidence. (Don’t to that. But do)
  7. Thou shall sit on the stairs for no more than 5 minutes, and cry only about beautiful things.
  8. Honour thy favourite distiller, and send them biscuits.
  9. Thou shalt not bear false witness against the gin. It is never the gin’s fault.
  10. Thou is a funny word, why don’t we say it any more? I’m going to ask the gin.
  11. The thing about Christopher Lee was that he had CLASS. Layers, man, his characters had layers and OOO remember the first time you saw the end of The Wicker Man. I was all like ‘whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat?’. Seriously, I threw a cat at the screen.
  12. Oh my god, this song is all about ME.
  13. What? What? Oh shit, I’m still typing.

Happy birthday to the blog, everyone look at me

(The world scampers to The DG’s office door, and raps upon it excitedly)

World: Come out! Come out! You must come out, it’s your birthday!
(Sound of empty bottles clattering to the floor)
Me: Hmm, what what? I’m awake, I’m awake, I was writing, I swear to God I was writing! (Sound of the Invictus advert playing on loop) Oh Christ, close down, close down! Where the hell is the mouse?!
World: But Demon Gin, you must come out, you’re one year old and there is fun to be had!
Me: (Rubbing bridge of nose) Ok could everyone just SHHHHHHH for FIVE seconds?! Okay…..okay…okay…(sound of bottle being opened)….okay, what’s going on?

World: It’s your birthday! Open the door!

Me: It isn’t my birthday.
World: It is!
Me: It ISN’T.
World: But it IS!
Me: My birthday is in August!!! Unless….how long have I been in here?
World: No, you silly goose! It’s your otherbirthday!  Your blog’s birthday!
Me………OHHHHHHH! Yes, yes, it is! WellactuallyitwastechnicallymidDecember, but okay, let’s go with this.
World: Yes! And it’s also a brand new year, and we want to know your thoughts on the past 12months for some reason! Could you let us in? It’s quite difficult to keep this excited at a closed door.

Me: Fine, come in.
World: Thanks. So we want to know what you’ve learned in your wow there are a lot of empty bottles in here.
Me: I’ve been testing some new beers for a blog post.

World: And the pile of porn under the desk?
Me: …Blogging is a lonely business.
World: SO! Why don’t you run through your highlights from the past year? Tell us everything!
Me: Uhh…couldn’t you just read the blog?
World: Apparently not. You see, all bloggers are obliged to write a new year’s post summarizing all that they have experienced and accomplished in the previous 12months because writing about it every week/month was clearly not attention seek-y enough.

Me: (ponders) That is GENIUS

World:  We know! And if you could throw in a line or two about what you’ve learned and how you feel you’ve grown as a person, it’ll really give it some balls.

Me: Oh very well. First of all, here are my 2014 highlights.

In 2014, I…

    Directed my first play

    Went to the Edinburgh Festival and Las Vegas

    Redesigned the blog 

    Discovered more gin. Such lovely gins…

    Finally watched Silver Linings Playbook and 500 Days of Summer, and was sick in my mouth several times 

    Put many bars & restaurants to the test 

    Put beautiful (and some worrying) things on my face

    Ate a lot of salmon pate 

    Acted in plays. PLAYS

    Hung out with some cool cats

    Heard Wise Words and new Sounds

    And I think I lost this hat


    But I mainly had lots of fun with some pleasant people

    After one year of scribbling, I am still delighted to have this blog to my name. Seeing people like and comment on my posts has been an bigger buzz than I imagined, and it keeps me typing in my darkest moments. And without The Demon Gin, I would not have had the opportunity to visit Junipalooza or cover the fantastic Wise Words and Sounds New Festivals. I also would not have motivated myself to visit London’s incredible cat café, go tequila tasting or had the nerve to tell you all about how to find love on Valentine’s Day because my way is the only way that will work.
    This year, I intend to take stock and stick to a regular schedule with a mix of reviews and rants, and  to explore more options for promoting the blog via social media. FYI bloggers – sharing posts on Google+ has made  huge difference to my hits, so do not ignore it as a channel. I do need to make better use of Instagram, though, as it is one channel I neglect.
    God only knows why you keep reading my blog, but I love you for it. 2015 is here, tiny darlings, so let me know what you want to see more or less from The Demon Gin.
    Thanks to all you wonderful people who have been reading this little blog, and who have supported me. Thanks to the many establishments & events I have visited whose organisers were kind enough to share and repost my reviews. Thanks to Emma (my designer), to Becky (my mentor), to Canterbury (my home), and to those who love me and who I love in return.         

