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New Gin menu launch at Laguna Bar in Park Plaza Cardiff

Last week I was lucky to be invited by Park Plaza to sample the new offerings from their gin menu in Laguna bar and restaurant.

I’ll be the first to admit I was a late convert to the juniper botanical blended spirit but it’s my new go to spirit of choice. The initial hesitation to gin stems from growing up in a pub and no I wasnít an alcoholic child but my grandparents have ran a pub for over 30 years and I’ve lived with them on and off over the years. The problem was the only option we had 15 years ago when I first probably tried it working my way through the top shelf after my shift behind the bar was Gordon’s, Schweppes tonic and a plastic lemon!

One try I had and it put me off until a chance encounter with a wine and gin cellar bar in Chester back last year when I was introduced to what present day craft gin had evolved into.

Since then I’ve attended a few master classes and the Gin Festival down the bay last year and left with a new found knowledge of the craft and history of the stuff from the talks and tasting sessions down in the vaults in Portland House and a book of pairings for the 150 odd gins they had on offer, which has acted as my bible since then.

The Gin Tasting Event

I’d been to Laguna for the Gentleman’s afternoon tea and tried the amazing Sunday lunch but I’d not been for a while to sample the Gins on offer although I have been stalking them on Twitter seeing the ever growing selection they have behind the bar.

Cardiff park plaza gin tasting with Adam

There was a good mix of other bloggers invited to the evening at the Park Plaza with what promised to be a journey the new gin menu sampling 5 of the Gins in the range. I was a bit too keen I think and turned up first so I was kindly offered a choice of any of the ginís from the menu before the tasting commenced and everyone else turned up.

The menu had good balance of familiar faces and some that had I’d heard of but not had the chance to try. I didn’t want to double up and test any on the tasting options we were going through so opted for a new gin the Aviation. The aviation cocktail is probably one of my fav gin cocktails so this was one of the other reasons. I’d not paired a Gin with elderflower previously so this was a pleasant change to my normal choices available.

park plaza gin tasting gin bottles

Our host for the evening was a lovely chap called Adam who was very knowledgeable on the Gins we were sampling, giving a brief history behind the distillery, tasting notes and suitable garnishes to enhance the botanicals.

The gins we got to sample on the night were:

  • Sipsmith
  • Brecon Gin
  • Opihr
  • Caorun
  • Monkey 47

Adam told us about some of the botanicals used in the gins with some having around 5 unique neutral flavours to the German Monkey 47 brand that you’ve guessed it had a whopping 47 botanicals and a cool 47%abv.

I’d tried Sipsmith neat, well watered down with vermouth in a Martini but not tried it with a tonic and garnish. I’ve got a bottle of Monkey 47 in the house too but with the price on it it’s only come out on one or two occasions and Iíve always had it with lime twist.

I was keen to try the Brecon Gin as it’s only one of a handful of Gins produced in Wales and comes from the Penderyn Whisky Distillery the guys behind my favourite Whisky the Penderyn Sherrywood.
Mwsh had ordered an Opihr down The Dock down the bay not long ago but it came with an almost cartoon like chilli the size of my arm, which left me in hysterics so I couldn’t take it seriously at the time but this time it came with a wedge of orange, which cut nicely through the spicy notes of the Gin.

Gin tasting Cardiff Park Plaza Caorunn with apple

The other Gin on my to do list was the Caorunn. I’d seen the uniquely shaped bottle many times but not had the pleasure of sampling it before then. I was surprised to see it garnished with an apple and tonic, which I had never seen before and it turned out to be my favourite pairing of the evening. I think I liked the fact the apple parted with subtle hints of the fruit instead of the sometimes overbearing bitterness and burning taste of the rind of citrus.

Not wanting us to fall flat on our faces by the end of the tasting Park Plaza kindly brought out some sharing plates of nibbles so we weren’t too much affected by the powerful effects of some of the Gin on offer. Olives, cornichons, cured meats and breads with dips a plenty accompanied by some perfectly perfumed spirits, I was now in my oils.

Gin tasting at Park Plaza Cardiff with bulldog gin

After the tasting had come to a close and I’d polished off the lions share of the mezze boards we were given the option of trying one more gin to finish off a great evening of tasting. One I’d seen many times especially spending the best part of the weekend in the Bulldog pub in Krakow the week before was Bulldog gin. The gin was palatable but I’d say it was probably my least favourite of the Gins I’d tried that night but it was up against some stiff competition.

The Verdict

I enjoyed the Caorun so much we went out on Saturday and picked up two bottles from Asda in the World Gin Day promotions they had on. Armed with the menu and tasting notes they gave us on the night to take away in a goody bag we paired a Botanist and Caorun with the recommendations from the menu that evening.

Gin goody bag from Cardiff Park Plaza

I think the new gin menu at Park Plaza is a great idea as it can be quite intimidating ordering gin for the first time not knowing what tonic and garnish to pair with it but the options on the menu have obviously been tried and tested many times before making the final cut on the menu.

Negroni recipe

My first taste of a Negroni was the woodland Negroni at Duck and Waffle in London, which I have to admit wasn’t to my taste as it tasted like i’d just necked a bottle of pond water as it was seaped through layers of nature or moss as I’d call it.

I wasn’t put off though and knew there was more to this classic Gin cocktail as i’ve seen it cropping up a lot lately so after working my way through the taster menu at Mint and Mustard in Penarth last night we popped into Asda on the way home. I wasn’t quite ready for bed so left with a bottle of Campari in tow after hunting down a bottle of Noilly Prat Vermouth a few weeks back to make my own Negroni.

