Christmas

Christmas Food

We love the festive period at The Amazing Blog - the time for twinkling lights, mulled wine and time spent with loved ones. As if that’s not enough, Christmas is also the time for gourmet food choices, from the classic roast, to the after dinner cheese board. Tis’ the season for overindulging and treating ourselves, and with the New Year diet looming, it seems only right to make the most of the festive treats on offer. There are also few things we love more than to receive a selection of foodie treats on Christmas morning, so we thought, why not compile some of our favourites, so you too can give the gift of food!

Cottage Delight.jpg

Firstly, we came across Cottage Delight, a brand based in the Staffordshire moorlands, bringing hand-crafted and innovative flavours to the condiments market. Established in 1974, the vast amount of experience helps the brand to lead the way in providing delicious additions to our meal (which more often that not, are even more delicious than the foods they are paired with). We were therefore excited to try their Gin & Fizz Set, compromising of two jams, a curd and marmalade - perfect to spice up any scone, crumpet or piece of toast.

Firstly, we tried the Raspberry & Prosecco Jam - a delectable treat to jazz up any morning. Made with 43g of fruit per 100g, this jam is characteristically tangy, but with a depth of flavour thanks to the addition of prosecco. Similarly the Lemon Curd with Gin has a zesty kick, yet an almost buttery texture that is not only indulgent, but also delicious. The addition of gin cuts through the tartness - ideal for any gin lovers in your life. For those who gear towards orange, the Marmalade with Gin has a fruity and juicy flavour - we love it spread across freshly made bread. Finally, for those who like a traditional strawberry jam, the Strawberry Jam with Marc de Champagne is a great option. Made with whole strawberries, this reminded us of our Grandma’s homemade jam. The champagne adds a luxurious aftertaste, solidifying this set as the ideal Christmas present. If that’s not enough, then the box itself is ready made for present giving, so there’s less hassle with wrapping, and more time to indulge in a glass of mulled wine (or two). Purchase a Gin & Fizz Gift Set here for £9.95.

Elements for Life FINAL INSTA.JPG

Secondly, for any chocolate lovers, we recommend Elements for Life. We tried their Yummy Scrummy Brownies not so long ago (see here), and more recently, their Raw Chocolate Making Starter Kit. Founded by Dan and Paula Knowlson, experts in raw chocolate, this brand continues to ensure products are suitable for vegans, diabetics and coeliacs, as well as those with lactose intolerances. This is something particularly difficult to find at Christmas, so we’re sure this set would be popular with anyone who suffers from a dietary requirement. That said, we all equally enjoyed this set, whether intolerant to common allergens or not.

The Raw Chocolate Starter Kit contains 100g raw cacao powder, 100g raw cacao butter, 100ml Sweet Freedom syrup and a reusable silicone chocolate mould. You can also choose your mould design, picking from the spiral swirls (which we went for), or the Valentine’s hearts. Using Peruvian Criollo raw cacao powder and butter, the ingredients are the best of the best, providing a rich and smooth chocolate that has a low GI. This makes it suitable for diabetics, furthermore displaying the inclusive nature of this brand. In terms of making the chocolate itself, we found the process incredibly easily. Simply melt the cacao butter, add the cacao powder and Sweet Freedom syrup and you’re done - pour into the moulds, pop them in the fridge and return to professional looking chocolates. To purchase a Raw Chocolate Making Starter Kit for £17.99, click here.

Steenbergs.jpg

Although we’re big sweet lovers at The Amazing Blog, we’re equally enticed by flavoursome and spicy dishes. For the spice lovers in your life, we present SteenbergsMediterranean Mini 8 Spice Box, a set packed with numerous spice blends, heavily influenced by the Arabic side of the Mediterranean. Having tried their Botanicals for Cocktails in October (see here), we were keen to try this set for ourselves - and can confirm that it will indeed be well received by any foodies in your family.

