A few years ago, Master Distiller Desmond Payne was given a task that must have seemed at once exhilarating and daunting: take the legendary Beefeater London Dry Gin and create a new, super premium gin for the modern global cocktail culture. Payne had to keep Beefeater’s original nine botanicals, the botanicals had to steep for the Beefeater standard of 24 hours before final distillation, and the gin had to be a London Dry (no flavors could be added after distillation). Other than those parameters, Payne had free rein. After 18 months of painstaking development, the result was Beefeater 24, which made its North American debut last spring and has since found its way into many a cocktail menu and home bar.
“Creating Beefeater 24…is the culmination of a dream for me,” said Payne. “During the entire 18-month process, I felt that James Burrough, creator of the original Beefeater London Dry Gin, was watching over my shoulder. And I would like to think that Mr. Burrough would approve of Beefeater 24.”
For Payne, his “light bulb moment” came with the discovery that Burrough’s father had been a tea merchant by Royal Appointment to Queen Victoria. This led Payne to experiment with various teas, including Assam and Darjeeling. At first he found the tannins too strong, until he found that the lighter, more fragrant Chinese Green and Japanese Sencha teas added flavor without dominating.
While Beefeater had derived its citrus-forward profile from Seville oranges and lemon peel, Payne brought hand-prepared grapefruit peel into the botanicals mix. The final product is a smooth and balanced artisanal gin that lends itself remarkably well to a myriad of cocktails, from classic to cutting edge.
The booze fairy apparently wanted me to continue my education after the Gin Symposium, and recently sent me a review bottle of Beefeater 24. I welcomed the opportunity to explore it more in depth.
- 90 proof (45% ABV)
- Retail price: $28.99 (750ml)
- Color – Clear.
- Nose – Initial tea, citrus and juniper.
- Taste – Aromatic tea at first, then citrus and fruit, with juniper and licorice at the end.
- Finish – Long, smooth, and earthy.
Much like the gin itself, the bottle design updates the iconic Beefeater bottle while preserving its heritage. All four sides of the rectangular-shaped bottle are decorated with a leafy Art Nouveau motif, inspired perhaps by the botanicals themselves. The base is a brilliant Beefeater red, which is reflected in the leaf motif for a striking effect. “Artisan Cut” on the label refers to the fact that Beefeater 24 is “cut” earlier during distillation, so that only the heart of the distillation is used to retain the fresh notes of tea and grapefruit.
For more information, visit www.beefeater24.com.
Anyone who has joined me for a few cocktail sessions will find out at some point that one of my go-to cocktails is the Pegu Club, named for the former British gentlemen’s club just outside of Rangoon. According to Harry Craddock, the Pegu Club “has travelled, and is asked for, around the world.” It’s a fantastic warm weather drink, and in Southern California that means you can enjoy one practically any time of the year. I always suggest it to friends who haven’t tried it, and it typically becomes one of their favorites as well. The Pegu Club is also a gin cocktail to introduce to those of your friends who tell you, “I don’t drink gin.” When it’s made well, the Pegu Club will overcome any fears they might have.
When the Beefeater 24 arrived, I naturally wanted to try it in a Pegu Club. For the recipe, I turned to an authority on the subject: Doug Winship, author of The Pegu Blog. As the name of his blog suggests, Doug is an evangelist for the Pegu Club cocktail, and offers two variations. I used the Beefeater 24 in what Doug calls The Modern American Bar Pegu, so named because most American bars will likely have the necessary ingredients. The results were superb, and with summer upon us I have a feeling there will be Pegus galore being mixed in the months ahead.
- 3 oz. Beefeater 24
- 1 oz. Cointreau
- 1 oz. fresh lime juice
- 2-4 Dashes Angostura Bitters
- Crushed ice
- Combine ingredients in a shaker.
- Shake well.
- Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
- Garnish with a lime wedge.
For more on the Pegu Club’s history, check out this recipe from David Wondrich, Esquire’s cocktail historian.