Redefining Your Gin Preferences
With the warm weather approaching — though it never really left — we’re getting closer to bringing out the bottles of gin and other lively spirits. Some like to call them “rays of light”, “sunshine in a glass”, or “liquid pine trees”, I just like to call them good.
Gin has not always been at the top of my list of spirits to rave about. It honestly stayed at the bottom for a long time. Then the creativity set in and I fell in love with the “Old Tom” style of gin that was soon to become my favorite.
The best things about liking gin are the trinkets, mixers and liqueurs that have been solely designed to complement the beautiful botanicals that are found in the gin itself. I was unaware of these until I found myself at a bartenders’ competition where the base spirit was Bombay Sapphire Gin. Never would I have thought that hickory smoked lemons, strawberries, figs, eggs and lavender would be some of my new favorite pairings with gin. This may have been the start of my love affair with gin — OK, this definitely was the start of my love affair.
To describe my palate/taste when it comes to gin, I prefer ones that have slightly subdued juniper notes and more of the prominent citrus tones up front. I tend to go with an “Old Tom” style gin more often than a London dry or the funky gin spirits such as Bols Genevere or Junipero.
Gin is not really a spirit that can shy away from its heritage and main flavor profile, such as other ubiquitous spirits like vodka, rum or tequila that one can mix with just about anything and mask its true flavor. It can mesh and hold the solid flavors of so many different items.
For instance, an italian blood orange soda that can be found at whole Foods or Trader Joes is one of the best mixers for Bombay Sapphire. It makes the gin cocktail taste like you have mixed in 3 or 4 different components. The sparkle of the bubbles break up the piney punch that sometimes dominates your palate upon first sip. The brightness and sweetness of the fruit intermingled with the botanicals of the gin bring out these crazy flavors that range from lemon sorbet and sparkling grapefruit to sweet eucalyptus and toasted honey. If you happen to come across some sparkling blood orange soda or something like it, don’t pass it up!
Now if you want to channel your inner mixologist and experiment, using egg whites takes gin cocktails to an entirely new level. For sweeter style drinks, just add any baking spice and/or small bits of fruit – hazelnuts sprinkled with a dusting of cinammon, nutmeg, brown sugar and cardamom or figs and plums. Thinking outside the box like this leads to discovering new ideas, crazy ingredients never before considered and a way to offer new sensations to your palate.
For the last pairings, these are definitely my favorite additions to any gin cocktail I have ever held to my lips.
Hickory smoked lemon rounds ranks #1. The faint smoke you get after the initial lemon zest rounds off the acids of the lemon, and the smoke seems to give the lemon a rounder, caramelized taste. Instead of it butting heads with the bright botanicals of the gin, it brings out the above-referenced notes of figs and hazelnut that one would not expect.
Ranking second are the “juniperized” pickles — pickles soaked in juniper berries and lemons. I can’t tell you everything the pickles were brined in, but I am sure that I ate more than I probably should have. I tore into the sweet, zesty bits of goodness and found that there was a lingering flavor that came across as, believe it or not, slightly blueberry-ish.
All in all, there’s always a way to get around the basic and up-front taste of the gin spirit. As I said before, it’s never going to get too far away from the initial base flavor but can pretty much set its style in the modern contemporary feel. Don’t be afraid to branch out and try something new in life; cocktails being one of the easiest way to accomplish that. If you don’t like it, you can always make it into an Alabama Slammer!
Posted in: Spirits News