Since by now you’ve probably recovered from the rigors of “National Cognac Day” it is my solemn journalistic duty to inform you, Dear Readers, that June 9th is National Gin Day.
Yep. You’re welcome. Just doin’ mah job.
Gin. It has been with us for a long time. It’s commonly believed to have been invented in Holland in the 17th century but that’s most likely apocryphal and it’s probably a lot older. Gin was originally produced as a medicine, and it is still, if not in quite the same way, considered “good for what ails ya” come 5:00.
Gin’s history is long and complex, and its list of ingredients can be likewise, though you’re probably not gin if you don’t contain juniper berries. Other key notes in most gins are some combination of sweet and bitter citrus fruits, angelica, and orrisroot. From there, it can get truly funky and there are countless variations, so finding “your” style of gin can be a long-term research project. Summer is often when gin-based cocktails come to the forefront, but it’s certainly something you can enjoy all year. Classic gin cocktails include this gal’s personal favorite, the Aviation, as well as the French 75, the Rickey, the Fizz, the Gimlet, and of course, the Martini. There is such a vast diversity and range of subtle complexities in different styles of gin that a dedicated home mixologist really should keep more than one on hand.
Some interesting expressions of gin to consider:
Portobello Road: Named for a notorious Den of Booze in London, The Portobello Star, this is a pretty classic dry gin. Some gins push the blend of botanicals to the absolute limit: this one keeps it to the Big Eight. Big blast of juniper upfront, bitter-citrus mid-palate, spicy finish (nutmeg, mace, cassia, coriander and presumably orrisroot). It’s full-flavored and should be sipped, or used in cocktails where the prominence of the juniper berry note will be welcome versus distracting. Portobello’s suggested one introduces the exotic artichoke accent of Cynar.
Available at Ward III
1.75 oz. Portobello Road Gin
.75 oz. Sherry Amontillado
.75 oz. Cynar (regular)
Directions: Build in a mixing glass, add ice, stir for 30 seconds. Serve chilled Nick and Nora glass.
For thrill-seekers and people on the hunt for something a little different, Four Pillars Gin has a unique gin-wine hybrid called Bloody Shiraz. As the name suggests, it combines gin with Shiraz grapes, with results that are a little sweeter than a typical dry gin and strikingly rusty-red color. Four Pillars steeps shiraz grapes in their Rare Dry gin for eight weeks and then presses them to release the juice (and the alcohol that gets soaked into each berry) and mix that elixir back into the vat. The end result is a unique violaceous blend with notes of pine, citrus, spice and dense raspberry with a subtly sweet finish.
Photo credit Four Pillars Gin
.75 oz. Four Pillars Bloody Shiraz Gin
.75 oz. Campari
.75 oz. Dry Curacao
.75 oz. fresh lemon juice
1 dash of Regan’s Orange Bitters
Lemon twist for garnish
Directions: Add ingredients to a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake and strain into a chilled coupette glass and garnish with a lemon twist.
Some of America’s most iconic literary leaders were fans of gin, most notably the trailblazing feminist and Algonquin Round Table poet, Dorothy Parker. New York Distilling Company pays homage to her with their own Dorothy Parker American Gin. Like its namesake, this gin’s a little spicy but sweet at heart, fusing the juniper base with elderberries, citrus, hibiscus and cinnamon. Bottled at 44% and extremely palatable, this spirit blends with vermouth, grapefruit juice, and even Ramazzotti.
The Acerbic Mrs. Parker
Available at The Shanty at New York Distilling Company; Photo credit New York Distilling Company
2 oz. Dorothy Parker Gin
.5 oz. Lemon juice
.5 oz. Hibiscus syrup
.75 oz. Combier Orange Liqueur
Top: Club soda
Directions: Shake ingredients over ice and strain into a Collins glass. Garnish with lemon wheel.
Malfy Gin Originale: Though it tends to be claimed by the Dutch and British, Gin, like many an herb-bomb spirit, is also said by some to have been invented by Italian monks (in the Amalfi region in this case). Malfy is a northerner, from the Piemonte region, and expresses a northern terroir (to the extent that you can get a clean expression of terroir out of a sprit that inherently combines ingredients from multiple latitudes, altitudes and continents). In this case, they’ve produced a fresh, clean-tasting and juniper-forward gin but one with an above-average presence of lemons (sourced from the Amalfi coast, which is a bucket-list destination if your thing happens to be totally exquisite lemons). May we suggest a Negroni?
A Real Negroni
An indispensable cocktail hailing from Italy. With MALFY Gin it can be made with all Italian ingredients!
1 1?2 oz. MALFY Gin
3?4 oz. Campari
3?4 oz. Carpano Dry Italian Vermouth
Directions: Shake well with cracked ice, then strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with a twist of orange peel.
The Botanist: I’ve written about this stuff before, but it’s pretty interesting so I am mentioning it again. From the Isle of Islay (where I think it is the only member of the distillate community that isn’t Scotch), this is not a lean, clean, juniper and lemon affair but a mix of hand foraged botanicals. So, let’s keep the cocktail simple, because this gin is not.
Photo credit Anson Smart
2.5 oz. The Botanist Dry Gin
.5 oz. dry vermouth
Orange or lemon peel
Directions: Chill a martini glass well. Combine ingredients and plenty of ice in a mixing glass. Stir gently (only James Bond shakes his Martini), strain and garnish with a twist of citrus.
Indian Summer Distilled Gin has a unique golden color (pour it into a wine glass and hand it to someone and tell them it’s Pinot grigio and watch the spit-take if you’re bored!). It’s got this lovely golden hue thanks to a generous ration of the most expensive spice in the world: Saffron. It also contains licorice root (which is naturally very sweet), orrisroot, cassia, coriander and almonds, so expect a rich and slightly tropical experience with this one.
1.25 oz. Indian Summer Gin
2 oz. ginger beer/ale
Juice of half a lemon
A handful of mint leaves (rubbed to release essence)
Ice (enough to fill whole glass)
Directions: Place all ingredients into a highball glass, muddle, top up with soda water and coat rim with lemon juice, garnish with lemon.
Nolet’s Silver is another unique interpretation of gin that’s more focused on flowers than bitter herbs, and if the juniper note is not your thing, this is the gin to try, because it is a heretical, crazy, largely juniper-free-zone. Instead it contains roses, peaches, and raspberries up front, with only a tiny trace of the evergreen stuff on the finish. This is not your gin for heavy, earthy, smoky or otherwise super assertive cocktails. Save it for drinks that emphasize flowers, fresh non-bitter herbs (like mint or basil) and light fruit flavors. It would probably make a bangin’ French 75. Or, try the maker’s suggestion:
NOLET’S Silver Salty Dog
2 oz. NOLET’S Silver Gin
4 oz. Grapefruit Juice (approx. 1/2 grapefruit)
Salt (Kosher, Sea, Himalayan, or flavored with Smoke or Basil)
Dash of Bitters
Herbal Muddle (basil, mint, rosemary, arugula or cucumber)
1/4 oz. Simple Syrup (if Grapefruit is bitter)
Splash of Soda, Tonic or Ginger Beer
Garnish: Cucumber, Fresh Herbs, Grapefruit Slices or Wheels, Edible Flowers, jalapeño, Peppercorns
Directions: Rim a lowball glass with salt, muddle herbs, add ice. Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice. Pour over ice and garnish.