Native to southern India, but also cultivated in Guatemala, Indo China and Tanzania, cardamom is a unique spice, as essential to tea in India as it is to sausages in the Western world. The seeds come from a plant belonging to the ginger family, and are contained in small pods around the size of a cranberry.
As with many popular gin botanicals, cardamom pods were valued for its medicinal qualities ahead of its taste. Ancient Egyptians doubled it up as a mouthwash/embalming solution and Greeks and Romans added it to perfumes and ointments. Its medicinal use has been varied – from curing congestion and tuberculosis to spider and snake bites. Modern medicine believes cardamom to have mood-elevating properties, and as such is used to treat depression.
Cardamom has a pungent and identifiable aroma in spice form, but once it’s been distilled it becomes very green, like a blanket of grass. There is a definite piquancy on the nose as well, and to taste it’s identifiable only as itself – a slightly perfumed flavour, sweet at the fore with a fiery finish. Green cardamom seeds lend an additional eucalyptol flavour to gins, while black cardamom add a more smoky finish.
Gins where Cardamom pods are noticeable to taste:
Gins with a strong cardamom kick are Bathtub Navy Strength Gin, 209 Gin, Sacred Cardamom Gin and Opihr Gin. Warner Edwards Dry Gin uses cardamom to great effect, offsetting their orange tones. Lastly, lesser-known Florida Gin – Prescribed Spirits has a huge green cardamom nose and flavour.
A gin with Black Cardamom rather than the usual green is Dodd’s Gin, who deliberately use it for it’s smokier profile.
… As a garnish in a G&T. It works particularly well in conjunction with orange – our suggested garnish for the likes of Masons Yorkshire Gin.
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