The sun’s Back and a Stylish Late Lunch is The Perfect Way to Start Using Your Garden as a Social Space Again Glasses at The Ready!
Lay down your trowel and head to the sunniest spot in your midday garden. Why? Because spring is springing, the days are getting warmer and it’s time to throw the garden party of the year: a gin & jazz après midi (a soirée that happens in the afternoon). The relaxed but super-stylish combination of gin & jazz is the coolest of bar trends for 2020, so it’s the perfect way to kick-off your year of garden get-togethers. The gin & jazz trend has been quietly bubbling up for a couple of years now. Festivals have been launched in its honour across the UK, from Scotland’s Cairngorms to Kent’s Tunbridge Wells.
Around the world, the hottest new bar openings have embraced the pairing: the current place to be seen in South Africa’s Cape Town is the Art of Duplicity Speakeasy Bar, with its hidden entrance and must-be-on- the-guest-list glamour. Once you’re inside, you’ve entered a world of live jazz and luxurious gin cocktails, such as The Geisha’s First Blossom Tanqueray No.10, plus cherry brandy, champagne, yuzu and jasmine cordial and rose petal sherbet.
Meanwhile, in Japan’s Nara Prefecture, Bar ‘Pippin’, described by The Telegraph as ‘…one of the most eagerly anticipated bar openings of Japan’s drinks scene’, delivers its signature cocktails to the soothing strains of jazz. This intimate venue, with only 12 seats, serves up what customers describe as the best Salty Dogs – gin and grapefruit juice over crushed ice, in a salt-rimmed cocktail glass – they’ve ever tasted. But now the gin & jazz combo is moving out of the night-time shadows to under the noonday sun. In the boutique grounds of Malmaison Aberdeen and on the sunny terraces of Johannesburg’s La Boqueria, lunchtime G&J gatherings are fast becoming where it’s at. High time, then, you introduced them to the chicest venue of all: your spring-flower-filled garden.
The first thing you need to know when hosting a gin & jazz party is why these two things belong together. To answer that, you have to rewind 100 years, back to the dynamic, beguiling, Bohemian 1920s – the era that American author F Scott Fitzgerald dubbed ‘The Jazz Age’. This was a time for breaking boundaries: reaching dizzying speeds in newly available motorcars, slashing hems, bobbing hair and embracing the rule-defying rhythms of jazz. Fitzgerald was the chronicler of the age. His famous novel, The Great Gatsby, was the quintessential portrait of the decade’s exuberance (and its darker side, too). And Fitzgerald’s favourite drink was gin, usually in the form of a Gin Rickey – long glass, measure of gin, fill with ice, add the juice of half a lime, top with fizzy water, garnish with the squeezed lime and drink! But the current trend isn’t simply a homage to Fitzgerald and the Roaring Twenties.
Gin & jazz lunches owe a debt of gratitude to the recent jazz boom, with a new generation of musicians, including Nubya Garcia, Shabaka Hutchings, Kamasi Washington and Jazzmeia Horn, creating a modern scene that draws on each and every musical genre, from reggae to rap. Poland’s Wojtek Mazolewski borrows from electronica – check out Roman II from his latest album When Angels Fall. In his track Brother, the innovative jazz musician Miles Mosley plays with funk and soul, while Matthew Halsall’s 2019 release, Oneness, conjures up the spiritual music of meditation. So if you think you don’t like jazz, think again! Whatever your usual go-to-music genre is, someone on today’s jazz scene is playing music that will inspire you.
TREND FOR GIN
The same playful approach has revitalised the gin world, too. Over the last decade, sales of this spirit have soared, transforming gin from a bottle to reach for in life’s more traumatic moments to the tipple of choice for the coolest of cats. It’s predicted that this is the year when domestic sales will hit the 100 million bottle mark, and the market is awash with delicious new products: craft gins, pink gins, coloured gins and savoury gins. With the gin surge has come an explosion in tonics and mixers, too, plus a whole smorgasbord of experimental new garnishes. So, when it comes to your gin & jazz garden gathering, the bar needs to be centre stage.
BUILD A GARDEN BAR
The key to a good bar is to improvise with panache! Wooden vintage apple crates can be stacked to hold mixers, or position a few on their sides to display attractive gin bottles. Commandeer the potting bench as a makeshift drinks table. Sit bottles inside empty window boxes and large pots, and turn a barrel planter upside down to use as a table. There are lots of gins on the market that are perfect for a garden gathering, with plant-based flavours and natural motifs on their illustrated labels. Stand each on an upturned terracotta pot, with foliage wrapped around its base, to show off each to its beautiful best. If you want to go the extra mile for your guests, stand your gins and your tonics/mixers on separate tables and leave little notes beside each one, describing the taste of each gin and the toni ink bookst y e of mixer matters the final drink sh s much tonic as gin. All tonic waters have their own taste. If you have a sweetish tooth, stick to Schweppes.
Fever-Tree Light Tonic Water (£1.70, tesco.com) creates beautiful bubbles. Luscombe Tonic Water (£4/5, abelandcole.co. uk) is made for citrusy gins, while the Double Dutch range (£4.15, waitrose.com) is low on sugar and high on unusual flavour combinations – try pairing a dry gin with the cucumber and watermelon mixer. Once your gin, tonics and glasses are laid out safely, it’s time to bring on the garnishes. The classic gin garnish is a twist of lemon or lime, and bowls of both fruits help to give your bar a colourful zing – but don’t stop there. The garnish should deepen or complement the flavours in the gin, so lay out a range of freshly picked herbs. The award-winning Ditchling Gin (£42.95, masterofmalt.com) is amazing with a squeeze of fresh orange, a splash of sparkling spring water and a sprig of rosemary. Raid your kitchen for spices, too, which will add an extra layer to your drinks.
A heady kaffir lime leaf will bring out the subtle smokiness of Willow Tree Gin (£38, willowtree distilling.co.uk) perfectly. Drinks made? Then it’s time for lunch…
As it’s still spring, look for a sheltered spot for lunch. It can be breezy in April as north-east gusts often join the more usual prevailing winds that come in from the south-west. If you have any large potted plants, you could move them to create a DIY windbreak. The sun will feel at its warmest in the early afternoon, so time your late lunch to make the most of it. If you can, move your garden table into a nook near a white-painted wall or fence, which will reflect the sunlight, earning you some bonus warmth. Drape throws over the backs of your chairs for extra cosiness. Serve up warm food, too. A good choice is tapas because it begs for gin-friendly pairings such as olives, lemons and herbs. Think crowd-pleasing paella, calamari, baby potatoes with salsa, olive bread, Spanish tortillas and sizzling garlic prawns. After lunch, just kick back, moving the throws onto your outdoor sofa. The whole vibe of jazz is to go with the flow, whether that’s dancing on the decking or sitting back and letting the music carry you away to a happy place… with a few more glasses of gin, of course!
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