What to drink on a Dry January Friday night

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Drinks for Dry January and beyond

 

Let’s be clear on something:

  1. I’m not doing Dry January.
  2. In spite of my love of gin…and wine…and champagne…I’m not actually a very big drinker.

So actually I spend quite a lot of time drinking non alcoholic stuff. Which has been dominated basically by elderflower anything. It’s a move on from lime and soda for sure.

But I think what’s really exciting is the development of lots more alternatives in the drinks department geared towards adults. So whether you’re doing Dry January (in which case please go and try these in your local pub, they still need you) or you choose not to drink alcohol all the time or just sometime, then these are worth a look:

Non alcoholic wines from Belvoir Fruit Farms

Belvoir Fruit Farms deliver a large amount of the cordial content of this house, mainly because they are just up the road. I am really excited by their alcohol free wines as something new to add to the table, particularly for a dinner. The white is from Chardonnay grape juice, blended with peach juice and elderflower, and the red is Shiraz with elderberry and blackcurrant juice. The rosé is a mix of grapes of all colours, but sounds delicious none the less. I can see me keeping stocks of all of these in.

 

Gunna Drinks

I quite often switch to a ginger beer, particularly if I’m eating something more meaty or spicy. Gunna say they are here to spice up the soft drinks market, and their original drink would seem to do that. A blend of spring water, natural gingers, lemon juice and aromatic spices, this sounds like a good winter version of a soft drink.  Great looking packaging too.

 

Seedlip Spirits. Which are not spirits.

 

Seedlip seem to be a very sophisticated offering in this field, and act as great alternatives to gin and vodka. Copper pot distilled, these are sugar and sweetener free, no artificial flavours and still calorie free, these are designed to work with tonic. I think Spice 94 would be my winter choice, moving to Garden 108 for the warmer weather. Not cheap at £27.99, and I think I’d want to try it before committing to a bottle so will be looking out for bars serving it.

 

Nix and Kix Two

 

Nix & Kix would also spice things up, as this one is delivering a hit of cayenne chilli in each drink. Mango & Ginger sounds like a ready made bedmate for chilli, Cucumber & Mint less so, but not tried it so I won’t knock it. Look, it’s a bit light on the benefits of cayenne, it references the 1000 years of benefits but not what it’s doing for you here. Which I imagine is not much. Buy it for the taste, not benefits.

Double Dutch Premium Mixers

Double Dutch’s products could be mixers, or could just be a great drink on their own. Pomegranate & Basil would be right up my street, but then Cucumber & Watermelon sounds great too. Just keep me away from adding the gin to them!

So whether it’s Dry January or Sober October, or all the months in between, then definitely worth checking out your options, whether in a bar, the pub or the supermarket. And if they’re not stocking anything interesting then ask for it, it’s the only way to get things changed.

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Japanese Peruvian food is this year’s big thing!

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Lemon and chilli to get us going

 

Well, it is in this household, thanks to a great couple of hours on a course at Divertimenti just before Christmas. I’d never heard of Japanese Peruvian food and, being an out of towner, then couldn’t reel off 3 Peruvian restaurants I’d eaten at.

All the Londoners could.

Let’s face it, we haven’t even got a Wahaca yet in Nottingham. But I digress. We picked this because it was the course on the date nearest to MGGs birthday, not because we’d seen in Olive that Peruvian and Japanese Peruvian would be big in 2017.

Led by Fabricio Cano, this gave us an introduction to the cuisine, but with recipes that I’ll be making at home. Teriyaki sauce will be coming from a pan not a bottle in the future, apparently keeps well for a fortnight in the fridge. This time we converted it into a Peruvian teriyaki beef with stir fry vegetables, definitely one for a week day supper.

 

Beef teriyaki on the go

 

I loved doing the ceviche and the sushi rolls. I mean, look at the tuna we started with!

 

Some serious tuna going on

 

Being in the Midlands fish this fresh is a little more difficult to come by, but I would definitely do this if I was passing a good fishmongers.

 

Tiradito Nikkei

 

We did a salmon ceviche maki alongside the tuna dishes, all amazing. Fabricio talked about lots the techniques of ceviche, how long to leave it for, even down to things like ditching the middle of the red onions for ceviche as the flavour is too strong.

