Time for a Devon tipple?
I thought you'd never ask! Quench your Christmas thirst - and maybe tick a gift or two off Santa's list - with Muddy's pick of #inlovewithlocal booze and boozers.
Yay! Not long now till we down tools and drink in the Christmas spirit. But with only a few shopping days left till the kids drag our weary arses down the stairs at 4am to see what Santa brought in his sack, where would we be without our wonderful local bars, inns and gin producers that create enough lady petrol to keep our Christmas motors revving? Here they are in their own splendiferous words…
Zoe and Fitz, Honky Tonk Wine Library, Sutton Harbour, Plymouth
This is our second Christmas at Honky-Tonk. The difference is last year we were delighted that 10 people turned up on Xmas eve – this year we’re fully booked every Friday and Saturday until the big day. We’re very excited about our New Year’s Eve do – it’s a Great Gatsby event with everyone dressing up. In 2020, we’re doing lots of special comedy nights and rum-tasting, and increasing our wine brochure to 300 wines.
We won’t get to sit down much over Xmas but we’re looking forward to a week’s rest in early Jan. I’ll be having my new fave Kokokanu – a Jamaican coconut-flavoured rum you have over ice, and Fitz has his eye on a smooth red called Palazzo Della Tolle from Malpolicella, a nice balance of tannins. Ideal with Xmas dinner.
Julie Heap, Wicked Wolf Gin
Christmas is one of our busiest times of the year, especially as Pat and I do everything by hand ourselves. We make 450 bottles a week – from sterilising the bottles, to filling and dipping them in wax to seal them – that’s what I’m doing right now, dipping bottles of our new miniatures. This summer we got picked to represent the region at Celebrating 70 Years of Exmoor. Prince Charles and Camilla flew in, and we met Camilla who apologised for not liking gin: she said she’s a whisky drinker but to speak to her husband!
Right now we’re working flat out to get our four gins out to all our suppliers but then we can have a proper rest over Xmas. Gin is my drink, of course. I went into our local the other day and ordered a Wicked Wolf over tonic and the barman served it with a slice of orange and stirred with a stick of cinnamon. It was really nice, not too spicy. Just a lovely hint of Xmas.
Luke Fearon, Bearslake Inn, Okehampton
This is my first Christmas as GM at Bearslake so I’ve spent a lot of time looking at our seasonal menu – bringing in new local butchers and game from local gamekeepers. We’re not pretending to be anything other than a really good Devon pub with really quality ingredients. Because we have six rooms, we love it when people come to stay because we’re in this lovely hamlet and it’s not until you unpack your suitcase and settle in you can really enjoy what we’ve crafted for you.
It’s looking very Christmassy here. We’re a quintessential Grade II listed pub on Dartmoor so that kind of helps! The whole team just spent the day decorating and putting up the trees, and it looks magical. We really appreciate local support as we’re family run, by people who have been in the business in the long time – passionate people who care abut what they do. For us, it’s not just a job, it’s a way of life.
Zak Barouh, The Thatch at Croyde
It’s a tradition for us to open for a few hours just for drinks on Christmas Day. Everyone turns up in the most ridiculous Xmas jumpers and it’s a really, fun, friendly vibe. I’ll probably have a pint of Tribute ale, then we all head back to our respective homes for Christmas dinner. New Year’s Eve is a big night for us. People start asking what the theme is weeks before, but we always try and wait till after Halloween to announce it. This year it’s the roaring twenties, – and no I haven’t worked out my costume yet! Something sparkly probably. We always have a DJ and live music. The place is packed. For the first time ever we’re making it a joint party with Billy Budd’s next door so there’s bound to be loads of people in the garden which links the two venues. It’s going to be a great night. I never dance, but I always make an exception for New Year’s eve at The Thatch.
I was painting in my gallery when Karen Skeratt from Exeter Gin, came in and asked if I would collaborate with her on a special gin. The idea was to feature Teignmouth (where we are both based) on a bottle of gin. The project soon evolved and Karen and her husband created a spectacular small batch premium gin, hand-crafted and infused with Devon seaweed. (Yes seaweed!) When I first tried it I couldn’t believe how delicious it tasted. I shouldn’t have been surprised really – they have won awards at Taste of the West for their other gins – Granny Garbutt’s, Grandad’s Revenge and Exeter Gin.
It has been an incredibly rewarding journey and the response we have had is phenomenal. We have had bars, restaurants and breweries both in and outside of Teignmouth wanting to stock it, with over 200 pre-orders to the general public ahead it’s release.
The wax tops are meant to look like seaweed – each bottle is unique because it is all done by hand. We also wanted people from outside the area to see this in bars and be captivated by the image on the front and want to know where Teignmouth is. We have all worked our socks off. Karen and her husband just don’t stop! My husband (who also runs the gallery with me) and I have been up till the early hours taking orders and working on this along with the general business of Christmas and what that brings from owning an art gallery.
I know I will be looking forward to a glass of Seaside Gin next to the fire on Christmas eve before the family arrives. And as for Karen, she said she may be having more than one gin… if she doesn’t fall asleep beforehand!!