    As a final treat, here are some of the weirdest Google searches that have led people to my site:

    • Is gin good for your penis? (Yes. Yes it is)
    • i think i couldn’t live without internet (neither could I)
    • demon.com shoes (I am thinking of branching out)
    • it’s not ___ cat (what?)  

    See you soon, tiny darlings…

      Festive Ham in Ginger Beer & Spiced Cider

      Making a ham are you? A nice festive ham? Got a bottle of cola and a bay leaf at the ready?

      Well stop that right now. It being the season of goodwill, I have arrived just in time to bring you a new way of preparing your festive gammon, for ‘tis sure to fill your guests with delight, and joy, and some cement.

      The Demon Gin, ham cooked in ginger beer, ham cooked in spiced cider, gammon recipe

      Nothing really says Christmas to me like a well spiced, roasted piece of a pig. Back when my parents were being much better at not being dead, mother used to roast up the biggest ham known to mankind on Christmas Eve, so we could devour it in sandwiches or with that traditional Irish dish, champ (mashed potato with scallions – it works).

      For a few years, I tried to replicate mum’s methods in my own home. She had a fairly simple process – boil the ham twice in water (throwing out the first lot of water to decrease the saltiness of said gammon), using bay leaves, peppercorns and onion in the stock, then roast it up with sugar pressed into the top layer of fat. Ma’s was cooked for a long time so that it was tender enough to pull apart but could still hold its shape when sandwich time came.
      Then came Nigella, and her famous method of cooking the meat in full fat coke before covering it in treacle and sugar. A fine method, and one now beloved by millions, but not one of my favourites. A little too sweet and sticky for my tastes. 
      But I’ve cranked it up a notch.
      I discovered this method by accident. I was making my Christmas Eve ham using up various liquids and flavourings left in the fridge, and threw in half a bottle of Old Jamaican Ginger Beer and the remains of a decent French cider. Never before had my ham tasted so good.

      Ginger beer adds another depth of flavour to the ham – a little bit sweet, but spiked with heat without being overpowered by the flavour of ginger root. Add in other spices, and you get a ham so fine that Santa himself will come to your house and try to put it in his massive sack.
      So here is my method for cooking up a great festive ham. As ever, these are guidelines only and do not take into account any allergies or food intolerances, so please cook this at your own risk.
      Also, I prefer smoked gammon and before I prepare the cooking liquor, I boil the joint in plain water and then discard the water to reduce the saltiness. Not essential, but probably wise. Leave the rind on when boiling it and for the love of GOD leave the meat tied up. I made the mistake of removing the string pre-boil once, and ended up with ham soup.
      Quantities will depending entirely on the size of your meat and how big your boiling pot is. I’ve overestimate quantities here so you have extra if needs be. If you run out of all the wet ingredients, just top up with water.
      You will need:

      • 1 litre of spiced cider – you can buy bottles of this everywhere, and I recommend Kent’s own Monk’s Delight. Anything spice, or marked as ‘mulled cider’, will be good. If you can’t find spiced cider, good quality medium cider will do.
      • 1 litre of good quality ginger beer – I swear by Old Jamaican Ginger Beer, but there are many varieties out there. Even the alcoholic ones wouldn’t go a miss. Stay away from the sugar free varieties, they have no place here, and we are not talking about ginger ale. Ginger beer only.
      • A large carton apple juice – to top up the liquor (nothing fancy required)
      • 1 star anise
      • 1 cinnamon stick
      • 2 clementines
      • 1 tsp All spice
      • A squeezy bottle of runny honey
      • Two handful of Demerara sugar
      • A lot of tin foil
      Place your gammon in as big a pot as you can find with the spices. Cover with equal measures of cider & ginger beet until it is 3/4 covered, then top up with apple juice (and water if needed). Squeeze in the juice the clementines, and throw the squeezed out fruit in too.

      The Demon Gin, ham cooked in ginger beer, ham cooked in spiced cider, gammon recipe

      The Demon Gin, ham cooked in ginger beer, ham cooked in spiced cider, gammon recipe

      My meat is never completely covered by the liquor – one end often bobs above the liquor line. In which case, I gently turn the meat over in the juice once while it’s cooking so all of it gets doused in the punchy flavours.