Founded by Axel and Sophie Steenberg in 2003, Steenbergs is passionate about providing top quality and organic spices, with over fifteen years of experience to draw from. You can therefore be safe in the knowledge that by gifting their Mediterranean spices set, you’ll be helping your foodie recipient to create delicious meals, with ingredients they can trust. This set compromises of organic tagine, ras al hanut, za’atar, organic harissa with rose, organic Italian herbs, organic Lebanese 7 spice blend, organic paella spice blend and organic chermoula spice blend - a vast array of flavours to create a multitude of dishes. Our personal favourites are the organic paella spice blend, which helps us to create an authentic taste of Spain, and the chermoula spice blend, which we were admittedly less familiar with - but now cannot be without. To purchase your own Mediterranean Mini 8 Spice Box for £15.99, click here.

Haupt Lakrits.jpg

Finally, for something a little more luxury, we came across Haupt Lakrits, a Swedish liquorice brand aiming to bring gourmet products to the market. Having tried a variety of their products, we can confirm that these are far from the packet of slightly squashed liquorice wheels in your cupboard, but instead, provide a new take on a traditional classic. Even those less enthusiastic about liquorice were found sneaking these on our lunchbreak - testament to their scrumptious flavours.

Firstly, for those of us with a penchant for liquorice, SÖT (€9.00) proved to be popular. Thanks to being cooked for 8 hours and stored for 10 weeks, this liquorice is soft and sweet, and has a pleasantly chewy texture. Secondly we tried the Hallon (€9.00) flavour, liquorice dipped in 60% Belgian milk and dark chocolate and coated with raspberry and vanilla. These proved very popular amongst those will less of a liking for traditional liquorice, and we found they work well with rose wine. Thirdly, we tried the limited edition God Juhl: Merry Christmas (€11.00) jar. Coated in Belgian white chocolate and flavoured with a Swedish Christmas spice mix, this liquorice is undoubtedly festive, even covered in a glittery outer layer. Finally, we tried the slightly lighter God Helg: Happy Holidays (€11.00) liquorice. Dipped in Belgian white chocolate, the additions of lingonberry and saffron add sweetness, yet the fruity nature helps to cut the sickliness often associated with white chocolate. Like God Juhl, this Christmas edition liquorice is best paired with a glass of mulled wine. Visit the Haupt Lakrits website here to purchase your own liquorice delights - some flavours are also available as gift sets, smaller jars and refill packs.

So there we have it - four foodie treats guaranteed to put a smile on your receiver’s face. And if you’re thinking ‘I’ve already finished my Christmas shopping’, then why not treat yourself instead? After all, we think the festive period is the perfect excuse to indulge!

Christmas Stocking Filler Ideas

We're halfway through our week of gift-giving inspiration at The Amazing Blog, so we thought it would be apt to help you along your way with some stocking fillers. We wanted to steer clear of the usual shower gels, novelty gifts and chocolates, instead have compiled a few alternative gifts sure to bring joy on Christmas morning. Enjoy!

Wildings.jpg

Firstly, who doesn't love a food-related gift at Christmas? We certainly enjoy nothing more than discovering new treats, so we were excited to try the offerings of Wilding’s. As the first world maker's of Duck Crackling snacks, this brand aims to provide innovative products, with a focus on creating new and exciting flavours and textures. All too often, our snacking game is pretty weak, so we were excited to try their three signature products. We can confirm that we were not disappointed!

We tried the Duck Crackling Variety Pack, consisting of three flavours: Traditional Peking, Smoked Sea Salt and Kampot Pepper and Habanero Chilli and Lemongrass. Each 25g pack contains signature spice blends, and only natural oils and premium grade local duck are used. This adds depth of flavour, and alongside the hand batched processing, the finished result is a light snack that has been triple cooked for maximum crunch and taste. The Traditional Peking Duck Crackling provides a classic flavour which works well when paired with red wine. The Smoked Sea Salt and Kampot Pepper Duck Crackling gives an oaky flavour which we found delicious alongside a good quality beer - gone are the days of bog-standard pork scratchings! Finally, our favourite was the Habanero Chilli and Lemongrass Duck Crackling, providing just the right amount of spice, thanks to the balance of coconut sugar. We’re sure any foodie would relish the chance to try these products, or perhaps Wildings Snacks could feature as part of your Christmas Eve snacking bowls. Whichever suits you best, you can purchase your own Duck Crackling Variety Pack for £7.50 here.

