GIN IS HOT AGAIN

The lat­est spirit to make a splash

Times of the Islands - - Cheers - Gina Birch is a reg­u­lar con­trib­u­tor, a lover of good food and drink, and a well-known me­dia per­son­al­ity in South­west Florida.

Gin is the lat­est spirit to hit the craft scene, with small producers us­ing a va­ri­ety of fla­vor profiles. If you think all gin tastes like house­hold clean­ers, you haven’t tried the right one, and now is the time to join the party. This spirit is dis­tilled from a num­ber of grains that are often fer­mented first, then re­dis­tilled in­fus­ing botan­i­cals, most notably ju­niper. Producers can also in­clude things like es­sen­tial oils, cu­cum­ber and cit­rus in their magic botan­i­cal mix.

A clas­sic mar­tini is made with gin (not vodka) and ver­mouth, but ver­mouth is a wine, not a spirit, and loses its lus­ter after a few days. Many bars let it sit around for weeks, even months. In this case, it loses more than its lus­ter; it’s down­right bad.

This is one of the rea­sons gin mar­ti­nis have fallen out of fa­vor and vodka has taken the lead, ac­cord­ing to Jay San­ders, bev­er­age man­ager at Point 57 in Cape Coral. He jok­ingly calls him­self a “gin-thu­si­ast.” About ver­mouth, San­ders says, “You have to treat it like a lady.” While mak­ing a mar­tini with Boomsma gin, he de­scribes it as “bright, smooth, a bit of sweet­ness on the mid-palate and a spicy fin­ish. Ver­mouth fills out the empty space in gin and smooths off the fin­ish.” It doesn’t work as well with vodka.

The bev­er­age man­ager uses 2½ ounces gin, and ¾ ounce ver­mouth in his mar­tini. In the ab­senc e of ver­mouth, he says, try Cam­pari. And de­spite what James Bond says, it’s al­ways stirred, never shaken.

Ac­cord­ing to San­ders, gin should be shaken only if cit­rus is be­ing added to the cock­tail. He ex­plains, “Shak­ing adds air, and with gin you don’t want oxy­gen, just a lit­tle ice for di­lu­tion; air would bury the fla­vors you’re in­tended to re­ceive.”

Even in the rush of a busy bar, he takes his time with his gin, slowly stir­ring, gen­tly pour­ing, care­fully gar­nish­ing, serv­ing with af­fec­tion.

Be­sides a mar­tini, the gin and tonic may be one of the most iconic mixes for this spirit. But to rein­tro­duce your­self to gin or to try it for the first time, San­ders rec­om­mends a gim­let. Made with fresh lime and sugar, it is re­fresh­ing and en­joy­able, es­pe­cially in the South­west Florida cli­mate.

Which brands should you look for when star­ing at a wall lined with gins from all over the world? Point 57 has 29 se­lec­tions and counting.

Caorunn is a Scot­tish gin with fla­vors of lemon peel and co­rian­der; it’s good for a gim­let. Hay­man’s, from Eng­land, is another ver­sa­tile gin for mix­ing.

Un­cle Val’s makes two dis­tinct gins. The Botan­i­cal smells and tastes like a gar­den, with some or­ange fla­vors; it mixes well with cit­rus. The Restora­tive has a lit­tle more ju­niper but is not over­pow­er­ing by any means.

Ju­niper can be po­lar­iz­ing to many bar pa­trons, but if it’s a fla­vor that does it for you, then ask for Lon­don Dry.

Bar­rel and oak aging adds lay­ers of fla­vors to wines and spir­its, and gin is not to be left out of the g ame. In place of whiskey, San­ders often uses St. Ge­orge Dry Rye Re­posado and Ran­som’s Old Tom in some of his cock­tails. Old Tom has fla­vors of cin­na­mon, while the St. Ge­orge has both spice and vanilla.

Try one of these in a Gin Mar­tine z, a warm, com­fort­ing cock­tail with a lit­tle ver­mouth and cherry brandy. San­ders likes to toast an or­ange peel to ex­press more fla­vor and float it on the top—per­fect for the fall.

Cheers to gin; it’s back “IN.”

Many craft and clas­sic gin brands line the bar shelves at Point 57 in Cape Coral.

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