“She’s Not a Lush. She’s a Juniper Enthusiast.”
-- Mike Doughty
Not long ago, I read an article about how gin is making a comeback. This was news to me. I hadn’t realized that gin had gone out of fashion. For years now, I’ve been serving a drink called a Pink Peony, made with Death’s Door Gin, St. Germain elderflower liqueur, pomegranate juice, lemon juice, and a splash of bitters. I suspect that several of my neighbors have become heavier drinkers because of that drink. I probably shouldn’t brag about that, but what can I say. Curse of the Irish neighbor.
Unfortunately, I can’t remember where I read this article about the gin comeback. It's possible I was drinking too much gin at the time. But from my perspective, the main memorable thing about the story wasn’t the return of gin and tonics as America's go-to cocktail. It was that gin is now produced in so many varieties and flavor profiles that we can now say there is a gin for everyone. What? A gin for everyone? Even for scotch drinkers, who like their liquor up and peaty? Even for those people who claim not to like gin, such as my husband? Naturally, I read this gin article as a call to arms. It’s time, I said. Time… for a gin gathering. So I roped in some fellow juniper enthusiasts, and we got it on the calendar.
Our goal was simple. We would test the premise by sampling a wide variety of gins. We’d mix them all with the same tonic, or sample them straight up. Other than limes, we would mix in no other syrups or fruits or tinctures. Our panel of tasters included people who drink a lot of gin, people who drink some gin, and people who really don’t drink much gin at all. I’d like to say we planned it that way. But really, we just invited people who wanted to hang out with us or at least, to drink our gin. One way or another, it worked out.
Before the gathering, I had to do some research. Believe it or not, the internet is packed with articles about alcohol. It's especially easy to find information about gin right now, because of the comeback thing. Some sites are even declaring 2014, the Year of Gin. How trendy of me. I also solicited recommendations on Facebook, which was very fruitful.
I ended up selecting five gins, representing a flavor spectrum from dry to botanical to aged. I wasn’t that hung up on having a local gin, since my regular go-to gin is the locally produced, Death’sDoor. But then a local gin expert showed up with a few more varieties, including one from the Midwest. So that worked out, too.
Here was our final list (with helpful links):
7. Monkey 47
The down side of the gin gathering was that -- well, everyone drank a little too much. But it was a happy group of taste testers. If I had to summarize our findings, I’d say the British dry and the Bombay East appealed most to the mainstream palette. The really floral and spicy ones like Uncle Val’s and St. George Terroir and Monkey 47 were the most popular with the true enthusiasts. Whereas the barrel aged gin appealed most to the gin skeptics. Personally, I poured mine down the drain. Too much like scotch. And I had to save room for the Monkey 47, with 47 different botanicals from the Black Forest.
In the end, I think we did prove the rule. There actually is a gin for everyone. And what better way to celebrate the Year of Gin. Juniper Enthusiasts All.