In this gorgeous essay for Vittles, the poet Seán Hewitt recalls weekend nature walks in England and his grandfather’s lessons on the wonders of foraged food. Inspired by the abundant hawthorns in Dublin’s Phoenix Park, Hewitt writes about making his own hawthorn gin.
When the hawthorns were all done and the gin was in the jar, I put it into the cupboard, then checked on it every week, turning it, watching the colours darken. Now I’ve learned to leave it in peace, and I don’t turn it that often anymore. I just bide my time until December when, on some foggy, cold evening – when it feels like winter has begun – I take it out of the cupboard.
The main difference between sloe and hawthorn gin is that, where sloe gin is fruity and sweet and mixes well with tonic or soda, hawthorn gin is like a dark sherry, perfect for winter. It has a velvety texture, a rich smoothness. I also like that, unlike sloe gin, you can’t buy it anywhere, so hawthorn gin becomes a secret, shared thing between friends, a preservation of summer pulled into winter.