I tend to associate gin with India, tonic water, colonialisation and ingenuity. In fact, the most common gin cocktail, the gin and tonic, came about due to some enterprising Brits in India who figured out a tasty way to take their malaria-fighting quinine water. If you dig back far enough, gin itself is a bit of a colonialist. Its predecessor, Jenever, stormed its way across the English Channel from its native Holland with William of Orange. Though there are myriad styles of gin, the London Dry style is now the most common, and has found its way behind bars and into glasses the world over.
The Spirit of Choice
The simple yet complex juniper flavours in gin are great for cocktails, as they tend to compliment mixers, adding another layer of taste. In fact, before the spread of vodka as the ‘odourless, colourless, tasteless’ spirit of choice started in the 1950s, most classic cocktails were made with gin. We still see this in some cocktails, like the martini, where, in a real bar, they’ll ask for your choice of gin or vodka. There are also many new and reintroduced gins in the market, each with their own characteristics.
Gin can be made from any sugar source, although makers of fancier gins usually ferment some sort of grain. The gin is distilled twice, and during the second distillation juniper and other botanicals are added to give the gin its flavour profile. Different gins use different combinations of herbs, flowers and spices to achieve a particular taste. This is why each kind of gin is better suited for different types of mixers when making a cocktail. Which one is best for you, and best for your preferred cocktail? Take a taste test and find out!
How Does That Help Me?
In one of my favorite poems, the American poet Philip Levine places gin at the center of the drinking world, noting the phrases ‘gin house’ and ‘gin lane,’ “both of which indicated the preeminence of gin in the world of drinking.” I tend to agree. Gin is often my spirit of choice when I’m looking for a cool and relaxing beverage. Last Sunday I whipped up a batch of Orange Negroni Popsicles to cool down and mellow out. It seemed the perfect partner on a hot day. Any wonder we tried gin?
Orange Negroni Popsicles
350 ml orange juice
50 ml Campari
50 ml Gin
50 ml Sweet Vermouth
Michael Kloster grew up in the vineyard countryside west of Fresno, California. He organises the Lucky Wine Buyers’ Collective for spirits and wine lovers in Saigon. If you want something to drink, please contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org