Gin’s Closest Cousins
While some bartenders and patrons are just now warming to gin and exploring its various expressions – London Dry, botanical, New Western Dry – others are branching out beyond the category and tapping into its roots and its next phases. What they may find is that some spirits simply defy categorization. Here are two that are gaining steam.
The precursor to gin, Dutch Genever (or Holland Gin) is malty, earthy and complex, and almost closer to whiskey than its expected cousin. Bols relaunched its 1820s recipe in the fall of 2008, for which it won Best New Spirit at Tales of the Cocktail 2009. Though availability is currently limited in the United States, Bols Genever is witnessing a steady word-of-mouth revival in the mixology community. Though it shares gin’s common lineage, Bobby Heugel of Anvil in Houston cautions against attempting to use it like a London Dry or another gin, which usually results in a poorly made drink. It tends to show well in cocktails that have a strong backbone like whiskey or a bigger vermouth.
At San Francisco’s 15 Romolo, the Smokin’ Bols pairs Genever with mezcal, lemon, simple syrup, mint leaves and a housemade hops tincture. Erhmann offers basic, methodical advice for familiarizing yourself with Genever: “Put it in the recipes you know and see how it changes those drinks. Then try it against some whiskies and discover what ‘malt’ really is. Now put it in some whiskey cocktails. Then you’ll really get it.”
And Now for Something Really Different…
Designed to bridge the gap between gin and vodka drinkers, Square One Botanical is an organic rye spirit that contains a blend of eight organic botanicals — pear, rose, chamomile, lemon verbena, lavender, rosemary, coriander and citrus peel. Noticeably missing? Juniper, which technically keeps it out of the gin category but firmly places it in a newly defined camp that mixologists are calling “botanical spirits.” “If you look at the combinations of flavors that are possible from the perspective of the tea blender in comparison to the gin distiller, the world opens up considerably wider,” explains H. Joseph Ehrmann of Elixir in San Francisco, brand ambassador for Square One. “Once released from the restraining requirement to have juniper, the possibilities are endless.”
Whether drinkers find the Christmas tree notes of London Dry gins unappealing, have an allergy to juniper, or just want something new, bartenders are creating concoctions with the aromatic Square One Botanical. At Elixir, Ehrmann uses it throughout the year in cocktails with a fruit or floral element, like the summery Strawberry Days with rhubarb syrup, muddled strawberries and Peychaud’s bitters; and A Pair of Roses, with lemon, rosemary, pear juice and lavender syrup. When Baird and Josh Harris recently consulted on the cocktail menu for AGAINN, a modern gastropub in Washington, D.C., the pair created the Lady Macbeth, a sour made with St-Germain, lemon juice, rosewater and egg white. The cocktail is available with either Hendrick’s or Square One, the latter option designed to appeal to vodka drinkers considering but not yet ready to cross over to gin.