Popular gardeners Nick Moyle and Richard Hood love making everything from cider to cocktails from what has been grown in their garden. We caught up with Rich and asked all of your burning Christmas questions, here’s what Rich had to say.
How did ‘Two Thirsty Gardeners’ start?
Myself and Nick are old pals from Coventry Polytechnic where we both ‘studied’ graphic design back in the early nineties. Post-poly, we found ourselves living in the same part of the country for work. We both share a passion for booze and gardening (the former honed to perfection in numerous divey bars of Coventry) so decided to get ourselves an allotment to see what we could grow then turn into alcoholic drinks.
We started by planting a couple of cider apple trees, (we live in the West Country where cider-making is compulsory) but soon moved on to planting other fruits and veg. We decided to chronicle our allotment adventures on a website – at the time of launch, there wasn’t that many gardening blogs out there, and none that also featured booze. What started out as a daft hobby soon grew out of control – the website took off and resulted in a book deal, TV appearances and various booze/garden-related commissions.
2. Name three ingredients you can grow to make the ultimate Christmas drink?
Down on the allotment we have hop plants a plenty, five cider apple trees as well as a gin-themed herb garden. We also plant pumpkins for pumpkin beer, marrows (for marrow rum) and horseradish for making a fiery vodka. If it’s fermentable, we’ll grow it! When it comes to Christmas-sy drinks, one of the best can be made from berries foraged from hedgerows. Sloe gin is one of the easiest drinks you can make, and never fails to hit the spot.
Sloes are abundant this year, so there’s no excuse – here’s how to make it:
Pick your sloes when fully ripe – they should be slightly soft when squeezed rather than hard as bullets.
Give them a good wash, then prick their skins in several places to allow the gin to ooze through their flesh and extract the tasty juice.
Traditionalists prefer to hand prick their berries with a needle, but a far speedier way is to freeze the sloes overnight – their skins will crack sufficiently on thawing.
Put 2 ½ cups sloes, 1 cup of white sugar and 70cl of gin into a jar or wide necked glass bottle, firmly seal the lid and give it a good shake.
Keep the container in a cool, dark place and leave it for 3 months.
You’ll need to shake the jar every day for the first few weeks to make sure the sugar dissolves and encourage the gin to tease out the sloe’s flavour. For the remainder of the time an additional agitation every week or two is recommended.
After 3 months, strain the liquid into sterilized bottles. By all means start sipping your sloe gin straight away, but your booze will continue to improve with age.
3. Can you point us in the right direction of five great beers you think we should try during Winter?
Gladly! Here’s a few to get you started…
Williams Brothers, Nollaig, 7%
Williams Brothers are masters of deploying forgotten flavours in modern beers. Brewed with spruce needles, this bronze coloured ale is malty with a touch of sweetness and intense spicy bitterness. Christmas trees have never tasted so good.
Beavertown, Smog Rocket, 5.4%
This thick black porter, from innovative microbrewery Beavertown, could be the perfect after dinner drink: chocolate, coffee and subtle smoky flavours freshly packed into a can. Put on your slippers, rip open the ring pull and settle down for the Queen’s speech.
Moor, Old Freddy Walker, 7.4%
Presented in a 660ml bottle, this hefty dose of traditional old ale is perfect for a long evening of steady supping. Described by brewer Moor as “like liquid Christmas pudding”, it’s a thick and potent mix of fruity, malty molasses flavours. All that’s missing is the brandy butter.
Marble Brewery, Chocolate Marble, 5.5%
This bottle-conditioned black beauty is smooth and velvety with luxurious chocolate flavours and a satisfying bitter finish. Liquid chocolate for grown-ups.
Duchesse de Bourgogne, 6.2%
A fine Flemish red ale, matured in oak which results in a soft, slightly sour beer with an amazing cherry aroma. It’s almost wine-like and a perfect accompaniment to a Christmas cheese board.
4. We always finish our interviews with this question: What is/will Christmas be like in your households?
To be honest, I’m not the biggest Christmas fan (am I allowed to say that on this website?) so after helping dish up dinner for the family, I’ll be looking for a quiet corner of the house in which to reside and sup some lovely Christmas booze. Nick has a two year old son and two huge, uncontrollable greyhounds to deal with so I’m guessing his Christmas will be absolute mayhem.