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Poetic License

Nothing says summertime by the river like craft gin with an inventive mixer. One of our favourite gins this year is by the British distillery, Poetic License. Here’s the story behind the gin and the cocktail it inspired us to create.

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A small independent distillery located in the North East of England, Poetic License crafts a range of quirky and flavoursome gins. The man behind the brand is Mark Hird, originally a chef before working more broadly across the food, drink and hospitality industries. With an increasing interest in micro-distilling gin over recent years – and the feeling he could do better than the ‘tired familiar’ sensation he felt with other gins on the market – Hird set up his own micro-distillery with rising talent Luke Smith, who became the Master Distiller for Poetic License.

After learning as much as they could about their preferred distillation processes and experimenting with dozens of botanicals over several months, the duo discovered the perfect gin recipes that eventually became the Poetic License brand. Poetic License now has classic and seasonal ranges, as well as gin liqueurs and a collection called ‘The Rarities’ – one-batch only gins that result in just a few hundred bottles of each gin.

At The Runnymede on Thames, we’re currently serving the Poetic License Old Tom Gin.

Old Tom is a gin recipe that was popular in 18th century England. Its name is said to originate from wooden plaques depicting black cats mounted outside some pubs during this era. The black cats, or ‘Old Toms’, signified that the pub sold gin. The consumption of gin increased rapidly during the first half of the 18th century, and is subsequently a time known as the ‘Gin Craze’. As the government steadily raised taxes and imposed gin licensing restrictions to counteract the craze, the consumption of Old Tom Gin was pushed underground. Apparently, the Old Tom signs outside pubs emerged with money slots and lead tubes next to them. When someone slotted money in, the bartender inside would discreetly pour a shot of gin through the tube to reach thirsty punters back out on the street!

Poetic License Old Tom Gin is a less clandestine affair, but truly original nonetheless. Made from hardly any sugar at all, the sweetness of this gin is derived from liquorice root instead. The gin is mostly barrel-aged in a nod to the historical roots of Old Tom Gin, mostly in sweet sherry casks. Botanicals in the gin include rose petals, hibiscus, Indonesian cubeb peppers and orange. Floral and oaky with a hint of spice, the taste of Poetic License Old Tom Gin is as adventurous as its back-story.

Inspired by the stories behind Poetic License, we’ve created a gin cocktail this summer called ‘The End of the Tired Familiar’. In this drink, Poetic License Old Tom Gin comes served with Fever-Tree aromatic tonic water, garnished with a slice of fresh red apple.

Listen to your inner poet, give it a try and raise a glass to the gin lovers who have kept the spirit of Old Tom alive to this day.


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