 

Ceviche Nikkei

 

MGG and I both loved making the gyoza, and were pretty impressed with our pleating. We could have just polished off the plate of these, and will be making these soon.

 

Pork gyoza, pleated by us

 

I loved this as a course, there were 7 of us on it, everything was really well organised, and the pace was great. Sitting down to eat everything we’d cooked together was lovely too, helped along with some sake, a classic Chilcano de Pisco and some good wine. That was me, not MGG.

 

Peruvian Japanese lunch is served

 

This is not for you if you’re a bit shy, as you are essentially cooking in the middle of the lower shop floor, but that wasn’t a problem for us. I’d definitely look to go on other courses at Divertimenti, there’s everything from baking through Italian food, knife skills to Malaysian. Fabricio is teaching again in March, this time Peruvian street food.

Lovely to go on, reasonable from a cost perspective and a great range of subjects. The only downside is you’ve got to try and get through the Divertimenti shop without spending anything…! So tempting, so many things you never knew would help your cooking and baking!

 

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Food trends of 2017: what will the hipsters do?

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What will the hipsters eat this year?

 

I had thought about trying to analyse the many lists of food trends for this year, to see if could reach a consensus of what were the really big things making food waves.

Well, turns out Eater (not to mention their big team of writers) got their first, and their list of all lists is most definitely worth a read. But analysing that, I would say from their leg work that these are things that are getting lots of noise so might be worth a taste or two. Unless you’re a hipster, in which case get busy on all of these!

 

Cauliflower

 

Cauliflower Crust Pizza

 

Photo from BBC Good Food

Well, who am I to disagree with Bon Appetit and the James Beard Foundation, but I would have thought this one was beyond a trend now, and is now mainstream, but maybe not. They both say it’s the new kale, which hopefully means kale is over and done with. So, possibly time to start perfecting your cauliflower pizza crust or rice.

 

Vegetables

 

Vegetables may be about to rule the world

 

It’s a takeover. It’s all about the veg. Apart from where it’s about the return of proper butchers. Or maybe it’s more about balance than ever before. But Bloomberg, James Beard and the Telegraph are all backing veg for an even bigger role this year. Good news for vegetarians, that maybe there might be choices on the menu, which is probably good news for all of us.

 

Savoury Yogurts

 

Beetroot moves into dairy

 

Maybe this is the spin off of the rise of vegetables, and that they are just taking over everything. Apparently could be beetroot, carrot or sweet potato amongst others. Waitrose say it’s a thing, and the Telegraph reported it.

Beetroot from Pinterest.

 

Sprinkles

 

Sprinkle as though you're a 7 year old!

 

Enough with the healthy stuff, this is a trend all about full on, technicolour desserts, overflowing with sprinkles and other sugary stuff. It was a trend from the James Beard Foundation, but pulling on reports from the New York Times, BuzzFeed and the Washington Post, not to mention all over Pinterest. But if it’s a dull night in January, then I say bring on the sprinkles.

 

Filipino Food

 

 

 

I thought that Japanese Peruvian food was going to be the thing, or maybe just because that’s the last course we went on. But according to Bloomberg and Food Network, Filipino food is the next thing. It could be great, as they describe it as the original fusion food, with influences from Chinese, Spanish, Malay and other South Eastern Asian cuisines amongst others. We will all know more about lumpia, longganisa and kinilaw by the end of the year. To be fair, we haven’t even got a Wahaca yet in Nottingham, so it may take some time to experience this locally.

 

These lists don’t really matter, you can just ignore them as you choose. Or you can have fun exploring some of them. Which to me is what food should really be about.

Now, pass the sprinkles please.

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The Friday Five – Healthy eating, no fads allowed

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Healthy eating, no fads allowed

 

I don’t have a great record on healthy eating books, or certainly those of a certain mindset around “healthy” eating. Deliciously Ella lasted about 2 days in my house, and a book with a recipe for unicorn fuel is my worst cookbook of the year.

But, it’s January, and many of us are thinking about how we could eat a bit more healthily, whether for health or vanity. These ones are ones that tick the boxes in that they do have proper recipes in (although one may have avocado on toast as a recipe, close call) and are quite clearly geared up to people who like to eat and like to cook.

