Summerhouse Drinks

Ok so as we start to slow down our own events in the run up to end of the year, it’s time to do some reviews and blogs of gin and gin related folks we have worked with in the past year.  
This week we focus on Summerhouse Drinks, a company who’s tonic and other soft drinks we love and enjoy working with.

Summerhouse Drinks is run by Ross and Claire Rennie from their family farm at Peathill near Fraserburgh. Claire runs the day to day business with another two members of staff and Ross, a Chartered Accountant, has responsibility for all things financial. As a small team, they pride themselves on their artisan approach and are committed to producing products that don’t have artificial colours, flavours, preservatives or sweetners.
Prior to starting Summerhouse Drinks. Claire had started and ran Berry Scrumptious, which specialised in producing fresh chocolate covered strawberries. In early 2014, two flavours of lemonade were launched under the Summerhouse Drinks brand. The lemonade proved so popular that the decision was made to sell the Berry Scrumptious brand to new owners so that Summerhouse Drinks could be given full attention.
By January 2015 there were four flavours in the range: Misty Lemonade, Scottish Raspberry Lemonade, Hint O’ Mint Lemonade and Lavender Lemonade, the latter two made using mint and lavender grown in the walled garden on the farm. The Hint O’ Mint Lemonade was proving to pair particularly well with gin and it was at this discovery that lead the team to develop Scotland’s first tonic water.
After extensive taste testing, ‘Walter Gregor’s Tonic Water’ was launched in April 2015, named after the Victorian minister in the Parish of Pitsligo where Summerhouse Drinks is based. It uses mint grown in Walter Gregor’s former garden as well as a number of other botanicals to give it a light and crisp flavour. As Peathill is located less than half a mile from the sea, it also picks up salty notes which means that it pairs particularly well with coastal gins.

Recommended with The Botanist, Isle of Harris Gin, Rock Rose, Shetland Reel, Kirsty’s Gin from Arbikie, Pickering’s 1947, Eden Mill Original, Edinburgh Gin’s Seaside Gin.
We promise we will get them along to a gin club in 2016.


Gin and Tonic Club

Gin and Tonic Club

I have been trying to get this post done for ages.  Like ages.  It has been months since we spoke to Fever Tree and started working together (they came us some free stock).

I also think I have made this blog (in some form) before too, I just don’t know where I saved it so let’s start again.

Right from the outset, when we call it Gin Club we usually mean “Glasgow Gin with some form of mixer in it Club”.  We rarely offer up the Gins without something to compliment it.  We do give people the chance to taste Gin neat but generally when we are running the nights we want people to enjoy the Gin the same way they would at home.

Lots of people give you the “nope” face when you offer them a straight taste of Gin, as in the past it’s not the most enjoyable thing to taste neat, which again stems from the fact they have only accidently drank Gordon’s straight, as students or at the end of the night when the mixer and ice has run out and it’s the only option.

We at Gin Club can assure you a good Gin can be drank neat, but we usually always have something in it.  With the exception of the EG night with the dry martinis using Cannonball, but that ended differently so we won’t be doing that in a hurry.

Right so let’s talk about Gin and Tonic club.

When people say “I don’t like Gin” we always say “nope you don’t like Gordon’s Gin and Schweppes Tonic.  Generally out of a tiny wee glass, a thin slice of lemon and one cub of ice.  That’s enough to put everyone off.

But there is something that will change your mind even with the dreaded Voldemort (I love how Voldemort is in the MS Word dictionary) of Gins Gordon’s.

Fever Tree!! Ta Dah…

Fever Tree has saved Gin for a lot of people.  We use it in pretty much all our drinks.  I should halt for a minute and say there are many other artisan tonics out there too, but instead of picking up a Schweppes pick up a few bottles of Fever Tree first, it really does change the whole Gin and Tonic game.

