A Spring Fling with Gin: It’s the perfect time of year for a G&TMar 09, 2021 07:11PM ● By GINA BIRCH
Floral, fruity and herbaceous—gin is the ideal spirit for spring. What makes gin so unique is the infusion of botanicals during the distillation process, most notably juniper. Producers may also add any combination of ingredients including herbs, spices, fruits, essential oils, even roots, to create their magical, botanical mix. The possibilities are nearly endless.
The origins of gin lie in Holland; however, it’s widely considered to be the national spirit of England. In London, its reign is supreme. The city is home to dozens of gin distilleries and even more gin bars.
“London dry” is a style of gin made to standards that include minimal to no added sweetener, no flavor or color additives after distillation, the strength of the alcohol and a flavor profile that is juniper-forward, to name a few.
Highclere Castle Gin is a London dry made in a partnership with the eighth Earl and Countess of Carnarvon. Their 1,300-year-old castle is the real-life setting for Downton Abbey, the wildly popular television series about British aristocracy.
The gin is distilled from Highclere’s famous oats and a blend of 10 botanicals grown on the estate. Oranges from the castle’s Victorian orangery are prominent in the flavor profile. This is an example of a gin that is balanced, smooth enough for sipping on the rocks and friendly for mixing. It’s as classy as its origins.
To make a classic Highclere Castle Gin & Tonic, fill a highball glass with ice, add ½ ounce of gin, then slowly pour an artisanal tonic over the ice. Give a gentle stir. Cut an orange peel and twist it over the top of the glass to release its natural oils. Place the orange peel into the glass along with a fresh sprig of rosemary.
The secret to a good gin and tonic lies in the tonic; don’t settle for the cheap stuff. Fever-Tree is an example of tonic with panache. It is widely available and comes in a range of flavors, perfect for experimenting. Need some guidance? Fever-Tree’s website offers a flavor wheel to make pairings easier.
Its flagship, Indian Tonic, eases the spice in Gunpowder Irish Gin. From the Shed Distillery, this gin is infused with gunpowder tea, citrus, juniper, coriander and exotic spices. The results are a spicy spirit, with flavors of anise and a bit of grapefruit.
Elderflower tonic is a great complement to Grace O’Malley Irish Gin. The brand is named after a famous female trailblazer from the 16th century. The gin is infused with heather, the beautiful purple flowering plant that carpets Ireland’s countryside. The result is a floral gin with a slightly sweet characteristic. Juniper is at the forefront, and there is a subtle flavor of blueberry.
From Scotland, Hendrick’s Gin is widely found on bar shelves across Southwest Florida. Distilled with cucumbers, rose and more, it’s another gin that easily locks arms with elderflower or citrus tonic. Garnish with a slice of fresh cucumber for a cocktail that actually feels healthful.
When it comes to the classics, a traditional martini is made with gin, not vodka. Vermouth, a wine fortified with botanicals, is added to smooth the flavors of gin. It doesn’t work the same in a vodka martini.
A good guide for making a gin martini is 2½ ounces gin and ¾ ounces vermouth, and it’s always stirred—never shaken.
The number of small-batch American gin producers has increased dramatically over the past decade, each bringing its own twist to the table. Gray Whale Gin, for example, was inspired by the migratory path of gray whales. The botanicals it uses are hand harvested, wild foraged or organically farmed along the route of the whales’ 10,000-mile journey from Baja to the Arctic.
Gray Whale upcycles empty bottles, creating candles that are scented with many of the botanicals found in the gin. All of the candle sales and a portion of gin sales benefit Oceana, an organization founded to protect and restore oceans worldwide.
A spirit that wears many colorful hats, and smells and tastes like a garden in your glass, gin is the perfect guest for cocktailing this spring.
Whale Hello There
- 2 ounces Gray Whale Gin
- ½ ounce lime juice
- ½ ounce lemon juice
- ½ ounce agave syrup
Fill a cocktail shaker with ice and pour in the gin, lime juice, lemon juice and agave. Shake vigorously and strain into a chilled coupe or martini glass, or strain over a rocks glass filled with ice, depending on preference. Garnish with a lemon twist and serve immediately.
Gina Birch is a regular contributor. A lover of good food, good drinks and a fun time, she is also a well-known media personality in Southwest Florida.