Gin Tasting & Cocktail Masterclass @ Flipside Cocktail Club

Not even the dull, grey, wet February weather could dampen my excitement for the Gin Master class at Flipside cocktail club. Located on Whiteladies Road, I had not visited Flipside before and was looking forward to going somewhere new and partaking in a master class all about my favourite tipple! Myself (a self­ professed Gin lover) and my friend Kirsty (not a Gin fan) set off for an afternoon of learning more about this wonderful spirit.

Flipside is an impressive bar. Wooden beams, warm decor and attention to detail make this venue both modern and trendy, whilst the creative quirks and decoration within the interior keep it alternative and add something different from other cocktail bars I have visited in Bristol. I felt like we had stumbled upon a hidden gem.

We were greeted warmly by Andy, the owner and brains behind the master class. We also had our first drink of the day, a welcome Hendricks and Fever­ Tree tonic. If this was just the beginning of the master class, I was already in heaven…

We then headed upstairs to take our seats and let the class begin. It was a full group, varied with couples, groups of friends, men and women of all different ages. Andy began with a history of Gin, explaining the time period in which people first started drinking it and making it, some even selling it from their own living rooms! There was even a time when a pint of Gin was cheaper than a pint of lager (can you IMAGINE?!). Andy explained that all Gin’s include Juniper as an ingredient. Other botanicals are then added for the flavour, for example orange/lemon peel, coriander, angelica etc. The spirit is diluted to reach the required strength of roughly 45% ABV and is pumped into a still usually made of copper. The still is heated which then removes the essential oils from the botanicals to give flavour to the spirit. Andy was very engaging and I really enjoyed listening to him giving us a bit of background about the spirit, he didn’t let us go thirsty for long however, as we were then served our first Gin based cocktail by the lovely Sophie.

Cocktail number one was a Flipside twist on a ‘Tom Collins’. Hendricks Gin, freely squeezed lemon juice, ginger, mint, a slice of cucumber and Elderflower Fever­Tree tonic. This cocktail was delicious. It was fresh, zesty and crisp and would be the perfect drink to accompany a summer BBQ. It almost left behind a tropical flavour aftertaste and I enjoyed the smell and lingering flavour of mint. Perhaps I am biased being a big Henricks Gin fan, but my friend also really enjoyed this cocktail (I was going to have her converted by the end of the day!).

Next up we were going to try some neat Gin. Andy explained that drinking it straight was a great way to really explore the flavour. Hendricks was first. We had to cleanse our palettes, and this we did by taking a sip and swirling it around our mouths for 10/20 seconds. It did burn a little, but Andy explained that this was the best way of getting our taste buds ready for picking up the different flavours. We were all asked to smell the Gin and I could pick up the smell of Juniper. This went down a treat, so far still sober!

Andy continued to tell us about the way in which Gins are made, for example, how the family at Hendricks use a different, perhaps more complex process to create their specific type of Gin. He also had lots of photos that he shared with us whilst talking us through more detail. Andy was informative but still fun; he had a great sense of humour and was clearly passionate about his subject. What impressed me was just how much thought goes into what we team our spirits with. I am guilty of ordering similar cocktails when I go out, sticking to what I know and what I like, Andy definitely swayed my opinion and encouraged being more adventurous ­ a tip I definitely took away with me and will bear in mind when I next visit a bar.

Cocktail number two was a ‘make your own Martinez’ (this could have been very dangerous!) Luckily, we were all handed a cup of ice, alongside a small bottle of Sacred Vermouth and another of Sacred Gin. Sacred Gin comes from a micro distillery in London. Sacred steer away from the ‘traditional’ method of making Gin, in that they do not use stills. We were told to pour the liquids together whilst Andy added just a drop of orange bitters’ and told us to mix very well before serving. This cocktail definitely packed a punch! It was quite strong and you could definitely taste the bitters afterwards. We were also treated to a taste of neat Sacred Gin. It was very smooth, with lots of fresh characters. The advantage to the way Sacred make their Gin’s is that they can really tailor to a specific flavour ­ they even make Christmas Pudding Gin!

By this point the group was in full swing on our Gin adventure. Andy was happy to chat away with everybody, working the room and open to answer any questions. The atmosphere was upbeat, with many of us chatting amongst one another and getting to know who else was in the group that day.

Cocktail three was a ‘Tea Punch’. This was Bombay Star Gin, Earl Grey Tea, lemon juice, almond and sugar syrup. Served in dainty teacups and saucers this was delightful! The lemon taste was balanced out by The Earl Grey tea flavour and Andy explained that the tea had been brewed to one and a half times more than normal strength. This was an easy going cocktail and very enjoyable. We were able to try the Bombay Star Gin neat after this cocktail, and Andy explained that he would normally recommend Bombay to people that were new to drinking Gin. I could see why, it went down smoothly with a nice balance of flavour, not one overpowering another and overall very neutral.

Last but definitely not least, was cocktail number four ‘Baxter’s flight of fancy’. This was my favourite drink of the day, a twist on a classic Gin cocktail normally known as ‘Aviation’. Burleigh’s Gin, yellow Chartreuse, fresh lemon juice, English wildflower blossom honey, served over crushed ice with a crème de violette float. This cocktail was sweet, you could taste the honey flavours coming through with the taste of lemon on your tongue afterwards, and served with crushed ice it was cold and crisp. The Burleigh’s Gin was also the last neat Gin that we had the pleasure of trying, and it was really delicious. It might even be my new favourite over Hendricks.

Overall we had a fantastic day. This is a brilliant idea if you are looking for something different to do. To say Andy knew his stuff is an understatement. He was warm, welcoming, great fun and really made the day enjoyable. His sidekick Sophie who made our cocktails was also extremely helpful and friendly. My friend even came away from the master class a changed drinker who now likes Gin, and we met some great new people. I would highly recommend Flipside if you have not yet visited, I am sure I will be back very soon propping up the bar!