Surrey’s Premier Lifestyle Magazine

Distilled under moonlight and fireworks

I came across The Gin Kitchen at a food fair in Dorking and was immediately drawn to its quirky style, great logo and brand image. More importantly, it is a classic example of a micro distillery making small batches of delicious gin by hand, using fresh ingredients, and how a great idea, determination and vision can make a dream come true. Kate Gregory was a single mum going through a divorce with a full-on job in the defence and aerospace industry. Purely by chance, on the way to work one day, Kate tuned in to Radio 4 and listened to a programme about the rise of craft gin distillers in the UK referred to as a gin renaissance movement. This, she says, was her epiphany moment and when The Gin Kitchen was conceived. Arriving at her meeting, she quickly made a call to close friend and colleague Helen Muncie and told her they were going to start their own gin distilling business. This totally out of the blue idea was a shock to both of them, but after thinking it through, they did it anyway.

It is hard not to notice that there has been a flood of new craft gins on the market and reports suggest the number has doubled since 2013. When Kate and Helen decided to start gin distilling, they were complete rookies. Kate’s approach was to search the internet using key words such as ‘how to distill gin’. Between them, Kate and Helen did enough research to source their first copper still from Portugal and secure a workspace at Dorking Brewery. Their first ever gin, Dancing Dragontail, was made at the Brewery on 5 November 2016, although at that point it didn’t have an official name. The distilling process took longer than anticipated and was finally ready to bottle at 3am. Kate and Helen both love the fact that it was literally brewed under moonlight and fireworks and the enthusiasm for their business is still like a newly-lit sparkler.

They were quick to propel their gin onto the market as with no external funding the success of the business needed them to become economically active immediately. To make gin, Kate explained, an alcohol base has to be purchased, often referred to as neutral grain spirit, and it’s rare these days that gin distillers make this themselves. A container of this (organic) costs £1,000 and is enough to make four batches of gin with around 30 bottles in a batch (batch size relates to still size). At this point creativity is unleashed as what makes each gin unique are the botanicals used to give the final flavour profile.
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Many distillers use only dried ingredients, but at The Gin Kitchen fresh are used wherever possible. The end result is that with a higher level of distilled essential oils, the gin goes cloudy when mixers are added. Many gin aficionados dislike this and so some gins are filtered after distilling to remove this element. The Gin Kitchen do not do this as it also removes some of the unique flavour notes too which Kate and Helen are adamant should be retained. Some gin drinkers embrace the cloudiness of this range of gins and others shun it. This is, it seems, a purely personal preference. The Gin Kitchen’s new gin, Blushing Monkey, relies on cloudiness as when the gin is mixed with tonic it gives a pink pearlescent glow.

Being self-funded, the duo needed to start selling so they could afford to make another batch. Village Greens Farm Shop became a stockist and a couple of independent off licenses too. Although orders were coming through, they wanted to be stocked in a London store with heavy footfall.

Being listed with a large independent retailer was a key aim. Within three weeks of starting the business, Kate and Helen walked into Fortnum & Mason and asked to see the spirits buyer who, it turned out, had been standing right next to them and was immediately interested. They were taken into the buyers’ tasting room and left soon afterwards with an order and a slot as spirit of the month (a slot they have now filled four times). Kate and Helen had to delay the first delivery as they simply did not have enough stock to fulfill it!
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Regulars at food fairs promoting their brand, Kate and Helen are easy to track as they are very active on social media. I have seen people swoon over the hot gin punches of Gutsy Monkey Winter Gin with Ringden Farm fresh pressed pear juice. Those of us in the know marvel over the delicious drinking quality of their products – there are not many gins which are drinkable neat, but this is one of them. Last March, The Gin Kitchen moved out of Dorking Brewery into their own bonded warehouse, a 170 year old barn on a farm just outside Dorking. Here Kate and Helen hold parties, gin tastings and launch events. Last year they also added Eternal Absinthe to their range with artwork created by a local tattoo artist Ruth from Eternal Tattoos in Dorking. It’s a revival of a traditional rose absinthe and already has a firm following.

I have met some inspirational producers over the last years, but this all female crew are now firmly at the top of my list. I left with a bottle of Blushing Monkey gin which if bought direct from the distillery is £45 (£53 in Fortnum’s).

Why not pop in and have a chat – it’s the perfect activity for gin enthusiasts.
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Blushing Monkey gin and tonic
While I was with Kate it seemed rude not to sample a gin and tonic, even though it was before midday (a rare event for me). Kate explained that for Blushing Monkey gin to be at its best, the order in which ingredients are added has to be reversed. Put simply, this is a sketch rather than a recipe, and was invented by a Gin Kitchen friend, Lesley-Anne. Chunky ice is essential here too, as if it’s too slushy it will water down the drink too quickly. Use a Copa de Balon gin glass for maximum effect.

50ml Blushing Monkey gin
Half a bottle of premium tonic (Fever Tree or Fentim)
Fine strips of lime
A slice of dragon fruit for a dramatic finish

• Half fill a Copa glass with chunky ice. Pour over half a small bottle of premium tonic or more to suit palate.
• Pour Blushing Monkey gin in a circular fashion to create a candy-floss pink cloud.
• Garnish with a twist of lime and a slice of dragonfruit.

Shirlee Posner
essence info
The Gin Kitchen
Punchbowl Lane, Dorking RH5 4DX

Shirlee Posner is a food writer and blogger at and provides social media management, web copywriting and food photography.