Sipsmith and Samphire…the Trescotini has landed at the Ruin Beach Cafe
Through the art and knowledge of Sipsmith’s ace mixologist Jared Brown, the Ruin Beach Cafe is now serving a brand new martini with a distinctive Scillonian twist….ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the Trescotini.
Apart from the delicious Sipsmith London Dry Gin, the Trescotini takes its unique character from the addition of rock samphire, picked from the top of the beach, a few steps away from the bar.
Samphire is commonly found around the coasts of the Isles of Scilly and for hundreds of years has been used as a pickle or in salads. It has not always been easy to come by. An early reference to the collection of samphire from cliffs is made in Shakespeare’s King Lear “Half-way down hangs one that gathers samphire; dreadful trade!”
At times it may have been difficult to come by but samphire was certainly much-appreciated. The great Elizabethan herbalist John Gerard described samphire as yielding “…the pleasantest sauce, and best agreeing with man’s body, for the digestion of meats…”. The meats can wait for now as Tresco’s samphire is currently bringing a bit of seaside zip to the ultimate island aperitif.
Imbibers should not confuse our splendid rock samphire with marsh samphire, which has recently seen a rise in popularity as a vegetable side dish. Rock samphire has a sturdier flavour, one perfectly suited to accompany a Sipsmith martini. The island samphire has long been admired. The venerable Dr William Borlase commented on it in his Observations on the Ancient and Present State of the Islands of Scilly, published in 1756 “…Samphire they have of the best and largest kind (far superior to the Cornish)…”
The association between samphire and Tresco is particularly strong. In 1750, Robert Heath wrote A Natural and Historical Account of the Islands of Scilly. Heath made mention of Tresco’s natural boon: “Samphire of an extraordinary kind is produced here, and in other of the Off-islands, in abundance, and is used both for distilling and pickling. The method of preserving it for pickling, at any time, is by putting it into small casks and covering it with a strong brine of salt and water, which changes it yellow; but vinegar restores its greenness in pickling. Being preserved after this manner, it is sent in small casks to distant parts for presents.”
The Tresco samphire industry had petered out by the 1830s…though with the creation of the Trescotini in 2012, perhaps we will see something of a resurgence.
Whatever its commercial future on Tresco, what better way to contemplate the qualities of samphire than on the terrace of the Ruin Beach Cafe enjoying a Trescotini and the glorious views across to St Martin’s and the Eastern Isles?