The glory days for the cocktail were between the late 1800’s and prohibition. This is when the martini became popular and when many of the classic gin cocktails were invented. Back then, gin was the number one clear spirit in America; only whiskey was higher in consumption. When Prohibition began in 1919, bootleggers made “bathtub gin”. After prohibition ended, gin had a decline and once vodka was introduced to the states, it readily became the new “cool” spirit. Everyone was drinking it in Hollywood, from The Rat Pack to James Bond. Vodka passed gin in popularity just as cocktail culture started to decline.
Now that cocktail culture is back, so is gin! It has been rediscovered by bartenders who, like me, appreciate how well it mixes and how well it brings out the flavors in your cocktails. But I often still come across holdouts who are not convinced of gin’s freshness and versatility. I always encourage them to try different gin cocktails to find what they like; whether it is a negroni, Tom Collins, or gin and tonic. There are hundreds of botanicals that can be used to make gin, and every gin has its own recipe which brings out different flavors and aromas in your cocktail.
What I think people don’t understand is that gin is the quintessential spirit for making cocktails. It’s not made to drink on its own, like cognac or tequila, and that’s why it’s the base for more classic cocktails than any other spirit. By mixing or shaking a drink made with gin you make all the botanicals come to life in a way that they wouldn’t if you simply had it alone. Gin works well with everything. Whether it’s citrus, berries, herbs, spices, flavored syrups, shrubs, bitters, the list goes on and on.
Here are a couple of my favorite gins that you should get your hands on: St. George terroir gin is made in Alameda and has strong flavors of douglas fir, sage and fennel. Uncle Val’s botanical gin comes from Sonoma, California and is extremely floral and fresh with notes of lavender, violet, verbena and citrus. If you want more of a classic gin flavor, like pine needle that comes from the juniper berries, try San Francisco’s Junipero gin. Hendricks gin (our GM’s favorite) is a very popular soft, smooth gin made with cucumber and rose petals. The key to finding the right gin for you, is paying attention to the list of botanicals they used to make it … that, and tasting as many gins as you possibly can!
I have put together a gin selection that I’m very proud of … come try one of our specialty cocktails made with gin or ask your bartender to create something just for you!