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Bar Blips: All We’re Saying is Give Gin a Chance

Posted on Friday, Feb. 27, 2015


There are few spirits in the cocktail world that garner such spirited reactions as the mention of gin.  The words and phrases so loosely thrown around such as “hate” and “tastes like drinking a pine tree” or “revolting” create for an interesting atmosphere when one is trying to sell a gin cocktail.  Gin has such a colorful past of ups and downs: it has been glamorized and vilified from the flappers in their bathtubs, to aristocrats in London.  It has been the subject of artwork, whether it be a demonstrative piece of propaganda entitled Gin Lane by artist William Hogarth in 1751, to being the subject of rap artist Snoop Dogg’s 1993 time-honored classic “Gin and Juice”. Up until recently gin had a different reputation among the “trendy” drinking crowd. To be frank, it got a bad reputation, like, Vanilla Ice bad. Save for people of a certain age who drink G&T’s and martinis, it was rare to find a crowd of people sipping on gin and anything. From an American past standpoint, gin reigned supreme and was the IT girl when it came to cocktails. In fact, there are more classic cocktail recipes with gin than any other spirit. However, during the 1940’s with a huge marketing push, the popularity of James Bond films, and a little old cocktail called the Moscow Mule the trend was swayed toward Vodka and the queen was dethroned.

Perhaps the reason people in the past have given up on gin is because they’ve only had one type and mistakenly think that all gin tastes the same. But, with the more popular spirits out there today such as bourbon or rye, there is just as much variety and nuance in the different types of gin that are being distilled. The most common type of gin that consumers have experienced is London Dry Gin, which does have a very juniper forward flavor profile. It can be dry and sharp, and every ginhaters favorite word: “piney”.  Not the most appealing flavor profile for the masses, but one would argue it makes for an excellent mixing spirit. Some would even argue that the recent turnaround for gin came when a distillery out of Garvin Scotland called Hendricks came into the market in 1999. Hendricks, in addition to the traditional juniper infusion, uses Bulgarian rose and cucumber to add flavor, which makes for a light and botanical flavor profile that still manages to highlight the beautiful juniper note in traditional gin. Slowly but surely, Hendricks began to change the public’s mind about what gin was and how it could be used. Today, a new gin Renaissance has emerged.  There are so many delicious types of gin on the market and they are all so unique and memorable.  Americans have even joined in this new reign of the Queen and have begun producing some beautiful and distinct gins. Tru Organic Gin, out of Los Angeles, is soft and fruit forward with a lovely, light botanical finish. Bluecoat American Dry Gin out of Philadelphia has a slight sweetness with a wonderfully bold and sharp finish, which makes it perfect for sweeter mixers.  One of my favorite gins out on the market is also out of a local distillery in Columbus, Ohio called Watershed. By far the star in their line up is the Bourbon Barrel Aged Gin, infused with citrus peel and spices, then aged in a former Bourbon barrel for 12 months. This mellow, soft gin has lots of body with a nice bit of vanilla chased by cinnamon heat, plus touches of honey, oak and citrus on the finish. This gin is perfect to stand out in a bold cocktail like a Negroni, and nuanced enough to elevate a simple Martini. When I keep this stocked in my home bar the bottle disappears at an alarming rate.

Other types of gin to look for: Old Tom Gin which, in general, is the sweeter cousin to London Dry Gin. If you’ve never had the classic cocktail the Tom Collins with an Old Tom Gin, you’ve definitely missed the ride to the circus because it is a mind-altering experience. Plymouth-style gin is not as dry as London style, and is earthier with more subtle notes of juniper. The best thing about making cocktails with gin is that there are so many different flavor profiles that it creates the most versatile base. I gravitate toward savory cocktails when I’m in mixing mode so, for me, gin is just like adding herbs and aromatics to the mix, as if I were seasoning a meal.

There are so many great classic cocktails out there with gin as a base that it’s almost overwhelming. If you’re just getting into gin I suggest buying two different styles or ordering different types of gin when you’re out so you know what flavor camp you fall into. (Flavor camp – that sounds like a fun place.)  I like to keep a couple of different styles in my bar to use in different cocktails. Start with basic classic cocktails, and as you build your home bar you can start experimenting with the more complex classics.  I suggest ordering a classic cocktail that peaks your interest like, for instance, when you’re sitting at the Metropole bar and want to see if it’s your cup of tea by ordering all the things! Take the Last Word for example, a cocktail that for the last 6 months has been ordered more at our bar than I’ve ever experienced in my loooong bartending career. It is such a damn good cocktail it is impossible to use words, but it is equal parts gin, Green Chartreuse, Maraschino liqueur, and lime juice. That’s three bottles to buy for your bar so it should be something you actually enjoy, and believe me when I say you will and, if you don’t, well, you might as well tell me you hate puppies. How could you!? Here are a couple of easy recipes to try, and if you buy two different types of gin you can play around with which style you prefer in which cocktails, so best to drink with a buddy. But no judgment if you like to test cocktails in peace and solitude!

GARNISH: lemon peel
2 oz Gin
1/2 oz Dry Vermoth
2 dashes orange bitters

Build in mixing glass, stir and strain into a chilled coupe or martini glass.

There are about as many variations of the Martini recipe as there crayon colors, so play around and adjust it to your personal preference. You can swap out with different types of gin and vermouth, do it without bitters, or a different type. I love this riff because the orange bitters really highlight the different botanicals and soften the juniper. But remember, this is about you so create something tasty and all your own.


1 1/2 oz Gin
3/4 oz fresh lemon juice
3/4 oz simple syrup
soda water

Mix up this refreshing beauty and dream of the warm days to come. They ARE coming right?


For those still skeptical, come check out our next Sunday School where I can help sway you to the light side of gin. On SUN 03.29.15 at 4pm I will create some mind altering cocktails and wax poetic about my love of this complex and elegant spirit. Hopefully you find a new friend in gin! I will say that as much as I love creating cocktails with bourbon or rye, the cocktails I’ve always been most fond of are my gin babies.  Perhaps it’s nostalgia because the first cocktail I ever created for Metropole was a gin cocktail, which is actually making a reappearance on our current Winter Menu. Called the Wiseman, it is Hendricks, Pimm’s (a gin based liqueur) sage, lemon, and Angostura Bitters, I’m very happy to see this old friend. Gin is like the best friend you make later in life and believe me when I say it will be a long and beautiful friendship, and indeed Sir Snoop my mind is on my money but now gin is on my mind!

See you all soon, and thank you always for your continued support of our bar program!

Laid Back!
Your Neighborhood Bartender,

Catherine Manabat