Enjoyed a virtual tasting and happy hour via Zoom recently with the founder of Empress 1908 Gin, Peter Hunt, complete with a bottle of their gin, fancy bar tools, unique recipe cards and a list of ingredients I would need to make “seasonal focused cocktails leading into Fall and Holidays.” Before the cocktail making part of the meeting we learned a bit from Hunt about Empress 1908.
Founding Empress 1908 Gin
Hunt is not only the founder, but he is also the master distiller in the Victoria, British Columbia based distillery. They launched in 2008, as a small family owned company, and then launched Empress 1908 in 2017.
In 2016 they had reached out to the Empress Hotel and drew ideas for their 1908 gin from the teas the hotel serves during their popular, and often sold out, afternoon tea. The 1908 number refers to the year the hotel first opened. (We visited the hotel last year where I had to try the gin myself. Here is the link to my social media post and photos.)
Hunt commented, “…We started with just a small wood-burning copper pot still. (Their stills are all made in Victoria.) My previous decade of bartending, and bar managing, a master’s degree in molecular biology, and work at the BC Cancer Agency’s Genome Sciences Centre, have brought art and science together to provide an ideal foundation for making fine spirits.”
Besides the same black tea used at the Empress Hotel, and the butterfly pea blossom mentioned below in the About section, Empress 1908 also incorporates other dried botanicals such as juniper, grapefruit peel, coriander seed, cinnamon bark, rose petal and ginger root. These botanicals account for a remarkable nose and flavor to the gin.
NYC based brand ambassador, Tracey Eden, led the cocktail making part of the tasting. I, of course, made the drinks in advance as I couldn’t even imagine trying to do it while also wanting to take notes. (I made them in one-half the suggested measurement, and though I did taste “on air” I reserved the remainder of drinks to have before dinner. So no, I don’t actually “drink in the daytime” during all of these Zoom presentations. We taste.)
The cocktails I made can be seen here in a less than a minute video. They included The Queen Bee with Empress 1908 Gin, lemon juice, honey syrup, apricot jam and grated cinnamon. Then I made the Cranberry 75, also with Empress 1908 Gin, lemon juice, cranberry juice, simple syrup and Prosecco on top. Both were very tasty and easy to make.
Hunt said there were at least 25 downloadable cocktail recipe cards on the website. Also interesting: the color of the gin changes from Indigo blue to purple/pink when tonic is added to it in a classic gin and tonic – their signature cocktail – and Hunt prefers Fevertree Elderflower for that drink. Looks like I’ll be spending a wee bit more time trying my hand at more Empress gin based cocktails!
About: Empress 1908 Gin is a remarkable spirit that could have only been created in the city of Victoria, on beautiful Vancouver Island, where rugged mountains meet the beautiful Pacific Coast. It is a place where tradition is honored, nature is revered, and artistic expression drives innovation. Perched on the edge of the continent, Empress 1908 is inspired and guided by the natural world. They embrace the wild, and respect both the saltwater that surrounds them and the pristine fresh water used in their gin. Empress 1908’s commitment to nature extends beyond the product to include sustainable production practices, including a geothermal cooling system used in their distillery. Empress 1908 is proud to be paving the way in sustainable spirits.
Eve Bushman has a Level Two Intermediate Certification from the Wine and Spirits Education Trust (WSET), a “certification in first globally-recognized course” as an American Wine Specialist ® from the North American Sommelier Association (NASA), Level 1 Sake Award from WSET, was the subject of a 60-minute Wine Immersion video (over 16k views), authored “Wine Etiquette for Everyone” and has served as a judge for the Long Beach Grand Cru and the Global Wine Awards. You can email Eve@EveWine101.com to ask a question about wine or spirits.