*Recent ruminations from LUPEC Boston, originally published in the Weekly Dig.
by Pink Lady
It’s easy to walk into a bar and order a call brand of gin with your martini or tonic, but how familiar are you with the gins you order and why you like them? If you’ve only ever tried the brand your dad liked, LUPEC implores you to branch out this summer.
There is art to all distillation, but when it comes to gin in particular, everything about the flavor of the end product depends on the distiller’s choice of botanicals and how they’re infused. In a sense, gin is the original flavored vodka. All gin begins as neutral spirit (typically distilled from cereal grains) which most producers purchase (though it’s usually distilled to their specifications and desired standards). The gin is then flavored by the master distiller using whatever botanicals his heart desires along with gin’s signature flavor, juniper berries.
To ensure that their product stands out in the marketplace, distillers go to great lengths to develop botanical blends that make their gins different from the rest. Common botanicals include all manner of citrus peels, coriander seed, Angelica root, cardamom, licorice, orris root powder, bitter almonds and much, much more. Once the list is finalized, the distiller must develop the gin recipe by testing it in many small batches until the perfect balance is achieved.
Another factor that directly impacts flavor is how the distiller gets those botanical essences into his high-proof neutral spirit. In one method, the botanical blend steeps with the spirit for a length of time before water’s added and the spirit is redistilled. Other distillers toss the botanical mixture into the still with the spirit and begin redistilling immediately. They may also opt to impart flavor by hanging the botanicals in a wire basket through which the spirit passes during the distillation process, picking up their essence.
With all of this in mind, we suggest you revisit your favorite gin brands and taste them side by side. There’s much more to these brands than just packaging, and we think you’ll be fascinated by the difference a brand makes. After you’ve tasted them on their own, try them in cocktails—a martini, a Pink Gin or a Pegu Club, perhaps—to see which gin is best for which occasion.
1.75 oz gin
0.75 oz orange curaçao
0.5 oz fresh lime juice
dash angostura bitters
dash orange bitters
Shake in iced cocktail shaker; strain into a vintage cocktail glass.