GinCraze: Getting basic with botanicals

Katy Hayduk and Christine McFarlane

 "Gin Lane", William Hogarth 1751

"Gin Lane", William Hogarth 1751

We have quite the extensive gin collection here at Vine Arts, which may be a bit daunting to the average spirit drinker. Not to worry though, we're here to give you the low down on the main categories of gins, tell you about some of the ones the VA crew has been drinking, and share some fun recipes to help them go down even easier.

Gin is a neutral grain spirit that has been steeped in botanicals then redistilled. It originated as a herbal medicine in the middle ages, often getting called “Mother’s Milk due to its medicinal effects.  In 16th century Holland the spirit gained notoriety because of the calming effect it had on Dutch soldiers during the various battles, giving rise to the term “Dutch Courage”. After the English government began to allow unlicensed gin production in the early 1700s, gin consumption rose significantly and became what many perceived as a major crisis.  Gin was considered the culprit of various social problems and took on the epithet “Mother’s Ruin” (still a common name for gin) because at the time many felt that women’s gin drinking was turning them into bad, neglectful and unfit mothers. Fast-forward to today, when gin is still known as a popular drink among the ladies, now “lovingly” referred to as the “panty-dropper” or “liquid panty remover”.  Whether or not gin will have your knickers dropping to the floor, we sure think it's the perfect drink for a good time, and it doesn’t hurt that it just so happens to be pretty damn delicious.


London Dry Gin

The most widely known of the four types of gin would be London Dry.  As its name suggests, this style originated in England where they crafted a spirit distinct with juniper notes. Dry in the name refers to using only natural botanicals and sweeteners rather than artificial ones. Some distilleries steep dry or fresh citrus peels before distillation to create a bright, citrusy gin. London Dry is a versatile style, perfect for a gin and tonic or a martini.  One of our favourites is Sipsmith Gin. It is rich and aromatic, but just smooth enough to make the perfect martini. We like ours dirty, try this:

Dirty Martini

  • 2 oz Sipsmith Gin

  • ½ oz Dry Vermouth

  • 2 barspoons olive brine

Combine gin, vermouth and olive brine in a mixing glass filled with ice.  Stir and strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with a few of your favourite olives.

Plymouth Gin

Plymouth Gin is a style that is only produced by one distillery which just so happens to be the oldest working gin distillery in the United Kingdom. Sweeter and lighter than London Dry, this gin is more citrus forward with a spicy finish and a less distinct juniper presence. A blend of specific botanicals are used to craft this gin including juniper, coriander, dried orange peel, cardamom, Angelica root, and Orris root. These botanicals lend earthier notes and a slightly oily texture to the gin making this spirit perfect for Negronis and martinis.

Negroni

  • 1 oz Plymouth Gin

  • 1 oz Campari

  • 1 oz Sweet Red Vermouth

Stir equal parts gin, campari and sweet vermouth in a mixing glass filled with ice.  Strain into an ice filled mixing glass and garnish with an orange twist.

 

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Old Tom Gin

Unlike the previous types of gin, Old Tom is richer in flavour and is best used in mixed, prohibition style cocktails. Liquorice is a commonly used botanical in distillation that adds sweetness, not flavour to the gin. You can find both clear and amber coloured Old Tom gins, the difference being whether they have been aged in barrel or not.  One of our favourite examples is the Old Tom Gin from Ransom. Ransom is both an artisan distillery and winery in Oregon. Here, however, the focus is on their Old Tom Gin. Ransom's recipe is a collaboration with historian David Wondrich with the intention of being as true to the original recipe as possible. The gin is aged for 3 to 6 months in wine barrels which imparts a caramel colour as well as a more intense flavour. Organically grown Oregon botanicals flavour the gin with notes of citrus, pine, juniper, cardamom, and blossom. It's rich honey nose makes it very suitable for sipping and even better fitted for a classic Martinez cocktail.

Classic Martinez

  • 1oz Ransom Old Tom gin

  • 2oz sweet vermouth (try Carpano Antica)

  • 1 tsp maraschino liqueur

  • 2 dashes orange bitters

Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass filled with ice.  Stir and then strain into a chilled Fifth & Vermouth coupe glass.  Garnish with a lemon twist and enjoy!

