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Ginterview: Belle de Jour

Dr. Brooke Magnanti

























· Belle de Jour,Brooke Magnanti,Gin Whore

Your Job Title:

Writer! Of stuff. And things. Books mainly, but also a column in Cask & Still Magazine since 2015.

I often say choosing a favourite gin is like choosing between my children (which is why I don't have any) - What's your desert island gin & why?

Eeeeeeee that's a toughie, it really depends on the day and time. For the sake of argument let's call it Brecon Gin from the Penderyn Distillery, I love the cardamom hit, the citrus. Ask me again in 24 hours and the answer will almost certainly be different.

Brecon Gin

I have many different favourite bars depending on the occasion. What's your favourite venue for: 

A. A Dry Martini & Date Night? 

B. A Red Snapper & Brunch? 

C. Gin & a party?

A. For a martini it's hard to beat The Milk Thistle in Bristol. They have plenty of other excellent cocktails as well, but I live by the K.I.S.S. principle - keep it simple, stupid.

B. Brunches, on the other hand, I associate with my upbringing in Florida so it would have to be brunch with my mom at Shephard's Resort in Clearwater Beach, Florida.

C. Gin and a party? At my house. Obvs.

You make your own compound Gin from a family recipe - tell us more!

It comes mainly - we think - from my Grandma Levy's mom in New York City. As well as the requisite juniper it has a lot of citrus peel, cassia bark, and - this is key - bay leaf.

Great-grandma died when I was small, but my gran is still going. She's ninety-three years old and is, hands down, the funniest, toughest, most generous woman I know. Like all the women in the family they prided themselves on being able to make anything from anything. And yes, this even included gin, and yes, even when it was expensive, scarce, or unobtainable - such as during Prohibition or the war. They passed that trait down along with a few treasured recipes. I say "recipes." What I really mean is a few jottings on scraps of paper.

How did you get turned onto Gin?

It took a while. As a teenager my favoured tipple was whisky - long story - and my first few encounters with gin were decidedly uneven. Top tip to any young'uns who might be reading this, never drink any cocktail that is both milky and blue, OK? 

Gin was a staple of my parents' drinks cupboard and so there was always this part of me that associated it with sophisticated people. Eventually I got older and decided to give it another go - it was gin rickeys that brought me round. I'm glad I did.

Brooke Magnanti, Belle de Jour, Gin Whore

You're a scientist - how does that help you when creating drinks/Gin?

It certainly helps in terms of sketching out a cocktail recipe, but there is always the alchemy of ingredients that relies more on artistry than science to get right. Such as anything involving fruit - time of year, hours of sunshine, these are all going to affect the final product.

Do you have a favourite Gin Botanical? (Yes. Really.)

Bay leaf. Really, really, really just my fave secret ingredient full stop. Cooking or drinks. People who don't know what bay leaf brings to the table should pour a cup of boiling water over one sometime and find out for themselves. It makes everything deeper, brighter, somehow more _there_.

Which gin has your favourite packaging? How important is this?

Orkney Gin

I love Orkney Gin's bottles. They have a beautiful, understated bit of art that echoes the islands' Nordic heritage, but the bottles have a simple, hand-crafted feel. Like something that a friendly barman might pull out from under the counter, and pour you a splash with a wink and a nod. Is it important? A bit, sure. As an ex-call girl, I know all about the power of great advertising. But you also have to deliver.

If you were a gin or a gin cocktail which would you be and why?

Gin Rickey, because I'm a bit (of a) tart.

Angus Winchester says olives are the devil's testicles. Thoughts?

Yay, more for me!

Do you have a preferred tonic?

Peter Spanton No. 9. This is so good I'd have it on its own.

What's your favourite food to pair with gin?

Food? Who needs food?

If you could share a martini with anyone who would it be?

Do I look like someone who shares their martinis? I'd let Bill Murray buy me one though.

Do you have any recommended reads for gin lovers?

It's not about gin at all but I recently read Miss Lonelyhearts by Nathanael West and it's a book that all but begs for a stiff drink in hand.

What's your pet Gin hate?

Cutesy gin-related things that put it on a par with fluffy cupcakes. Like, haha, it's a girl's drink, it's not serious the way other spirits are. Bollocks. Gin is gritty and complex and has a history. Gin is rich in detail. And gin is for everyone.

If you aren't drinking Gin what is your tipple?

Whisky! So much whisky If I say we have 40 bottles of whisky in the house at any point, does that sound terrible? (And about a dozen gins...)

There's a long history of Gin & Prostitution going hand in hand, does you joining the Gin industry mean the second Gin Craze has gone full circle?

Ooh I don't know, because that makes it sound almost as if it's about to be over and I don't think any of us want it to be over. Viva gin!

Where can I send readers to find you online? is the super serious author website, but I'm usually shooting the shit as @belledejour_uk over on the Twitterz.

(The Gin Whore says: Brooke's too polite to plug her new book so I'll do it for her!)

Buy the book The Turning Tide here.

Get tickets to The Gin Whore Tour - enjoy tasting 4 gins & plenty of giggles at a venue near you!