Many people in England enjoy the odd gin & tonic, whisky & soda, vodka & lemonade or rum & coke. But most brands sold by corporate companies, that make billions of dollars, and don’t use local ingredients. Why not support small local artisan companies instead? You bring money and jobs into the community, keep travel miles low and support local wheat and juniper berry farmers. Serve with organic tonic water.
This list is not exhaustive and hopefully most brands are vegan (you can check at Barnivore). Unlike wine and beer, most spirits are fine, though you have to watch out as a few are still filtered through fish bladders and animal bone). Campari used to contain insects, but now has replaced them with chemicals. Neither is good. Drink tequila and worried about the ‘worm in the bottle? It’s unlikely. Worms are mostly found in its cousin drink Mezcal.
Gordon’s London Gin is actually made in Scotland, and made by a big corporate company that is not local or artisan. Muddy Stilettos has a great post going into detail on 33 of their favourites. Some interesting English gin companies include:
- Hustle Gin is a girl-power enterprise. This mother-daughter duo make gin made from sustainably-harvested pears in the Cotswolds. Profits help to stop human trafficking, to give vulnerable women freedom and protection.
- Cuckoo Gin (Lancashire) is handcrafted from juniper, fruit peels and spices. The company also makes a spicy version (black pepper, jasmine, fig and rosehips) and Solace Gin (profits help Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust, which is a no animal testing charity).
- Liverpool Gin is handcrafted from organic juniper in copper pots, and crowned with a Liver Bird emblem. An intense botanical flavour, over a bright citrus finish.
- TOAD (Oxford) makes gin from organic grains, grown within 50 miles of their base in Oxford. So buy this to support your local rye, wheat and barley growers.
- Tinkture (Cornwall) is an organic gin that changes colour from amber to pink, when you mix it with tonic. You can also refill the bottles. Also in Cornwall, Curio makes blueberry gin using local ingredients including rock samphire and pure spring water.
- Hepple Gin (Northumberland) works with local nature and wildlife charities, to help plant at least 200 juniper seedlings each year, to keep money and biodiversity local.
- Salcombe Gin (Devon) is made in a beautiful coastal town. Sold in plastic-free packaging, this company offers local re-fill schemes.
Locally Made Whisky
- Lakes Distillery makes its own whisky, gin and vodka in a renovated 1850s Victorian building. It uses biomass boilers and river water, with by-products used by local farmers to enrich their soil and feed the cattle.
- Wharf Distillery (Northamptonshire) is England’s smallest distillery. The grains are locally mashed to produce single-mat whisky, gin and vodka, and they also use local fruits to make brandy and apple liqueurs.
- Dartmoor Whisky Distillery (Devon) offers a single-malt whisky in a beautiful national park. Aged in oak barrels and made with pure spring water, this company offers community-supported-agriculture (invest in a barrel, with free storage).
Locally Made Vodka
- East London Liqueur Distillery makes gin and vodka, in area that used to be at the forefront of this industry 100 years ago. Its Wheat Vodka (and London Dry Gin) are both made with 100% British wheat.
- Curio (Cornwall) is run by a husband-and-wife in beautiful Cornwall. Using local ingredients, it makes Cardamom Vodka.
Locally Made Liqueurs
Gibson Organic Liqeurs are based in the Cotswolds and offer drinks made with fruits and sflowers grown on their organic farm, native woodland and wildflower meadow. The range (drink alone or to enhance a glass of Prosecco) include Raspberry, Redcurrant, Elderflower and Blackcurrant Sloe Gin.
Locally Made Rum
Cabby’s Rum is brewed in the heart of London. Moses is a taxi driver, and has created this white rum from cane molasses, to make fellow Londoners happy (especially retired sailors). Includes notes of black treacle, a hint of oak, coconut and citrus.
Friends Further Away
These brands are either just over the border in Wales or Scotland, or from Europe. They are innovative and doing good, so also worth supporting:
- OK it’s a corporate company, but you can now buy Baileys Almande online or in most shops. Vegan-friendly, it’s made with sweet almond oil, almond essence and a touch of real vanilla. Tastes almost identical.
- Elephant Gin (Germany) gives profits to an elephant charity, to help buy land to protect elephants from poaching.
- Ginerosity Gin (Scotland) uses profits to help disadvantaged youth, in a country with a big drugs problem.
- Look in shops for Indian Sun Gin, which donates 50% of profits to Born Free Foundation.
- Nc’Nean is Scotland’s first organic whisky distillery, offering a tipple with notes of grapefruit, herbs and sour berries.
- Beinn An Tuirc (Wales) runs on green energy and uses 10 locally-grown botanicals including Icelandic moss and sheep sorrel to produce Apple Brandy, Cucumber Vodka and Seaweed Gin!
Fair Trade Spirits
- FAIR sells Fair Trade vodka, gin and 2 types of rum. All items involve treating everyone as equal from farm to your glass. Made in Cognac in France, it contains organic sugar from Belize, organic juniper berries from Uzbekistan and organic quinoa.
- Copalli Rum is the first Fair Trade rum, made with canopy water from the rainforest in Southern Belize. Available as White or Barrel-Rested, the only other ingredients are sugar cane and yeast. The double-distillation and long-resting of the finished product on stainless steel, creates a smooth white rum.
Sustainable Spirits for Teetotallers
- Seedlip Drinks makes non-alcoholic spirits in copper pots, with herbs and spices that are expertly blended using ancient recipes, to create sophisticated alternatives that are mixed with tonic water. Inspired by 17th century apothecaries, the range includes Garden 108 Herbal (handpicked peas and garden herbs) and Spice 94 (allspice, bark & citrus). The bottled cocktail Nogroni has orange, grapefruit, allspice and gentian.
- Three Spirit Drinks offers vegan spirits in sustainable packaging. These combine ancient plant knowledge with cutting-edge science to produce unique spirits, which have a tiny amount of natural alcohol (the same as in over-ripe fruit). They are not suitable for people under 18, and you should check with your doctor if you are pregnant, nursing or have a medical condition. Livener has high levels of natural caffeine and Nightcap contains Valerian. They also suggest to wait an hour before driving, even though they’re certified alcohol-free. Social Elixir contains green tea, cacao and yerba mate.
Make Your Own Spirits
- Booze for Free is a book by a Bristol native on how to make boozy tipples from foraged ingredients. Using apples and pears, herbs and flowers, recipes include Sloe & Damson Rum, Parsnip Sherry and Carrot Whisky!