Gin Magazine

Ask the Expert

Our gin expert, David T. Smith, is on hand to answer all your juniper-related questions. Tweet us or email for a chance to feature


How can I dry my own peels?


This question is particular­ly useful for those who like to have a wider array of garnishes available, and for those who like to reduce waste.

The drying process is often used by botanical suppliers of lemon and bitter and sweet orange to ensure a consistent and constant supply for gin distillers year-round. For this, teams of people sit out in the Mediterran­ean sunshine peeling fruit; once proficient, this can be done quickly, leaving almost none of the bitter pith behind and the peel of each fruit in a single, long strip. The peels are then hung up on lines (a bit like washing lines) to dry in the sun.

Should you not be so lucky as to have year-round sunshine, there are other domestic tools that can help you dry your peels, such as a food dehydrator or a regular kitchen oven.

Whilst the profession­als use a sharp knife, I find a vegetable peeler safer and easier to handle (I prefer the straight kind). Carefully cut into the peel at the top of the fruit, trying to cut into as little of the white pith as possible, then slowly rotate the fruit as you cut. It is important to be gentle throughout, otherwise you risk losing all of the flavoursom­e and aromatic oils in the peel; you want to keep these for your drinks!

Place the strips of peel in a single layer on a baking tray lined with baking paper or parchment. Bake for 20–25 minutes on a very low setting (80–90°C). When dry, the peels will start to curl. Remove them from the oven and allow to cool, then store in an air-tight container or bag.

Why do some gins taste soapy?


I really love this question as it inspires some nostalgia for me: this was probably one of the first more technical questions on gin that I ever asked. My answer came from the one and only Sean Harrison of Plymouth Gin on a distillery tour many years ago.

Soapiness may arise from a process called saponifica­tion, which is said to occur when a gin is diluted to its bottling strength too quickly (although the jury is out on how much of an impact this typically has). The most likely culprit (and the one Sean noted) is coriander seed. Coriander is grown around the world and different regions produce seeds with different characteri­stics: from citrusforw­ard to spicy, as well as soapy. Very few gins use coriander leaf (cilantro) in their botanical mix, but that can also add to the perceived soapiness.

It’s also worth noting that a dislike of coriander may be partially genetic, with some parts of the population being particular­ly sensitive to the soapytasti­ng aldehyde compounds in it.

How and why do some gins change colour?


The visual impact of a colour-changing gin may seem magical, but it’s actually pretty straightfo­rward science. If you cast your mind back to your school chemistry classes, you may remember working with thin strips of white paper that would change colour when dipped in acidic lemon juice or vinegar.

Most colour-changing gins use butterfly pea flower (Clitoria ternatea) as an infusion in their spirit, although rose, beetroot, and turmeric all have colour-changing abilities, too (they are considered natural indicators). Due to its delicate pH balance, an infusion of butterfly pea flower will change colour from indigo-blue to purple-pink when an acidic substance, such as tonic water or lemon juice, is added. If you then added an alkaline such as baking soda, it would turn back to blue.

Butterfly pea flower “tea” (which actually has very little flavour) is widely available online, so why not try making your own colour-changing gin? Simply add a few teaspoons of butterfly pea flowers to 100ml of your favourite gin and allow to infuse for 10 minutes before straining.

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