48277496_279538606243377_6752212545257340928_n.jpg

We know that stocking fillers often contain beauty products, perhaps lip balms and body butters to be more precise. We wanted to steer away from these products, so were excited to discover the offerings of EBO Beauty. We were impressed by the brand concept of bringing luxury aromatherapy to our daily routines, without the need for overly complicated ingredients. This is something they have achieved, with 100% natural products, free from the use of chemicals.

We tried the Essential Mood Oil Trio, consisting of three oils: serenity, clarity and immunity. Serenity quite literally helps to you feel serene and stress-free, with the use of bergamot, geranium and lavender to encourage relaxation. We especially enjoyed using this before going to bed. Clarity is somewhat the opposite, designed to improve concentration levels. Thanks to the lemon, rosemary and basil oils, we felt awakened and ready to take on the day. Finally, immunity has proven to be popular in the last few (very busy) weeks at the office. This oil contains eucalyptus, cinnamon and clove bud oils, adding a festive touch, while helping to boost our energy levels. We like to use all three on our inner wrists, and you need only use a small amount each time, making them a long-lasting and well-received stocking filler. To purchase your own Essential Mood Oil Trio for £30, click here.

If you're after more of a skincare based product, then we also tried the Winter Essential Facial Oil, a nourishing oil containing sweet almond and sunflower oils, as well as lavender, sweet orange and geranium. This oil has a particularly rejuvenating effect, with neroli oil to kick-start a sluggish circulation. Especially an issue at this time of the year, you're sure to be popular with your recipient. You only need to use about 5 drops, simply warm them between your hands and apply to your face gently. To give the gift of a glowing complexion, then you can purchase the Winter Essential Facial Oil here for £12 (10ml) or £24 (30ml). You can also purchase Ebo Beauty’s products on the Beauty Stable website here.

48053108_203982737208452_1785189867953586176_n.jpg

We love nothing more than something sweet in the evening, especially at Christmas time! However, thanks to the extremely busy festive period, we don't always have the time to bake. This is where Bakedin have come to the rescue - with three mug mixes that require only butter and milk before cooking. The concept of bringing time conscious baking to the market was born in 2013, and the brand has only continued to grow. We particularly love that the recipes have been developed by Michel Roux, a renowned pastry chef - so you can be safe in the knowledge that scrimping on time, will not scrimp on flavour.

We tried all three flavours: Sticky Toffee, Belgian Chocolate and Gooey Chocolate, all of which are designed to be microwaved in a (microwave safe) mug, taking no more than 80 seconds to cook, and 5 minutes to cool - trust us, that part is crucial! The Sticky Toffee Mug Cake Mix has a rich and gourmet taste and is delicious when served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. For a chocolate lover, the Belgian Chocolate Mug Brownie Mix has a delectable taste, with the guarantee of a gooey centre (often difficult to achieve from homemade baking). Finally, our favourite, the Gooey Chocolate Mug Cookie Mix is reminiscent of eating cookie dough as a child, with a sweet and soft cookie dough, full of Belgian chocolate chips. Once again, this is delicious when served with vanilla ice cream - it really is hard to believe that it takes just 5 minutes (from start to finish) to prepare! To gift a sweet treat this Christmas, then you can purchase a Top Selling Mug Mix Bundle here for £12. This compromises of three sachets in each flavour, or you can see the full list of Mug Mixes here if one particularly takes your fancy.

RSPB.jpg

For the tea lovers in your life, we came across the Penguin Infuser Mug from the RSPB. Since 1889, this well-known charity has been dedicated to conserving nature, acting as the largest conservation charity in the country. In line with their ethos, the shop proceeds are fed directly back into the charity, using the money to nurture species in trouble, and to run multiple reserves across the UK.

The mug itself is made from English fine bone china and has a sweet penguin design on each side. The removable lid helps to encourage your tea of choice to develop, as well as keeping it warmer for longer, while the removable infuser makes this mug suitable for loose leaf tea, herbal infusions and ground coffee. Gone are the days of owning delicious loose leaf tea but not being able to drink it! Additionally, the mug is also dishwasher safe and you can, of course, use this mug with other non-loose leaf tea and hot drinks. To do your bit for charity this year, as well as providing your recipient with a lovely mug to drink their Christmas tea in, then the Penguin Tea Infuser Mug is available here for £12.99.

