Gin Botanicals: Grains of Paradise
GRAINS OF PARADISE
Perhaps the most evocatively named gin botanical around, grains of paradise are a bit like black pepper with extra attitude.
These small seeds come from a West African plant in the ginger family, which is closely related to cardamom. Used a spice by Europeans before they had access to black pepper from Southeast Asia, they pack the same peppery punch of heat as that spice, but with added, fragrant layers of citrus, cardamom and ginger.
Also known as Melegueta pepper, alligator pepper or Guinea pepper, the ‘grains of paradise’ moniker is thought to have come from the marketing tactics of medieval spice traders, who made up stories that the spice could only be harvested from the Garden of Eden.
While the ground spice from grains of paradise has now almost completely vanished from use in European cuisine, it has remained central to its native West African cuisine for centuries. It’s often included in spice blends from the region, mixed with coriander, cinnamon, cloves and dried chilli to flavour anything from soups and stews to grilled meat. It’s also commonly found in the Moroccan spice blend ras el hanout. It works to intensify the flavours in the gin, as well as bringing its own fragrant, lingering spice.