Those of you who come to Gin Club will have no doubt read and been preached to by Stuart and I about Fever Tree, but for those who haven’t read our Gin tasting guide check it out word for word below (yes I’m lazy, it’s my work lunch break):

Fever-Tree Indian Tonic Water launched in the UK in early 2005, the brand name chosen as a Fever Tree is the name for the cinchona tree, the bark which gives us Quinine.  One of the main uses of Quinine is in the treatment of Malaria, one of Malarias main symptoms is Fever, hence the name the fever tree.  Using Rwanda Congo Cinchona Bark and blended with spring water along with eight botanicals, such as: marigold and a bitter orange from Tanzania.

Fever trees have a range of products which they also make from Low Calorie tonic to their own Ginger Ale.

Right then let’s go through some mixers and Gins and their merits.

Fever Tree Tonic:

For which Gins: All of them

Notes: The standard amazingness which is Fever tree a must for all Gin’s and Tonic.  With maybe one exception of Gin (although I disagree but the distillers swear on it, more later).

Others: This also comes in Low Calorie, and a Lemon Tonic.


Fever Tree Mediterranean Tonic:

For which Gins:  Anything Salty or Olivey, Good in Gin Mare and EG Seaside

Fever Med

Fever Tree Ginger Ale:

Gins: Anything with a spice that ginger can help with.  Ophir.

Others: Ginger Beer and light of both.  We used the Ginger beer in Firkin Gin last month.

Fever All

Schweppes Tonic:

Gins: Experiment with Fever Tree first but according to Tony at Strathearn Distillery he says Schweppes is the perfect tonic of the Heather Rose.

Others: Load but I can’t be arsed.

Summerhouse Walter Gregory’s Tonic:

Gins:  This artisan Tonic has an almost minty taste and works well with Daffy’s Gin.

Others:  Summerhouse do a host of artisan Lemonades.


1724 Tonic Water:

Gins: I haven’t experimented with one taste group but this is a perfect product which compliments all Gins, Stuart loves it and he usually goes for the savoury Gins.


Supermarket Home Brand:

Notes: So this sound stupid but I generally find that Tesco, Morrison’s, Asda’s tonic own Tonic waters perform better across the Gin board to Schweppes.  Experiment.  I’m a fan of Waitrose own to be honest.

Bottlegreen Elderflower Tonic:

Notes: Bottle Green do a range of products, their standard tonic is lovely   across all Gins.

Gin: All

Others: They do things in pink, pomegranate.


Fentimans Tonic:

Gins:  For the floral Gins

Notes:  Not my tonic of choice, I love the Fentimans brand and adore the Curiosity Cola but it’s too sweet and brings out floral notes in Gins which are already too flowery.  They actually did a bottle of Gin and Tonic Mix with Bloom Gin.


July Gin Club – Shetland Reel

Shetland Reel is our first Gin for July.  We have been trying to get this fine product along for some time, but it’s no easy feat.  Last time we were emailing about get the Gin along, there was a storm and some power cuts.

Shetland Reel comes from Unst, which is part of the Shetland Islands and as stated by the storms and power cuts it’s not an easy place to live, but also beautiful (I have never been, maybe one day Gin Club will get the boat for Up Hella Aa, drink Gin and pretend to be Vikings.

The Shetland Distillery Company was created by four people sharing a passion for producing top quality products in local communities (Direct Quote from the web there). Frank  / Debbie Strang and  Stuart / Wilma Nickerson.  Apparently the work of the distillery is split between couples, the Strangs turning the area at Saxa Vord into the award winning tourist resort and the Nickerson’s handle the whiskey and the Gin.  Thank you Strangs and Nickersons!

The gin uses 8 botanicals including locally grown apple mint.  On the nose there is a strong hit of Juniper and coriander, with fresh floral notes. To try it neat (most of you who normally read this know I’m now a neat trying convert, I don’t know if that makes me sound like I am officially old or an alchy).  Anyway neat it is dry with a juniper spine and a clean dry bite.  This then becomes smoother and sweeter.