Jamie Oliver Super Food Family Classics

 

Jamie Oliver Super Food Family Classics

 

I’m not the biggest Jamie Oliver fan, I’ve had a number of his books over the years but none have stayed in the house too long. I was given this one though, and MGG and I have cooked from it a lot. It’s an interesting read, as well as good recipes, and is definitely geared to busy family life. We loved the pesto and curry paste recipes, these are all in the freezer. The only nay from us was the Butternut Squash Mac’n’Cheese. In MGG’s view, some things are not meant to be healthy.

 

Fitness Food/Fitness Gourmet

 

Fitness Food

 

Took me a few moments to work out this is exactly the same book, just in hardback and paperback. I liked this when I reviewed the original version, other than the incident with the coconut pancakes. Still avoid that one, the recipe looks to be exactly the same between the editions. It’s easy to follow, you can work out how to dial up dishes if it’s just you on reduced calories and you’ve got growing teens to cater for too.

 

Cook Nourish Glow

 

Cook Nourish Glow

 

Amelia Freer’s second book, and I thought that with my history I was straying into dangerous territory here. But I managed to get all the way through without one FFS, so pretty good going. There is quite a bit of raw kale, which is a no go with us, but there are plenty of tasty things like chicken breast with ginger and apricot stuffing, or halibut ceviche. I like her writing style, she talks as a fellow adult, and there are plenty of well known people who will testify to the success of her approach.

 

Ready Steady Glow

 

Ready Steady Glow

 

I’m going to get these two confused. Both second books, this one by Madeleine Shaw is about wheat and sugar free, and well written. Although I can live without a yoga routine in my cookbooks if I’m honest, but it’s right at the back so you can skip it. Apricots and chicken feature again, but also something different like slow roast beef cheeks with celeriac mash. Sounds like perfect winter cooking to me, just with healthy overtones.

 

Tom Kerridge’s Dopamine Diet

 

Tom Kerridge's Dopamine Diet

 

Okay, this one isn’t out for a few more days, and I haven’t seen anything of it other than what is on Amazon. Well, that and the change in Tom’s appearance. Let’s face it, he’s about a third of the man he was, but you can’t imagine he’s been living on rice cakes and almond butter. I’m know he’s been putting in the hours at the gym as well (I have a great story about him and a friend of mine in the sauna at the gym…nothing remotely mucky, all about getting a table at the Hand & Flowers), but I reckon if this worked for Tom then it must be good, and very tasty. I mean, you won’t think you’re on a diet if you’re eating braised beef with horseradish or Chinese pork hot pot. I may well have to order this one and give it a go.

 

Whilst I’m definitely gearing up to eat more healthily this year, I’m also not going to eat joyless food. Finding healthy food with taste is the goal, along with an awful lot more movement. Don’t wish to be a bore but loving my FitBit, really is making me think about how long I’m sat still for. Talking of which, time to move!

 

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My worst cookbook of 2017

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Ok, I know what you’re thinking.

It’s only the 4th, there’s a lot cookbooks to go at this year.

Nope, this is going to top them all. This is my worst cookbook of the year, hands down. It probably will be up there in my all time worst cookbooks ever. It’s probably vying for top spot with Deliciously Ella.

 

Eat With Intention - my worst cookbook of 2017

 

Eat With Intention is just not for me, and here’s why:

  1. Any cookbook that has me saying FFS several times by page 29 is probably not boding well. Although obviously I feel sympathy for the problems her brother faced.
  2. I don’t need my cookbooks to offer up a daily visualisation or meditation.
  3. I don’t need my cookbooks to give me a daily mantra.
  4. I don’t need a recipe for Unicorn Fuel. FFS, I’m not a 9 year old. Although that’s probably because I’m not attuned to my magic, the mantra for that day.
  5. I don’t need a recipe for AB&J rice cakes. I can manage to get almond butter onto a rice cake without a recipe. If you can call spread a tablespoon of almond butter on a rice cake a recipe. But then again I’m already comfortable with the ease and flow of life, so could skip that recipe and mantra.

So look, some people will love this book. Cassandra Bodzak is probably an incredibly nice person and, let’s face it, she’s having the last laugh here. She has a book deal, a TV channel, a post as a healthy living guru…and I’m just an overweight, middle aged wage monkey with a little blog and an unmagical approach to cook books.

But then, as the mantra on page 195 says, I appreciate both the sweet and sour in my life. I look forward to the sweetness of good food writing ahead. The bar’s not exactly been set high!

