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My Life in Food: Nik Fordham, master distiller, Bombay Sapphire


Born in Wokingham, Fordham started out as a chemist, studying the subject with biology at Plymouth University, a discipline that helped him when he joined Beefeater Gin as distillery manager in 2008. He went on to receive a diploma in distilling and the picked up the Worshipful Company of Distillers scholarship award for excellence in 2011. Since March this year he has been master distiller at Bombay Sapphire. He will also be leading the Bombay Sapphire Ultimate G&T Studio Workshops at The Hoxton Hotel (Tuesday 18 and Tuesday 25 June 7pm – 8.30pm)

What are your most and least used pieces of kitchen kit?

My most used piece of kit is a small kitchen knife. I use it for everything, for peeling potatoes, opening parcels and more importantly preparing garnishes for cocktails. It's the most important thing for me. The least used is my old pressure cooker, which I bought second-hand as a student. It's sitting on top of one of my kitchen cabinets and just dares me to use it. I'm not brave enough, but it sits there and looks at me.

If you only had £10 to spend on food, where would you spend it and on what?

I'll answer this one with a story. About 10-12 years ago, I was sailing around Croatia. I chartered a yacht and I went north up to some of the islands there, and we went ashore. We found this restaurant which had a tiny menu. It was fish, fish, fish and a bit of langoustine. So I had both, lightly barbecued over pine twigs. And then I finished it with some of the local spirit. It was probably the most amazing meal I've ever had. It cost £6. It was incredible. That's where I'd spend it.

What do you eat for comfort?

I am very partial to a large Melton Mowbray pork pie with piccalilli. Though I think my real guilty pleasure is a packet of pickled onion Monster Munch, a Snickers bar, and a Negroni. The Negroni is an incredible companion to those two. The bittersweet explosion you get from the botanicals is wonderful.

If you could eat only bread or potatoes for the rest of your life, which would you choose?

It's tempting to say potatoes. I mean – roasties in beef dripping, crispy on the outside, soft inside. Delicious. But bread wins. There are just so many varieties. Think freshly baked tiger loaf with lashings of salted butter across the top, but also croissants and pain au chocolat. You can do so much with it.

What's your desert island drink?

My desert island drink is probably Sapphire and a small bit of tonic with a little bit of ice served with a garnish of grapefruit. For me, it's just cool, it's refreshing. You get a fantastic burst of flavour, and it's something I never get tired of. It's a great drink in any situation.

What's your favourite bar?

I've got two favourite bars. It depends on what mood I'm in. I like the showmanship and pure theatre provided in a great cocktail bar such as the Connaught in London, which is sublime. Though quite often at the weekend I walk to the local pub in Twickenham with my wife and the dogs. It's called the White Swan and we have a G&T and a bag of pork scratchings. Lovely.

What's your favourite cookbook?

My favourite cookbooks are Delia's. They're a great foundation and often the starting point for a cooking adventure.

Who taught you about alcohol?

I've been lucky enough to get some great mentoring and coaching over the years. But for me, first of all, you have to teach yourself. I started when I was given my first homebrew kit. I would say I almost learnt my trade with that.

Nik is the Master Distiller for Bombay Sapphire and is leading the distillation process at the soon to open Bombay Sapphire Distillery in Laverstoke Mill, Hampshire, England.