The best part about this great Olympic winter sport is that you’re encouraged to enjoy a drink or two during play. Whether it’s to stay warm while out on the ice or just to liven up the game, I’m here for it. And so are the folks from Hendrick’s Gin. They sponsored a fun day out in Prospect Park a few weeks ago, where we learned not only how to play a game of curling but also just how much Hendricks gin plays a part in the game itself.
Did you know that almost 70% of the stones used in curling (those are the large “pucks” that slide across the ice) are mined from a small island located just 10 miles west of Scotland? It’s called Ailsa Craig and Kays of Scotland has been mining granite there since 1851! Since Hendricks’ main distillery is just a stones throw away (in Girvan, Scotland to be exact), it’s no wonder why Hendrick’s has such a special connection to this icy sport.
“There’s only seven or eight thousand people in our small town… about 3 times as many sheep as there are people. But on a clear day when we are running our stills, distilling our gin with a love of botanicals and two essences of cucumber and rose petal, you can see off the coast a small little island. That island is called Ailsa Craig. That island is also made entirely of granite. The same stone that curling stones are made from.” – Hendrick’s Gin Ambassador Mark Stoddard
The day started out with Scotch Eggs…
As all days should (there’s really not enough meat-wrapped egg dishes in this world), followed by a few Hendrick’s gin-based cocktails. What I love most about Hendrick’s Gin is that it’s infused with cucumber and rose, offsetting the harsh taste of juniper (an ingredient that deters some people from drinking gin). It has less of a bite than other gins and it pairs so well with other enticing ingredients like lemon, sparkling wine, and simple syrup. The three choices for morning cocktails at Tooker Alley included the Cucumber 75 (Hendricks Gin, lemon, simple syrup, English cucumber, sparkling wine), Red Snapper (Hendrick’s Gin, tomato juice, sherry, Tobasco, Worchestershire, celery salt, and ground black pepper), and Elderflower Collins (Hendrick’s Gin, elderflower cordial, lemon, simple syrup, soda water). All of these libations and tasty bites were quickly upstaged when an old trolley car pulled up to the bar. Apparently this was our mode of transportation to Prospect Park, where a curling coach was awaiting us at LeFrak skating rink.
A traditional scottish bagpiper also welcomed us.
I was pretty fascinated with the actual instrument itself and got a closer look at it – reeds and all!. The bagpiper was kind enough to take it apart and show me all its compartments, including the interior bag. I’ve always wondered how much air it took to play a few notes and now I know! We were also able to warm up with a cup of warm punch called Mister Micawber’s Medley (recipe here). This delicious concoction contained Hendrick’s Gin, Oloroso Sherry, Chamomile Tea, Lemon Twist, Orange Slice, Pineapple, Honey, Lemon Juice, Cloves, Nutmeg, and Cinnamon. I’d never thought about making a hot drink with gin but it sure was the perfect thing to sip on before hitting the icy rink!
It was finally time to curl!
We met up with our instructor, who broke us into teams of four. He explained the rules of the game, which honestly were so complicated that I started to space out. Basically, you push a very heavy stone across a sheet of ice and then two players get to sweep in front of it to make it go faster/further. The object is to get the stone inside the center of the scoring area on the other side. The catch? The other team can knock your stone out of the way, making room for them to score. So even if you have the perfect placed stone, you’re still in jeopardy. What I found to be the most interesting part about learning the game is that you really have to be in good shape. Seriously. You have to immediately get into a squatting position – which takes great balancing skills – and lunge forward without a running start. It’s also really hard to get the stone all the way down the ice. I pushed with almost all my might and it barely crossed the halfway mark. Of course, I also fell more times than I could count but it was really fun. I can see why this sport is so addicting to play.
After about an hour of attempting to play a game of curling it was time to warm up with another cup of punch. Luckily, I was surrounded by two very knowledgeable men from Hendrick’s who happened to be wearing roses in their suit pockets. As this was during prime Bachelor season, I took it upon myself to ask for the final rose. But which man got it? I’ll never tell…
But I can tell you that curling is super fun, especially when Hendrick’s is a part of it. Want to find out where there’s a curling rink near you? Here you go. It’s safe to say that this sport is growing even after all the Olympics hype. In fact, The New York Times just wrote an article about it. So find seven of your closest drinking buddies and hit the rink because Hendrick’s Gin is ready to party! #usausausa 🇺🇸
Just make sure to pace yourself. You don’t want to pass out on the ice!