As usually a good tonic (Fever Tree people, cheap stuff is banned) rounds the Gin off and compliments the fruitiness of the apple mint.  The more you drink the fruitiness builds making it a wonderful Gin, a truly loved product with of course a decent solid Juniper taste (it is a Gin)

We haven’t decided yet what we are going to garnish or serve this with yet!  According to the UK Gin Law (The London Gin Club) Coriander Leaf or Raspberry really compliment Shetland Reel in a G and T.

Tickets for July:

West Side To The East Side

Saturday the 14th of June 2014, possibly the most prolific date in the Gin drinkers diary. Yup, you got it – World Gin Day! And what better way was there for Gin Club to celebrate this momentous occasion, than to attend Scottish Juniper Festival at Summerhall in Edinburgh.

Summerhall is the former Royal (Dick) Vet School and functions now as a venue and art space. Rather coincidently and somewhat luckily for us, it is also the home of Sumerhall Distillery  – the birthplace of Pickering’s Gin. On Friday 13th and Saturday 14th of June, for 2 days only, this unique setting was converted into  complete Gin paradise. 

Summerhall Dsitillery

I’m not going to lie, I wasn’t feeling my best towards the end of last week. One by one the Beatson drug discovery lab has been struck down by either a cold, flu or chest infection and in some cases all three. I knew it was only a matter of time before I was handed the baton. However, in the name of Gin I set the alarm for early Saturday morning and made my way towards Queen Street Station. There was only one thing on my mind, nope not the Gin venture that lay ahead, but rather getting my hands on that white coffee cup with the green face, and my name scribbled in marker pen on the side (needs must). And as I sat, waiting on cousin Stuart to arrive – I’m sorry to me Caldo refers to 5 family members – I gave myself a firm pep talk on the art of manning up.

Anyway, enough prattle….

What exactly is Scottish Juniper Festival? Simple, a celebration of all things Gin – think masterclasses, cocktails, talks and tastings. The festival itself was split into two sessions; afternoon (12-4pm) and evening (5-9pm). You must understand that for two VERY big gin fans this is an extremely limited amount of time, when you have a very long list of things to do.

Over the two floors and the courtyard of the main Summerhall building, 14 Gins were on show – where oh where to begin? In essence, it did not matter as either way we’d be making sure we visited each and every one. Between the two of us, we had probably at some point or another tasted most of the gins before, however, to be able to compare and contrast each Gin back to back is fantastic. It’s funny how easily your recollection of how something tastes changes, when you are comparing it to another Gin of even just slightly different botanical composition. Gin no longer just tastes like Gin. New notes, finishes, sweetness and spices all reveal themselves, both to great surprise and delight. In fact just being able to see so many artisan products all in one space at the same time was enough to leave me in awe (further ammunition for the boys at the next Gin Club Meeting)….

There are too many Gins to mention individually so I will put a list at the end. I did however, love the Opihr display (only mildly disappointed there was no Tuk Tuk – google it) and the Darnley’s Gin Cake! It was great to see a few of the Gins from our event the week before too and have a proper chat and say thanks.

Throughout the day various Gin led talks were also taking place, all within the “Spiritual Sessions Theatre” – accompanied of course, by various juniper based tipples. Picture the scene; curved rows of tiered wooden seats, a blackboard on the wall, a vaulted sky light, 3 antiquarian lady chairs on which the Gin experts sat and desks flanked by Gin, oh and there was a man with a dog. As I sat there 4 Gins in hand, I couldn’t help but think, that if only all my chemistry lectures could have been delivered in the same way (I’m sure I could have argued relevance in some way) then maybe I would have found studying the different lattice structure of metals more interesting….I did say maybe. Geraldine Coates, the prolific author of GinTime certainly blew any lecture I’ve ever sat through out of the water.

The central courtyard was a visual feast with the Pickering’s Snickering Pig Roast and Gin Cart, Hendrick’s Ma’am (Winnebago) and the Cocktail Bar all occupying separate corners.

