I hated gin for decades. Like so many people who went to college, in addition to occasionally studying and going to class, I tested the limits of excess on a weekly, sometimes daily, basis. One night on a whim, I took this glass pitcher my roommate and I had swiped from one of the local watering holes (on an especially crowded and drunken night), and measured out what it took to fill it with martinis. A martini. The fabled drink of James Bond and polite society. A far cry from the PBR my friends and I lived off of while perfecting our skill at beer pong (and seeing who would be the last to pray to the Porcelain God). A martini, with Tanqueray gin (and some Vermouth I can’t remember), because tonight I would be civilized! So with both roommates gone for the weekend, and with the usually cramped dorm room now practically spacious, I spent the rest of that evening into the wee hours learning to appreciate this famous cocktail. Unfortunately, with a pitcher of martinis, one eventually passes the point of appreciation to that of mindless incapacitation. I woke up the next day, sprawled across one of my roommate's beds, a hangover of unparalleled dimensions greeting me with a good-morning sledgehammer. And when I saw the empty pitcher on the floor alongside the empty gin bottle, from that moment on into the unforeseeable future, I blanched at the thought of gin, or the mere mention of a martini (with or without olives).
So the decades passed without incident, without a drop of gin passing my lips. Until that night I discovered Door 74 (see the very first BLOG entry: The Making of a Mixologist). The person who would become my friend and mentor, Tess Posthumus, created a drink especially for me. And when I took a sip, it was the most marvelous thing (at that point) I had ever tasted*. But then she told me that its main ingredient was gin. GIN? How could this be? I was aghast. But after drinking it and marveling at its deliciousness, I reasoned that surely the statute of limitations must have expired, as here I was, happily reintroduced to something I thought was lost to me. I was a fan for the first time of this thing called GIN. And as time passed and I became a mixologist in my own right, I found that gin had become one of my go-to liquors. I began to explore the many different kinds, and I found something to like, if not love, about them all. From my favorite, Hendrick’s (with its infusion of rose and cucumber), that I was introduced to in London while visiting two old friends. (Every afternoon at 5pm it was G&Ts with Hendrick’s and Fever-Tree.) Then the London dry gins: Beefeater, Bombay, Boodles, Bulldog, Gordon’s, and my old nemesis, Tanqueray. I began to savor the pungent taste of juniper, and assert that as oak is inseparable from a Chardonnay, so is juniper from gin. But then, as my palate expanded, I discovered the New Wave of gin pouring across today’s cocktail culture (arguably begun in 1793, with Plymouth Gin). The trend away from the juniper berry, towards the full flavor of botanicals. I will let one of my current favorites, Aviation Gin (see BLOG entry: Aviation Gin Takes Off!), speak on this shift in gin consciousness (from their website):
“Aviation belongs to an entirely new category of dry gins. These gins embody a shift away from the usual overabundance of juniper toward a more forward balance of botanicals. Aviation explores the rich, floral and savory notes of lavender, cardamom, and sarsaparilla to capture the lushness, spice, creativity, and freshness of the Pacific Northwest. In this way, we offer the American palate its first real taste of American gin.”
Today there are so many to choose from. Like vodka and whiskey, we live in a golden age of gin, from the Old World junipers, to the New World botanicals, and I look forward to sampling them all, and telling you about them here.
*To try the drink Tess made for me, you must buy my book, TALES OF INSOMNIA DESPAIR & THE PERFECT COCKTAIL, and read the chapters about Amsterdam and Door 74.