Chances are, you’ve uttered those resigned words or something similar in your lifetime of dating. From our old man’s liquor cabinet and classic films like Casablanca, to Billy Joel’s “tonic and gin” in “Piano Man” and Snoop Dogg “sippin’ on gin and juice,” the botanical spirit has been ubiquitous in our drink consciousness for generations.
Aromas and flavors
Gin, a generally clear spirit distilled from malts or grains and flavored with juniper berries, is the liquor of legends and cloak and dagger secrecy, often made of a proprietary mix of botanicals. While some confidential recipes may be locked in a vault, the following are a list of probable ingredients you can find in various gins:
- citrus peel (orange, lemon)
- grains of paradise
- angelica root
- cassia bark
- orris root
Dizzy yet? Categorized styles are aplenty too, so let’s break those down.
Genever (Jenever): The precursor to gin, this category could stand apart from gin entirely. Malty with notes of herbs and spices, it can further be divided into jonge, oude, and korenwijn. Examples: Bols, Anchor Genevieve, Van Wees, Zuidam, Ketel 1 Graanjenever.
London (or London Dry): The most common style of gin, usually bottled at 45% ABV (90 proof). While the name is a legal specification recognized in the EU and the United States, there is no reference to specific geography, and can be made anywhere in the world. It is often known for its citrus profile from the addition of orange peel and dried lemon. However, any addition of artificial flavors or colors is prohibited. Examples: Beefeater, Bombay Sapphire, Tanqueray.
Plymouth: Taking it a step farther than London, this category carries both legal and geographic specification, meaning it can only be made in Plymouth, England. The style is slightly less dry than London and known for an earthier profile due to the use of more roots in the recipe. Example: Plymouth.
Navy Strength: Refers to a higher octane version of gin, usually at 57% ABV (that’s 114 proof). Its name derives from its esteemed position as a staple of the British Royal Navy. Examples: Leopold’s, Plymouth, Royal Dock
Old Tom: Ever heard of a Tom Collins? This style dates back to the 1800s, but now is considered uncommon. According to legend, the name derives from a 19th Century British bar that served gin via a tomcat sign with a slot and pipe. Known for its softer profile, it can be aged and sweetened (although not required). Examples: Hayward, Ransom.
Barrel Aged: Aged in rum, whiskey, or brandy barrels, this style might have you asking, “Is this really gin?” With its brown hue and varying notes of vanilla, clove, oak, honey, and spice, it’s a brain bender from your usual botanical gin. Examples: Caledonia, Corsair, Few, McHenry, Watershed.
New American: A wildly varying style with no legal or geographic designation. Tends to refer to small batch gins made from craft distilleries, especially in the United States. Can be piney and herbal or fruity and floral. It’s a mixed bag, so get to know the distiller via your bartender and gin tastings. Examples: Anchor Junipero, Aviation, Old Harbor, Cutwater Spirits, Hendrick’s, Kill Devil, Spirit Works, Swinford, Rogue, Uncle Val’s, You & Yours.
“Of all the gin joints in all the world, she walks into mine." - Rick, Casablanca
Where to taste gin
Noble Experiment: This hidden speakeasy houses a carefully selected range of gins, both infused and in cocktails that will get your botanicals obsession started.
777 G St., downtown, 619.888.7413, nobleexperimentsd.com
Campfire: Mixologist Leah Lecap takes gin (and cocktails) to unprecedented culinary heights with his creations. The “High ‘n Dry” goes alpine with Douglas fir, blanc vermouth, Indian tea, and cucumber (see recipe below for how to make it at home), while the “Yorkshire Fix” seems almost pie-like with rhubarb, pear, vanilla, star anise, and lemon. The “Roasted Beets” is positively pink with gin, ginger, honey, lemon, and thyme, and the “Everything Nice” takes an aromatic approach with lavender, Earl Grey tea, and plum.
2725 State St., Carlsbad, 760.637.5121, thisiscampfire.com
The Nolen: Get juicy with the “Blackberry Bramble” crafted with gin, blackberry shrub, lemon, and demerara, or go herbal with “Beyond the Pines,” a rosemary-spiked cocktail with gin, Cointreau, orgeat (pronounced “or-zsa”), grapefruit, and Peychaud’s Bitters.
453 Sixth Ave., downtown, 619.796.6536, thenolenrooftop.com
Bottega Americano: This East Village hotspot tips its hat to San Diego distilleries with “The Local,” made with Old Harbor San Miguel gin, St. Germain, lemon, and prosecco. Or try the restaurant’s twist on a Negroni, made with its own Carpano Antica rosemary infusion and angelica-rhubarb bitters.
Make it at home
Bring out your latent mixologist with the “High ‘n Dry,” an inventive cocktail from Campfire’s Leigh Lecap:
1.5 oz Gin
1.5 oz Vermouth Bianco or Blanc
.25 oz Douglas Fir Eau de Vie
1 slice Hothouse Cucumber
Smoked Tea Tincture*
Place all ingredients in a mixing glass. Use a muddler to “bruise” the cucumber (no need to pulverize it). Add lots of ice and stir until cold. Strain into a cocktail glass. Spray a liberal amount of the tea tincture over the finished drink using an atomizer. The result should smell like a campfire in the woods and taste crisp, clean, and green.
*Smoked Tea Tincture:
5 parts Vodka
1 part loose leaf Smoked Tea
With 18 years in the restaurant and beverage industry and more than 850 reviews under her belt, Laurie Delk is a one-stop guide to all things craft beer, wine and spirits. You can follow Delk on Twitter @100beers30days or Instagram @sandiegobeer. Send ideas for featured drinks to firstname.lastname@example.org.