The botanical lowdown - Bergamot
This article was originally published in the February issue of 'One Time Press' our monthly newspaper that goes out to members.
Less sour than lemons and more bitter than grapefruit
You don’t often hear much about this unique member of the citrus family, less sour than lemons and more bitter than grapefruit, the bergamot has uses that extend far beyond drinks. Its scientific name is Citrus Bergamia and is defined as a lemon mutation or a cross between a sour orange and a lemon. The fruit that’s in your bottle of soda from Square Root and features prominently in 58’s flagship gin is grown mainly in Italy. In Italy they call them Bergamotto and that’s exactly where the very ones in your bottle came from. Sometimes called a Bergamot Orange or Bergamot Lemon, these aromatic fruits are similar in size to a small orange and mature from green to yellow. The rind of this citrus fruit is particularly prized, an essence derived from it is what gives Earl Grey tea its distinctive flavour.
"The bergamots in their bottles are from the same farm as the bergamots in our gin" Mark Marmont
Mark Marmont from 58 gin told me “In our distillery we use a lot of bergamot, it’s one of the main citrus characteristics of our gin. We prepare and peel the fruit here on site and then dehydrate the rind to later infuse into our gin”. The first time I visited 58 they we’re dehydrating the peel from 24kg’s of the fruit, the smell was amazing. Mark went on to say “Often when buying our bergamot we team up with Square Root Soda to increase our buying power, they buy the fruit in pallets at a time direct from the farmers on the Amalfi Coast, Italy. By using their soda in your cocktails we can even go as far as to say that the bergamots in their bottles are from the same farm as the bergamots in our gin. November to February is the season for Bergamot’s, we have to dehydrate enough peel for the year in that short window; it means the distillery smells great for those months. At the start of the season they’re very green and fragrant, later on they’re more yellow and citrusy, we try and get as many as possible early on to ensure we’re getting the best fruit.”
It’s estimated that around a third of men’s fragrances and half of women’s contain Bergamot oil
The essential oil of the Bergamot is used in a wide array of applications, it’s estimated that around a third of men’s fragrances and half of women’s contain the stuff. The key to its popularity in the perfume industry lies in its ability to balance the rest of the aromas and harmonise all of the essences; similar to the way a distiller designs a gin, balancing the flavours and galvanising all of the different aspects of the botanicals. Orris root is used as a botanical in many gins and perfumes for the same purpose. Out of 100 Bergamots you’ll get about 85 grams of oil, its intensely citrusy and spicy on the nose. It boasts antibacterial and antifungal properties and is popular for use in aromatherapy treatments, adding a couple of drops to a neutral face cream or lotion is an easy way to wear the scent. A 30ml bottle sells for around £10, this article has only scratched the surface of the purported benefits of the oil, the list is huge.
Culinary uses for the bergamot are far reaching, creative chefs all over the country have been sneaking it onto their menus. Bergamot’s are not normally waxed as is not the case with most supermarket lemons and limes which makes the zest suitable for cooking with without any hard scrubbing necessary. Grating the zest over dressed oysters will really lift the rest of the flavours, on any shellfish it’s a great addition. Although not widely available we are in the midst of the season at the moment so if there was ever a time when you could get your hands on them, its now. A good greengrocer might have them and Ocado sell two for £3.49 if you can’t get them locally. A slice of bergamot in your G&T comes highly reccomended, cheers!