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How to stay out of the dog house this Christmas

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Stay out of the doghouse this Christmas

 

So, here we are, it’s Christmas Eve, you’re all sorted. Nothing to do but maybe take a nice country walk, pop into the pub for a seasonal beverage, head home and light the fire…

Oh, hold on, what’s that you say? No one told you it’s Christmas tomorrow?

Oh come on, not that old one again. I’ve been writing this blog for years and every time it’s the same There’s always someone still looking for a gift on Christmas Eve, even as the rest of us have started sales shopping.

I mean, I could really just suggest you head out and brave the high street or shopping mall, that it serves you right. But you might find that you’ll fare better to find a great gift for a food lover from home than picking over what’s left on the shelves, and might even have something to show for it on Christmas Day. Here’s some thoughts:

 

Opening our minds, and appetites, through travel

 

Go for tickets to something, or somewhere. You could book a full on trip to a great food destination, or even just to something like the Good Food Show. Use your printer, use your crafting skills, get the wrapping paper out and you can still make something of this.

 

Holiday reading

 

Take out a magazine subscription for them (even better if you can pop to your nearest convenience store and find the latest edition too). Quite a lot of them are geared up for you to print out cards and things so again, something for their stocking. Slightly harder to wrap, but gives them huge scope, is to take out a subscription for them to Readly. For a food lover this is amazing, as there’s a huge selection of food and drinks mags from around the world.

 

Afternoon tea and more

 

Many of the gift experience companies do downloadable vouchers, or again you can get busy with your printer, scissors and glue. Red Letter Days are one of my favourites for their range of “gourmet” experiences, from sushi or chocolate making to vineyard and brewery tours. BuyAGift also have a great range, and an e-voucher option.

 

My holiday cookbook reading

 

Steal their Kindle or any other tablet, and load it up with good e-books on food. I’ve written about lots of different books during this year, from the best cookbooks from around the world to cookbooks fit for a Queen, so surely something for everyone and all kinds of tastes.

If they are like me, and the cookbooks are taking over the kitchen and beyond, then give them a subscription to Eat Your Books. It means that they can find any recipe in seconds, as Eat Your Books have done the hard work and indexed every recipe for them. There’s over 1 million recipes listed from a huge number of books, and they might enjoy the setting up as they look at all the lovely books they have just sitting there.

If these are still not quite doing it for you, and you want to give an actual gift, then check out my guide to shopping at St Pancras (other stations are available) or how to do gifts from your local convenience store with style. All of which are better than sitting there tomorrow morning with nothing for your loved one at all.

And no, saying that it’s the thought that counts doesn’t count when you haven’t thought about it! Get to it!

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Get more Greenery into your kitchen in 2017

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It's all about Greenery: Pantone Colour of the Year

I was at the launch of the Pantone Colour of the Year last week, and apparently green is the colour for next year. More precisely, a shade called Greenery.

 

Pantone Colour of the Year Greenery around the home

 

Probably easier to get your head around in the kitchen, than perhaps in your make up bag:

 

Pantone Colour of the Year Greenery in your make up bag

 

But if you want to be ahead of the curve, then here’s a few things I’ve spotted that are in a similar territory.

Chop 2 Pot from JosephJoseph

I think the team at Joseph Joseph have been into this colour for a little while already, as this Chop to Pot is not new. However, these are still an incredibly useful thing to have in the kitchen, regardless of colour.

Kitchen Craft Healthy Manual Juicer

Get ready for the new year, the new colour and inevitable healthy eating resolutions with this Manual Juicer from Kitchen Craft. Makes it sound like you’ll get some exercise at the same time as making your juice, possibly a slightly more peaceful exercise than some mechanised juicers.

 

Asher Tumbler LSA

Update your glassware, whether for water or wine, with this tumbler from LSA International. There is a broad range of colours available but this one is the one if you want to be on the trend.

 

Cow on Grass Milk Jug

 

This milk jug definitely looks like it’s got the right colour going on, or you could say that Greenery was inspired by grass. Whichever way, I think this is a great addition to the breakfast table, produced by Hanne Rysgaard Ceramics.

