A Primer on Buying Gin
Pine trees. When I talk to people about gin, the most common sentiments mentioned are pine trees. It makes sense, since most anyone that has had landscaping on their yard has probably used a juniper bush and it may be the closest thing to a pine tree people see and the juniper berry is the main component of flavor in gin. Only one person said something different and that was a friend that started me drinking gin. He said, “It’s the only hard liquor that goes well with Guinness.” That was a good enough reason for me to make it my hard liquor of choice.
To me, if you enjoy the taste of hard liquor, the joy in drinking it doesn’t come from hiding it behind many other flavors. Rather it is enjoying the flavor itself. In the case of gin, it means combining it with the slightest of dry vermouths for a martini, tonic water for a gin and tonic or bitter lemon soda (which probably is closest in concept to the Rickey, which as a fan of Lou Brock, I could never order that name for myself. Maybe I shouldn’t think of the base stealer’s first name, but the last name of the great Brooklyn and St. Louis GM when ordering it.) Yes, the bitter lemon soda adds a bit of its own flavor, but it’s one that goes very well with gin. Once you get beyond those three, you get cocktails like “Satan’s Whiskers” that look strange when you read about them and probably sound even worse when you try to order one.
Of course, if the liquor is the flavor and not coke, Red Bull or orange juice, you don’t want to mess around with the well versions of gin. Every bar will probably have Tanqueray, Bombay Sapphire and Beefeater, so let’s talk about those three first.
Beefeater is distilled in London, a rarity among the most common styles of gin known appropriately enough as London dry gin. Included in its list of ingredients after the juniper berries are orange peel, lemon peel (which explains why I feel it goes so well with bitter lemon soda), almonds and licorice. The presence of licorice is why it ranks at the top of my list of gins.
Tanqueray is probably the most familiar bottle, as it is short, squatty and green, making it stand out against most of bottles you see at the back of a bar. It’s main ingredients listed are juniper, coriander seed and angelica root, traditional flavors that give it a nice, traditional taste which makes sense as it has been brewed since 1830.
Bombay Sapphire is the new kid on the block, a product of Bacardi that started production in 1987. It has many of the same ingredients as Beefeater and Tanqueray, but adds grains of paradise to the equation in its quest to be unique and exotic.
After those three, you can look and see if there are any other flavors and brands that might tempt your taste buds (like Boodles or Anchor Junipero) but generally speaking those three will suit you quite well. Especially if you enjoy them with a Guinness afterwards, since my friend was very correct in his assessment.
About Jason McClain Jason is an aspiring novelist, which means there is a lot of time to put off writing and watch baseball or go fly-fishing, hiking and traveling. By "a lot of time", Jason means "procrastination."