From the English countryside to the sun-scorched lands of 19th Century Australia to the eternal pages of the world’s most famous spy story, the wild Little Scarlet strawberry has travelled far. And now in gin form, this tasty fruit takes on a whole new persona. Here’s how to drink the Little Scarlet gin liqueur.
What do strawberry jam, a legendary spy hero and an English distillery have in common?
The story begins over 300 years ago on farmland near the southeast coast of England. In the 1700s, the crops were grains and vegetables, but in 1885, the owners of the farm turned their hand to fruit crops and then to jam-making.
To begin with, these jams were all shipped and sold to Australia.
But the British public soon got a taste for these delicious preserves. And that’s where the spy comes in.
From Tiptree with Love
In Ian Fleming’s 1957 book From Russia with Love, the details of James Bond’s breakfast are divulged. Among a host of other comestibles, 007 enjoys “wholemeal toast with Jersey butter and… Tiptree ‘Little Scarlet’ strawberry jam” to start his day.
Little Scarlet is in fact a wild strawberry that the Wilkin Estates’ Tiptree Jam Company – alone in the world – cultivate and turn into this delicious spread.
Each jar has 60 berries in it and twice the fruit content of other commercial jams, which makes this preserve so popular.
The small, bright berries deliver a huge amount of flavour for their size, but are difficult to grow and even harder to harvest. But the result is worth it.
That’s the spirit
The village of Tiptree on the rural northeastern edge of Essex is not only home to the famous jam factory. It is also the birthplace of another national icon: Hayman’s Distillery.
Hayman’s has since moved their distillery to London, but not before collaborating with their jammy neighbours to create a delicious range of gin liqueurs, which just adds the James Bond-ness of the story.
To have 007’s favourite jam in an alcoholic format is a stroke of genius.
The Little Scarlet gin liqueur still maintains the juniper notes from Hayman’s excellent gin base, but the strawberries add a sweetness and bright freshness that make this a wonderful drink to enjoy.
3 ways to enjoy Little Scarlet Strawberry Gin Liqueur
1. On the rocks
As this is a liqueur, there’s a little more sweetness than if it were a true gin. A generous pour of Little Scarlet over ice makes a perfect aperitif. Alternatively, adding a splash of soda water makes the drink longer and freshens it up too.
2. Gin Royale
This classic gin cocktail works really well with the strawberry flavours of the Little Scarlet. A measure of the liqueur topped up with Champagne or a dry Prosecco makes a superb summer sipper. The colour from the liqueur gives the drink a beautiful blush too.
Another refreshing, light drink perfect for the warmer months, topping up a measure of Little Scarlet with a good quality tonic water is delicious. Little Scarlet is only 28%ABV, so it’s a lighter option on the alcohol front too.
The Artisan Drinks Company make a range of truly excellent tonic mixers, and I think their aesthetic works perfectly with the oh so very British jam, gin and James Bond of the story.
The Little Scarlet Gin Liqueur is bold enough and sweet enough to stand up to the herbs and bitterness of most tonics, but the Artisan Drinks Co’s London style blend works perfectly with this tipple.
The Artisan Drinks Co is the mastermind of a handful of F&B superstars, not least is Mikey Enright, gin genius and owner of Sydney’s cocktail apothecary The Barber Shop.
The tonics coming from The Artisan Drinks Co are delicate, dynamic and superbly balanced.
Blended by Mikey’s nuanced hand, each of the tonics – from the classic and skinny London styles to the agave lemon and pink citrus – goes with different gins, different seasons and even different cocktails. You can pretty much just drink them on their own they’re that good.
I also find the parallel that comes from using Artisan Drinks’ tonics with the Little Scarlet quite pleasing:
Wilkin Estates’ jam empire began with a trading relationship between the UK and Australia all those years ago. And this tonic is another pan-planetary collaboration between Aussies and Brits.