Chamomile is a pretty plant that grows on long stems and has small, white flowers with yellow heads that closely resemble those of a daisy. The plant is native to many countries throughout Western Europe, though is also cultivated in Asia, North Africa and some parts of Eastern Europe.
Chamomile as a plant is famed for its medicinal properties, having been used since the Middle Ages as a treatment for asthma, colic and stomach upset. Today, the plant is commonly used as a sedative in tea form, though its anti-septic, anti-inflammatory properties still mean it is distributed to calm the stomach.
Another, perhaps more whimsical use of chamomile that could be interesting for bartenders to play around with, is the use of the herb in encouraging lucid dreams. For years, people have imbibed the leaf before bed in a bid to take control of their night time adventures.
If distilled on its own, other than the botanical’s warming floral tones – the sweetness also becomes apparent. Soft and succulent – it seems much clearer and more aromatic than when having it in a hot Chamomile tea. As a floral botanical used in gin recipes, one of chamomile’s biggest benefits is its ability to deal with the heat required during distillation. Unlike many more delicate flowers it doesn’t rot or become putrid too quickly, allowing distillers the chance to extract the full set of flavours (from both the flower and the rest of the ingredients) during a run as opposed to having to finish their hearts cut sooner than would be ideal. This is especially true if used in its dried from.
Its second key characteristic in gin is that it doesn’t dissipate (like violet) nor dominate (like lavender) either – allowing it to compliment and soften the heart of a gin as opposed to simply impact the nose or overwhelm all other flavours to taste.
Gins where chamomile is noticeable to taste:
Chamomile’s presence is felt in BLOOM Gin, as well as Tanqueray No.TEN and Silent Pool. In Tanqueray No.TEN in particular, the delicate sweetness it adds to the gin, gives it that distinct smooth sipping quality.
As a garnish on a gin cocktail with a big, white froth where the flowers can sit very pretty on top (for example – try a Silent Pool Gin Sour with a touch of egg white). Floating it on the surface of a Bees Knees made with certain types of honey can also help complete a story and bring the aroma and wider concept of the cocktail full circle.
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