Just a few small steps into Ma’am and you are instantly transported into the wondrous world of Hendrick’s; jars stuffed full of sensuous botanicals, etchings, maps of London Gin Dens, books in glass cases, a typewriter, a branded lamp, a cuddly toy (loved the generation game) and Hendrick’s, lots of Hendrick’s! Duncan McRae led visitors (or maybe more aptly passengers?) through the history of Gin; from Holland, through the scandalous Gin soaked streets of London to an English Rose Garden where one would enjoy tea from the finest china whilst nibbling on cucumber sandwiches. All to be rounded off with a mighty fine peach cocktail.

23 Gins in (a mere estimate I had lost count somewhere between 1.30 and 2pm) and there was still more to see…..but first food, I needed food. Pit stop at the Snickering Pig before onwards and upwards to Pickering’s. Pickering’s is a relatively new Edinburgh Gin and we were fortunate enough to have a chat with Marcus about his creation. This was followed by a good old look around the distillery – I was pretty much in the copper still with excitement, as Stuart measured up the size of the thing, realising that getting one in his flat was in fact achievable.

It was definitely after 4pm by the time we left the distillery and Summerhall was hotting up for the evening guests. I know we would have stayed for another 4 hours but there was another action on the To Do List that had to be seen too.

In fear of not yet being Gin’d oot we had spied the opening of Heads and Tales – a new bar at the home Edinburgh Gin in Rutland Place, it really would have been rude not to at least go and see the place wouldn’t it? One Gin cocktail (Stuart opted for an Irn-Bru Botanist – when in Rome), a G&T, and a Zizzi’s pizza later, I was definitely ready to get back home. We rolled back into Glasgow at the very respectable time of 11.30pm – definitely the earliest return after a night out I’ve ever had!

To top it all off, on Sunday my head was positively clear – the world was a great place, I’d had the best day learning and talking shop, caught up with all the family in Edinburgh and drank the best Gins…..

It wasn’t until Monday morning when I chirply got in my car to drive to work that I realised that my glasses (which I had to pitch to my Mum as an investment) were still on holiday in an unknown location Edinburgh…..cue a long day of phone calls describing comedy sized tortoiseshell spectacles.

It would be criminal to finish this post without acknowledging Martin Duffy of Solid Liquids for pulling the biggest and best Gin jamboree together. Gin Club are counting on the event being annual!

A list of the Gins we enjoyed and chatted to; Burleigh’s, Opihr, Caorunn, No.3 London, Darnley’s View, Crossbill, Gin Mare, NB Gin, The London No.1, Blackwood’s, Hendrick’s and Pickering’s.


The Glasgow Gin Club Premiere


As you may or may not know, Glasgow Gin Club had it’s very first Glasgow event on Friday (June 6th) at The Hidden Lane Tearoom. It certainly would have taken a great deal of skill to avoid this information if you are friends, work colleagues or mere Facebook acquaintances of any of the three of us.

Our aim for the night was always simple – bring really good Gin to the people, have a good old chat about the stuff and just have fun. There are SO many mind blowingly good Gins out there that people don’t know about, and it was almost criminal not to do something about it. I guess we knew (or should I say hoped) that no matter what happened along the way, as long as we had enough great Gin and really good tonic on the night, plus a half tonne of ice shards we could keep a tearoom full of Gin fans happy.

After 6 weeks of; planning event format, confirming Gin’s, designing membership cards, matching garnishes, securing a venue, changing original event format, roping in friends, calling in favours and sourcing 100 miniature spoons for Gin jelly with 24 hours to spare – Gin Club was almost ready to open it’s doors for the very first time.

The Gin gods were definitely on our side on Friday night – the sun continued to beat down as the evening drew in and although for once we were not celebrating Gin o’clock ourselves, it was the ultimate G&T weather. The Tearoom doors opened at 7.30pm with the event set to kick off just after 8pm and as  membership card no. 4 was handed out at around 7.35pm (the founders being numbers 1,2 and 3 and Snoop Dogg 213 – see instagram) Glasgow Gin Club became official.

Tables were set with tasting cards alongside the corresponding bottles and in keeping with the vein of our amazingly unique venue, it seemed only fitting that we used some empty bottles from our personal collection to hold one or two flowers – let’s just say Stuart had a busy week to ensure we had enough Gin Club vases.

