Anyone who has worked behind a bar of good repute has heard it: “I just really don’t like gin.” Game. On. Brown spirits like whisk(e)y and brandy have their detractors, but the intense flavors from extended aging in wood vessels are so distinctive that one could understand the dislike (or not). Although there is no legal definition of Gin, it is generally a neutral grain spirit distilled or compounded with a series of botanicals, most importantly Juniper. Originally produced by a Dutch physician in the 1600s as an inexpensive way to treat kidney and bladder ailments, Gin continues to be one of the most consumed spirits around the world.
Several other flavor components are involved in Gin production: citrus, herbs, barks, roots and seeds. This last category includes one of the most distinctive of all: Coriander, the leaf of which is called Cilantro here in the US. Like a coin flip, there is a 50-50 chance that someone will hate Cilantro, and so the same goes for Gin…
Although the original style of Genever or Dutch Gin is known for being malty and slightly sweet, the more common style is called London Dry: Juniper-heavy, edgy, spicy and very dry. In between these two categories you find the Old Tom which is slightly sweetened and easily blended, the New American style which tries to embody an “all in one” classification, and finally we come to Hendrick’s which is in a category of itself with intense flavors of cucumber and flowers.
There is no doubt that prohibition-era cocktail recipes are back in fashion and if there were a Gin vs. Vodka scoreboard, Gin would be winning by 6 touchdowns. Any talented bartender can make a well-balanced cocktail that will make you say “Wow that’s good, and I don’t even like Gin!”
Styles and Names to Try:
- Genever: Bols
- London Dry: Bombay, Broker’s, Citadelle, Royal Dock
- Old Tom: Hayman’s
- New American: Aviation, Bluecoat, Death’s Door, Valentine