      Bring the meat to the boil, then let it simmer gently for at least 3 hours. Work out an hour per kilo if you’ve got a giant pig on your hands – you don’t want to rush this stage, so give yourself a good few hours to get this right. If you have time, once cooked you can leave the meat to sit in the liquor overnight to soak in more flavour, but it’s not essential.

      When you are ready to roast, remove the ham from the liquor and let it cool a little so you can handle it. Place it in either a disposable foil tray, or line a metal one with two or three layers of foil – this will save you the hassle of killing yourself later on when you can’t remove burnt sugar from your favourite roasting pan.
      Sometimes, the gammon doesn’t want to sit upright in the pan. If this happens, I prop it up with spare root veg as best I can so the top gets a proper roasting

      When ready to handle, carefully remove the rind from the meat with a sharp knife, leaving a good layer of white fat on the top. You can’t call it a festive ham unless it has cloves (you can try, but people will laugh at you). We all know what to do here – score the fat with a sharp knife to make diamond shape across the fat, then stud each diamond point with cloves.

      The Demon Gin, ham cooked in ginger beer, ham cooked in spiced cider, gammon recipe

      How you want to baste/glaze your ham is up to you, but I cover it with runny honey (if you ham is too hot, the honey will melt quickly so best to do this with a cooler ham) and then pat the crunchy sugar on top until the fat is covered with honey and sugary goodness.

      The Demon Gin, ham cooked in ginger beer, ham cooked in spiced cider, gammon recipe
      The Demon Gin, ham cooked in ginger beer, ham cooked in spiced cider, gammon recipe
      The Demon Gin, ham cooked in ginger beer, ham cooked in spiced cider, gammon recipe
      The Demon Gin, ham cooked in ginger beer, ham cooked in spiced cider, gammon recipe

      Stick it in a hot oven (around 220C) and roast for 20mins or until the top is bubbling and caramelised to your liking. I like mine black, black like my heart.

      Remove from the oven and stare at it in wonder. Then eat all of it instantly, with mashed potatoes or thick slices of bread.

      Or serve it to your guests, whatever.

      Merry Christmas, you Christmas cats.

      Under Lock & Key in The Pound

      It was only a matter of time before the law caught up with me. Sooner or later, I knew I would have to pay for my crimes, that I’d find myself behind bars.

      No, tiny darlings, I have not finally been locked up for my terrible debauchery, or for being drunk in charge of a lawnmower. I have instead been to visit Canterbury’s latest drinking emporium: The Pound.

      Anyone who’s been to Canterbury will have at some point happened upon the imposing Westgate Towers, standing stoutly at one end of the high street. The glorious gatehouse dates back to the 14th century and is the last of the seven medieval gates that punctuated the city walls.

      The Demon Gin, The Pound, One Pound Lane, Canterbury, Westgate Towers

      The road between the drum towers is still in use today. As a normal road. Not…not as a path through which to invade the city. They don’t like you to do that any more. Or maybe it’s just me.

      The Demon Gin, The Pound, One Pound Lane, Canterbury, westgate towers

      The towers boast a delicious history, and its former museum is set to open again in the new year, so I will restrict my history lesson for now. What you do need to know is that from the 15th century up to the late 19th century, the towers (and adjoining building) were used as the city’s gaol.

      And it is in the old guard rooms, superintendents’ offices and prison cells that a remarkable transformation has taken place; the ancient building reopened this month as a rather fetching bar and café (and restaurant by February), The Pound.

      I am lucky to work (by day) across the road from the towers, so I was delighted to receive an invitation to their special preview event.* Two colleagues and I duly accepted, stepped out of our office door and into our new neighbours’ abode.
      The entrance is suitably moody: a red lit arched gate, guarded by a man in black, that leads to a darkly gleaming front door. It’s a cross between Shoreditch-chic and the gateway to hell.**

      The Demon Gin, The Pound, One Pound Lane, Canterbury

      On entering, we instantly began giggling like schoolgirls and tore off to explore, welcome drinks in hand. The interior really is a triumph, mixing the old world charm with minimalist modernity. The main rooms are all exposed red brick, brushed steel tables, smooth leather banquettes and old vintage light fixtures sparkle above the bar. But the heavy cell doors and creepy staircases remain.

