Gin: The True Drinker’s Choice… Kris D.

25 07 2008

The bar is a place often associated with sharing a good time with a fellow friend or colleague while partaking in a nice spirit or alcoholic beverage. It is not a hard concept to fathom. People like to gather at the end of the day and celebrate the day’s triumphs, or they gather together to commiserate over a mutual defeat. The bar is a place where people of all sorts come to enjoy themselves. Someone could just as easily crack open a bottle of vodka and make their own cocktails, but they go out to the bar to revel in the social aspect it brings. Whatever the purpose, they are at the bar to enjoy a nice cocktail, spirit, beer, or some other type of alcoholic beverage. The bar can be seen as an equalizer, where a lawyer can sit next to the school principal, who is sitting next to a janitor, who is next to a cab driver. At the center of all this is the bartender. A good and experienced bartender is a person who can acknowledge certain things about people who come his way and welcome them with open arms and a good drink. He is part news reporter, part philosopher, part psychologist, and overall just a good, fun person to be around. A good bartender is also quite aware of the differences and is adept at the many uses of the spirits and other things at his disposal for him to apply his craft. Gin and vodka, particularly, are the main staples of a bartender’s cocktail repertoire. With an almost endless list of possible cocktails made from these two, they are the backbone of the bar. They are also quite interchangeable for each other in cocktails, for example the ubiquitous martini can be made with either vodka or gin. The difference is, gin is arguably the superior spirit among the two. Gin does not take a back seat to anything. It has, unlike vodka, its own unique flavor and cannot be masked by tonic, campari, or a sour mix of any kind. Although purists suggest martinis should be made with gin, it is becoming increasingly more popularly made with vodka, much to their dismay. In more recent times, gin has lost some popularity to vodka. This generally stems from younger drinkers who want a little kick in their drinks, but do not particularly like the taste of alcohol. This also explains the rise in sales of flavored vodkas, which are not an altogether new experience either, since flavored vodka has been around as long as vodka has been around. Just like those who savor fine single-malt scotch and fine whiskeys, gin aficianados are an unapologetic lot who favor the taste of their spirit of choice and are afforded a little more respect at the bar.

There are a few types of gin, but the most commonly referred style of gin and what we commonly know as gin is the London dry gin. here is a brief overview of the types of gin:

· London Dry Gin: Most popular form of gin. Notable brands consist of Beefeater’s, Bombay, Tanqueray, and Gilbey’s. It is very light bodied, with an unmistakable essence of juniper, and very pure in alcohol. Its flavor combines well with other components in innumerable amounts of cocktails.

· Plymouth Gin: Fuller bodied and very aromatic, it is the gin of the British Navy. This is due to the fact it has a strong relationship to the sea, being that it is only made in the port city of Plymouth in Devon, England. The British sea men would combine the gin with tonic or the Angostura bitters they kept in their medical kits. Plymouth gin is much sweeter and has a very distinct flavor in comparison to London Dry Gin. There is also a “Navy Strength” variety of Plymouth gin which is 57% alcohol by volume. This was required because if the spirit has spilled on gunpowder, it would still ignite, unlike the lesser strength variety.

· Holland. Dutch, or Genever style gin: a full bodied style of gin made much the same way as whiskey. It is made in traditional pot still with the wort resulting from the fermentation of mashed malted grains. This type comes in two styles, oude (old), which is very aromatic, darker in color, sweeter, and very bold in taste; and jonge ( young), which is lighter in body, clearer in taste, and much drier. It is not recommended in mixed drinks because of its distict tastes and is better enjoyed neat or on the rocks. It is the only gin aged in oak casks.


When mixing gin with other flavors, it is very important to respect the nature in which gin is made. The botanicals can either make or break your mixing experiences. For example, orange and lemon peels are common botanicals in gin, so mixing gin with fresh juices is a good idea. Also things that are very aromatic and concentrated can work well, being that gin is a very aromatic liquor. Things like vermouth and bitters work very well because of their aromatic and concentrated natures. Also, when comparing different brands of gins, it is best to do so neat, or at room temperature to discern all the nuances in flavor, but when making a cocktail, it is best to chill as cold as possible. Plymouth Gin was the choice of Winston Churchill. When making his martinis during World War II, vermouth from France was a very hard commodity. So instead if using vermouth, Churchill would pour his Plymouth gin, chilled as much as possible, and then respectfully bow in whatever direction France was at the time.

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