Magic Beauty.jpg

Finally, we present an alternative stocking filler for a makeup lover in your life. Majic Beauty are the first genuinely safe and hygienic beauty brand with an instant application process. With years of formulating and testing, their Instant Eyeshadow products have been designed with high-quality and natural ingredients, all of which are easily transferable and durable. They certainly have us hooked!

Born from the issue of cross-contamination within the makeup industry, Majic Beauty wanted to create eyeshadow products that reduce the risk of spreading bacteria, creating single-use applicators that hygienically transfer colour directly onto the eyelids. This is something they have achieved with success! We tried both the Creme Brulee and Smokey Eyes applicators, both of which contain five applicator pairs. For those of us with blue eyes, we found that Creme Brulee's bronze shades made our eyes pop, while the silver tones of Smokey Eyes are perfect for an evening party look. We also found the applicators easy to use - simply take them out of the packaging and gently press over your eyelids. To smudge the colours, slide the applicator gently across the eyelid, and we discovered it is easiest to blend the colours by lightly using the applicator edge. Thanks to the use of cruelty and paraben free ingredients, the eyeshadow is also gentle on the skin, while still leaving a professional finish. To try Majic Beauty's Instant Eyeshadow for yourself, then click here to check out their range on Amazon. You'll find a plethora of shades, all of which start from £5.99.

From food, to beauty and lifestyle products, we hope this stocking filler guide has helped you to think slightly outside of the box this year!

Christmas Gift Guide for Men

With just eight days to go until Father Christmas arrives, we can’t quite believe how quickly the season of giving has come around. We’re not yet at the stage of panic buying; however, it has to be said that most of us at The Amazing Blog, are beginning to cut it fine with our present ideas. If you too are struggling, then this week we will be providing some last minute gift guides, helping you to spend less time worrying about the tricky receivers to buy for (we all know someone), and more time enjoying the festivities. Today we start with ‘Gifts for Men’, ranging from grooming products to technology and accessories. Grab a mince pie (and a glass of something nice), and let us do the research for you.

The Bluebeards Revenge.jpg

Firstly, we introduce The Bluebeards Revenge - a shaving and grooming company who provide products that promote a sustainable grooming routine, as opposed to the quick rush (and inevitable cuts) from using mass-market products. We previously reviewed their Ultimate Sea Salt Spray (see here), and so we were thrilled to try their Soap Stack Kit. True to their promise of creating products that are neither cheap cans of mass-produced products nor designer creams that are more akin to moisturisers, this set consists of three expertly produced soaps.

Ideal for any wash or gym bag, these soaps are unique in many ways. Primarily, the three scents are the perfect balance between providing a less feminine smell, while also promoting hydration and comfort. The first, ‘Classic Ice Soap’ is a modern twist on the British barbershop fragrance, a welcome scent that provides manliness and moisturisation simultaneously. Secondly, ‘Big Blue Bar of Soap for Blokes’ has a simple and fresh scent, and thanks to the bright blue colour, stands out amongst the sea of other generic products. Equally, ‘Cuban Gold Soap’ is ideal for days when an exotic aroma is needed (calling all Monday mornings!) With inspiration from the Caribbean, this soap packs a punch, and as a result of the unique shape, it is easy to handle, and unique to the eye. To make life even easier, these soaps come packaged in an aesthetically pleasing box, which coupled with the attractive colours, makes for a ready-made present. These soaps lather well and help to invigorate the body. To gain optimum benefits - use from head to toe, either in the bath or shower. The Bluebeards Revenge are also strictly against animal testing, and these soaps are both vegetarian and vegan-friendly - the perfect grooming gift that doesn’t involve a generic body spray or cheap aftershave. The best part? The Soap Stack Kit is affordable, at £13.99. Click here to see for yourself.

47256108_956816797841657_8041597792356925440_n.jpg

For a man with a newfound grooming routine, a durable wash bag is undoubtedly next on the list. We turned to a brand that we know and love and discovered Morris & Co.’s ‘Refined Gentleman Washbag’, which we think fits the bill perfectly. Part of the brand Heathcote & Ivory, Morris and Co. similarly specialise in creating unique and detailed lifestyle products. We have previously featured both Heathcote and Ivory’s Inflight Essentials and Christmas Gifts Set, so were excited to try a lifestyle product aimed at the male market. Thankfully we were not disappointed!

