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How to Decide Exactly What Type of Gin You Want

on 02/05/14 at 11:47 am


imagesIt’s far more complicated than you might think.

If you order a dry martini in one of the pleasant little cocktail bars where so much modern tippling takes place, the gin in your cocktail as likely as not will be called something like “Pug” or “Devilchair” and have been imported not from England or Holland but from two ZIP codes over. Its manufacturer won’t be a third-generation distiller but rather somebody who was writing computer code until two years ago. Welcome to the world of craft gins, as they’re called, made by small, independently owned distilleries. (Knowing Tanqueray’s Tom Nichol, who has been distilling spirits since you were a child, we suspect he’d punch you in the nuts if you told him he wasn’t making a craft spirit.)

In any case, there are hundreds of these things. Since gin doesn’t normally require aging and nowadays has far more cachet than vodka, it’s often the first thing a new distillery will market. Plus, it looks easy: Take your neutral grain-spirit base, which you can buy from Archer Daniels Midland; add your chosen botanicals, as the various berries, seeds, peels, leaves, fruits, roots, and barks that flavor gin are known; and run it through a still. Bottle. Sell. Easy.

Actually, not so easy. All too often with these gins, one (or more) of the botanicals is out of whack and beats up on all the others, or there’s just too much of everything and the gin ends up being weirdly pungent. So how to tell the good ones from the bad ones; the ones that will help your cocktail from the ones that will hurt it?