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    Saturday, June 10, 2023

    A drink tying New London to King Charles’ coronation

    Highclere Castle in England is probably best known as the location where the television series “Downton Abbey” was filmed, but a gin with the same name, formed as a business venture between a local distiller and the Eighth Earl of Carnarvon, has been making its own magic among the international elite.

    And now it’s coming to New London on Saturday, just a week before the coronation May 6 of King Charles III, as the Garde Arts Center partners with four local restaurants before a performance by Broadway and film star Mandy Patinkin for a food pairing contest. The winning restaurant will have its appetizer recipe featured during a cocktail party at Highclere Castle next year to which the victorious chef will be invited.

    The 66-year-old Lord Carnarvon, a godson of the late Queen Elizabeth II, said via Zoom from Italy that he will be serving a one-off drink known as the King Charles Cocktail during an evening party overseen by his butler. The same cocktail will be served at the king’s coronation and in the pairing contest Saturday that will feature dishes from New London restaurants Tony D’s, The Blue Duck, Hot Rods and Tuskers at Jasmine Thai.

    “It’s our way to connect Old London to New London and toast the king,” said Catherine Poulin, a publicist for Highclere Castle Spirits LLC.

    Poulin said random members of the Garde audience will be pulled into judging an hourlong blind pairing at 7 p.m. Saturday to help determine the contest winner. Guests with tickets to the 8 p.m. Garde show also will have a chance to obtain a buy one, get one free cocktail special both before and after the performance at the four participating restaurants.

    “We always do events, especially if you can make it into an experience,” said Adam von Gootkin, the Centerbrook businessman who partnered with Lord and Lady Carnarvon to help create the award-winning gin in 2019. “It’s part of a new push we’ve made into New London.”

    Highclere Castle Gin was inspired initially by von Gootkin’s fascination with the “Downton Abbey” ambiance that conveyed sophistication and good taste. But he got more than the name from Lord Carnarvon, who has parlayed his home’s charm into a series of businesses that includes everything from tourism to a cigar brand. Lord Carnarvon said operating a castle and grounds these days requires business acumen.

    Von Gootkin said he found the man with royal roots to be sophisticated enough about the liquor business to make perhaps the key suggestion that differentiates their gin from others: using oats grown on site to feed the castle’s thoroughbred horses to smooth out the taste.

    “That was totally out of the box,” he said. “It was a completely wild idea.”

    And it worked. The gin has won dozens of awards and is currently available in 30 states and seven countries, he said.

    “It’s pure English wheat, infused with botanicals,” Lord Carnarvon said. “The process is beautiful.”

    And the premium brand features flavors from several other crops found on the grounds of the castle’s 5,000 acres, including lemons, limes and oranges that are grown indoors.

    “We wanted it to be citrus-forward right out of the gate,” von Gootkin said. “This is a gin for the new age.”

    The gin is distilled at Langley Distillery in the north of Great Britain using a copper still dating back to the 1800s. Despite gin’s reputation of being a distinctly British drink, von Gootkin said it was actually invented in the Netherlands as a medicine for stomach ailments. Gin was popularized in Britain in the late 1600s when French brandy became scarce due to the countries’ political and military conflicts.


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