The Refined Gentleman Wash Bag is the ideal gift for a man that is looking for some luxury. The wash bag itself is generous in size, fitting full sized products in, with ease. Thanks to the use of a zip, it also opens and closes easily, and uses vegan leather, which ensures it is wipeable, and therefore easy to keep clean. The real standout of this product is the Acanthus print, inspired by Morris & Co.’s first wallpaper design. As the primary showcase of the brand’s plan to create large-scale wallpaper designs, we like this historical link, as well as the elegant and unique finish. The inner fabric is also wipeable, made from 100% polyester, meaning any spillages can be quickly rectified. To purchase a wash bag for the gentleman in your life, then click here, where you will find The Refined Gentleman Wash Bag available for £24.

Morris and Co Hip Flask.jpg

For a gentleman that enjoys a tipple, we also came across Morris and Co.’sThe Refined Gentleman Hip Flask’. Designed with the same embossed pattern as the above wash bag, this hip flask is a classy addition to any inner pocket. Although it is slim enough to fit most pockets, it contains enough room to hold approximately 200ml of liquid. Once again, the fabric is vegan and wipeable, meaning any sticky alcohol spillages can be removed with ease. It comes packaged in a simple, and elegant box (yes - we look for presents that are easy to wrap too), and we think it would make a great present alongside the Wash Bag or would be equally welcomed with a small bottle of your receivers favourite spirit. Either way (or neither way, as it is equally lovely on its own), you will find it on the Heathcote and Ivory website for £22 - a reasonable price for a present that is durable, and sure to be well loved.

46883429_371112846977648_2832065915602862080_n.jpg

For something a little more outlandishly festive, we came across Lime Lace. Stockists of stylish home accessories, gifts and furniture, their website offers an abundance of gifting options, from artwork to lighting and cushions. It was, however, the candles that caught our eye, in particular, The Christmas Jumper Candle the perfect balance between Christmas kitsch, and clever design.

This candle adds a little festive spirit to any room and will be sure to make your receiver smile. We must confess that we were concerned by the prospect of this candle looking too novelty, however, we were pleasantly surprised by the enormous amount of detail. The wax has been carved to look like intricate wool, and the addition of the glitter is an excellent way to jazz up any table or mantlepiece. The detail even goes as far as to emulate red stitching around the cuffs and hem, and we were pleased to discover that the glitter is non-transferable. Gone is the worry of packaging a present, only to find a product that has become distinctively less glittery in the process. Additionally, you’ll find the outer box easy to wrap, although we think it would look lovely when wrapped in cellophane, with a red ribbon bow. The size of this candle also surprised us, at 11x12cm, a decent dimension to create an optimum festive atmosphere, without being overbearing. To send a little Christmas cheer of your own, purchase a Christmas Jumper Candle here for £16.95.

47686323_280548019331330_1747355737266323456_n.jpg

Finally, for the gadget lover in your life, we discovered Orbitkey. Founders, Rex and Charles, started the company after they decided enough was enough when it came to key organisation. Initially, it took just 30 days to gain 5,000 supporters, and with bases in Melbourne and New York, the success is now notable. Based on the concept of making key storage less bulky, we were keen to try the brand for ourselves.

Although Orbitkey have a plethora of different options, we particularly like the Orbitkey 2.0 Leather. This design comes in a vast array of colours, from simple black and stone to more eye-catching sage and tan. In a nutshell, this product provides a way to hold up to 7 keys, organising them, preventing them from scratching and providing a durable and lightweight finish. Now, of course, this product is not merely limited to men, but we particularly think the concept is perfect for men who often carry keys in their pockets. We were astounded by how convenient this product is, not just for protecting the keys, but also other ensuring other items in pockets and bags are equally protected. Orbitkey have also considered the inevitability of needing to add car keys separately, which can be done utilising the slim D-ring at the top of the leather strap. We tried the Orbitkey in Charcoal with Grey Stitching, which has proven to be popular in the office - especially among the male members of our cohort. There is also the option to monogram the genuine cowhide leather, which screams present giving to us (although you may be pushing it this week). We get the impression that design and ergonomics are paramount to this brand, which only extends further into the stylish and sleek box that the product arrived in. To encourage organisation for a man in your life, see the Orbitkey website here, where you will find this design for £35.59 or £46.23 with monogramming.

