April 1, 2009

One last thought for the night - a paean to gin

A lot of people say that they don't like gin. I'm not sure what percentage of those have actually sampled gin, and what percentage just have heard that it "tastes like pine needles" and left it at that.

Of those of you who say you don't like gin...do you like vodka? Gin is pretty much just vodka (neutral spirits) with some other flavorings added. Now, yes, the main one is juniper, which is an evergreen plant. But if all you've ever had is cheap, rail gin in a G&T or gin martini, you're really missing out.

This summer, on a sultry evening, those of you who think you don't like gin, try something for me. Ask your friendly neighborhood bartender if they've got Hendrick's, or Beefeater Wet, or Citadelle, or Tanqueray Rangpur, or Rehorst (if you live in the midwest, like me) behind the bar. If they do, ask them if they'll make you a gin and tonic with a lime twist using one of those. Then go to somewhere quiet, out on the patio if they have one, or away from speakers blaring what passes for music in some of these establishments, and sit down and take a sip.

If you have Hendricks, you'll get rose and cucumber dancing around your mouth. If it's Beefeater Wet, it'll be a subtle pear flavor. Citadelle will give you a mouthful of spice (including nutmeg, violets, and grains of Paradise), Tanqueray Rangpur brings a great zip of lime, and Rehorst has ginseng and sweet basil to offer, both very unusual ingredients in gin. Yes, all of them have juniper, but it's those other botanicals that the distillers add that makes or breaks a gin. And those botanicals, whether you can taste them individually or just get a fantastic amalgam of them competing for your attention, are going to make every gin a little different, a little more interesting or more unusual than the last one you tried, and may, perhaps, convince you that gin is not the alcohol equivalent of Pine-Sol, but can be, in the right hands, a really remarkable ingredient.


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