Angelica is somewhat of a nomadic plant – believed to be a native of Syria, though also grown wild in the Nordics and cultivated in France, Germany, Romania and some East Asian Countries. Provenance makes little mark on quality with both good and bad sources in all of these countries, making ginsmiths generally relaxed on the matter of where they get it from.
There are around thirty varieties of the species, with some grown as flavouring agents and others for medicinal purposes. The plant can also be used to make a fadno – a traditional musical instrument used by the people of Lapland (and here we were, thinking they were busy making our Christmas presents!), and is very popular amongst Wiccans, who use angelica to promote healing & protection against negative energies.
The historically curative nature of angelica lends itself nicely to a drink-based exploration into old medicine, and the Green Tea Tonic, as featured in Warren Bobrow’s Apothecary Cocktails book, could be just the thing needed to kick that cold, without kicking our beloved gin to the curb. Angelica can also be found in the likes of Fernet, some vermouths and Chartreuse.
The root of angelica is the part most commonly used in gin production, though there are some gins that use the flower or the seeds instead. Beefeater for example, uses both the root and the seed in their botanical line up. Once distilled, angelica has an earthy flavour. It’s a little bitter and a little herbal, and is reminiscent of wormwood. The herbal tones carry through to the nose, with a faintly nettle-like smell.
The flavour of angelica can sometimes be mistaken for that of juniper berries – though the two are quite separate. This confusion is likely due to the root’s enduring use in gin – angelica is regarded by many as the third major ingredient in the spirit, following juniper and coriander seeds.
Many producers acknowledge Angelica’s role as a “binding’ agent in their gin, but to date, there has been little to no evidence to suggest this is true on a chemical level. Must be some of the botanical’s witchcraft associations coming back in.
Gins where Angelica is noticeable to taste:
Also, 58 Gin uses an usual, fresher type of angelica root – which is clearly noticeable when tasted neat.
…as an garnish for a G&T. To be fair, the angelica flower doesn’t quite cut it as a garnish on it’s own. It isn’t the prettiest out there – in fact it looks a little like cow parsley – but candied angelica, served in its glossy, green stick form would make a striking garnish to a tall, iced G&T.
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