So there we go, five products that have hopefully given you a little inspiration for any gift giving nightmares. Perhaps you’ve even found a little something that you’d quite like yourself (when is it too late to add to your Christmas list exactly?) Be sure to check out the rest of our guides this week for even more inspiration, or for those of you who are indefinitely organised, perhaps these could be potential gifts for the New Year. Happy shopping!

Friday Favourites: Festive Gins

The second weekend of December is here, and we think that justifies a festive tipple or two. As gin lovers at The Amazing Blog, we were thrilled to come across six new spirits - we're certainly never averse to a spot of gin tasting in the name of research! Whether you're a connoisseur or not, we're sure that you'll find a suitable botanical to mix with your favourite tonic, add to a signature cocktail or gift to a gin lover in your life.

FINAL.jpg

Firstly, we discovered Conker, based in Bournemouth and known as Dorset's first gin distillery. They pride themselves on being free from traditional constraints, instead, evolving their Dorset Dry with meticulous testing and tweaking; producing a gin that has a strong focus on quality, rather than industry expectation. We don't mind admitting that we were dubious as to whether this approach would produce a suitable outcome, but in fact, the delicious taste of this gin speaks for itself, proving this assumption very wrong. Whether distilled traditionally or not, we are suitably impressed.

Despite their no-fuss approach, Dorset Dry is still a classic dry gin. The fresh taste is thanks to the use of ten unique botanicals, including Dorset elderberries and samphire, as well as handpicked New Forest gorse flowers. We were pleased to see the use of local ingredients, including British wheat spirit and New Forest Spring Water, both adding subtle and different flavours. We particularly enjoyed the light and refreshing taste, still smooth enough to be consumed neatly over ice, or equally enjoyable when mixed with a good quality tonic. We also found it works well with a dash of ginger ale, for a spicy and fresh tipple. Purchase Conker's Dorset Dry here starting from £21.50 (350ml).

47579654_361522577753819_838124372022525952_n.jpg

If you're a traditionalist at heart, then Hayman’s may be the gin brand for you. Producing gin since 1863, Hayman’s have a wealth of knowledge, passed down between generations. This has unearthed a brand that is committed to championing traditional methods, and through priding themselves on creating truly English Gins, Hayman’s have produced a collection of delicious spirits, that certainly stand out amongst the crowded gin market.

For us, sloe gin optimises December and Christmas, the ideal tipple for an evening spent by the fire (or perhaps Father Christmas’ spirit of choice). We tried Hayman's Sloe Gin, a handcrafted spirit that is distilled using a fifth-generation family recipe. Thanks to the use of English wild-forage berries, this gin has a plummy aroma and fruity taste, particularly popular among those of us with a taste for almond. Made from harvested English sloe berries and Hayman's English Gin, the ingredients are steeped for four months, giving a broad and bursting flavour. Due to the lower alcohol content of 26% ABV, this gin is delicious when consumed on its own, or when mixed with prosecco, for a party worthy Sloe Royale. We must also mention the packaging, launched nationwide in Marks & Spencer; the bottles are wrapped in limited edition paper, perfect as a gift for gin lovers, or merely to add a bit of festive cheer to your spirit cabinet. To purchase your own Sloe Gin for £26.00, head into a local Marks & Spencer store or visit the Haymans website here.

47319193_543916519449831_5769215279913500672_n.jpg

Despite the name 'London Dry Gin', it is not only manufactured in the UK. Strane introduced us to their Swedish offerings, made at Smögen Whisky, a small craft distillery on the Swedish west coast. As a whisky company, we found it interesting that Strane have applied their whisky process to gin making, focusing heavily on the blending process. Launched in 2014, Strane's blending process is designed to ensure that each gin has a distinctively different outcome, with different proportions of botanicals added to each of the three offerings. What impressed us, is the quality control of this small batch company, trialling and testing on a constant basis to re-balance the final product.