 

Pea Pod Oven Gloves

 

Freshen up the kitchen with a new pair of oven gloves, like this lovely pair from Thornback & Peel. I love the pea pod pattern, colour is definitely right on trend, and oven gloves always make a great gift, for yourself or anyone else who loves to cook.

 

Basil & Mint Candle from Orla Kiely

I think this Basil and Mint Candle from Orla Kiely ticks the boxes, both in terms of colour, and also the natural world inspiration behind the trend too. Great scent to give a food lover, this will definitely perk up any room.

So, you can get ahead of the crowd and stun them with your colourful kitchen, with a colour that’s inspired by rebirth, energy and positivity. It would be very nice to think that that’s what 2017 has in store for all of us!

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The Friday Five – the best cookbooks of 2016 around the world

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Your own library of cookbooks

 

It’s no secret that I love cookbooks, and I love to give cookbooks as gifts. With so much choice though, it can be completely overwhelming, which is why those best of lists are so helpful. My only challenge is that they can be a little bit samey, from the same voices. So, I’ve looked a bit further afield to see what publications around the web have offered their readers, and taken my choices from there.

 

Better Baking: wholesome ingredients, delicious desserts

 

Better Baking by Genevieve Ko – from the Washington Post’s list, starting off with a baking book, but one that focuses on different flours, fats and sweeteners. A Melting Walnut Snowball sounds like perfect Christmas baking to me. Good to see some UK talent makes the list, including Chetna Makan and Diana Henry. Was also a close run thing to make this entry Cooking for Jeffrey by Ina Garten, as I do love these two. Maybe order both?

 

Food52: a new way to dinner

 

Food52 A New Way to Dinner – up to Canada now for this list from the Ottawa Citizen. Again, good to see Diana Henry on the list, but I’ve chosen this one from the team at Food52. This is to tackle weekday dinners, the just feed us all now kind of dinners. Each of the sections gives you the recipes and the shopping lists, and gives you weekday choices, many that riff one off the next so you can always work out what to do with leftover ingredients. Great for busy working people who like to cook for themselves.

 

Meathead: The Science of Great Grilling

 

Meathead: The Science of Great Barbecue and Grilling – this one comes from Wired’s list of cookbooks of 2016, not a publication I would have expected to have this feature but a really interesting list if you’re looking for books that do the science of cooking as well as tasty dishes. If you’ve got a really keen grillmaster or mistress to buy for, this book would up their game to a whole new level, not to mention giving them some new recipes to go at. Expect a lot of conversations about the benefits of reverse searing.

 

All Under Heaven

 

All Under Heaven: Recipes from the 35 Cuisines of China – as you might expect from the Bay area, this is a fabulous book of Chinese recipes from across this huge country, written by a San Francisco based food blogger and writer. From the San Francisco Times list, this is described as detailed and academic, hefty but a pleasure to read. Definitely one for those who love their Chinese food authentic and varied.

 

An: To Eat

 

An: To Eat – finally, from Gear Patrol’s list, comes this exploration of Vietnamese cooking from Helene An. Exploring her family’s story through cooking, this gives over 100 recipes including things like oven-roasted lemongrass chicken and slow roasted pork shoulder. In fact all the books on the Gear Patrol list were a bit different and, with the exception of Tim Anderson’s book, not ones that I’d come across before.

So, some different choices, some different lists and possible extra brownie points on Christmas Day. Or some extra books on your own bookshelves. I consider that a win either way.

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Who would win my great gift awards for food lovers?

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Who would your winner be?

 

Someone asked me earlier this week who I thought did food gifts really well, doing something a bit different.

Well, it’s like my Mastermind specialist subject. And I could have kept them all day, but didn’t. So, these are my definitely the winners in my book, for when you’re looking for something just a little bit different for a special food lover on your list.

Bluebird Tea Co

 

Make your own black tea kit from Bluebird Tea Co

 

I know, I write about these guys a lot, but I love them and what they’re doing, have done since we met on a front lawn of a country house years ago. Their gifting is inventive and imaginative, and their tea is top notch. I think I could find something for everyone from Bluebird, and at every price point. Love them. Buy direct from them, or there’s a large selection on Not On the High Street.