      The Demon Gin, The Pound, One Pound Lane, Canterbury
      The Demon Gin, The Pound, One Pound Lane, Canterbury
      The Demon Gin, The Pound, One Pound Lane, Canterbury
      The Demon Gin, The Pound, One Pound Lane, Canterbury
      The Demon Gin, The Pound, One Pound Lane, Canterbury

      The venue has been opened up to allow you to flow between several spacious rooms, and huge neon signs remind you of what part of the old clink you are standing in.

      The Demon Gin, The Pound, One Pound Lane, Canterbury
      The Demon Gin, The Pound, One Pound Lane, Canterbury
      The Demon Gin, The Pound, One Pound Lane, Canterbury
      The Demon Gin, The Pound, One Pound Lane, Canterbury

      There is plenty of space to sit or stand, and private function rooms are also available. The main bar is half gaol, half conservatory, so you have lovely views of the River Stour, St Dunstan’s and the stars as you quaff. I look forward to drinking under blue skies and burning sunsets by day. 

      The Demon Gin, The Pound, One Pound Lane, Canterbury

      Behind the counter is a delectable array of liquors, and I was pleased to see Kent’s own Curious Brew on tap along with Adnams Dry Hopped Larger, Camden Pale Ale and Peroni. No cask ales, but it’s really not a cask ale pub so stop your fussing. The cocktail list is also impressive, and the range of wines is excellent. There is a lot of focus on local libations, I was told by the manager, and the kitchen intends to be very home-grown when it opens in the new year.

      The Demon Gin, The Pound, One Pound Lane, Canterbury
      The Demon Gin, The Pound, One Pound Lane, Canterbury
      The Demon Gin, The Pound, One Pound Lane, Canterbury
      The Demon Gin, The Pound, One Pound Lane, Canterbury
      But while the main function rooms allow you to mingle or peel off as required, the real intrigue lies in The Police Cells. Down an eerie red brick corridor, past the toilets, you chance upon the heart of the former prison, now wide open for a different kind of business…

      The Demon Gin, The Pound, One Pound Lane, Canterbury
      The Demon Gin, The Pound, One Pound Lane, Canterbury
      The Demon Gin, The Pound, One Pound Lane, Canterbury

      Gone are the cramped steel beds, chamber pots and raving reprobates. The Victorian glazed bricks, original cell doors and inspection hatches remain but all other creature un-comforts have been removed as the cells now serve as rather swish looking private rooms, complete with a long table and comfy chairs – perfect for cosy dining, party banter, or an interrogation or two.***

      The Demon Gin, The Pound, One Pound Lane, Canterbury
      The Demon Gin, The Pound, One Pound Lane, Canterbury

      The largest cell hasn’t forgotten its roots – it keeps the fine wine under lock and key…

      The Demon Gin, The Pound, One Pound Lane, Canterbury
      The Demon Gin, The Pound, One Pound Lane, Canterbury
      The Demon Gin, The Pound, One Pound Lane, Canterbury
      The Demon Gin, The Pound, One Pound Lane, Canterbury

      Exploration complete and contacts made, my colleagues and I departed for the night. But I was back 24hours later on the main opening evening, so excited was I to show a friend the fantastic layout. I kept dragging him from room to room, saying “See? See? Look at the cells! Let’s get drunk in the cells!!”

      Students and skin-flints be warned: the bar is unashamedly a high-end affair so don’t expect masses of change from a fiver for a pint. But that ain’t no bad thing when the quality is strong. While Canterbury is not short of excellent places to drink in, there has been a hole in the market when it comes to this end of the bar spectrum and The Pound fills it perfectly. It is also open until 2.30am, so you can banter until the early hours.

      Confess your sins, and go directly to gaol.

      The Pound

      One Pound Lane, Canterbury
      Open daily from 10am until late
      Follow them on Facebook & Twitter (@onepoundlane) for updates
      *I didn’t receive a personal invitation. It was an office invitation. But I still wrestled a colleague to the ground, grabbed hold of the invitation and ran out of the building with it screaming ‘mine, mine I deserve this!!!’
      **Not that I’m intimately aware of what the entrance to hell looks like.
      ***After a few gins on a night out I am GOING to start questioning someone at irrational volume about something that really doesn’t matter, like how can someone include Dad’s Army in their top five sitcom of all time but exclude Black Books? Seriously?Seriously?!