We tried two of Strane's gins: Strane Merchant Strength 47.4% ABV and Strane Ultra Uncut 82.5% ABV. Both are handcrafted in small batches of around 45 litres and are mixed by master blender, Pär Caldenby, who ensures each of the three gins is mixed precisely. Merchant Strength has an intense depth of character thanks to the use of juniper, coriander and mint. Strane also include two secret botanicals, one local, and the other, typical of the ancient trade of the armed merchant ships. Although we can't spill the names of these ingredients, we certainly enjoyed the gin with a good quality tonic and a classic lemon garnish. Strane's Ultra Uncut gin is an explosion of strength, yet is still a delicious gin to be consumed with a good quality tonic. Thanks to the use of cinnamon, sweet almond and sage, this gin has a botanically strong taste, which is rich in juniper, and heavily citrusy with notes of lemon peel and garden mint. Try it for yourself here for £33, or if you're feeling less adventurous, try Strane's Merchant Strength for £39.83 here.

47375598_766082277057963_5611490706276220928_n.jpg

Finally, thanks to Esker Spirits, we were transported to Scotland and introduced to two final additions to our (ever-growing) gin cabinet. With a desire to create premium spirits, Esker's first distillery was housed in a humble back garden shed, which has now impressively evolved into a distillery on the Kincardine Estate. As a family-owned distillery, ingredients are sourced from the local area of Royal Deeside, and it is the silver birch sap, in particular, that is characteristic of their unique spirits. Thanks to this ingredient, Esker Spirits have a classic yet distinct flavour, distilled traditionally in a copper pot still, creating delicious gins that we couldn't wait to try.

Firstly, we tried Esker's Traditional Gin, with citrusy notes, thanks to the use of orange peel. This is a refreshing gin, with floral undertones that are characteristic of rosehip and heather flowers. We found this gin is best mixed with a good quality tonic (we liked it with elderflower tonic especially) and the citrus flavour really pops when served with a small amount of orange peel. It is also delicious when added to prosecco, add a cordial of your choice, and wow your party guests with a delectable (yet simple) cocktail. Equally, if you're looking for a spicier alternative, then Esker's Honey Spiced Gin is the answer. Thanks to the use of pink peppercorn and cassia, this gin has a warming kick, enough to warm the cockles after a long week at work. Although this can be served with traditional tonic, we enjoyed it immensely when served with ginger ale and orange peel, the ultimate long drink to accompany an evening of present wrapping. Purchase Esker's Traditional Gin for £36 here, or Honey Spiced Gin for £35.30 here.

How's that for some gin cabinet inspiration? Whether you're searching for a gift, a companion for your festive cocktail recipes, or even a spirit to put hairs on your chest - we're sure one of these gins will be your answer. Enjoy!

Christmas at ZSL London (London Zoo)

Christmas at London Zoo 2.jpg

Even though we’re nudging into December, some of us need a helping hand to get into the festive spirit. Don’t tell anyone but there still are a few ‘Bah Humbugs’ amongst us at The Amazing Blog. When we heard about Christmas at ZSL London we decided it would be a perfect chance to encourage some ‘festive cheer’!

Christmas at London Zoo 3.jpg

At Christmas at London Zoo there’s something for everyone to enjoy. With spectacles such as the iconic penguin pool dance, the illuminated trail, a vintage carousel and a number of hidden surprises, getting into the festive spirit is almost a given. While the animals are tucked up in bed, you can also hop aboard their special train, where you’ll experience both fantasy and fairy-tale; soaking up mesmerizing voices of Singing trees and playful projections of Magic Mountains.

This is the first ever Christmas event at London Zoo, and is being launched in partnership with Raymond Gubbay Limited. The site has been designed by Culture Creative - so expect the unexpected, with sky high animal sculptures encircling the 36 acre zoo site! Cleverly they make sure you circumnavigate the animals so you don’t disturb the habitat of the nocturnal animals; although you might catch a fleeting glimpse on your train ride.

Christmas at London Zoo.jpg

Of course the evening would be incomplete without indulging in a glass of mulled wine or hot chocolate. You will find these in the Zoo’s Christmas village, alongside a plethora of other festive treats such as toasted marshmallows and roasted chestnuts. You can also start your Christmas shopping at ZSL gift shop. For full details visit the gift shop website here.

Don’t miss this magical illuminated trail - it opens from Thursday 22nd of November until Monday, 1st of January 2019. Tickets are available here from £16.50.