 

Artisan du Chocolat

 

Milk Chocolate Salted Caramel Honeycomb

 

I’ve always had their salted caramels on my wish list (and it’s the one thing that’s always got taken notice of, lucky me). I love that you can do proper, grown up, single estate, high percentage cocoa with them, and you can do things like salted caramel honeycomb. So essentially a posh Crunchie. My idea of heaven. Chocolate for every budget and every taste, but always incredibly tasty and beautiful looking.

 

Master of Malt

 

Ginvent 2016 Advent Calendar

 

I love these guys for alcohol gifts with edge and interest. I loved them when they started out with the sample sets, I think they’ve been brilliant at the advent calendars, never mind just the mind blowing collection of whiskies, gins, liqueurs and other spirits. They do tasting sets, which can help educate and develop your palate. Or just have some good evenings in. Great choices.

 

The Snaffling Pig Co

Pig N Mix Christmas Gifting

I love businesses with a passion and a focus, and that’s definitely true here. It’s all about the pig, starting with the pork scratchings. The jars look great, and definitely make a great looking, tasty gift. The Pig Night In also includes their own beer, so definitely one to sit back and enjoy. And it’s not too late to get hold of their advent calendar either. Twenty four days of pork scratching gorgeousness.

 

Craved

 

Craft Gin & Tonic Hamper

 

Brilliant source for beautifully curated gifts from the best artisan producers around. Supporting a small business supporting other small food and drink businesses has to be a good thing, and they have such lovely selections. Again, something for every budget and kind of taste. It can be drink, it can be store cupboard, it can be fresh food.

 

So, five great businesses that I reckon could fulfill many of your food and drink gift options for all kinds of people at all kinds of price points. If you could only nominate five places to shop from great food and drink gifts, where would you pick?

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Great gifts for my gorgeous fellow gin lovers

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A shelf full of Irish gin loveliness

 

There doesn’t seem to be a mention of gin on Facebook without at least one of my friends tagging me in it. Now, I do love my gin, though possibly don’t drink anywhere near as much as my reputation seems to suggest!

But gin lovers are being well catered for this Christmas, even without a bottle of the hard stuff being part of the gift. Here’s some of my favourites:

 

Adore Gin Christmas Card

 

Firstly, you’ll be needing a Christmas card for them. This hits the right note.

 

Making a gin putting in ice sweatshirt

 

If it’s cold outside, you’ll need wrapping up warm.

 

Don't come in if you haven't got gin

 

Want to make sure you only get the right kind of guests? Hang this one on the front door instead of the traditional wreath.

 

Anti Stress Remedy Gin Glass

 

Even the thought of guests stressing you out? You’ll need this anti stress remedy glass to serve your perfect gin and tonic in.

 

Gin and Tonic Tea

 

Too early for gin? Is it ever too early for gin? Anyway, gin and tonic tea with your toast anyone?

 

Gin & Lemon Jam

Talking of toast, how about upgrading your normal jam and switching to a Gin & Lemon jam?

 

Relationship status gin mug

 

And you’ll be needing a mug to serve your tea in, and possibly raise a smile or two.

Pickerings Gin Christmas Baubles

Now you’ll be ready to decorate the tree. Gin filled baubles are definitly my kind of thing. Though no one will notice if you replace it with water on the quiet.

 

Gin & Tonic Flavoured Lip Balm

A quick slick of gin and tonic lip balm and you’ll be ready to take on the day.

 

Gin Bunny Gym Bag

 

Time for a trip to the gin. Oh, sorry, that should say gym. But why give up the habit of a lifetime? But I do love this as a gym bag.

 

Drink more gin personalised apron

Time to cook dinner, so you’ll be needing a good apron. This one has my name all over it. Although it could have yours, as there’s a personalised element to it too.

 

Craft Gin & Tonic Hamper

 

So, maybe it’s time to actually get onto the good stuff. I really love Craved and this Craft Gin & Tonic Cocktail Kit is a winner with me. With London Dry Gin or Old Tom Gin, it comes with built in snacks. It’s a night in in a box.

 

Gin soy wax candle

 

Start the wind down, and get your gin and tonic candle lit. Few deep breaths in, and a gentle sip of that G&T you made earlier.

 

Gin hot water bottle cover

 

Now, fill up your hot water bottle (with water, not gin) and head off to bed, to dream dreams of days and nights ahead filled with good gin.

And if you need to find some other gin based ways to fill your day, then check out Gin School. Great way to spend a few hours.

Cheers!

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