Negroni ingredients

2 x 25ml Gin (I used Portobello Road as it’s my favourite all rounder)

1 x 25ml Noilly Prat Vermouth

1 x 25ml Campari

1 twist of orange

Negroni cocktail making

Instructions

To make two add 2 x double shots of Gin, 1 double Noilly Prat and 1 double Campari to a large tumbler filled with ice and stir for a good 30 seconds. Take a potato peeler to an orange and peel a slither of the rind, twist and squeeze to release some of the oils in the orange and add to cut glass tumbler. Pour the Negroni mixture equally between two glasses along with thick chunks of ice to keep the glass cold without over diluting.

Gin Sake Martini cocktail – sakitini

Ok so I’ve been a late adopter of the classic cocktail the Martini since sampling a bloody filthy one at Lab22 in Cardiff just before Christmas. Not being a fan of Gin till about a year ago and the idea of putting something salty in my drink never really appealed to me before as I thought it wouldn’t be too far away from dunking a packet of ready salted crisps in your drink.

Who would want those 45 organically farmed botanicals being sacrificed by a salty snack? Then coming to think about it a packet of crips, nuts or olives always taste better with a beverage of the alcoholic range hence why they’re called bar snacks in the first place!

So for those who don’t know what a Martini is it’s one of the most simple cocktails known to man with a shot or two of alcohol watered down with a shot or two of more alcohol with a garnish of your choice plonked in the middle of the glass. Oh and it’s James Bond’s tipple of choice and he’s a more of a British icon than the Queen.

So there’s a choice of base alcohol in the Martini you can either go for Gin or Vodka and then it’s paired with a measure of vermouth. I can’t stomach vodka since my early 20’s and abusing the vodka red bulls as a student so I’m on team Gin Martini. You can go dry, which tips the balance more towards the Gin in terms of ratio or wet means more vermouth in your glass. Gin Martini is usually served with an olive or two or you can opt for a twist of lemon. If you want it dirty then a drop of olive brine is added to the mix or if you want it filthy a good glug of the stuff.

The good thing about a Martini is you’re never going to get short changed for your measurements here as most cocktail bars fill the glass to the brim with ice leaving you with a watered down heap of shitty fruit and smallest drop of alcohol. The martini comes straight up, no on the rocks after being shaken or stirred with ice to get a crisp temperature. What I can only describe as to the taste of a good Martini is very clean almost like you’ve just had a sip of minty mouthwash but it’s so morish.

Anyway I fancied making a Martini at home to try and use up some of the recent Gin purchases over Christmas and on recommendation by the very helpful guys at Lab22 I needed a good vermouth to pair with my gin. The vermouth of choice at Lab22 is Noilly Prat but even trying good ole Wally’s deli in town I couldn’t find any anywhere in Cardiff.

I headed home defeated with blisters bubbling at the back of my feet from my new daps from mother dearest for Christmas. After deciding on what I was going to cook for the evening and tipping towards something chinese I remembered I had some Sake in the cupboard. Sake being a fermented rice wine i thought I wonder how much different this would be to vermouth a fermented wine so thought there’s only one way to find out so went about making a Sakitini a sake inspired martini.

Sake Martini cocktail recipe – Sakitini

3 x 25ml Gin – I used Portobello Road as it’s a great all rounder

1 x 25ml Sake

1 twist of lemon

Instructions

Two make two put 3 x double shots of gin and 1 x double shot of sake in a large tumbler with thick blocks of ice and stir for a good 30 seconds.

Take a potato peeler and peel a slice of lemon, cut in half length ways, twist and squeeze to release some of the oils and drop one into each glass and top divide the liquid between the two glasses.

Park Plaza Hendrick’s G & Tea afternoon tea discount voucher

Do you fancy trying an afternoon tea with a difference? How about trying the delectable array of pastries and sweet stuff on offer at Cardiff’s Park Plaza Laguna Restaurant’s afternoon tea but quaffing back a potent Hendrick’s elderflower collins gin cocktail instead of a pot of Earl Grey?

Park Plaza do like to offer it’s dinners ever changing options for it’s afternoon tea and it’s latest offering is the Hendrick’s G & Tea afternoon tea. You get the same scrumdidliumptious finger sandwiches, scones, pastries and cakes but for those who are partial to making the most of an afternoon out you can ditch the tea for something a bit stronger with it’s signature Hendrick’s elderflower collins (Hendrick’s gin, St Germain elderflower liqueur, maraschino liqueur, lemon juice and soda) served in a special Hendrick’s teapot.

Why not make an actual afternoon of it and leave the best till last with a discount voucher towards the Hendrick’s G & Tea afternoon tea and full use of the spa facilities at the Laguna Health Spa at the hotel for just £27 each. You can emerse yourself in the tranquil waters, bubbles and steam of the spa making you totally relaxed in the knowledge you’re going to be sampling some of the best afternoon tea delights on offer in Cardiff all washed down with a fine gin cocktail at the end of your pamper session.

Customers of the afternoon tea’s don’t normally gain access to the spa facilities of the hotel normally so this is a great deal and would make the ideal gift for a birthday or just to put a smile on someone special’s face because who needs an excuse to pamper yourself and eat devilishly good plates of carbs with a gin chaser!

Please not this is a time limited offer so be quick to snap it up before it disappears or is all booked up on Travelzoo.

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Get the Park Plaza afternoon tea discount voucher towards the Hendrick's G & Tea afternoon tea including full use of the spa facilities.
Book now