Gin is enjoying a huge revival as bartenders revert to more traditional spirits, mixing old fashioned drinks with modern flair. Flava’s Joanna Lewis sat down with Carrie Chaloner of Premier Wines & Spirits to find out more.
Flava: Why is gin popular once more?
Gin provides a good quality, novelty spirit that is a perfect base for mixologists to get creative with. There are many different styles of gin on the market, with very different flavour profiles, so it’s easy to make a wide variety of gin based cocktails that taste worlds apart from one another.
Small batch gins are now being produced, many of them by whiskey houses looking to turn a quick profit, as gin does not go through any sort of ageing period, unlike good whiskey. Rules and regulations governing gin production are less stringent these days, allowing for more individuality and expression from different producers.
Flava: What makes gin unique?
As far as ingredients go, juniper berries make gin unique. Legally, juniper must be the most dominant flavour in any gin and is therefore the most important botanical ingredient. The base spirit used to make gin may vary, however a grain spirit base is usually preferable, since molasses or sugar beet bases can add unwanted sweetness that will detract from the crispness that is considered desirable in a gin. Many other botanicals are used in the process of making gin; however the exact quantities and recipe used in the making of the world’s top gins are usually a closely guarded secret. Common botanicals used in addition to juniper are normally orange peel, angelica root, coriander seed, cardamom and various others.
Flava: What about the ‘gin craze’?
Gin has a long and checkered history. Originally, it was Italian monks who redistilled alcohol infused with juniper berries to produce gin; however it was the Dutch and the British who were ultimately responsible for the mass production of and the global exposure to gin. The infamous ‘gin craze’ was brought about in the UK in the 17th Century, when the government allowed unlicensed local gin production, whilst duties were imposed on all imported spirits, which left gin at a favourable price. Needless to say, this led to gin shops popping up in just about every populated area of the country; however the quality of the product was not necessarily great. Binge drinking and alcoholism were fairly common, and gin was generally seen as the poor man’s drink. Throughout the years, laws have changed, as has the image of gin globally.
Flava: What are some of the most popular gins?
There are brands that have been around for many, many years. These are the ones that you would remember from your grandparents’ liquor cabinet, such as Gordon’s and Beefeaters for the London styles, as well as the lighter styles where the botanicals are not macerated in the base spirit, but rather held in a basket in the neck of the still to impart more subtle flavours, like Bombay Sapphire. The sweeter ‘Old Tom’ style is much less common.
Recently many small batch ultra-premium gins have become very popular such as Hendrick’s, which adds cucumber to the blend, and the most recent addition to the Cayman market, No.3 Gin, made by the distinguished wine merchants, Berry Brothers & Rudd.
You may see the term London Dry Gin on the bottle. This does not actually reflect the geographic area where the gin was made, but rather the style of gin. London gins are dry in style and far more popular globally nowadays.
Flava: So, which gin is best?
It’s all down to personal preference really. If you enjoy a full flavoured gin at a lower price point, traditional brands such as Gordon’s and Tanqueray will do nicely and are perfect for mixing. If you are feeling adventurous, or if you like gin martinis or neat gin, one of the smaller batch gins, such as No.3 or Caorunn would be more appropriate. Caorunn is a Scottish gin that is usually served with a slice of red apple, as apple is one of the botanicals used to flavour it, along with rowan berry, heather, dandelion and other Celtic botanicals.
Flava: What’s the most popular way to enjoy gin?
Gin and tonic, or G&T as it is commonly known, is probably the most popular way to drink gin; however it is by no means the only way. Gin martinis with a splash of dry vermouth, Tom Collins, negroni, gin and juice, and Singapore slings are a few examples of classic gin cocktails. My personal favourite, is a “No.3 & T”, which is a classic gin and tonic made with No.3 gin, served with a slice of grapefruit as opposed to the traditional lemon or lime. Be sure to use the largest ice cubes you can find, to ensure that you can drink your cocktail without it being diluted too quickly by melted ice. No.3 is made with various citrus botanicals, including orange and grapefruit peel, that give it an extra zingy lift on the nose. Serving it in a G&T with fresh grapefruit really enhances the citrus aromas in the gin. Cheers!
Carrie Chaloner is the general manager and driving force behind Premier Wines & Spirits. Born and brought up in Cayman, she was raised with an enthusiasm for wine and spent her university holidays working at her family’s winery in Spain. Carrie completed various wine courses whilst living in Italy and Spain, but her formal wine education was through the Wine & Spirits Education Trust (WSET) in London, where she completed all levels, including the WSET Diploma, which she passed with distinction. She is now qualified to judge at major international wine competitions. She has worked in the industry in Cayman for nearly 10 years.