This blackberry lavender gin and tonic may well be the prettiest and most refreshing summer drink. Perfect for sipping in the garden on warm evenings… This post is sponsored by Waitrose.
Working from home on hot summer days is slightly torturous, especially when there’s a garden right there, beckoning you to sit outside and take it easy. Not that working as a food blogger doesn’t come with plenty of perks. Like, for instance, being invited to a summer party to celebrating the best of summer’s seasonal produce straight from the source at the Waitrose Farm Leckford Estate.
The 4,000 acre estate near Stockbridge, Hampshire was purchased in 1929 by the founder of the John Lewis partnership and it has been a working farm for nearly 90 years. The farm’s produce can be found at Waitrose stores across the country and boasts some impressive statistics.
Did you know they produce nearly 27 tonnes of mushrooms per week or that they press their own rapeseed oil, their own wine (Waitrose is the first retailer in the UK to plant its own vineyard), cider, fruit and even flour? Everything is produced with the utmost care and respect to both the environment as well as the people and animals involved. I was lucky enough to sample some of these products at the amazing meal we enjoyed during our visit.
Our visit started with a walk along the absolutely gorgeous 80m herbaceous border and a wander through the stunning fruit tree archway. To say that the setting was idyllic is to sell it very short and I literally wanted to move there. Especially as there’s also a plant nursery which is home to the National Collections of Buddlejas, Clematis viticella, and the Gilchrist Collection of Penstemons. I can never visit a nursery without wanting to bring every single plant home, so I was a little gutted not to be able to purchase any.
But that was simply the beginning – there were more so many more beautiful sights to take in. We took a walk to the Longstock Park Water Gardens which cover seven acres of the estate and through parts of which the river Test flows. There we were met with cool drinks and delicious canapés as we were given a little back history on the Water Gardens.
Labelled as one of the best water gardens in the world, the gardens house over 100 different trees and forty different types of water lilly. They are also home to plenty of chatty water birds who were either really curious to see us or really annoyed we were trying to photograph them!
I wish I could have stayed at the gardens for hours and without my camera (!) so I could actually concentrate on the beauty all around me. We didn’t linger too long however as we had to walk to our teepee by the river where our lunch was being served.
I don’t think I have ever been to a more beautifully organised event and doubt much can top it. The teepee was situated next to a natural lake, our table was covered with the prettiest flowers and most covetable linen and tableware, the whole thing was literally out of a fairytale.
And then our courses started arriving… The courgette, spelt and cumin fritter was served with Leckford Estate’s own Brut Sparkling wine. The plates didn’t stay at the table for very long however, as every single blogger, photographer and influencer rushed to find the most scenic spot to photograph it.
Luckily scenic spots – with artfully selected props and backgrounds – abounded and so we were able to enjoy
our meal and photograph all the dishes. And they certainly were photogenic as well as delicious. Our second course – trout with tartare dressing and lemon down fondant – was actually caught just the day before at the Leckford Estate. Talk about fresh! It was served with my favourite British wine, Chapel Down Bacchus (ridiculously drinkable).
The dessert was definitely the meal’s crowning glory, a gorgeously presented fresh cherry pavlova that induced sighs of pleasure from around the table. I was certainly very sorry to see the end of it, but the dessert wine took some of the sorrow away.
Our visit at the Leckford Estate did not end with our meal, amazing as it was. We were beckoned closer to the lake and encouraged to create our seasonal posy using an abundance of fresh blooms. It was the perfect end to a day filled with superlatives.
If you fancy visiting Leckford Estate there’s a Waitrose Summer Festival 18-20 August and you can also visit the Longstock Water Gardens at selected dates and times. A huge thank you to the Waitrose team for inviting me and putting together the most unforgettable event.
I wanted to prolong this blissful experience when I returned home so I created this blackberry lavender gin and tonic with fruit I foraged nearby and lavender from my garden. It is a remarkably pretty drink perfect for summertime sipping.
You can also flavour the blackberry simple syrup, or garnish the cocktail, with rosemary, sage or mint instead of the lavender. Just be careful as some herbs can have a distinctly medicinal taste if used with a heavy hand.
- <b> Blackberry lavender simple syrup</b>
- 85 g | 3 oz blackberries other berries can also be used
- 85 g | 3 oz sugar
- 85 g | 3 oz water
- 1/2 tsp lavender flowers
- or you can use a small amount of rosemary or sage
- <b>Blackberry lavender gin and tonic </b>
- 2 measures gin
- 1-2 tbsp blackberry simple syrup to taste
- 1/2 tbsp Limoncello or fresh lemon juice
- chilled tonic water to top up
- plenty of ice
- lavender sprigs to garnish
- Rinse the blackberries and place in a saucepan with the water and sugar.
- Bring to the boil and add the lavender. Use a potato masher to crush the fruit slightly.
- Leave to cool then strain into a clean jar. This will keep in the fridge for a week and you can use it to drizzle over desserts as well.
- Fill a tall glass with ice. Pour in the gin, lemon juice or Limoncello and top up with chilled tonic water.
- Add the blackberry simple syrup – it will settle to the bottom of your glass and turn your drink the most beautiful shade of pink.
- Add a lavender sprig or a straw and stir before drinking.