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One of my favorite things about spirits is that each one has its own personality that goes beyond the perceptible flavors. The combinations and characteristics of Highclere Castle Gin come together to make more than just a beverage. I look for spirits that can transport me from my parlor chaise with that first sip. It has been my experiences with this particular spirit, that have convinced me the glass, being a tiny castle, a vessel, a time machine. So much can be extracted from a well-mixed beverage made with premium spirits that are beyond the naked eye.

Much like the world’s most famous country home, the beauty of the beverage is nothing without the people that treasure it. The celebrations that take place around the cocktail and in the castle are the true grandeur. The caretakers of the bar and the curators of the castle give of themselves to turn something inanimate into a living, breathing sojourn. There’s an eternal garden party happening all the while.

I am a professional bartender, and my focus for the recent past has been to “pull back the curtain” and empower everyone who enjoys adult beverages to develop their own cocktail repertoire. My job is to show you how simple it can be to significantly raise your ability to conceive and execute thoughtful beverages that any pro would be proud of.

The theme that plays in my mind over and over again when sampling this most royal liquid are the gardens. The citrus grown there, accounts for 3 out of the ten botanicals that bring the neutral distilled grain to life. Please understand-no botanicals, no gin.

Citrus is a huge part of my life. For almost 10 years, I began my Saturday and Sundays by peeling, slicing, and juicing at minimum 150 lemons, limes, oranges and grapefruits. The sting of the acidity on my fingertips that at first made me question my life’s choices started motivating me to excel at my craft. The wafting oils that rose from the lemon’s rinds opened my eyes wide (which, in my younger years was not an easy task on a weekend morning. I’ll not saddle you with my heroic hangover tales…today, at least.) I made a promise to myself that my lemons would be the most perfectly sliced, my juice the freshest, and my twists the most fragrant.

I describe all of this to communicate one thing to you: fresh citrus juice in your cocktails will change your life, and do so very easily. The reward for juicing fresh is more than a well balanced cocktail, for each piece of citrus holds a prize within it just waiting to be captured by the savvy cocktailian.

A Short Guide on Royal Citrus, Part 1:
Lemon peels hold exquisite essential oils. Extracting them is simple and fast. Peel the lemons, toss them with sugar and seal in a jar overnight (a home vaccum sealer will shorten the process to about an hour!) Watch the oils slowly seep from the peels. This beautiful nectar is known as oleo saccharum and is quite possibly the highest cost/benefit ratio of any craft cocktail technique.
A lemon sliced in half will yield juice for once cocktail (about .75 oz or roughly 25 mls)

Royal Lemon Sour Mix:
Forget everything you have ever heard about sour mix coming from a dreadful soda gun or worse, a powder in an aluminum foil bag. This is the real stuff and can be the base for all manner of beverages.

3 Lemons
1/2 Cup Sugar
1/2 Cup Lemon Juice (from aforementioned lemons)

1.Using a vegetable peeler, skin the lemons without too much of the pith
2.Add the peels and sugar to a mixing bowl and muddle well, working the sugar into the peels. Let stand 6 hours. (This can be done overnight, or at breakfast to be ready for late afternoon entertaining)
3.Pull the peels to the sides of the bowl, allowing the oils to collect at the center.
4.Transfer peels to a jar and add the lemon juice. Seal the jar and shake until fully integrated.

The Two Step Gin Sour
2 oz (60 ml) Highclere Castle Gin
1.5 oz (45 ml) Royal Lemon Sour Mix

Add ingredients to cocktail shaker, or any vessel that can be properly sealed.
Add ice, enough to “cover” the liquid.
Shake vigorously.
Strain over fresh ice.
Optional: add a flavored soda water for a fun rendition of a Tom Collins!