I recently had the absolute pleasure of attending a gin/vodka infusion workshop at the beautiful Bristol Spirit. Having purchased a workshop as a present to my mum last year (where they caused a raucous but had the BEST time) I was jealous and could not wait to try it out for myself.
Who are they?
Bristol Spirit is the home of Espensen Spirit: the “playful boutique Bristol booze brand”. Named after owner and creator Sam Espensen, the name encapsulates her passion and drive – we could all use a little Espensen Spirit! You may have spotted the colourful drinks encased in beautiful Italian glass bottles around Bristol markets. Their playful names, such as PG Sips (Pink Grapefruit and Raspberry Vodka Liqueur) and Pump Up the Jam (Raspberry Gin) coupled with fab illustrations by Sam’s childhood friend (that follow the brief of “silly but stylish”) definitely stand out from the crowd. Each spirit has a story – I fully encourage you to ask Sam more…
Before I tell the story about the afternoon, I should give you a bit of background on the business and Sam – as she is one inspiring woman! With a background working in the drinks industry, she began experimenting with own sloe gin and vodka before moving onto other adventurous concoctions – with an increasing collection of kilner jars gathering in the cupboard under the stairs. At a point in her life when she needed a change, she sat down over a few of her delicious creations with a friend and previous colleague to talk about how she could turn a hobby into something she can earn from. That friend, Phil Gillies, consequently became her business partner, after a call from her shortly after to say “I think I have one more business in me, and I think it’s yours!”
The business is female owned and run and has since turned into both a producer of delicious spirits and a beautiful, fun bar serving delicious cocktails that change to match an ever-changing food menu from local pop-ups (just one way that Sam supports the local community). When you meet Sam, you meet a very open person who has a special drive derived from overcoming troubling times and turning it into helping others. She is very honest about her past – including an abusive childhood and becoming homeless in her teens – as a result she is a force for good for homeless and mental health charities. Espensen Spirit makes a donation from sales of every single bottle – going to small, local and often overlooked charities (such as Caring in Bristol).
Furthermore, they have a zero waste policy. Their beautiful bottles are left unbranded so that you can reuse them as a vase or container for oils/vinegars. Alternatively they offer a deposit system where they give 20p back for every bottle returned to them. The viskring bottle seals are made from cellulose which bio-degrades faster than paper.
Now onto the afternoon! A few hours wonderfully spent in the surroundings of Bristol Spirit – worth a visit solely to explore the decorations – including custom made cushions from t-shirts and merchandise from Sam’s previous life in PR.
We started with a tasting – learning the art of wafting when smelling gin (otherwise the intensity can hit the nostrils hard – not particularly pleasant!) We experimented with drinking each spirit neat, with an ice cube – which surprisingly and dramatically changed the flavour profiles of some of the spirits – and with a mixer.
A selection of their favourite mixers – tonic, lemonade and ginger ale – adorned the table to play with. Not just any mixers though – check out the incredible packaging! I fell in love with Pump Up The Jam (raspberry gin) and have bought a bottle home with me.
Next we got to the making. Split into the gin and vodka lovers, we were taken through the prep and infusion process step-by-step. Sitting on team gin, I was making a delicious combo of clementine, bay and ginger. A poke of the skin and in goes the clementines. Slice up a few chunks of ginger and drop them in with a few bay leaves. A sprinkle of sugar (OK maybe a little more than a sprinkle), lid on tight and it’s SHAKE SHAKE SHAKE!
After a daily shake for a few weeks (and a tasting every now and again..) my gin is now nicely infused and ready to drink! Wahoo! And it was as simple as passing through some coffee filter papers. It’s on the bitter side (but I have bitter tastebuds). So far it’s working pretty nicely with a couple of ice cubes, but looking forward to experimenting with some different mixers. In the spirit of zero waste, I have also blitzed up the remaining fruit and will be trying with a little prosecco at the weekend – waste not, want not!
Not too much of a surprise that I had an absolutely fab time! The spirits make great presents for friends and family (or just treat yourself) or buy them a treat to go to a workshop (price includes the tasting, making and a kilner jar of spirit to take home) – and they could have excited faces like this!
Follow them on social media to keep up with current pop-ups, future workshops and events (including “Sausage Socials” focused around Sam’s gorgeous sausage dog – Shecky. GAH!)
Disclaimer: I was provided this event free of cost, however I was not asked to send any copy in advance and this didn’t affect my opinion of the experience – all thoughts are my own.