WINE & SPIRITS
NEW AGE GINS WILL MAKE YOU SIN, DOUBLY
Few spirits are as rich with lore as good, old-fashioned gin. Eons ago, my favorite mixer was a low-class brew. It was the liquid crack of 18th-century London. Gin's ascension into loftier circles followed its embrace by the officer corps of the British navy. In Africa, they drank it iceless with bitters, dubbing the mix "Pink Gin." In colonial India, the Brits combined it with quinine to stave off malaria, creating the cocktail we know today as a gin and tonic. Gin was all the rage this side of the pond, too, but by the 1980s, lapped by tequila and vodka, it had become the second-class citizen of the American bar. Until now, that is.
This history lesson came to me courtesy of cocktail historian David Wondrich, who literally wrote the book on the subject. He talked up gin recently while mixing up cocktails at the restaurant 5 Ninth in New York's Meatpacking District. These days, Wondrich is hardly alone in extolling the virtues of gin. The country's leading mixologists all echo the sentiment, waxing poetic about the spirit's bracing herbal side, its tricky botanical edge and its seductively sweet finish.
Gin's botanicals—coriander, cardamom, angelica root, fennel, lemon and orange peel—imbue a cocktail with subtle, sophisticated notes. Unlike your grandpa's juniper gin (most likely a London Dry variety, one of the three Bs—Beefeater, Boodles or Bombay), a new generation of super-premium brands carry a fresh set of flavors. Zuidam Dry has a hint of orange; Hendrick's has cucumber infusions.