Native to regions as wide and varied as Southern Europe, North Africa and South West Asia, coriander – also known as cilantro – is quite the controversial plant. The herb is said to create a reaction more Marmite than, well, Marmite, with aficionados claiming a deep-rooted love and denouncers taking out billboards decrying the soapy taste of the stuff.
The etymology behind the name coriander is an interesting one. Named for its smell rather than it’s medicinal or culinary qualities, coriander derives from the Greek word koros (insect) or koriannon (bug). We’re yet to sniff any fragrant bugs here at Gin Foundry, but we’ll let you know the comparison as soon as the chance arises.
In the context of gin, almost always (whether defined or not), 99% of gin makers mean coriander seed when they say they use coriander. The location from where it is sourced has a large impact on the overall flavour profile too and many gin makers will spend careful hours researching where they get their crop.
Moreover, some gin makers even roast their coriander seeds before steeping, while others deliberately crush them.
The aroma of freshly crushed coriander seeds is said to have a narcotic effect when inhaled, earning it a cute little nickname – dizzycorn. While it’s safe to say that the blame for any effects you feel after a couple of G&Ts lies solely at alcohol’s door, it’s a fun notion to play around with and would couple up well in a cocktail with a certain green fairy…
On a molecular level, nearly 70% of coriander seed oil is a single alcohol called linalool but the second major component is alpha-pinene, the key ingredient in juniper. Perhaps this is why the pair blend together so perfectly. Other molecules in a considerably quantity (just under 10%) is gamma-terpinene, which is responsible for that lemony-citrus note.
Coriander plays a central role in the gin world, and is the second most used botanical after juniper. It is actually quite rare to find a gin that doesn’t have coriander see. That said, its tone is usually nuanced. The plant has a complex flavour once distilled, all at once citrusy, nutty and a little spicy.
Typically, in a gin, the flavour of coriander seed is more discernable towards the end of the flavour journey. If a gin has citrus, these elements will come off upfront while the citrusy nature of coriander seed will present itself thereafter –towards the heart / end of a gin.
Gins where Coriander Seed is noticeable to taste:
Coriander is particularly prevalent in Dr. J’s Gin from Cambridge, England, which uses different types of the herb as well as the seed. Tanqueray London Dry with its citrus twang also makes distinguishable use of coriander and Cremorne London Dry is a coriander forward gin.
…As a G&T garnish, or in a Cilantro Martini. The fresh coriander will help push the citrusy undertones forward, but be careful who you’re serving – it’s like Marmite, remember.
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