When I set out to create this Himalayan Balsam Gin recipe I had no idea of the surprise that was lying in wait for me. Read on to discover how to make a genuinely magical colour changing gin infusion.
What is Himalayan Balsam?
You may well have heard of Himalayan Balsam (Impatiens glandulifera) as it increasingly features in our press.
It is a non-native, highly invasive weed that damages the habitats it finds itself in by crowding out our native species. Often seen by rivers, streams and canals, it causes bank erosion and contributes to flooding due to clogging up waterways.
It is now increasingly being spotted in hedgerows along roadsides where it is proving to be just as damaging.
What you may not know about Himalayan Balsam is that it is a highly edible plant. The green seed pods, seeds, young leaves and shoots are all edible and are traditionally used in curries in its native Himalayan region. The flowers are also edible and are used in jellies and wines.
I found a reference to a distillery adding dried Himalayan Balsam flowers to one of its gins to create a limited pink edition, but they didn’t share their recipe, so I decided to create my own. Little did I know the surprise this unpopular but beautiful flower had in store for me!
We collected our flowers from a stretch of the disused Thames and Severn Canal in the Cotswold Water Park where they grow in profusion.
Please note that the seed pods of this plant explode on touch when ripe scattering seeds over a vast area. This method of seed dispersal is one of the reasons that the plant is so successful. I should point out that it is actually illegal to propagate Himalayan Balsam in any way due to it’s invasive and destructive nature so please handle the plant with care.
That being said we managed to collect a 2-litre container of the Himalayan Balsam flowers without touching any seed heads so don’t be put off collecting them.
What you need to make Himalayan Balsam Gin.
- 2-litre container of Himalayan Balsam flowers
- Zest from 4 Limes
- 2 Dessertspoons Caster Sugar
- 1-litre Gin
- A Large Glass Preserving Jar (Amazon affiliate link)
- Glass Bottles (Amazon affiliate link)
How to make Himalayan Gin.
Cut any green from the base of the flower and pop them all in a jar with the lime zest and gin. Leave to infuse a dark, cool place for 24 hours.
Once the 24 hours are up, strain the gin into a clean jar, add the sugar and gave it a shake to dissolve.
The resulting Himalayan Balsam Gin is a pale amber colour much like a traditional pink gin made from Angostura bitters. The flowers impart a light floral taste to the spirit which combines well with the lime.
But the real surprise is still to come. When you add tonic to our Himalayan Balsam Gin something magical happens. It turns a stunning, vibrant pink as shown in the video below.
I have no idea of the chemical in the tonic which is responsible for the reaction, but I have tried 3 different brands so far, and they all work. (The things I do for science!)
We’d love to hear what you think if you make your own Himalayan Balsam Gin, or indeed of any other wildflower infusions. And if you are looking for some more wild booze inspiration check out the links below.
If you have enjoyed our Himalayan Balsam Gin recipe, why not check out some of our other wonderful foraged and hedgerow liqueurs and infusions. You can find a list of our favourites below.
Beech Leaf Noyau is a traditional liqueur made from young leaves of the Beech tree. The leaves are gathered in spring while they are soft and sticky and still have a translucent, delicate look to them.
I can’t promise that our Homemade Rosehip liqueur will stop you catching a cold, but it’ll certainly cheer you up if you do have one.
This simple hazelnut liqueur recipe only takes minutes to prepare but results in a deliciously rich and smooth nut flavoured liqueur that is perfect for gifting.
Every year we forage for sloes berries to make sloe gin. Learn how to identify sloes, when to pick them and try the best sloe gin recipe ever.
Foraged Wild Horseradish and Ground Ivy Infused Vodka makes a wonderful peppery infusion. It is perfect for adding to tomato juice and savoury dishes.