Last Updated on February 19, 2021 by Fiona Maclean
Low Alcohol Classic Cocktails – The Gibson
The no-alcohol and low-alcohol spirit market has been hotting up recently with lots of exciting new products coming to market. ‘New London Light’ (NLL) from the Salcombe Distilling Co. launched in the autumn of 2020 and has just been declared the winner of the 2021 People’s Choice Spirits Award in the ‘Mindful Drinking’ category; so in the spirit of mindful celebration, the London Unattached review crew were delighted to be sent a bottle to try.
The drink has been inspired by the principles behind gin making and the name ‘New London Light’ refers to a lighthouse in Long Island Sound, “a beacon for the crews of 19th century Salcombe Fruit Schooners trading cargoes of exotic fruits and spices with the new world of the Americas”. The distillation process is the key to the complex flavour that is the hallmark of NLL. The first distillation combines three botanicals: Macedonian juniper berries, ginger and habanero capsicum, to create the base spirit which is then blended with 15 other botanicals including orange, sage, cardamom, cascarilla bark and lemongrass. What this creates is a rich and complex no-alcohol spirit that is perfect for blending.
The key test for a low/no alcohol gin substitute is to see how it responds when mixed with tonic as a replacement for ‘mother’s ruin’. I prefer Fever-Tree tonic as it lets those botanicals shine through and when blended with NLL you could really taste the sage and orange that are the NLL hallmark flavour notes. The drink was refreshing, multi-layered and had a hint of bitterness (in a good way) to give a slight kick. So far so good!
Next up was a harder test. There are many Martini variants but out of all of them, it is The Gibson that is the closest to the original. The Gin Martini is traditionally garnished with a stuffed olive whereas The Gibson uses a pickled silverskin onion. The story goes that a San Franciscan native named Walter D.K. Gibson asked the bartender at the Bohemian to replace the olive with the onion as a preventative against catching a cold – an honourable Russian tradition. Most of these cocktail origin stories are probably made up but I like the public health angle of this one and it feels suited to our present condition.
Here is our low-alcohol Gibson recipe.
- 12.5 ml Cucielo vermouth bianco
- 62.5 ml New London Light
- 1 Silverskin onion
Place the ingredients in a cocktail shaker over ice.
Stir gently, strain then serve in a chilled Martini glass.
Garnish with a silverskin onion on a cocktail stick.
All you need is 12.5 ml of white Vermouth (we used Cucielo Bermouth Bianco) 62.5 ml NLL Place the ingredients in a cocktail shaker over ice. Stir gently, strain then serve in a chilled Martini glass. Garnish with a silverskin onion on a cocktail stick.
Of course, this is a low alcohol rather than no alcohol cocktail, but the majority of a Gibson is gin, so replacing that with a no-alcohol botanical spirit really makes a difference. The NLL blended with the highly aromatic Cucielo vermouth made for a deliciously sophisticated cocktail suitable for sipping rather than glugging and without the heaviness of a traditional Martini/Gibson. NLL delivers on flavour and gives a myriad of options for those of us who feel the need to cut out or lessen our alcohol intake. I’ll be making an NLL Negroni next!
New London Light’ is available in a 70cl bottle and has 0% ABV. It retails at around £27.50.
For more reviews of No and Low alcohol spirits and for a no-alcohol gimlet, check our previous feature