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Genever

The original style of gin, Genever, originated in 16th Century Holland. What makes this style distinctive among the rest is that the base grains are malted in order to give the spirit a more robust flavour. It is less flavoured than other gins, especially with juniper. More intense botanicals like cloves, caraway, ginger, and nutmeg are used in the distilling process. Genever is more decadent in flavour than Old Tom with earthy notes similar to a Plymouth Gin. This style's recommended use is in rich cocktails like a Gin Old Fashioned.  Try one with one of our favourites - Zuidam 3 Year Old Zeer Oude traditional Dutch Genever!

Gin Old Fashioned

  • 2 oz Zuidam Genever

  • ½ oz Simple Syrup

  • 2 dashes Angostura Bitters

In a mixing glass filled with ice, combine all ingredients.  Stir and strain into an ice-filled rocks glass. Garnish with an orange peel, twisting it over the surface of the drink to release its oils.

New American Style Gin

The New American Style, or New Western Style has become a category of its own due to an abundance of new delicious gins on the market that don’t quite fit into any of the aforementioned categories.  Recently, there has been a move towards artisanal products and craft distillers as more consumers have begun to seek out products with a unique story and interesting flavour profile. Here is a list of some of our absolute favourites, and some fun cocktails to try them in.

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Sherringham Seaside Gin

Sherringham distillery on Vancouver Island is owned and operated by husband and wife Jason and Alayne MacIsaac.  They believe that sustainability and localism go hand in hand and it sure makes for some delicious gin. The Seaside Gin is made with BC wheat (the by-product leftover from the distilling process goes to feed local livestock), malted barley, natural botanicals and local, hand-harvested winged kelp.  This floral, citrusy gin smells just like the sea, and if you can’t make it out to the Island this summer, this gin will sure make you feel like you did.

Seaside Gin Greyhound

  • 2oz Seaside Gin

  • 2oz Freshly squeezed grapefruit juice

  • ½ oz simple syrup (or to taste)

  • Lavender Sprig

  • Sparkling water or prosecco

Fill a rocks glass with ice.  Add gin, grapefruit juice and simple syrup.  Stir and top with sparkling water or prosecco.  Garnish with a lavender sprig or a grapefruit slice.

Tippa’s Lovebird Gin

The Lovebird Gin is made right here in Alberta.  Punk-rock musician turned distiller Paul Poutanen is literally a one-man show.  Not only does he run the business side of things, he distills, bottles and sells every bottle himself.  According to Paul, the botanicals used in the gin are all known aphrodisiacs, making this the perfect gin to serve to your soon-to-be summer fling.  He operates out of the same facility that produces locally made Porter’s tonic syrups (a staple here at Vine Arts). The Lovebird gin and Porter’s tonic make a pretty perfect pair, so we thought we’d share a fun twist on a regular old G&T and turn it into one of our favourite cocktails, the gin sour.  

Lovebird Sour

  • 1oz Lovebird Gin

  • 1oz Porter’s Hibiscus Tonic Syrup

  • 1oz Freshly squeezed lemon juice

  • 1 egg white

Fill a shaker with ice and add all ingredients.  Shake vigorously until egg white froths (about 1 minute).  Strain into a Fifth & Vermouth coupe glass and enjoy!

Dillon’s Strawberry Gin

Dillon's, another exclusive to us, is a 'hyper-local' craft distillery in Niagara that is skilled in making a wide range of spirits and bitters. This season they created a Strawberry Gin with the hopes of hanging on to the fleeting taste of fresh, ripe summer strawberries. Locally sourced Niagara strawberries and botanicals are used in the distillation process. it is then lightly sweetened which results in a refreshing aperitif-style spirit that will have you reminiscing of strawberry season well into our cold Canadian winter.

Strawberry Champagne Cocktail

  • 1oz Dillon’s Strawberry Gin

  • Angostura Bitters

  • Sugar cube

  • Your favourite sparkling wine

  • Strawberry garnish

Place sugar cube in a chilled champagne flute our Fifth & Vermouth coupe glass with a couple of dashes angostura bitters.  Add Dillon’s Strawberry gin and top with your favourite sparkling wine. Garnish with a strawberry slice.