“Of all the gin joints, in all the towns, in all the world, she walks into mine”
This quote from the character “Rick” in the famous motion picture “Casablanca” says it all when it comes to gin. Once you get to know gin, and I mean really good gin, in a tasty creation of your own, there really is no comparison.
The history of gin dates back to the 16th century, and a fellow by the name of Franciscus Sylvus, who was a chemist. His primary goal was to create a distilled concoction that could clean out the diseased kidneys from suffering patients.
One of the distinctive identifiers of many brands of gin is the ever-present wisp of Juniper identified on your nose and palate. It has been a main ingredient since the 16th century, and in fact was the name given to Stylus’s concoction when he named it “genièvre”, meaning juniper in French.
Like most liquor products, Gin is produced from a mash of grain, and in the case of most gins this also includes juniper berries. Unlike many of its competitors in the world of whiskey and rum, what you see on the shelf is what you sip. There is no ‘aged” gin so while you can keep it in your cellar for 100 years, it’ll still taste just exactly the same.
Your choices of gin today will depend on the way you want to drink it- in a martini glass with a breath of vermouth and an olive, on the rocks, or combined with other flavors at your local bar.
There has been a movement in the world we all recognize as the “Gin & Tonic” standard. This has been a “go to” drink for many, many years, and is often heard when someone steps up to their bartender at the local pub. It’s easy to both remember and sip, especially on a hot afternoon or evening.
Here are some of the best choices for gin.
Gin in the United Kingdom
If you’re sipping a Tom Collins in the UK, chances are high that you’ll have Old Tom Gin in your frosted glass, which is not to be confused with London Dry Gin. Old Tom has been poured into glasses in the UK (and only the UK) since back in the 19th Century. And speaking of “old standards” you can’t get much older than the original gin, Genever or what’s now known as Schiedam Gin, the Belgian / Dutch version. This is the oldest classic gin and the recipe is still followed today.
Speaking of London Dry Gin, you should immediately think Tanqueray, Beefeater and Bombay Sapphire. They all present that distinctive heavy juniper associated with gin & tonic, and are extremely popular in the U.S. Most “experts” would definitely place these three excellent gins at the top of any top ten lists.
Lastly, take a tasting adventure back to the year 1761, when one of the oldest distilleries in the United Kingdom first produced their gin, and is still going strong today. Presented in a foggy, icy, tall and slender square bottle, Bloom will take your taste buds on a wild ride.
This gin tends to present itself as slightly sweet, with tones of pomelo, chamomile and honeysuckle. When you are searching your palate and nose for those botanicals, remember that the ingredients used to create this gin were hand-picked from around the globe.
In the United States, the top selling and sipped gin brand is Tanqueray. Name recognition is key to marketing and the company did well, coining the name Tanqueray & Tonic, which is also a popular order at U.S. bars. There’s a reason it is so popular, and that’s because it’s just so very tasty. Add some excellent tonic to it and it bursts with the flavors of juniper, licorice, coriander and angelica root.
Gin in Scotland
Another great gin, is the handcrafted gin from Scotland called Caorunn. This is one of those gins which is distributed worldwide, but not yet well-known. It’s a “small batch” gin with a good balance of herbal flavors, and if you have an opportunity, you should experience it.
There has recently been an explosion of small homegrown gin distilleries worldwide, and especially in the U.S. In fact, many wineries are now starting their own gin distilleries, so if you come across any be sure to investigate and see what they present to your palate.
As for Gin & Tonic, when was the last time you tried making yours with one of the awesome and tasty “gourmet tonics” available today? Some of my new favorites are Todd Thrasher’s, Fever Tree, Q and Fentimans. All of these brands of tonic water present your gin uniquely, and can actually become your own “designer cocktail” depending on which gin you use.
If you’re interested in learning more about the world of gin and other beverages, be sure to check out our excellent Bartender and Barista course.
Rick: Of all the gin joints, in all the towns, in all the world, she walks into mine. ….. Victor Laszlo: As you can see, it was true every sin
There’s an old man sitting next to me. Making love to his tonic and gin. He says, “Son can you play …