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Misunderstood, underappreciated yet completely necessary, gin should be appreciated for
what it truly is (and poured correctly), no matter what’s on the menu for your day or night out.
C T E X T BY R O NY M O
elebrities are poor role models. Snoop Dogg glorified
smoking substances that are only legal in Colorado,
while presumably driving with an open container in his
autobiographical hip-hop anthem Gin & Juice. Of all the abominable
antics claimed throughout the song, the worst is the admission to
drinking bottom-shelf booze with OJ. At its best, it tastes like rinsing
with lemonade after brushing your teeth. I can only attribute the poor
choices of the Dogg Pound’s top dog on his then 23-year-old palate,
and the meager availability of quality spirits in his gang-controlled
neighborhood. Gin is an underappreciated and misrepresented elixir. Many who’ve
tried it in cocktails that don’t include tonic water, realize that it’s
actually the medicinal quinine in the mixer they hate and not the
alcohol itself. Which is essentially vodka enriched with juniper berries.
Of course, the piney taste of juniper alone would be too assertive a
flavor so spices, herbs and citrus zest are blended together to round
it out. Currently, there are 3 main styles of readily available gin in the
U.S., each with its own use.
London Dry Gin isn’t necessarily produced in the Swinging City,
but rather refers to a style that’s unsweetened, with the exception of
natural botanicals, of which the most dominant is juniper. Its cleaner,
sharper profile makes it well-suited for gimlets, dirty martinis and
negronis. Bombay Sapphire and Nolet’s Silver are 2 shining standards.
112 New Western Gin, popularized by up-and-coming small-batch
distilleries, is no longer forced to follow the rules. This style is
less identifiable than its Old World cousin because distillers put
everything from Bulgarian rose petals to Thai lemongrass in their
blends. Hendrick’s bright nose and refreshing flavor is the staple of
cucumber martinis everywhere, and Tanqueray Rangpur can chase
away malaria, scurvy and your woes when mixed with tonic water.
Sloe Gin is a liqueur used in cooking and cocktails that can be
easily substituted in recipes that call for crème de cassis or blackberry
schnapps. Hiram Walker and Leroux make fine examples, but the best
beverages demand Plymouth, which uses the traditional method of
steeping the berries of the blackthorn shrub and demerara sugar in
neutral grain spirits. Sloe Gin Fizzes, Royales and Bitter Christina
cocktails would be impossible without this viscous, semisweet treat.
If you’re feeling adventurous, Khong River House in Miami Beach
offers gin flights grouped together by region. Scotland and America
are particularly well-represented and it doesn’t hurt that their kitchen
boasts a James Beard Award nomination and a bunch of other
accolades. If you’re at Vintage Liquors in Midtown, a bottle of Old Raj
saffron-infused gin will make a stellar addition to any collection. It’s
no sin to love gin and maybe now when your billionaire homey Dr. Dre
comes through with a gang of Tanqueray, you might just welcome
him with open arms.