Ok, so details…..what Gin’s did we actually serve at Gin Club? The running order (all served with Fever-Tree Indian tonic water);

(i) London No.3 Dry Gin  – a traditional London Dry Gin created with 6 botanicals in copper   pot stills – garnished with a slice of lime.

(ii) The Botanist – hails from Islay and contains 31 botanicals in total – 22 are foraged on the island – served with a slice of lemon and sprig of thyme.

Interlude – Gin and Elderflower Jelly

(iii) Strathearn Heather Rose – the combination of Rose and Heather produce this uniquely delicate, floral Gin – no garnish just tonic.

(iv) Caorunn – 6 traditional and 5 celtic make up the 11 botanicals in Caorunn, one of which – the Rowan Berry gives the Gin it’s name – delivered with a slice of red apple in the glass.

To Finish – Gin and Tonic Sorbet courtesy of Mad Chef

The lovely Craig Johnston kindly agreed to come along and drop some serious tunes as the soundtrack to our evening (promised payment in Gin of course) and who didn’t enjoy a bit of The Temptations, Chrvches or the Jurassic Park theme tune while sipping on their Gin and Juice? Bridget from the Hidden Lane Tearoom was also on hand to serve some of their own delicious baked treats. Gin, Jelly, Cake, Sorbet and Sunshine – think we covered almost all bases.

Now, 5 days after Event No. 1, we can confirm that we served over 200 G&T’s to a little over 50  Gin Clubber’s – a number that we’re still overwhelmed by. As a result Gin fever has well and truly hit Gin Club HQ – Who are we kidding? We’ve always had it. But  the ideas for what comes next are certainly mounting up.

Thanks again to absolutely everyone who came along (both under order and free will) and helped us through the Gin and 120 bottles of tonic. We hope that a few of you may be willing to do it again…?

Photography by Ritchie Patton

The Origins Of Gin Club

You’ve read about the Wedding, Arisaig, the Homemade Gin and know more about Squirrel’s daily routine than you may have bargained for. Now it’s time to read about us….The Gin Club.


So there you are, two men about to hit the late stages of their twenties, one slightly further along than the other (even although many people think that the younger of the two is the older brother of the other – typical).  Both like Gin, one has a more discerning taste and he slowly builds a rather bespoke collection. Following Birthdays and Christmas’ of asking only for Gin the collection continues to grow.  His shorter, less grey friend comes round often and they start to sample each in turn. This happens more and more.  One supplies the Gin, the other, the ice, tonic and garnish; until the shorter (and ultimately chubbier/buff) friend decides he should start purchasing his own bottles of craft and small batch Gin too. They start drinking these gins before heading out and painting the town a creamy beige colour.

These nights of Gin appreciation were always accompanied by their love of everything social media orientated.  They were after all the first generation to really take to chat rooms, Hot or Not, Faceparty, Myspace, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram.  Whilst testing the Gin they would be on YouTube watching anything from Rap Battles to People Falling Over, this was accompanied by Tweets and photographs of the Gin of choice, and affectionately labelling it “A Club”.

Through the world of social media, people responded to the pictures and posts asking, “Can I become a member of Gin Club?”. Slowly before and sometimes after nights out, the club grew in size.  Gradually this club started meeting more and more, continuing to watch things on YouTube but more importantly to chat and drink Gin.  First some Gin companies noticed. Then a festival noticed and asked, “Fancy curating a Gin bar?”, of course they said yes.  BBC Radio Scotland noticed, “Fancy coming on the radio to chat about Gin?”, again they said yes.  Before long they were speaking to Gin distillers from all over the world, their tweets became a blog, their private social media accounts became the Gin Club pages – it was official.

Then it was time to take things to the next level; organised nights with Gin tasting, music, banter and of course more Gin.  Time to organise more Gin events.  Time to get serious with blogging about the product they loved so much. And time to get a lady scientist to come in and organise the tall one and the shorter one into a well-oiled Gin machine….